Finland is a land known for its icy beauty and frozen charm, and Utsjoki is as wild and mystical it is possible to get in beautiful Finland.
Situated at the very northernmost corner of Finnish Lapland, Utsjoki is a place with a rich ancestral heritage for the Sami people.
Stunning displays of the northern lights flicker across the night sky frequently, even taking the locals by surprise sometimes.
The natural beauty of the wilderness here gives this area a very special, sacred feeling, and Utsjoki is revered as sacred ground amongst the local Sami people. Such a special place requires a fitting guide, and I was lucky enough to find the right one.
Artisan Travel are a UK based tour operator that organises tours in multiple destinations using a long established network of local guides. The local guides are running the most incredible tours in this magical region, and I’ve just been on a fantastic trip with them to Utsjoki.
I was already in love with Finland’s natural beauty and its culture, but the experience I had with Artisan Travel really deepened my appreciation for this country, plus they really looked after me from start to the end.
When you’re in such an extreme environment with weather conditions youíve likely never quite faced before, itís really great just to hand everything over to the experts.
Being looked after and told wonderful facts about the natural beauty in this region really does add to the magic of the experience. For example, the special mystical blue light the land is bathed in as the sun disappears beneath the horizon in the winter months is called ìkaamosî by the locals, and it is breath-taking.
My favourite thing about this tour is how much appreciation and connection it gives you for indigenous Sami culture and people. Sami people will be your guides, hosts, craftsmen and reindeer herders for pretty much the whole of this trip.
It’s a fascinating chance to appreciate the beauty of their homelands from their perspective. And, of course, itís always good to choose tour companies that give back to local cultures and community, which is why Artisan Travel was the best company to book with for me.
From stays with friendly Sami people, lightning fast reindeer rides through Lapland under the stars and husky rides, this tour truly had it all. It lasts for eight days, and you even get a nice bit of free time towards the end to use as you please.
Here’s how my trip to Utsjoki went for me:
Day 1 – Getting there by plane and transport
All packed and excited to make a trip to the very north of Finland, I got a very comfortable return flight from London to Ivalo that comes with part of the Artisan Travel package! Depending on what time of year youíre flying you can fly direct or stop in Helsinki.
Once I got to Ivalo I was greeted at the airport by Artisan reps, who got me a nice comfortable transport bus straight to the hotel in Utsjoki.
You either get a packed dinner to enjoy while youíre travelling, or dinner at the hotel. It all depends what time you get in.
The Holiday Village Valle hotel is run by an extremely welcoming Sami reindeer herding family. Their knowledge of the area is fascinating, and the warming meals served up for every meal time were delicious too.
My room was really cosy and comfortable, and I have to say that the sauna available to guests at the end of the day really helped me get over the cold.
This is what coming to the northernmost part of Finland is all about.
In the winter months youíre extremely likely to see shimmers of aurora borealis or the northern lights even on your transfer to the hotel.
Itís an inspiring and unforgettable start to your stay in Utsjoki for sure.
Day 2 – Cross-country fun in Lapland
After a cosy night in the hotel and breakfast itís time to get out there and take part in some fun winter landscape activities. I got some really fun lessons in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Cross-country skiing is an awesome way to see lots of the landscape and is a bit of a national obsession, whereas snowshoeing is a more relaxing way to hike around.
On the second day I had a fascinating time with a local Sami guide who talked to me about the flora and fauna to be found in the region, and also showed me how to light a fire. It’s quite an amazing thing to be able to do in a beautiful but unforgiving place.
In the afternoon my guide took me back to some ancient churches near the village, and we also had a chance to check out the crafts of local Sami artisans in the village itself. The Christmas shopping I did here was fantastic, so many unique and beautiful items.
In the evening I returned to the holiday village restaurant to eat some dinner and watch the sky in the hope of more northern lights displays. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed!
Day 3 – Reindeer sleigh rides and magical landscapes
When your hosts are actual Sami reindeer herders, you know you’re going to learn an awful lot about these beautiful animals.
Itís a very short walk from the cabins to the reindeer pens, and you get to feed them yourself before the sleigh ride.
Itís always good to get to know your carriage animals, and you get to learn even more about the reindeer herding Sami culture.
I loved the 2km reindeer sleigh ride around Utsjoki and was definitely ready for the warming drink supplied as soon as I stepped off the sleigh as well.
Day 4 – Husky safari
Day 4 is no less exciting with a husky safari waiting for you to enjoy. This one is a bit further afield over the border in Tana, Norway.
Not to worry, though, as it’s only a 50-minute transfer straight from the holiday village to the musher and his husky dogs.
The team of eager huskies were ready and waiting to take us on our two-hour husky ride. It was such a thrill getting dragged along and seeing all that beautiful landscape shooting past.
I really enjoyed sitting around the campfire with the musher and his dogs afterwards, seeing the team of huskies relaxing and having hot drinks and food with everyone else on the tour.
Gathering together under the open sky around a roaring fire really does feel like the right thing to do when youíre in Lapland.
Day 7 – Relaxing in northernmost part of Finland
I found it refreshing for a tour like this to be allocated some rest and relaxation time towards the end of the trip.
There are loads of optional activities you can arrange with your friendly hosts if you feel like you still want to see some more wilderness action, including taking a trip to the edge of the Arctic ocean, and hunting the northern lights on snowshoes.
Day 8 – Time to go home
At the end of this amazing week it was time to return to the airport and fly home. I was quite sad to leave this beautiful place where I’d learned so much from the Sami tour guides.
Remember that the Finnish winter can get rather freezing, especially in Lapland so be sure to pack the correct gear to keep warm on your next adventure to Finland.
It was nice to enjoy one last breakfast in the holiday village restaurant before heading home. I hope you enjoyed this article about my time in Utsjoki with Artisan Travel.