I adore visiting Ivalo in winter! It is a beautiful and tranquil area with not many people around, but lot’s of things to do! There are several accommodation options in the area, for example, Hotel Ivalo (if you are on a budget), but Aurora Village is definitely the most luxurious and comfortable one. And, it’s situated right in the middle of nature!
We visited Aurora Village with my wife Julia in the end of January 2019. The period is ideal for winter travel, as it is less busy season, and the Polar Night, or winter darkness period, is already finished. This means that the days grow longer, and there is a possibility to see the bright orange sun over the horizon.
Day 1 – Ice Karting and Horse Sledding
We’ve planned a whole bunch of experience at Aurora Village with Juha, the CEO of the company, and we start our adventures with ice karting. The track for ice karting is situated close to the village, in fact, you can actually walk there. The track has a small dressing room where you are given the overalls and helmets for the drive.
Ice karting is kind of more “for boys”, so we decided to do a little tournament with the staff from Aurora Village. The karts are very fun and easy to steer, but you’ll most likely to end touching the snowy walls of the track and spinning around. That is rather safe to do, as the snowy walls are rather high (and snow itself is very soft), so you will remain on the track.
Needless to say that Juha, the CEO of the Village, was leading the race almost from the start, and ended up finishing first, as he has the most experience of the karts.
Right near the ice karting track there is a little forest where they do horse sled riding, so it’s easy to combine both experiences. Horse was the traditional way of transportation for centuries, yet you don’t get to try it too often anymore, certainly not in winter time.
Snow sled makes it really easy to move, as it is built with skis, not with wheels. The weather became quite frosty in the afternoon, yet it was very fun to cruise trough the snowy forest on the sled. One curious detail: it was so much snow on the trees on the sides of the trail, that they were bending down pretty heavily. We’ve got a good share of fresh snow down our necks! But that’s winter, right?
On our way back we’ve spotted some locals 🙂
Evening was spent in the nice restaurant of the village. Naturally, seeing the northern lights was on our list, however, the sky was cloudy for the whole day and night, leaving very low chances to see them. That was still ok, as the good and relaxing evening was just what we needed.
Watch our Ice Karting video from Aurora Village!
Day 2 – Snowshoeing and snowmobiling
Waking up at the Aurora Igloos feels nice and cosy. The cottage is warm, and there are nice views form the windows.
After breakfast, the weather started to improve and the sun was shining through the clouds. We went for snowshoeing and ice fishing trip to the nearby frozen river. Once again, Juha from the Aurora Village was our guide. We’ve put our snowshoes on and went into the deep and fluffy snow!
It’s amazing how pure and fluffy the snow was from the recent snowfall. Pure winter joy!
We did a little ice fishing afterwards. We did not get any fish, unfortunately, but it was still nice to relax, breathe some fresh air and feel the sun rays on our faces.
We ended up having lunch on the fireplace situated nearby.
Day is still short in mid-February, so we decided to make the most of the sunlight, and go on another adventure, the snowmobiling trip. The village has different tours to offer, but their 2 hour snowmobile adventure sounded like the most suitable option (the other two being 30 minute taster ride, and 4 hour snowmobile adventure).
Buffet style dinner was served at the hotel’s restaurant, and there were many nice treats there with hot meat and fish dishes and salads 🙂
Food was really a great part of the whole experience at the Aurora Village, and the staff at the restaurant and bar were very friendly and helpful.
Hopes were again high for the northern lights, but the weather got cloudy again. I’ve watched the skies for a few hours, and caught a small gap in the skies for a few minutes. The aurora activity was relatively low, but the camera captured a glimpse of green light.
Day 3 – Aurora Sauna and suprise auroras!
On our last full day at the village was more relaxed.
We slept late, cuddled for a long time under the blankets watching the views, before going for breakfast at the Village’s restaurant.
After breakfast we went on a reindeer ride, organized right at the village 🙂
Look at this cute face!
The latest addition to the activities at Aurora Village is their Aurora Sauna, and several other saunas as well. Naturally, sauna is a huge thing in Finland, and everybody who visits must try it 🙂
The Aurora Sauna is one of a kind though, as it has large panoramic windows looking into the beautiful nature, away from curious eyes 🙂 The sauna itself is very cosy, with nice warm wood and amazing stove in the middle.
After the sauna the girls went to the outdoor jacuzzi. The water is heated, and it’s nice and cosy to sit in the warm water, and breathe the cold air while glancing around.
As the evening settled, we started to get a little anxious. It was our last night to spot the northern lights in Ivalo, but the weather did not cooperate. It stayed cloudy until the early evening, but we’ve heard there were some clear skies east from Ivalo. We decided to go on the aurora hunting trip with the Village’s guide Samuli. We drove all the way to the Russian border, to the river of Paatsjoki. As we were driving, the skies cleared up, revealing the stars and the moon. As soon as we got to the Paatsjoki river bridge, the sky exploded!
We barely had time to set up our cameras, as the skies were turning green. The aurora moved very fast, making it challening to make a thoughtful composition, so I was just following along and took pictures from the brigde. The aurora was very bright with colours visible to the naked eye, despite nearly full moon.
About 10-15 minutes later, the aurora calmed down a little, and I could make a nice composition with the river (which does not freeze at this area), the bridge, and myself.
After a few more minutes, the clouds took over the skies, but WOW! What a great culmination of the trip!
Ivalo delivered again, and showed us some nice auroras. The activities were nice, and the people were very friendly. Warmly recommended!
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Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, Europe’s last wilderness area, and our home, is often associated with its winter wonderland. However, the beauty of our region extends far beyond the snowy season.