I was recently invited to visit two of Finnish Lapland’s top summer destinations, both of which are high above the arctic circle. I’ve just published an article on Levi and now I am turning my attention to the equally beautiful village of Ylläs located one hour away by car.
I flew with Finnair from Manchester to Helsinki and then took an internal flight up to Kittilä. My visit to Lapland as one of the Lapland Midnight Sun Ambassadors 2022 was a two centre trip with an equal time exploring both Levi and Ylläs.
The resorts are just an hour apart but quite different in their style and range of activities making for an ideal two centre holiday.
As Finland’s largest winter ski resort, there is a wide variety of accommodation available in Ylläs ranging from apartments and cottages to stylish hotels all of which are perfect for a summer visit.
We stayed in the village centre at the Saaga Hotel, just a couple of minutes walk from the gondola ski lift which operates year round. Rooms are comfortable and rustic in style and benefit from magnificent views overlooking Ylläs fell. Lapland Hotels Saaga
Ride the Gondola Lift: On our first afternoon we took the Gondola lift up to the top of Ylläs Fell which rises to an elevation of 719 metres in just seven minutes. Standard return summer tickets €14 (£11.90).
The spacious cabins can hold up to eight people with space for pushchairs and bicycles. Along the journey we enjoyed splendid views over the treetops of the surrounding landscape and crystal clear lakes.
The Ylläs gondola has a unique claim to fame as it is the only one in the world to have its own sauna cabin. We didn’t have an opportunity to experience this ourselves but how wonderful it must be to be able to enjoy the wilderness scenery from the cabin windows whilst relaxing in the sauna. The cabin sauna ride lasts 20 minutes and also included in the price is access to another sauna on the fell top with showers, terrace and jacuzzi.
From the upper gondola station we followed a historic trail along the fell top breathing in the pure, fresh air whilst admiring the breathtaking views. The path is easily navigable for both prams and wheelchairs and has some useful information boards along the way detailing the local geology, flora and fauna.
Reindeer could be seen grazing by the side of the trail and at one of the many viewpoints a giant swing had been constructed. There was no way we could resist stopping to enjoy a ride amongst the breathtaking scenery.
Continuing our walk, it wasn’t too long before we reached a mountain restaurant with an idyllic setting and fantastic views. The pine clad interior was really cosy and the perfect spot to sit and relax awhile. Ylläskammi 718 bar/restaurant
It was absolutely lovely in mid-summer being able to sit out on the terrace but I can also imagine how inviting it must be during the winter months for both downhill and cross country skiers.
Go biking: Mountain and e-fat bikes can be rented between June and October and with the possibility of being able to transport them on the gondola there’s no need for any strenuous uphill pedalling.
From the summit cyclists can choose between eight downhill routes of varying difficulty. For beginners like me, there’s an easy training track lower down the fell to try out the e-bikes and learn the techniques of all terrain cycling. There are also many picturesque cycling tracks through the forests of the national park. Ylläs Bike Park
Explore the lakes and rivers by kayak: I’d never tried kayaking before and not even heard of pack rafting but was up for the challenge of a three hour paddle. The trip was organised by Sisu Outdoors and as a complete novice, I felt confident under their expert guidance.
I soon found out that a pack raft is a strong and durable inflatable kayak that folds into a bag enabling backpacking and paddling to be combined into one trip.
We inflated the pack rafts easily by using inflation bags to catch the air then twist the bags shut to squeeze the air into the pack raft. We repeated this several times, just needing to inflate the seats and top up the air by mouth to finish off.
Before getting in, we put on life jackets and learnt the basics of how to hold the paddle. I opted to go out in a two person kayak with an instructor as I hadn’t tried it before. Our looped trip began in the calm lake of Akäslompolo and continued downstream through the narrow Kesankijoki river.
The trip was well planned and customised to our skill level (non existent) and with the extremely friendly and professional instructors I felt in safe hands and enjoyed every minute of the trip so I would highly recommend this activity. Sisu Outdoor
Go hiking in the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park: Finland’s third largest and most northerly national park is home to fells, lakes and idyllic scenery and has hiking trails to suit all abilities.
We took a 10 km walk from near Varkaankuru, just north of Ylläs and a short distance from the village of Akäslompolo where we’d been rafting earlier.
The trail started through a pine forest which eventually led us to a wilderness hut where we cooked sausages on its fireplace. We shared the hut with some other hikers whose children were enjoying toasting marshmallows on the fire.
Lunch over, we continued up the fells to Kellostapuli. This marked trail was very varied as it ascended gently uphill taking us above the tree line and onto a rocky ravine before winding its way down to the forest once more.
Overlooking a small but beautiful lake we came across a little cafe at Kesänkijärvi where we rested our legs sipping cups of coffee and nibbling delicious cinnamon buns for which Finland is renowned. It was then just a couple of kilometres back to the car after a lovely, scenic walk. This is just one of the many marked trails in the area to choose from so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to return one day to hike more of them.
Drive the scenic wilderness road: This 13 km long winding road passes along the south side of Ylläs fell connecting the two Ylläs villages of Ylläsjarvi and Akäslompolo. The road ascends and descends both sides of the mountain through the national park with several stopping places to enjoy the views, have a picnic and read the information boards.
Play frisbee golf on a pro 18 hole course: I’d played frisbee golf (disc golf) several times before in Finland but only on short courses and have always found it to be a fun activity.
The course in Akäslompolo is free to use so you just need to bring along your own set of frisbees. We started at Hole 1, which was a par 3 over 100 metres away with the flag somewhere in the far distance through the pine trees.
Needless to say I didn’t make par, in fact I lost count of how many goes I had until my disc landed in the basket. It didn’t matter though as we had lots of fun and by practising we improved our technique with some good tips from Eetu our lovely guide from Visit Ylläs.
Relax at a traditional Finnish lakeside sauna: No visit to Finland can be complete without experiencing a traditional lakeside sauna. We spent the evening at Rönölä, a former lumberjack’s cottage on the shores of Lake Luosujärvi.
Here we were greeted by the owner who led us into the main house where she told us about the history of the building.
We were then able to experience both the original lumberjack’s rustic sauna and a more recent smoke sauna which takes all day to reach the correct temperature. It was so relaxing spending time unwinding in each of the saunas and then taking a dip in the lake afterwards. Because the sun never sets all summer the water reaches a pleasant warm temperature and lazing out on the terrace, it was warmer still. Ronola Sauna Cottage.
In addition to the above fun activities that we experienced, it’s possible to also go fishing, birdwatching, rowing, horse riding, berry picking and mushroom foraging. Summer in Lapland has something for everyone with its invigorating 24 hours of daylight and the purest of fresh air whether you prefer to be active or not. I’ve spent many summers in southern Finland which I dearly love but this was my first time to experience the midnight sun of Lapland and I’m certain it won’t be my last!
During my visit I was a guest of Visit Ylläs and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.
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