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A Guide to Finland’s Best Glass Igloos and Aurora Hotels

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An Aurora Hotel

Traveling the world so often seems like a succession of national forests, waterfalls, and tropical getaways. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but there’s so much more to the world than just the equator. If you’re willing to step outside of the warmth of tropical waters and get a little chilly, there are plenty of cool destinations you can see in the far north.

Scandinavia – and Finland in particular – is a wonderful place to visit. While you might picture an arctic, snow-covered winter wonderland, it’s not always that cold or even always covered in snow. Summer in Finland isn’t that much different than summer somewhere in northern Canada, Alaska, southern Greenland, or Iceland. There’s pristine wilderness, expansive natural beauty, and all the wonder your mind can handle.

One of the coolest things you can do is visit one of the glass igloos or aurora hotels scattered throughout Finland. They’re an incredible experience. What are they, though, and why should you visit one? And when you do, what should you do, and where should you go? Let’s talk about it.

What are Glass Igloos and Aurora Hotels?

For those of us who live in a place like the United States, where light pollution is intense and seeing more than a handful of stars is a rarity, you need to visit a Dark Sky Park to see; it’s easy to forget what you miss. Even if the sky looks clear, ambient light from civilization washes out everything.

Maybe you’ve seen brilliant pictures of the night sky, free from light pollution. Maybe you’ve even visited a dark sky park and seen it in person. We’re here to tell you, though, that nothing you do in the continental USA will compare to getting outside the borders of the country and seeing the sky and the stars when it’s really, truly dark out.

Of course, while you can always head out into the deep northern wilderness with little more than a tent and your standard cold-weather camping supplies, there are easier ways to do it. If you want the comfort of a real bed and the amenities of a hotel but the isolation and darkness of the Finnish Lapland, a glass igloo or aurora hotel is the way to go.

Glass Igloos in Finland

The term “glass igloo” should probably be enough to describe what you’re in for. An igloo, of course, is a construction made of ice that insulates the interior and makes for a surprisingly effective shelter in cold weather. A glass igloo is the same concept, but modern glass is used to keep in warmth. It’s a little like a greenhouse but with a focus on keeping the glass clean and clear so you can lay on a comfortable bed and look up at the sky all night long.

Some glass igloos and aurora hotels are basically just cabins with a broad, north-facing skylight and shutters or curtains you can control with a remote. Others are near-fully glass constructions, with just enough solid walls to give you privacy from other units and people who might be around the property with you.

One question you might have is whether there’s a difference between a glass igloo and an aurora hotel. The truth is, no, there isn’t. It’s essentially just marketing. Aurora hotels are more aimed at attracting people who want to see the northern lights, while glass igloos might not be as ideally positioned for it and are better just for stargazing, but they’re all more or less the same concept. It just comes down to what the operators of the facilities want to call them – and many use both terms.

When to Visit and How Long to Stay

When should you book a trip to Finland and find a glass igloo to stay in? There are three possible answers to this question.

The first answer is from mid-winter to mid-spring. This timing is the peak season for glass igloos because it’s the time when the nights are the longest, and you have the greatest chance of seeing the northern lights from the place you’re staying. The skies will be beautiful no matter what, of course, but you have the greatest chance of seeing the aurora during this season. Unfortunately, in deep winter, this is when the weather is going to be the coldest, and you’ll have the least range of other things to do while you’re there.

The second answer is mid-summer to mid-autumn. This is the exact opposite of peak timing for the skies, but in many ways, it’s peak timing for Finland itself. The weather turns colder, and the trees turn absolutely beautiful, with all the colors of the autumn rainbow represented everywhere you look. It’s absolutely gorgeous… and more likely to be cloudy or even rainy while you’re there, so you might not have a good glimpse of the sky while you’re there.

Glass Igloos

The third answer is in between those two. Transitional seasons are fine, and while you don’t have the biggest benefits of the two above, you also don’t have the worst drawbacks. It really all comes down to what you want to do and see while you’re there.

As for how long to stay, that’s also up to you and your budget. We highly recommend spending at least a week. It’s an international trip, and if you’re there aurora-hunting, you definitely need to spend as much time as you can. Really, though, it comes down to how much time you can afford.

How Much Will a Glass Igloo Stay Cost?

Pricing for glass igloos varies by location and by season. It will also vary according to the exchange rate with the Euro and whatever your local currency is. For USD, they’re fairly close to parity as of this writing.

Off-season stays in aurora hotels generally run around $200 a night. It might be a little more or a little less, depending on the hotel you choose, but that’s likely going to be the floor. There are some fantastically expensive resorts you can pick as well, which have higher pricing.

Peak season rates are much higher. You’re looking at something more like $700-$750 a night, and some of the more expensive resorts can be closer to $900 a night unless you book very early and take advantage of long-stay discounts.

The Lovers Passport in an Aurora Hotel

All of this is just for the accommodations. Factor in everything else:

  • Airline pricing there and back.
  • Renting a car to go from the airport to your resort and back.
  • Any special gear you need for rugged and possibly cold-weather excursions.
  • Food and drink, as well as other supplies, like firewood.
  • Fees for guided nature excursions or adventures like skiing.

You can see how a trip like this would pretty rapidly add up. It’s an expensive trip, but it’s definitely worth it, in our opinion.

Will You See the Northern Lights from an Aurora Hotel in Finland?

If you’re visiting something called an aurora hotel, you’ll surely see the aurora, right?

Well, maybe.

The trouble is, the northern lights are fickle. They’re a unique phenomenon caused by the interaction of solar radiation and the earth’s magnetosphere, which means they are extremely variable due to the constant churning of the sun itself, the conditions of the earth, and everything in between. Sometimes, a solar flare makes for an immense and gorgeous aurora visible nearly halfway to the equator. Sometimes, a calm solar cycle means you have barely more than a faint glimmer around the poles.

The Northern Lights

We’ve written a whole guide to seeing the northern lights, which you can read here. The TL;DR, though, is this: you can put yourself in the best possible position to see the aurora, and you can do everything right, and you can still miss it. It might be cloudy, it might just not happen, or it might be disappointingly faint and short. There’s just no way to predict it, especially far enough in advance to take advantage of booking your hotel.

Our honest advice: if you’re going to book a glass igloo, do it with the expectation of seeing a gorgeous night sky and enjoying a remote, isolated natural vacation. Consider seeing the aurora as a bonus, and you won’t be disappointed.

What Are the Best Glass Igloos and Aurora Hotels in Finland?

Now comes the real question: out of all of the different resorts and hotels in Finland, where should you consider booking?

Our number one recommendation is Rovaniemi. Located in the arctic circle, it’s an incredible place to visit, even in the depths of winter. We detailed our whole experience here, if you want to read more about it and how to explore the area using Rovaniemi as a home base. It’s one of our favorite winter trips we’ve taken, and we’re sure it’ll be one of yours too.

If you don’t want to just follow in our footsteps, here are some other options to consider.

Pyhän Asteli

This resort is growing in popularity every year and has five incredible glass igloos to book if that’s what you want to do. They aren’t necessarily the best or the most famous for the purpose, but it’s a great way to experience the glass igloo while also having plenty to do during the day.

This place of lodging is located very close to two different ski resorts, so if skiing is your thing, it’s a great choice. It’s more expensive than staying at those ski resorts, so many people choose to spend most of their time at the resort and spend a night or two at Pyhän Asteli to round out the trip.

Northern Lights Ranch

One of the furthest north places you can stay, this gives you something more like a modern cabin experience. The cabins themselves aren’t igloo-shaped and are more focused on the skylight design, but they’re also glass-walled in part and are quite isolated. They even have outdoor hot tubs for you to hang out in while watching for the northern lights.

Since it’s so extremely isolated, it has one of the best views of the sky and the aurora in Finland while still having modern amenities.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Ah, Kakslauttanen. This is by far the most famous of the glass igloo resorts, though the entire resort has a variety of cabins and other accommodations as well.

There are some serious pros and cons to this option. It’s the most expensive option, and since people tend to have very high expectations, they may find minor details to be abrasive and disappointing. If you want a famous, Instagram-worthy location with as many amenities as possible, it’s a great option. On the other hand, if you want something a bit more budget-friendly, maybe pass on this one.

The Arctic Treehouse Hotel

This hotel is relatively small and is only open from July to April. During the absolute peak, it’s extremely expensive and can be as much as $1,000 per night. On the other hand, it’s convenient to access and one of the most luxurious places you can stay in all of Finland.

It’s very much a prestigious hotel, so go if you have the budget to blow, but otherwise, find somewhere a little friendlier for your wallet.

Apukka Resort

Located between the lakes Apukkajarvi and Olkkajarvi, this resort is solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of just about everything. It’s not too expensive nor too cheap, it’s not too isolated or too close to civilization, and it has several different types of accommodations you can stay in. If it has any downsides, it’s that the individual cabins might be a little close to one another, and you can occasionally lack some privacy, but it’s far from intrusive.

There are, of course, plenty of other options as well. Levin Iglut, Akaslompolo, Wilderness Hotel Inari; there are quite a few other options to explore if you don’t like or can’t book the ones we’ve listed. In fact, if you’ve ever visited the Finnish Lapland and have tried out a glass igloo or aurora hotel, why not tell us where and how you liked it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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