I’ll often get asked what my absolute favourite trip has been and while that may be the toughest question I could answer, I definitely have a few that instantly come to mind as my top trips. One of these was my visit to Utsjoki.
For a few years I have been taking part in a weekly Twitter chat called #Travchat and a few of us decided to get together for a ‘tweet up’ hosted by one of the regular attendees Aurora Holidays. This was not a trip I could pass up!
- 1 Introducing Aurora Holidays
- 2 Where Is Utsjoki?
- 3 The Cottages
- 4 The Restaurant
- 5 Northern Lights Chasing
- 6 Activities Available
- 7 Why I Love Aurora Holidays
- 8 How Much Does Aurora Holidays Cost?
- 9 How To Book With Aurora Holidays
Introducing Aurora Holidays
If your dream is to see the Northern Lights then why not do it from the top of the EU? Aurora Holidays is a family owned business in the small Finnish town of Utsjoki. Their quiet, remote location makes them perfect for that once in a lifetime experience of chasing the northern lights.
Aurora Holidays are proud supporters of the LGBTQ+ community and have joined the ‘We Speak Gay’ community – A Finnish organisation of open minded companies that welcome LGBTQ+ customers. Aurora Holidays want all their guests to feel safe and welcome.
Where Is Utsjoki?
Like most people on our Tweet Up, I had never heard of Utsjoki before. Located in Northern Finland in the Lapland region, this small town is a great destination for those looking to get away from it all and enjoy nature.
Since Utsjoki is surrounded by nature it is the perfect location for northern light chasing. Unlike with other popular northern lights destinations where you can keep visiting without ever seeing the stunning light display, a week in Utsjoki in the winter months will almost guarantee you a glimpse of the lights. Of course nowhere can promise 100% chance but you have a lot more chances here than Iceland.
Utsjoki is right on the border of Finland and Norway. Our cottages were only separated by a river that during our stay was frozen solid. It made a great spot for northern lights spotting.
The cottages at Aurora Holidays have all been recently built (some newer than others) and are equipped with anything you could possibly need during your stay. They have four identical cottages each with two twin bedrooms and a sofa bed so they can accommodate up to six people in each cottage.
Each room in the cottage has their own heater so everyone can have a temperature that suits them. Perfect as some people like a toasty room to forget the snow, while others, like myself, love sleeping in a cold room.
The bathroom also has underfloor heating so no matter the weather outside you’ll never be cold in the shower! And a bonus for us ladies is the hair dryer in the bathroom.
Best of all, each cottage is also equipped with their own private sauna. The saunas even have a timer so you can head out for a few hours and come back to a sauna that’s already heated up ready for you.
I got into a lovely routine during the trip. Since the lights are usually spotted in the early hours of the morning it means you spend the trip staying up quite late. But with activities on offer in the day I never wanted to sleep in all day. What worked for me was coming back from an activity, turning the sauna on and then taking a nap while it heats up. There’s no greater joy than waking up from a nap and jumping in your own private sauna!
During my stay there was no restaurant on site so we stopped at the local supermarket on the journey from the airport. However, since I was at Aurora Holidays they have now added a restaurant. Because we were there as part of the Tweet Up, we did get a local meal one night. Our hosts cooked an incredible local dish in one of our cottages and we all sat down together to eat it. The dish they created was a reindeer stew and it tasted incredible.
I wish I would have been able to experience the restaurant during my stay. The one meal they did cook us was so good I would have loved to have been able to have it every day. In the restaurant they serve a carefully selected menu sourced from local ingredients where possible. All dishes can be prepared to your dietary preferences and restrictions.
Northern Lights Chasing
As Utsjoki is far away from the big cities with light pollution you don’t have to go far from your cottage to enjoy the lights. You can choose to simply enjoy them from the comfort of your own terrace. Of course it’s a lot more fun to go running around with everyone trying to spot them while new lights suddenly appear from the opposite end of the sky.
Worried about getting cold while waiting for the lights to appear? Don’t worry there is a fantastic little hut for everyone to wait in which has its own fireplace. Perfect for keeping warm on the cold nights or grilling sausages or marshmallows on an open fire.
While chasing the northern lights was the main reason for us heading to Utsjoki, it happens at night which means you have the whole day to explore the area and experience the local customs. Thankfully Aurora Holidays had lots of activities available to keep us entertained in the day. With their help we got a chance to experience true Sami culture. We were lucky to take part in the following:
This was such a fun activity and something I had never done before. It took some getting used to but after a while we were used to our snowshoes. Since we were surrounded by nature, we made our way up a hill, through the trees and to a cute hut. Here we enjoyed grilled sausages before heading back down.
With Norway just over the river we were able to head over to Tana Bru for some husky sledding. I had never done this before so I was so excited for this. The dogs were just as enthusiastic, plus super cute, and everyone was excited to give it a go. We split up into teams of two and went around the track, enjoying the Norwegian landscape.
This was my first experience ice fishing and we actually took part in a local competition. Since our group was all new to ice fishing we did need help getting our holes drilled out but afterwards we set up individual camps and tried to catch as much as possible.
There was something quite relaxing about lying in snow trying to catch a fish from a small hole. Especially enjoyable when you have a couple of beers too. But as it turns out I am a terrible ice fisher. I couldn’t even catch the fish from our ‘caught’ bucket, let alone the ones in the lake!
Village Tour of Utsjoki
It would be a shame to travel all the way to the top of Finland and not check out the cute village of Utsjoki. Aurora Holidays are just outside of the village so it’s just a quick car ride away and it’s a great chance to learn more about the local culture.
The tour will also include a visit to Sami Bridge where the border is so you can stand with one foot in Norway and one foot in Finland.
Taste A Traditional Sami Meal
Probably my favourite activity we did was head out for a traditional Sami meal. We were taken to a traditional hut where our lovely host, dressed accordingly in traditional sami clothes of the region, cooked us a lovely meal with locally sourced ingredients. Even the simple mushroom soup was made into a wow factor dish. I wish I had the recipe!
Since we were on this trip as friends of the owners we did get taken to Inari for the annual Reindeer Racing Championships to watch our host’s child and pet reindeer compete. This was an incredible tournament to experience as it was so different from anything I’ve ever been able to watch before.
These kids were so small and going at incredible speeds and it was amazing just watching them fly around the track. Reindeer are important to the culture so locals had them racing as well as walking around with them as pets.
Why I Love Aurora Holidays
It’s fair to say I absolutely loved my stay with Aurora Holidays. The staff were so welcoming and did everything possible to make our stay the best trip it could be. They instantly became part of our group. We were actually really sad to say goodbye to them at the end of the week.
Because Aurora Holidays is a small family run company they focus more on the guests themselves rather than just making as much money as they can. They altered the schedule to suit our budget.
They will happily drive the 2-3 hour journey to the airport to pick up guests just so they can take them to a supermarket to get everything they need for the week. Thanks to their thoughtfulness we all had the greatest week.
How Much Does Aurora Holidays Cost?
I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t a budget holiday. However, it is 100% worth the money. I didn’t second guess it when I saw the price and I’m so glad I spent the money. Yes, the winter package will cost you €1795* per person but here’s what you have to remember…
That’s a 5 night stay so if you were to break it down, each night costs €359. While that may seem pricey at first, don’t forget what you are getting for that. Firstly, the cottages are cute and come with a sauna. Think about hotels you’ve stayed in that have spas, they always cost extra and this one will be in your cottage!
Plus let’s not forget all the extras. Airport pick-up and drop off is included, as well as transfer to all activities. This means you have nothing to worry about and can sit back and enjoy the trip. And while the activities do cost extra, it’s up to you which ones you pick so you get a package that suits your needs and budget. That being said, the tour of Utsjoki is included as part of you winter package and is really enjoyable.
Part of your Aurora Holidays experience is getting a glimpse at those beautiful lights and with this package you’ll not only get 3 guided nights of northern lights chasing, you’ll also get a photography workshop. This is something you don’t get with most northern lights tours and is a huge bonus. The great part is that even if photography isn’t your thing, you’ll still get 3 to 5 photos of you and the lights taken by someone with years of experience capturing the lights.
*Prices correct as of 16th March 2021
How To Book With Aurora Holidays
Utsjoki was an amazing place to visit and really was the perfect place to see the northern lights. If you’ve been tempted to visit head over to Aurora Holiday’s website to make a booking.
What Your Booking Gets You:
- 5 nights accommodation in a luxury cottage (with its own sauna)
- 3 nights chasing the northern lights for 4-5 hours
- Transport to and from Ivalo airport
- Hot drinks, hot soups and snacks while out aurora chasing
- Extra warm clothing if needed
- Tour of Utsjoki village
- Wifi in each cottage
- Full board (breakfast, lunch & diner)
- Northern lights photography workshop
- 3-5 photos of you and the lights
As you can see I had a great stay with Aurora Holidays and the whole gang was happy to have been there. It was the perfect location for our #Travchat Tweet Up. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Comment below and let me know where
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