We stayed here for 4 nights in February, as a birthday celebration. I found it after searching various forums and location guides on Tripadvisor, which suggested that it was very remote but set in an amazing location in Northern Finland.
We got here by flying internally from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and then hiring a car. If you’re coming from abroad, the chances are that you’ll be doing the same so some background basics of how to get here; while it is listing as Rovaniemi, it is actually at Luukonniemi that is approx. 80 kilometres north west of Rovaniemi but is so small it isn’t on the map. Look for the large Raanujarvi lake and you’re in the right area. The car journey takes 60-90 minutes, depending upon how familiar and competent you are at driving on the snow & ice-covered roads. It’s hilarious when you’re driving or the below the speed limit – 80 kmph for most of the time – and then the occasional local will fly past you like some Finnish rally driver…probably because they are just that.
I made all the relevant arrangements beforehand with the very helpful Anne, who advised us to stop at either the ‘big shop’ in Rovaniemi or the ‘small shop’ in Sinetta. Essentially there are 2 shops between Rovaniemi airport and Napapiirin Jarvilomat. The big shop is a large supermarket in a mall in the centre of Rovaneimi that sells just everything you’ll need for a self-catering adventure. It also has a very good off-licence – Alko - adjacent to it in the mall, which sells a wide range of beers, wines and spirits. For Finland, the wine is very attractively priced and remember that both the ‘big shop’ and ‘small shop’ only sell beers, not wine, so this is the only place you can buy it. The small shop is a small supermarket on the N79, just before you will turn off left onto the N83. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it as it the ONLY shop along the route. There is also a petrol station and restaurant next door to the small shop.
So, with a boot full of suitcases and back seats full of carrier bags of food & bottles of wine, we duly turned into the track that leads to Napapiirin Jarvilomat’s reception. They are brown tourist signs for the last stretch of the journey.
Napapiirin Jarvilomat is a collection of around a half dozen separate luxury cottages – or are they cabins, not sure – spread out over what must be a couple of square miles. We stayed in Reiki, a 2 bedroom that would sleep 4 in comfort and I’m guessing 6 at a push as there was a sitting area on a mezzanine floor above the ground floor bedroom that looked like it contained occasional beds. Overall the cottage was of the highest specification and had clearly been designed with quality in mind and had been built to last.
Each cottage is reached by a track that leads off from the main reception and as you would hope, each one is beautifully remote and isolated from the others. They all face out onto the Iso-Vietonen lake which is winter freezes over with ice to the depth of more than 1 metre, so it is perfectly safe to walk across it. In fact, that was a short cut from our cottage to the main reception; either walk/drive the 1.1 miles to the reception building or walk in a straight line over the frozen lake; this confused Googlemaps on our smartphones something chronic which was great to see: Technology 0 – Nature 1
Anne drove us over to our cottage and showed us around. Remember it’s customary here to remove your shoes/boots when you enter a building (quite apart from the ornate polished wood floors). The cottage was fantastic: roomy, modern and very well-finished. There was adjustable underfloor heating throughout, a very effective woodburning stove (with the world’s supply of dry firewood stored in the tiny, wee woodshed just on the other side of the drive), large flatscreen TV, comfortable armchairs and sofa, 2 toilets, walk-in shower room with twin showers and a fully-fitted kitchen. We had bought some essential cleaning products, such as washing liquid, not knowing exactly what would be supplied but we need not have worried as there were dishwasher tablets, washing up liquid, almost a dozen toilet rolls, washing powder, firelighters…the list goes on. Talking of washing powder, there was a utility room with a very efficient washing machine and the most amazing drying cabinet. Imagine a full height wardrobe with several hanging rails at different heights: you take the wet laundry out of the washing machine and hang it up in the drying cabinet. It doesn’t tumble like a dryer but rather uses warm air that passes around the clothes that are hanging naturally and not all jumbled together. As a result, the laundry not only dries very quickly but comes out fresh and soft.
Inside the front door was a hallway we christened the airlock, as we used it to don and take off our outer cold weather gear, using the inner and outer doors in sequence. It has a large wardrobe that was big enough to store all our outer gear and footwear. Outside was an L-shaped veranda that ran around almost 3 sides of the property and had a table & 4 dining chairs on it.
This being Finland, there was plenty of interior lighting to allow you to stay well lit during the longer winter nights. Most, if not all, of the bulbs we could see were low energy and/or LED, and the lighting was very configurable in terms of being dimmable as well as able to select various combinations of main and side lights.
You can either self-cater here or the owners will cook you meals and bring them over to you. As we weren’t due to arrive until late afternoon on the first day, we asked for this and about 30 minutes after we got into the cottage, Anne arrived back with sautéed reindeer with mashed potato, followed by chocolate cake and lingonberry jam, plus a loaf of lingonberry bread we had also ordered. I was expecting a small meal for the two of us but crickey, there was enough for 4-6 people with ease and we actually had the rest the following evening. The food was homecooked, warming and filling; just the sort of comfort food that was perfect after a day’s travelling and -18’c outside. The landlady here is a seriously talented cook as all the dishes were excellent, especially the mashed potato that must have been at least 50% butter but, hey, that just made it taste better. The lingonberry loaf was the size of a large laptop and lasted us the whole duration of our stay. So top marks for the quality and quantity of the cooking to order.
Suffice to say that in the 4 days we stayed here, we didn’t even turn on the TV once. If you want to get away from it all and disconnect from the outside world (even though there is good mobile coverage all over the place here and there was free wifi as well) then this is the place to come. We just went for the most enjoyable walks in the winter, arctic environment. The snow was a good 3 feet deep is most places and it must have been snowing for around half the time we were here. Sadly this meant we didn’t see the Northern Lights because of the snow-bearing clouds. That was a shame as you’re around 100 miles above the view line and we were hoping to see them here (I’ve seen them in Svalbard twice and they are truly mesmerising and wondrous)…but I guess it’s a reason to want to come back again.
The bedroom was compact but very cosy, despite it going down to -29’c at times. The duvets didn’t seem that thick and it was more down to the very effective room and underfloor heating: we never ever felt cold inside during our stay.
The shower room has two separate showers, both of which provided instant hot water with good water pressure and the ability to adjust the stream via the handheld shower heads. Adjacent to the showers was an indoor sauna. It would comfortably seat everyone using the property and works off a timer; as with the one in the hotel in Helsinki we were in before coming up here, if you go in and turn it on 1-2 hours before you plan on using it, you won’t be disappointed.
The woodburner was fantastic, with the outer materials radiating heat long after the logs inside had burned up. A couple of hints; firstly don’t forget to open and close the flue value in the chimney just above the stove itself and the dry logs will burn quickly, so for a whole evening you’ll need 2 baskets of logs from the woodshed. The basket is provided but get them in one trip, as having to put on your cold weather outer gear late in the evening just to get another basket isn’t practical.
Also next to the property (as the pics show) was a small hut. It looked like something out of the Shire and was for outdoor cooking. It was a small circular hut with an outdoor fire in the centre for bbq-ing food. You could sit maybe 4-6 people inside and it had a built-in chimney to vent the smoke as well as a door to close and make it very cosy. If you were here in the summer, it would be a fantastic place to cook in; indoors but outdoors so to speak.
The kitchen appliances were all modern and very efficient. We cooked a cottage pie one evening (with reindeer mince, which was a first) and the dishwasher made quick work of cleaning the casserole dish, as it did for everything we put into it. The fan oven was effective and the cooker offered controllable heat for hob-top cooking.
Perhaps the best thing though was the location and the view. The cottage is surrounded on 3 sides by a huge coniferous forest and on the other by the expanse of the lake. You can walk out of the front door – or the side patio door – and straight down to the water’s edge. For boating or fishing in the summer and walking/skiing/fishing in the winter, you could not ask for a better location. The view outside from all the rooms was breath-taking, as was the view back toward the cottage in between the trees when we talked out onto the lake.
On the downside;
- it would have been useful to have known exactly what was and wasn’t provided before we arrived. We bought way too many provisions, some of which we didn’t need to have purchased because more than ample supplies were in the property. The website could be expanded a bit to list the full inventory, in different languages as well for international guests.
- some of the fixtures and equipment could do with a refresh and repair. The main entrance door had a handle that was coming loose on one side and you wouldn’t want it to come off and be locked out in the winter. The handle for the snow shovel was coming off on one side and at some point soon will likely break off completely, rendering a rather essential piece of outdoor equipment inert. Snow shoes are provided for free (and cross country skis can be hired from reception) but one shoe on each of our pairs had a fixture/strap missing so we couldn’t use them. I’m sure that we could have gone over to reception and they would have found a replacement from their main store but it was a bit of a trek (especially without a show shoe!).
Personally, I think the owners should do a full stocktake at the end of the winter season and identify what needs repairing/updating. To be fair, it is well organised but maybe is on the cusp of becoming better-known with tourists, which means more guests which means more wear & tear on equipment.
These are small niggles but feedback should be comprehensive and honest. Did it spoil the enjoyment of our stay? No, not a bit.
This is somewhere truly marvellous. Look on a map and see just how far north it is; for most people this will be the farthest north they’ve ever been and will ever go. It puts the words ‘snow’ and ‘cold’ into their correct contexts and you will laugh your head off the next time the temperature gets low but above freezing in Third World Britain and all public transport comes to a standstill because of adverse weather and the Met Office issuing an Amber Warning of Death because of the…er…cool breeze. Here, everything works and everyone just gets on with it, mainly because they are grown-ups governed by grown-ups. Finns are pragmatists not victims. You go out in your car in the snow and crash into a tree backwards? – your fault, not everyone else’s but yours.
Talking of snow, one evening there was an almighty racket and we looked outside to see the local farmer coming down the track to the cottage in his tractor with a snow blower attached. As it had snowed so much during the previous 24 hours or so, he was going around all the local tracks and clearing the recent snowfall, as well as compacting the tracks. Not just pragmatic but selfless and community-spirited these Finns.
Big thanks to Anne, who seems to be a real girl Friday here; she does sales, reception, accounts, housekeeping, concierge, room service, maintenance…and even laughed at my jokes. As the landlady doesn’t speak English, she is also her translator. If that were not enough, she also baked a cake for my birthday. Is there anything that Anne cannot do?!
As you may have gathered from the length of this review, there is an awful lot to like about this place. Buy some wine at Alko, bring a chess set and some books. Snuggle into the armchair with the woodburner roaring in the background. Life doesn’t get much better.
My advice would be to do your research before you get here, as the nearest shop – the small one at Sinetta – is 42 kilometers away. It is the nearest place selling anything at all and so you can’t simply pop down the corner shop, as that corner is a 90 minute round trip away.
We paid €540/£470 for 4 nights in the cottage, plus around €80 for the cooked meal on the first night. For the accommodation, that worked out at approx. £115 per night which for everything that was there, quite apart from the sheer enjoyment you get just from being there, is insanely good value-for-money.
The more planning you do though, the better your stay will be. There are plenty of activities to do locally in all seasons but personally, I just loved the peace and quiet of it all. There wasn’t even birdsound, with the only outside sounds being the occasional distant thrum of a snowmobile whizzing across the lake or the even more occasional sonic boom of an F-18 from Lapland Air Command going supersonic to intercept a stray Russian aircraft.
We both fell in love with Napapiirin Jarvilomat and since coming back home have looked longingly and frequently at our pics & videos. It felt so welcoming, relaxing and uplifting being there. Roll on next winter and the chance to go back and make some more memories.
In summary, this is the most magical and special place.
Thanks for reading.