Arriving into Kittila, to visit Ylläs in Finnish Lapland, was just stunning. Absolutely incredible all round panoramas of beautiful icy, snowy landscapes. I knew I was in for a good trip before it had even started.
Visiting Lapland was an absolute dream, but until I was invited to visit, I’d never actually heard of ‘Ylläs’.
“Ylläs is located 150 km north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, in Scandinavia. Ylläs has many different kind of activities to offer, variety of services, events and new experiences for you on your holiday. Travel and tourism lives strongly in the area and the local people are genuine. There is two different lappish villages in the area; Äkäslompolo village and Ylläsjärvi village. There are total of 850 persons living in the area. Ylläs and its people welcomes you to our lives!”
–Ylläs Tourist Board
And now I’ve visited, and spent 3 days in Ylläs, I know, there are lots of cool things to do in Ylläs, whether you ski or not. It really was an incredible wintry wonderland that I’d recommend to anyone. The whole experience was one I never want to forget.
Ylläs ski resort was fab, the food in Finland was amazing and I did a few things in Ylläs I didn’t even know existed, let alone imagine I’d get to do. I hope you enjoy reading this post, and I really hope you get to Ylläs one day, to try out all these cool Lapland activities.
8 Awesome Things to Do in Ylläs, Lapland, in Winter
– The good pictures of me, by Harri Lindfors
1. Snow Village
One of the coolest things to do in Ylläs in winter is to visit the Snow Village. It’s a whole village made out of snow – igloos, ice bars and everything.
I was taken on a tour and shown some of the incredible feats of design and construction crafted every year by the ice artists, brought in from all over the world. They’d created a dome restaurant with dining booths and a bar in the middle.
You could book to stay over at the ice hotel on site. Visitors would normally book one night in the ice, and then have another at a nearby hotel. Each room was carved in a different style, with a different formation of beds and a unique entrance.
There was also an ice slide, which I went down several times, and a cinema, a bar, and a church too. All made of the ice.
“The roof shrinks in a few cm over the winter, as the ice melts and compacts”
– tour guide.
In 2018 there was a Game of Thrones tribute etched into the ice, as wonderfully modelled by me here. I’ve never actually watched the programme, but others seemed very excited by it. I just went with it.
“The SnowVillage is a magical world of ice and snow. Each year, around 20 million kilos of snow and 350 000 kilos of crystal clear natural ice are used to build the spectacular SnowVillage which changes in shape, size and design to amaze visitors year after year. Covering an area of about 20 000 square metres, the SnowVillage consists of a Snow Hotel, with snow rooms and suites, Ice Restaurant, Ice Bar, Ice Chapel, a slide and a vast network of striking corridors full of spectacular snow and ice art to explore.”
– Ylläs Tourist Board
2. Downhill skiing at Ylläs Ski Resort
Ylläs Lapland is well known as a ski destination. On our first full day we tried out the Ylläs Ski Resort slopes, right above Äkäslompolo Village. This is the largest ski resort in Finland, thanks to the number and length of its slopes as well as the height differences and diversity of its runs. It has incredible views out across the other rugged fells in the Pallas-Ylläs National Park.
If you want to ski Yllas, you have to come and check out the wintry beauty of the Ylläs Ski Resort.
You can find the Ylläs piste map here.
You can pick up your skiing clothes at the Service Centre on site.
3. Sauna and ice hole swimming in SUB ZERO temps
I’ve written a whole blog post about my experience jumping in an ice hole in Finland. But in short, after deciding there was no way I was going to do it I gave in to peer pressure and ended up in the freezing cold waters of Finland.
We were in Ylläksen Yöpuu, in Äkäslompolo, if you fancy recreating the experience.
‘It’s a once in a life time experience’.
Oh my gawd, it was FREEZING. Absolutely freezing. The metal steps going down froze my feet before I’d even touched any ice water, holding onto the sides to make sure I didn’t fall froze my fingers and the cold air caused the sweat clinging to my neckline to turn to ice, or so it felt like. The apprehension of touching the water froze my legs before they’d even touched the water.
My toe tapped the surface.
“I can’t do it”
I retreated up the steps, seeking the warmth of my dressing gown.
But then Monica did it. And she told me to do it. And I didn’t want to miss out.
READ MORE: That Time I Went Ice Hole Swimming in Ylläs
4. Dinner with that incredible view at Lapland Hotel Saaga
Our first meal in Ylläs Lapland was at the Lapland Hotel Saaga, where we were staying for the three nights. Whether you’re staying there, or not, it’s known as one of the best Ylläs restaurants around.
For starter we had a reindeer tartare, the first of many reindeer dishes on my week in Finland. I was dubious, of course. But reindeer is the standard fare out here, thanks to the amount of them milling around, and the fact its one of the healthiest meats around.
The Lapland Hotel Saaga had an amazing view over the snowy slopes, thanks to the ski in and ski out. So we sat enjoying a fabulous dinner, watching the skiers come down. Dreamy.
Our main was fish and asparagus and then dessert was THE best creme brûlée I’ve ever had. Gawd it was lush. If ever you go make sure you go for that little number.
Check out the prices at Lapland Hotel Saaga on Booking.com.
5. More downhill skiing at Sport Resort Ylläs
Skiing in Ylläs, in LAPLAND (!) was awesome. The slopes weren’t busy, and wide open. Other skiers were chilled and there didn’t seem to be any crazy downhill skiers whizzing past and crazy speeds. I was a little out of practice to start but soon got into the swing.
Obviously skiing in Lapland was amazing, but the time spent on the ski lifts was incredible too.
Just being able to see how far the Ylläs slopes sprawled out to made you realise how insignificant you are. You can see all these skiers doing their thing on the slopes below, while you dangle above.
“Sport Resort Ylläs is a full-service ski resort in Ylläsjärvi, Kolari, in Finnish Lapland. It’s based on the 719 metre (2,359 feet) high Ylläs fell, which makes it Finland’s highest ski resort. It also has the greatest number of skiing slopes and the greatest height difference between the highest and lowest ski stations in Finland – and a gondola lift that can take guests all the way to the top in just 7 minutes!
The slopes, which are up to 3km long, don’t have any long transition paths. This means that guests can give their full attention to experiencing all the nuances of the beautiful Lapland fells as they ski or snowboard.”
– Ylläs Tourist Board
6. Fat Bike tour
I’d never done a fat bike tour before, and didn’t actually quite register how difficult it would be to stay upright on the compacted snow and not slip into the soft snow at the side.
I think I fell off about 5 times, no exaggeration.
The trouble was when you fell off, you’d fall into the soft snow, or at least get a leg stuck, and there was nothing solid to pull yourself back up on. I mean, I found it hilarious – it didn’t hurt or anything, I just looked like an idiot for not being able to stay on the blummin thing.
Great fun though, once you get the hang of it.
I love cycling anyway. I’ve cycled through France and Vietnam, and hopefully many more places are to come, but this was different. The bikes were electric, which I didn’t quite realise when I’d seen the pics of others fat biking around the world.
Honestly, it would’ve been impossible without that extra boost.
We were cycling with Hidden Trails, who organise the fat bike tours in Ylläs. Obviously the easy cycle was fun, but it was the views that made the fat biking one of the absolute best things to do in Ylläs.
Cycling in between the trees and through the snowy clearings was just absolutely stunning and totally impressive.
7. Coffee and cake at the ski hut
We actually visited this little cafe bar on our fat biking tour of Ylläs. It was so cute.
From the outside it looked like one of the many huts we’d seen lining the slopes of Ylläs, but as we walked in it was obvious it was different. There was the most welcoming fire from the fresh outside, and other hikers and skiiers sat around cradling their hot drinks in their thawing hands.
Our group had a well earned cake each, and a delicious hot chocolate too. It felt so magical to sit by the fire sipping on hot choc for some, a hot berry drink for others, and warming up.
I totally could’ve stayed in there all day.
8. Farewell dinner at Aurora Estate in Ylläsjärvi
I know I keep saying everything was ‘stunning’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘amazing’, but this place really was. And it was right next to the ice hole we went in too. The perfect recovery.
Before dinner even started us bloggers were mooching around the site seeking out the best locations and looking at the pretty houses.
In the right season, this is apparently the place to see the Aurora Borealis. I’d love to come back for that. Diners just sit in the comfort of the restaurant admiring the view – incredible.
But, it wasn’t the right time for that in April so instead we just enjoyed the ambience of the restaurant and the snowy landscapes outside. The food was incredible. I mean, we’d had reindeer for every meal so far, but this was definitely the best reindeer I’d tried.
For starter we had a delicious salmon and caviar dish, and then dessert was ice cream with some popcorn on the side.
There was also amazing wine – with the labels unfortunately forgotten – but the memory of ‘quaffing’ it back in such incredible surroundings will definitely last. It was a wonderful meal, in a perfect setting and a great way to end our three days in Yllas.
Best things to do in Ylläs
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best things to do in Yllas. Honestly, I’d go back without a second’s thought (if I had the cash). Hope you have a great time if you make it there, and my guide for a weekend in Levi, just an hour away from Yllas, is on its way!