Experience 365: Experience the magic of a winter wonderland, 365 days a year
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Kemi Tourism Ltd.
From cruises on a real icebreaker ship to snow safaris and island hopping, SnowCastle Resort offers unique once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Kemi, the most south-western region of Finnish Lapland – every day of the year.
Located by the Bothnian Bay, the Kemi region of Sea Lapland is known for its longstanding history of building snow and ice castles, and the tradition continues each year with the building of the SnowCastle and the SnowHotel during the winter months.
Inside the SnowCastle Resort’s main building is SnowExperience 365, an indoor snow and ice exhibition. Visitors can step into a real-life winter wonderland, where everything is made out of ice, complete with intricate ice sculptures – as well as a slide and a restaurant, built entirely from ice.
A small town within a town
“We provide our guests with a resort where they can find everything under one roof. We call it a small town within a town,” says Koutonen. The resort is within walking distance of Kemi’s town centre. The town itself is well connected to Oulu and Rovaniemi airports, and a one-and-a-half-hour flight away from Helsinki.
The resort’s heated à la carte restaurant, Lumihiutale (which means ‘snowflake’), serves the very best of Arctic delicacies, and offers diners breathtaking panoramic sea views. “For our business clients, our seaside restaurant can also be transformed into an event space or meeting rooms. In the summer, the restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy the summer midnight sun, and in the winter, visitors can enjoy the starlit sky of the polar night. Because of its panoramic views, some guests might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the northern lights,” explains Susanna Koutonen, CEO at Kemi Tourism.
The resort also has an entire floor dedicated to saunas, which can be booked for private use by guests wanting to find out what the fuss is all about when it comes to the Finns and saunas. The resort is perfect for couples and business tourists alike, and it offers visitors excellent meeting and events facilities, as well as high-quality accommodation, every single day of the year.
Luxury villas with one-of-a-kind views
The Seaside Glass Villas make an ideal accommodation choice for nature lovers looking for some peace and quiet. Located right by the seafront, the villas offer a stunning view across the archipelago through the glass roof and floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests can experience the starry northern skies and possibly the northern lights from September to March, or enjoy the ‘white nights’ – when the sun does not drop below the horizon – and the magic of endless summer days.
As well as offering the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the seaside location of the villas provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to start their activities directly by their front door. The safari company is located in the resort area, so activities can be arranged for the pick-up to be organised – for example, by snow mobiles or a speed boat – directly outside the villas.
Having served as an icebreaker for the Finnish government for more than 30 years, Sampo, as the ship is called, is now retired and being used as a cruise ship in the Gulf of Bothnia. It is the world’s only cruise icebreaker, and with a capacity of 180, the steel vessel offers day cruises from December to April for holiday makers looking for a truly unique experience.
“Kemi is one of the few places on Earth where the sea freezes over completely. Sampo still has most of its original features from the 1960s, and our English-language guided tours of the ship will share some of its history,” Koutonen says. For an added thrill, visitors can go ice floating amongst the sea ice, which has been broken by Sampo. Wearing a special padded floating suit, you’re sure to find floating amongst blocks of ice in the open sea an unforgettable experience.
Visitors can also arrange a snowmobile-icebreaker safari, which means a journey across the frozen sea towards Sampo, where it will be waiting for visitors in the middle of the Gulf of Bothnia. “Whatever way our guests choose to experience what’s on offer here, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience the Arctic nature,” the CEO of Kemi Tourism says.
Despite their status as a winter wonderland, there is plenty to see and do in the region throughout the year. There’s no shortage of activities either, with the resort offering opportunities for sailing boat trips to enjoy fishing and white-water rafting on the largest free-flowing river in Europe.
Autumn, the ‘ruska’, when the leaves turn into various shades of red, yellow, orange and brown, is a spectacular sight. “With the whole host of activities we have on offer, our guests come here to experience the wonders of sea, snow and ice – every day of the year,” Koutonen concludes.
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