Hi, friends! I apologize for the lapse in posting over the last few days as I was trekking all over Finland recreating the dates from the final two episodes of The Bachelor. I had hopes of scheduling lots of posts in advance but just couldn’t make it happen while I was running around stocking up on extra warm winter apparel… but I’m back now and feeling super inspired after a week with so many amazing new blogger friends!
You know how awesome it is when you find friends you travel well with? Imagine how exciting it was to have a group of strangers meet one another and instantly get along like we’d known each other for years. This is definitely not the case on all press trips and it truly made this once-in-a-lifetime trip all the more special. We seriously ended the trip talking about where we should head to next! I highly recommend checking out Blake, Carly, Dana, Jenn, and Katie and giving them a follow on Instagram. And we all owe a big thank you to Ashley for the beautiful photos she shot throughout the trip!
I wanted to share the Finland itinerary we followed for five full days in Ivalo and Rovaniemi including how we got to each destination and where we stayed in each spot. Our Finland itinerary packed so many activities into five days / six nights — I can’t believe how many things I tried for the first time and how much ground we covered!
I had ordered lots of warm clothes last minute and ironically a big snowstorm hit Connecticut the day before our departure and nothing arrived in time. So I made a last minute trip to the Moncler store in the city to purchase a warm winter coat and honestly I’m not sure I would have survived the trip without it! I purchased the Moncler Vouglette peplum coat which is proving difficult to find online this time of year, but you can find the super similar Moncler Vouglans peplum coat online here and here. (For reference, I’m wearing the size 0 or XS). If you’re looking for something that doesn’t need to stand up to the Scandinavian cold, I’m also in love with this and this. Moncler is not the cheapest outerwear brand by any means but it’s a splurge I was so thankful I made before this trip and a coat I know I’ll be wearing for many New England winters to come.
On our first night, we boarded a Finnair flight from JFK in New York to Helsinki, Finland, and traveled overnight. The New York to Helsinki flight time is 8 hours and 10 minutes and we were treated to seats in business class on the trip there so we could sleep the whole flight. It was only the second time in my life that I’ve flown business class and it was such a luxury to have fully reclining seats as well as multiple outlets at every seat. If you can justify the upgrade, it really did make such a difference in terms of how ready we were to hit the ground running on our first day!
We arrived in Helsinki on Thursday morning and then took an hour long flight to Ivalo farther north. We checked into the Lapland Hotel Riekonlinna and, after a quick lunch and outfit change, headed out to try our hand at cross country skiing. I’ll admit I was totally the weak link of the group — it’s been probably ten years since I last did downhill skiing and this was so not my forte but the scenery was so breathtaking I didn’t mind the occasional tumble. I was so impressed by all the locals whizzing by on their skis — our guide said cross country skiing is something Finns learn from the time they’re able to walk!
That evening, we met for dinner in the hotel and headed out for a reindeer safari coordinated by Lapland Safaris at our hotel. Even though we were bundled in winter coats, multiple pairs of leggings, and snow boots, they lent us snow suits that totally saved the day. It wasn’t my most stylish get-up but I think we all honestly would have frozen without them! The reindeer were so gentle (and much smaller than I expected!) and gracefully trotted our sleigh through the forest even in several feet of snow. While the Northern Lights didn’t come out for us that night, it was the starriest sky I’ve ever seen and such a magical way to end our first full day.
Thankfully I was able to sleep pretty well throughout the trip thanks to the eight hour sleep on the trip to Helsinki, so we were up and at ’em for snowshoeing on day three! Snowshoeing was much more my speed than cross country skiing… We could stop and take pictures, didn’t feel like we were holding anyone up, and took a break for warm berry juice halfway through the trek. We were about 25 miles from the Russian border so you can imagine it was pretty chilly… but it was actually great exercise and I found myself taking my hat and mittens off at a few points!
That afternoon we headed to a local pub where Nick and Raven had one of their final dates on The Bachelor. It was pretty funny because they played darts on the show and the pub actually didn’t even have a dart board! I’ve watched the show for as long as I can remember (some seasons more loyally than others) and it was fun to see behind the scenes and meet hotel employees who had collaborated with the show’s producers during their time in Finland. Dana, who writes hilarious Bachelor recaps on her blog Possessionista, was also full of inside scoop on Nick and Vanessa and contestants from years past. I cannot wait to follow her site as we head into Rachel’s season (which I think will be a good one — could she be any cuter?!).
This is one of my favorite days on our Finland itinerary because we got to visit a husky farm! I had been dog sledding with my family in Alaska when I was fifteen and it was fun to reminisce about my Grandy hopping on the back of a dog sled when she was 78 (#goals!). After a twenty minute ride through the snowy forest, we got to meet a four-week-old husky puppy who was maybe the highlight of our entire trip. So. Freaking. Cute.
After bidding farewell to the husky pup, we took a three hour bus ride to Rovaniemi where they filmed the Bachelor finale. Rovaniemi was actually a little colder than Ivalo, but we stayed in the cutest little cabins at Hotel Ounasvaara and had an amazing dinner at Sky Ounasvaara about ten minutes away. I always like to research the food of a country I’m visiting and while I don’t think Finnish cuisine will join the ranks of, say, Paris or Positano, I found every restaurant extremely accommodating as a vegetarian. I ate lots of beets, cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes while the rest of the group ate fresh salmon and even tried reindeer meat. The Sky Ounasvaara restaurant also has an incredible rooftop deck where we stopped to look for the Northern Lights, but this wasn’t our lucky night either!
I think our fifth day was my favorite of the trip. We checked out of our hotel and geared up at Lapland Safaris for a snowmobiling expedition where Nick and Vanessa had gone horseback riding on the show. I had never been on a snowmobile before and it was quite the adventure! I wouldn’t say I was totally confident driving it (and Dana may have steered us into a tree at one point…!) but the landscape was absolutely breathtaking and I always find it invigorating to try something completely outside my comfort zone.
After the snowmobiling adventure, we ate lunch at Bear’s Den and had our first traditional Finnish sauna experience. It begins with a hot shower and 15 minutes in a piping hot sauna, followed by a plunge into the freezing cold lake and back into the sauna again. We repeated the process twice (thanks to a little liquid courage!) and it was just such a blast to cheer everyone on for each dip in the lake. I love a good polar bear plunge (remember this?) — I swear the rush is similar to what I got from bungee jumping or sky diving!
That evening we ate dinner where Nick proposed to Vanessa in the final episode of The Bachelor. It was probably a half hour drive from our hotel at Bear’s Lodge so it was crazy to think about how far Raven had to be driven just to have her heart broken when she got there. Poor thing. 🙁 Again it was interesting to see how the producers transformed “the set” with all kinds of decor and props!
Our last full day in Finland was pretty relaxed compared to the first few days of jam-packed outdoor adventures. We checked out of the hotel and drove thirty minutes to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi where we got to meet Santa, cross the Arctic Circle, and take pictures with reindeer in better lighting than we’d had on our reindeer safari the first night. They are such calm and gentle creatures! We also explored Snowman World, an igloo hotel complete with an ice bar and enclosed ice restaurant. I’m not sure I could have stayed in one of the rooms (even with the electric blanket and sleeping bag combatting the cold, I think I’d be a little claustrophobic!) but I was a big fan of the snow tubing outside.
Seriously so much of this trip felt like being a kid again and bundling up to go play in the snow. If you’d asked me prior to our trip to Finland whether I’d rather travel to the beach or mountains, I would have said the beach, 110%. But there was something nostalgic about spending so much time outdoors in the cold, going on adventures and making new memories.
We also had the opportunity to explore a few more hotels in the area, several of which I would highly recommend if you’re considering a more romantic trip to Finland. We had lunch and popped into a few rooms at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel which would be a great place if you’re interested in both wintry Scandinavian decor and eco-friendly architecture and design.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon at Atelier Kangasniemi with Irene, a local artisan responsible for much of the decor featured on the show. Ordinarily I’d say crafting a rose made from reindeer leather would rank pretty low on my list of interests, but Irene was actually the funniest human being I’ve met in my entire life and made me laugh so hard I couldn’t stop crying for a solid half hour (I can’t stop replaying the videos that Carly and Katie snapped on their phones). She tried to sell me a wedding dress made out of ivory reindeer leather, tried to brainstorm potential Finnish boyfriends for Blake and Carly, and told us about the “elf drama” she’s encountered in the forest she lives on. I guess reading this back you probably had to be there, but suffice it to say she’s not someone I’ll soon forget.
I’m making this night its own little chapter in our Finnish itinerary because it’s when we finally got to see the Northern Lights! We spent our final night in Finland at Hotel Vartiosaari on Aurora Island. After the best dinner of our trip in the hotel restaurant, we packed up a bottle of wine and some Finnish chocolates and huddled around a campfire. It was the clearest night of the trip and we were all feeling super optimistic that we would finally catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights we’d heard so much about! Just as we were thinking about calling it a night because of our early flight the next day, a faint but unmistakable green light crossed the sky and we immediately grabbed our cameras.
Thank goodness for Ashley who helped us with camera settings (and had packed a tripod in her carry-on!) because the Northern Lights were so much more vivid on camera thanks to the 20-second exposure that she set up. It definitely makes me want to learn more about photography, particularly before our honeymoon later this year. Spotting the Northern Lights was such a magical ending to the most perfect trip — it gives me chills just to think about it!
A heartfelt thank you to Jenn, her team, The Bachelor, and the entire Visit Finland crew for taking us on such an unforgettable trip. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect and the trip just exceeded my every expectation for unparalleled natural beauty, fun-filled activities, and fond new memories with amazing new friends. It’s rare that a group of relative strangers could get along so beautifully and I’m so grateful to have made new blogger friends in Blake, Carly, Dana, and Katie. As you know, this month has marked a huge transition for me and this trip could not have come at a better time — I’m so excited to be back home and injecting new life into this beloved blog of mine. This week in Finland is truly something I’ll be telling my grandchildren about someday and I hope these photos gave you a little glimpse into how extraordinary it is! If you have any questions about planning your own Finland trip or more details from our Finland itinerary, please let me know.
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