Saariselkä is a popular year-round holiday village which offers a unique selection of activities to visitors. It is located in the "heart of Lapland," a semi-autonomous region which stretches across northern Scandinavia and is home to the Sami people. The resort is in the province of Ivalo on the eastern side of Finland, which continues on to the Russian border. Saariselkä is the northernmost winter sports centre in Finland, 250 km (approx. 160 miles) above the Arctic Circle and a similar distance from the Arctic Ocean to the north. This makes it Finland's and one of the world's most northerly ski resorts. But it is conveniently located just 20 minutes drive from Ivalo airport. Most visitors find the vast wilderness area surrounding the resort stunningly beautiful, with low hills or fells covered in pine forest frozen in suspended animation by temperatures which typically hover a few degrees below zero in the winter, although they can drop to 20 or 30 degrees below. The locals are well prepared for such cold temperatures however, with thermal wear loaned out and a lovely snug feeling once you're indoors. The clear 'blue light' and horizontal winter sunshine is particularly magical. The sense that the wilderness continues on, uninterrupted, up toward the North Pole, gives an exciting feeling of being in a very different type of ski resort to the typical Alpine village for many guests. The area has a higher population of reindeer than people and again most guests enjoy meeting these peaceable creatures. Saariselkä is within the Urho Kekkonen National Park named after Finland's former president. It was once home to legions of gold panners after the precious metal was discovered in the Ivalojoki river, the huts they built are still to be seen in a few remote locations. The first gold claim in Saariselkä was made in 1871 and the first gold rush began. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries a second, larger gold rush began and Saariselkä came in to being. In 1902 the Prospektor gold mining company began work to cart trail from the resort and the first cars arrived in 1914. Development as a tourism destination is relatively new with the resort planned in the mid-1960's and the first modern restaurants and hotels opening in the 1970s. In 1978 Kiilokappeli-chapel was built and the National Park was created on May 5th 1983. Given the northerly latitude there is of course a good chance of seeing the northern lights. With short winter days those chances are even greater. In common with other northern resorts, downhill skiing and boarding is one of a selection of winter sports and activities available but not the dominant one. Guests are equally likely to go snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or dog sledding as downhill skiing. Indeed cross country skiing is far more popular. Saariselkä itself is made up of low lying hotels and other buildings, varying between cosy little shops and cafes to a few giant eateries and nightclub that are the norm in Scandinavia's major resorts in order to accommodate sometimes big lively get togethers. British winter tourism to Saariselkä has been organised by Headwater Holidays (www.headwater.com) for several years and is now also offered by Inghams.
Saariselkä is a popular year-round holiday village which offers a unique selection of activities to visitors. These include canoeing trips on the Ivalojoki river which was famous for gold-panning in the past - and you can still give it a try yourselves. Santa Claus' village is not far and the Northern Lights are often visible. There's also more gold - this time mining for it and the Igloo Village at nearby Kakslauttanen. Trips are organised up to see the Arctic Ocean and to the nearby igloo village at Kakslauttanen (10km / 6 miles away). Part of the Urho Kekkonen National Park, named after Finland's former president. A free bus service links the resort to the lifts. Saariselkä is the northernmost winter sports centre in Finland, 250 km (approx. 160 miles) above the Arctic Circle. Excursions are organised to the Arctic Ocean