For years, I wanted to go to Kakslauttanen and sleep in a glass igloo under the northern lights. I had looked into this, but it was expensive and hard to book. In July of 2014, I took a chance, and emailed to see if they had any availabilities over Christmas. I got VERY lucky, as there had just been a cancellation (you normally have to book a year in advance) and I was able to share a special Christmas with my sister. Here are a few details to keep in mind if you are planning a trip to Kakslauttanen.
What I loved
-Warmth. Everything in the igloo is toasty warm. It may be -25*F outside, but it is a perfect 75 inside. Even with the heat on full blast, the glass panels of the igloo do not fog, so you will have a perfect clear view of the sky all day and night long.
-Pre-arrival Communication. I was in constant email contact with a woman named Angela. She helped schedule pick ups and excursions, and was excellent at answering all my questions. She responded to every email in a timely fashion, which I greatly appreciated.
-Excursions. Kakslauttanen really does offer a lot of fun excursions. We particularly enjoyed a tranquil Christmas morning reindeer ride, a fun afternoon cross country skiing lesson, and an exciting night chasing the northern lights on snowmobiles. Truly, this place is a winter wonderland.
What I did not love
-Expensive. I completely understand a nights stay being $500. The igloo village is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and considering the price of heating, I’d say this is a very fair price. That said, these people nickel and dime the SHIT out of you. A cup of warm tap water, fuck putting anything in the warm water, was 2 Euro. Transfers to the airport were steep as well, but there is no other option in such an isolated region. Breakfast and dinner are included in your reservation, but lunch, just soup and bread, was about $25. For fucking soup. The excursions are painfully priced. I had been in Iceland (also a very expensive country) the week before and a snowmobile ride there was almost half the price of a ride at Kakslauttanen. Be prepared to throw down.
-Food. It was shit. The food was shit. And the food can be shit because there are no restaurants nearby, and even if there were, not many people bring cars up to Ivalo. You are stuck with shitty food. Bring hella snacks (or stock up on the yummy gingerbread cookies, like I did!)
-Cold. I know this is so obvious and I can only blame the weather Gods and not Kakslautten, but honestly, visiting the Arctic Circle in late December is absolutely miserable. The air is so cold that your skin will feel like it's burning within one or two minutes. The ten minute walk from the igloos to the main hall for dinner will tempt you to skip a meal. I met several families who were giving away their excursions, husky safaris and snowmobile rides, because their kids were crying the night before due to the cold. This should not be something to deter you, just to keep in mind.
-Lack of service. This was what got me down more than anything. The van transfer between the East and West Villages, necessary for every single excursion, was sporadic. You could be told to be in the lobby at 7:30pm, but a bus wouldn’t arrive until 8pm. Or perhaps it came at 7:15, you just never knew. We spent a lot of time just waiting around. As well, there was a general lack of overall customer service. We were given a map at check in and basically told to figure it out. "Figuring it out" for 20 minutes in -25* weather is not pleasant. I felt there were small things that could have been adjusted to make the experience a bit better.
I met a young British family, a husband and wife with two small kids under the age of 5. They were scheduled for the 8pm dinner on Christmas night, and were turned away because there was no more food. They had Pringles and
Coke for Christmas dinner. I feel very strongly that a resort with an official number of dinner attendees who are spending thousands on a special holiday should have planned for enough food.
Was it worth it?
Fuck yes. For two days, it was definitely worth it. It was magical. For more than two days, or even a second visit, no.