Remember the days when you used to think pitching a tent under the stars and shivering in separate sleeping bags with your sweetheart was one of the most romantic experiences ever? Sure, there are rewards to enjoying the wild and being at one with nature. However, as we get older, these adventures also leave us with memories of not only seeing all the stars in the sky, but also battling wind and insects, and the lengthy process of pitching a tent. And of course, by the time you leave the campground, the uneven surface of the ground reshapes your backbone, or at least feels like it does! But, what if you can be cozy while seeing the sky all night long? What if the bare elegance of nature could also cocoon you and your sweetheart with warmth? No need to be covered by multiple layers of polar animal skins? Would you consider camping again?
A Google search for how to build snow igloos led me to Finland’s glass igloos. The website of kakslauttanen claims “It was the glass igloos, and log cabins that put us on the world map. Now, here in the middle of the wilderness, we have a lot more in store, including Santa's entire world. Get to know the magic of the world's best kept secret...” Upon arriving to Lapland, I realised that glass dome igloos were no secret to the rest of the world, only to the Americans. I have seen single female travellers from Japan carrying their high tech cameras in order to capture the Northern lights under the glass dome. People from Kazakhstan to Africa, and Brazil are among the most frequent guests in this frozen land 200 miles above the Arctic Circle.
We have all heard about ice hotels, and ice bars, the parkas, high tech sleeping bags, socks, and hoodies, and a high price tag of cosy sleeping in subzero temperatures. However, I always support the idea of buying warmth versus paying for cold. Sure, this resort also comes with unusual ice hotels, but this story is about the glass igloos. One of the marvels of the modern science is the invention of thermal glass. And this is what makes the glass igloos that combine comfort and wilderness so unique. Jussi Eiramo, the owner and builder of this amazing place, understands the value of both senses. The heat keeps the glass igloo at a cosy 28°C and snow free so you have a clear view of the night sky while laying on your bed as the temperature outside drops to -30°C. The igloos were meant for two people.
Eiramo is now in the process of making igloos big enough for four. Every igloo comes with a toilet and a wash basin and a small storage area and either two twin beds or a queen bed. The showers and saunas are located in a separate building where you can alternate between the smoky sauna and a cool dip in a frozen pool, as is the Finnish tradition. Or if you booked yourself one of those log cabins you can make a roaring fire and sweat inside your en-suite sauna while making your own hot chocolate or popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate your victory over nature! Why not? During the day this place is a true winter wonderland. Every tree, stream, and the roof of every standing house gets covered with white powdery snow. The single pathway to civilisation gets buried in white cold. Tireless snow-cats patrol the path, scratching the snow away so that buses from the airport can bring tourists into the built-in warmth created by the log cabins and glass igloos as well as a modern structure with all the comfort city creatures can imagine and a touch of Finish romanticism: reindeer pelt bed spreads and antler chandeliers.
Cold is not to be feared here as the freshly groomed cross country ski pathway practically starts at your doorstep, leading you deep into woods where there are only reindeer to appreciate your skiing skills though they may ignore you and cross the path just in front you blended into the white snow. If you want speed in this frozen land, just rent a snowmobile and fly in your own white cloud. Or if you are feeling lazy, let either white reindeer or huskies take you sled riding wrapped in a warm reindeer pelt. Or you can dig a hole in the snow over a frozen river and show off your fishing skills to your sweetheart who will then cook the fish in an open fire. Then you can share the warmth while deboning the grilled fish with some Minttu, the Finish mint schnapps. Ah cool!
As the sun prepares to take a night cap around 3 p.m., without even making it over the tree-tops and laying low in the horizon, the smoke of the saunas gets you ready for a steamy evening.
Modesty is not a ritual practiced in Finnish saunas. You show off your skin sitting on a wooden plank and as you sweat profusely, custom calls for taking an ice cold dip just outside the sauna. An artificial current (oh technology!) makes the water flow in this subzero temperature, creating a small pond where the rest of the stream is frozen and lost in the woods. You make a few runs back and forth between the sauna and the pool and you soon will feel like a new man or a woman. It just gets you ready for what the night will bring. So, now you can go back to your glass igloo, snuggling with the love of your life (I hope so, as each night in the glass igloo costs $500!!!) drinking some wine, or hot chocolate and looking into each other’s eyes....but soon nature’s wonders will make you look up.
Above you will be the sky blazing with colours that you have never seen. This is the Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon caused by charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, coming from the sun, and entering earth's atmosphere from above. This causes ionization, excitation of atmospheric constituents, and consequent optical emissions: in plain English it means you can see the other colours of the sun, some green, some yellow, violet, pink. It’s just darn awesome. In this jaw-dropping marvellous moment you may forget who you are with, because you are now lost in making connection with the universe. You not only feel connected to the bigger space, you also feel humble for witnessing something so amazing that very few other people may ever experience. And then you come back to reality: the warmth, a soft bed, your love, all under a glass igloo. NOW the $500/night you spent seems like just a drop in a bucket compared to what you have just experienced. You can cry, or make wild love under the sky while the sky is blazing in hypnotic colours giving you approval to go crazy!
A night under the northern lights is anyway beyond any expense and discomfort but witnessed from a glass igloo it may become addictive. Who knows, you may be inspired to build your own glass igloos, or just make a snow one. Here’s to your crazy night, under the stars, in a glass igloo. Some practical information: It's fairly easy to travel to Lapland. You fly to Helsinki and then take another flight north for two hours. There are buses and hotel transpositions that will pick you up and drop you off at your designated accommodations.
Places to stay: The Glass Igloo- $550/night http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/ Or Budget hostel: $64/night https://www.hihostels.com/hostels/inari-kiilopaa-hostel-ahopaa Fly: from Helsinki to Ivalo by Finish Air http://www.finnair.com
Born in Laguna Beach, California and brought up in a village near the Ganges in Bengal, India, Vishakha Tay has an unquenchable addiction to see as much earth as possible while maintaining a career as a high school science teacher.