Intimate luxury stay Jávri Lodge lives in Santa’s Lapland home – but he’s not the only bigwig around these parts. Jávri was once a retreat for Finland’s longest-serving president, who entertained royalty and high-ranking politicos alike. But you needn’t be titled to enjoy free daily activities (plus kit) – from reindeer sleigh rides to husky sledding – foraged and fished meals, and rooms with wonderland views (plus the Northern Lights, if you’re lucky). Staff encourage you to make yourself at home, so splash about in the pool, raid the honesty bar and tinkle around with the piano like you’re in charge.
Get this when you book through us:
A two-hour Northern Lights experience in winter and a national-park trek in summer
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £1499.79 (€1,690), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include the hotel’s buffet breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, soft drinks (alcohol is charged) cold-weather wear, and one guided activity a day (except on arrival and departure days).
The lodge’s gear locker is kid-in-a-candy-store territory for snow bunnies. It’s very well stocked, with cross-country skis, snowshoes, hiking poles, kicksleds and other toys.
The hotel closes annually from 1 May to 1 August.
At the hotel
Lounge with a piano, log fire, honesty bar and free tea and coffee; wine cellar; treatment room; two saunas; fitness studio; concierge; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: tablet, free bottled water, the White Company bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Skyview Suites – with their large picture windows – perhaps afford your best chance of Northern Lights glimpsing, but these are decorated in a more modern, minimalist style and dove-grey hues, so if you prefer the luxe log-cabin look, opt for the timber-lined Cozy Doubles or Presidential Suites.
The metro-tiled indoor heated pool is an attractive prospect after frolicking in the snow; it’s a good length for laps, too.
There’s no dedicated spa, but you can get steamy in the twin saunas and be soothed with a head, hot-stone or aromatherapy massage – or a skin-softening paraffin-wax treatment. Plus, there’s a fitness studio with rowers, treadmills, free weights and more, for a work-out with an all-natural view.
The hotel has you covered for warming outerwear, but bring lots of layers, thermals, hats, scarves and thick socks; and you might look like you’re about to rob a bank, but balaclavas will avoid the face burn. Don’t forget swimwear for dips in the pool.
Unfortunately, this stay isn’t fully accessible for wheelchair users.
Sorry kids, this is a Santa’s-day-off kinda place, where all guests must be over 18.
Food is foraged, fished and brought in from local family businesses, and menus are dictated by season. The lodge is geothermally heated, staff recycle diligently, there are charging slots for electric and hybrid vehicles, and any materials that haven’t been taken sustainably from the surrounding area are made elsewhere in Finland (plus Earth-kind Scandi furnishings from Swedese).
There are no bad spots to sit here, but try to get near the kitchen for a glimpse of the chefs at work.
Lounge-around wear; but shimmy out of the ski gear and into something sleeker for dinner.
Chefs working in Lapland have honed their intuition for finding the best natural produce. Yann and the team are intimately acquainted with the surroundings and have local pickers for berries and mushrooms, a husky-sledder who catches fish for them, a king-crab guy from Norway, and small family suppliers for reindeer, lamb and game. The kitchen has carte blanche when it comes to the daily-changing, five- to seven-course tasting menus, so you’re guaranteed a few tasty surprises, but past dishes include matsutake gnocchi, king-crab tortellini, reindeer tartare and cloudberry sorbet. The cavernous dining space looks a little like a flipped Viking ship, with some open-cooking action. Breakfast (a feast of reindeer sausage, whitefish, eggs as you wish, muesli, fresh-baked bread, wild-berry smoothies and more) and the afternoon tea are similarly Lappish in style.
While meals and soft drinks are included, alcohol is charged, but that won't stop you from raiding the well-stocked honesty bar; the gin is particularly good up here and there’s a rarefied selection of whiskies and cognacs, too. And if you want to go by the bottle, there’s a whole cellarful of judiciously picked wines at your disposal.
Jávri Lodge is in Finnish Lapland’s snowy wilds, close to the bijou village of Saariselkä.
Ivalo Airport is the closest, a 30-minute drive from the lodge. Most flights stop in Helsinki, but some direct routes run from the UK. The hotel can arrange transfers – a one-way trip is €79 for up to four guests, €90 for five to six guests and €99 for seven to eight guests. Alternatively, fly to Rovaniemi Airport, a three-hour drive away; transfers range from €515 to €644, one way, depending on the number of passengers.
In these icy climes, it’s best to let the hotel chauffeur you to and from experiences, or make your way around by snowshoe. If you must hire a car, ensure it has winter tyres (required by law from 1 December to 1 March).
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel staff advise guests to leave room in their itinerary for downtime, so be sure to allocate hours spent wrapped in a blanket by the lounge’s fireplace, taking advantage of the free tea and coffee and afternoon tea, and tinkling the ivories on the hotel’s grand piano. Or float in the pool, enjoy the view while you’re warmed in one of the two saunas (when in Finland…), prep for hardy treks in the well-equipped fitness studio then warm down with a massage.
Before heading out, grab what you need from the gear room (sleds, skis, snowshoes… the hotel has an impressive selection), then explore the run-wild pine forests and vast Urho Kekkonen National Park (named in honour of the Finnish president who once owned the lodge). You’ll have one free activity a day (except on arrival or departure days), and there’s plenty to pick from. In winter, perhaps a husky or reindeer safari, downhill or cross-country skiing (there’s a track on your doorstep), snowmobiling, snowshoeing and – for the hardy – a spot of ice swimming. Otherwise, visit Sámi villages, or nose around ski resort Saariselkä. Come summer, when the landscape’s a lot greener, you can cycle and kayak, ride a fat bike, find berries and mushrooms in the forests and swamps on a foraging outing, and try to make your fortune with a gold-panning session. After dark, in season (late summer to early spring), keep your eyes on the skies to try and spot the elusive colours of the Northern Lights.
With all your meals included and a chef who works magical alchemy with local produce, you needn’t seek sustenance elsewhere.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this snowbound lodge in Finnish Lapland and unpacked their thermals and Sámi beak boots, a full account of their perfectly private Nordic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Jávri Lodge near Saariselkä village…
Nestled amid pines in a swathe of Lapland that glitters with snow in winter and has a lush green coating in summer, Jávri Lodge doesn’t seem like a site for heated political negotiations. However, Finland’s longest-running president Urho Kekkonen used this homey cabin throughout the 1960s and 70s to host the likes of NATO and promote his peace-keeping ‘active neutrality’ doctrine – when he wasn’t cross-country skiing or husky-sledding, that is. He was definitely on to something: with just 13 rooms, an instinct for hygge and a treat-this-like-your-home attitude, the retreat inspires a deep sense of serenity. As does the rolling national park it’s set by. Out-and-about adventures are there for the taking – quite literally, since you get one included a day in your room rate (except arrival and departure days) – so you can sled, ski and snowmobile around or forage and try your luck at gold panning. But, there’s something to be said for simply meditating by the fire (in your PJs if you wish – it’s that kinda place) and steaming away in the sauna before eating your way through the landscape with the chef’s hyper-local meals. Ahh, peace at last.