Octola Private Wilderness was born from a dream, which, we suspect, is the only way such a place could come into being. Spread over 400 hectares of scrooge-proof wilderness the exact location of this off-the-radar estate (for exclusive-use stays only) is a closely guarded secret – yep, even Google won’t tell you – which not only draws a rather distinguished crowd (royals and film stars among them) but also adds to Octola’s otherworldly mystery. Bespoke itineraries are designed to create meaningful connections to the land and culture – ice skating on a remote lake, say, or Sámì folk songs around crackling log fires. And, if the roaming hoard of reindeer isn’t enough to whip-up a dormant sense of childlike wonder, getting up close and personal with the Northern lights (from bed, no less) surely will.
Get this when you book through us:
Handmade woollen socks made by indigenous Sámi women and exclusive Arctic 8 recipe book. GoldSmiths also receive a room upgrade (subject to availability) and a champagne reception on arrival
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £13294.87 (€15,473), including tax at 23 per cent.
Rates include a breakfast buffet prepared by a private chef, lunch, dinner and any snacks or beverages you can get your hands on.
The number eight plays a big part in Octola’s mythology, and resonates deeply with this corner of the world. Eight countries border the Arctic circle, all 88 constellations can be seen on a clear night (rooms, you’ll find are also named after them) and in sailing, while the seventh wave is the biggest, the eighth represents new beginnings.
At the hotel
Finnish sauna, spa, outdoor and indoor pool, hot tubs, fire pits, bespoke catering, rustic wooden bar, gym, 78 seasonal activities (snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing…). In rooms: Aromatherapy bath products, bathrobes and slippers, forest-framing glass walls.
Our favourite rooms
All Lodge rooms are interconnecting with cosy contemporary design. Burnt-orange carpets, dark-wood cladding and slate bathrooms are combined with glass walls that frame the forest beyond. For couples looking to dial the romance up to 11, the two-bedroom villa has its own wood-burning sauna, indoor/outdoor hot tub with retractable glass walls and fully-equipped chef’s kitchen for intimate date night dinners.
You’ll find a heated pool in the spa with meditative underwater lights that change colour as you paddle, mimicking the aurora borealis that fortunate swimmers can admire from the floor-to-ceiling windows. There are in-built turbines should you fancy a more strenuous water workout and for a typically Finnish thermal experience, hop between the hot tub and the temperature-adjustable ice bath – it’s good for you, apparently.
In between your thermal-hopping, enjoy a deep-tissue massage or firming facial before retiring to the spa’s log-lined Finnish sauna (named, curiously, after the prince of Monaco) where wooden walls are axe-carved the traditional way, and the minibar is piled high with Karhu beer. Yes, not as detoxifying as you’d expect, but who are we to argue with tradition? The spa also has a separate relaxation room for yoga, pilates, or simply dozing fireside on a pillow-y lounger to the soundtrack of your favourite crooners – just link your phone to the in-house sound system.
Your wishlist, of course – you never know what kind of bearded philanthropist you’ll bump into around these parts.
The resort is wheelchair accessible and safe for youngsters, all set across a single level with slopes rather than stairs. And, a word of warning for the Instagram inclined: though photos are absolutely allowed, geo-tagging is strictly forbidden.
Very welcome. In fact, Octola was built for families, and cots and extra beds can be added for free.
Children aged two and above.
The Villa is ideal for small families, a self-contained residence with a guest room for little ones and a master bedroom for mum and dad. Large families and groups are better served by the four- or six-bedroom wing, each with interconnecting rooms.
How long have you got? Meet and greet the estate’s resident flock of reindeers, get speedy on a snowmobile or take a husky-led sleigh through the forest. And make sure they get in Santa's good books (and on the 'nice' list) with a spell at elf school.
Kids are welcome in the outdoor hot tubs, when accompanied by an adult.
The kitchen staff in Octola are more than happy to cater for fussy tots. But let’s see how fussy they are when the ice cream rolls out. Funny, that.
No need to pack
Baby monitors can be provided on request and the hotel has you covered for games and snow-gear with a depot of everything imaginable, including child-size snowsuits and boots.
Are your kids keen to try their hand at snowmobiling? You’re in safe hands – before founding Octola, Janne ran his own snowmobile school for kids.
You could say Octola Private Wilderness are eco experts. With all infrastructure built from scratch, electricity is wind generated, heating geothermal, and all water is filtered straight from the property’s own natural spring. Operations are closely monitored to create as little environmental impact as possible, and it seems to be paying off – in 2021 Octola was identified as having a negative carbon footprint.
We recommend working your way around the five wooden dining huts peppered throughout the Wilderness, each with a different landscape.
Come as you are – though with a bounty of bonny backdrops it’d be a shame not to dress up every now and then, faux furs n’ all.
There’s no fixed restaurant as such, rather dining space can be set up just about anywhere on site. In keeping with the hotel’s tailormade tenor, guests will be consulted ahead of time about their preferred eats and dietary requirements, from which the Octola chefs will devise personalised menus for your whole stay. Heads up: the speciality is Scandinavian-French fusion, and if you are so inclined, the signature reindeer is a must.
Guarded by a formidable, wood-chopping bear (a statue, that is) from whom the bar takes its name, Octola’s bar, Karhu, is inspired by sacred stone architecture and built with hand-selected rocks straight from the surrounding forest. Inside, you’ll find hand-carved wooden walls, a crackling log fire, fur-lined seating and cosy sofas to melt into. That is, if the Finnish white wine hasn’t melted you first. Comfort food like burgers and ribs make a welcome addition to the you-name-it-we-got-it approach to cocktails.
Kitchen staff are always on hand, meal times can be arranged as and when you predict you’ll get peckish, and for drinks at the bar, just say the word.
Why of course, there are snacks available throughout the property but if you’re hankering after supper in your slippers, your butler will be happy to arrange.
Spread across 300 acres of secluded, snow-capped forest, the exact whereabouts of Octola Private Wilderness is top secret.
What we can tell you is that Rovaniemi International Airport is around 20 minutes away by car. There are limited direct flights from outside of Finland, but you can catch a 90-minute connecting flight to Rovaniemi from Helsinki. Transfers to and from the airport via Mercedes Class V cars are included in the rates. They’ll even throw in some post-flight snacks for the journey.
There’s a free private car park on-site for guests, though you’re unlikely to need wheels in this snow-capped stay. If you can’t go without, make sure you opt for the sturdy, four-wheeled kind as conditions are frequently icy.
Taking the chopper for a spin? There’s a private helipad available. Contact the hotel in advance to arrange your landing.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’re unlikely to go far in search of adventure; Octola has a roster of 78 equally enchanting activities to keep you busy. They range from the fast-paced – snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing, to husky sledding, ice skating and snowmobiling – to the slower-than-a-snail-paced, such as campfire folk songs, reindeer spotting, art workshops and sauna hopping. Itineraries are designed bespoke for each party; kids will love Octola’s elf school while adults can geek-out with lectures and workshops by the likes of space scientists, musicians and local artisans. Come summer, the estate is home to one of Europe’s best salmon-fishing rivers, as well as 24/7 sunshine between June and July. A 20-minute drive away in Rovaniemi – the official home of a certain Mr Claus – theSanta Claus Village is worth a pitstop. Pop into his official post office where you can send cards and greetings to your loved ones all year round. For more grown-up pursuits, the Arktikumscience museum and cultural centre is a stunning example of Nordic architecture; a crescent shaped building with a domed glass roof on the shoreline of the Ounasjoki River. The surrounding Arctic Garden is one of Rovaniemi’s most picturesque parks, and the interiors aren’t bad either, with a focus on local materials (think Perttaus granite floors, and birch- and reindeer-hide chairs). Korundi House of Culture, made up of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland and the Rovaniemi Art Museum offer a fascinating insight into Finnish culture, with over 3,500 works from 1940s to present day. Hot tip: visit between 4pm and 6pm each Thursday for free entry.
If a day trip to central Rovaniemi sounds tempting, stop for Lappish delicacies such as roast bear and birch-sap granita at Restaurant Nili, a rustic, family-owned spot downtown. Another local favourite is Gustav, a relaxed, Finnish-fusion restaurant with a stylish dining room, panoramic rooftop and – our top choice for winter woo-ing – two private (and heated) glass igloos. Run by bearded grandfather, Mr Gustav, the menu incorporates far-flung recipes collected from his years of globetrotting, finished with high-quality local ingredients.
The Finnish practice of kakkukahvi (coffee and cake) is a well-baked tradition around these parts. Experience a slice of it at Arktikum Cafe, part of the science and culture museum, where airy, Scandinavian interiors are matched by views of the Arctic Gardens and hearty portions of their signature banana bread.
Prop up the green-tiled bar at Roka, where fine and funky wines are accompanied by a menu of European antipasti and fine Finnish cheeses. Beer lovers, meanwhile, should head to Kauppayhtiö – a American-style bar housed in a former department store and peppered with pinball machines, arcade games, fire-engine-red retro seating and a whole load of hops.
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 off-grid hotel in the heart of the Arctic Circle and unpacked their thick woollen socks and toasty faux furs, a full account of their forest-flanked break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Octola Private Wilderness in Finish Lapland…
Round up the family; Octola Private Wilderness has got the art of the reunion down to a finely-tuned tee. Founded in 2016 by former professional snowmobile racer, Janne Honkanen, this under-the-radar resort – nay, village – is a 400-hectare expanse of low-lying Lappish luxury, where dream fulfilment is top of the to-do list all year-round. Long gone are the days of gruelling group bookings and logistical hiccups, this profoundly private stay has every box ticked way in advance with custom meals, tailored experiences and a team of discreet but dedicated staff. Flanked by forest and immersed in Finnish folklore, been-there-done-that-er's have got their work cut out here, with every imaginable adventure on the menu, from elf school and husky sledging to ice skating and snowmobiling. The kicker? With such low light pollution, it’s also one of the best places to catch a glimpse of those wispy auroras. Buckle up! Winter is coming.