Traditional. Cosy. Rustic. Words that conjure up a winter retreat in Finnish Lapland. A stay in Hotel Ylläshumina, an Inntravel favourite for many years, has always been exactly this. Until recently.
Contemporary. Stylish. Luxurious. New words to describe this cherished family-run hotel in Äkäslompolo, 150 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. A stunning extension to the main building and the addition of superior rooms and suites: evidence of the Qvist family's mission to keep improving their guests' experience.
Superior rooms and suites
Last year my husband Dougie and I had our first taste of the excellent Ylläshumina hospitality. We stayed in one of their standard rooms. After a day of cross-country skiing, our little cabin was a place to warm-up, relax and sleep. The single beds were extremely comfortable but, separated by a table, they didn't do much for any romantic notions.
When making a booking with Inntravel to return to Ylläshumina this year, we were drawn to the larger deluxe rooms. A superior room or suite would give us more space and facilities plus the luxury of a king-size bed: ideal for snuggles if a day on the trails hadn't fully exhausted us.
Which one to choose? A superior room has a kitchenette and a lounge, separated from the sleeping area by a double-facing stylish fireplace; a suite has the added bonus of a separate bedroom. The superior rooms offer the luxury of double showers in the stylish bathrooms; suites have a shower and a bath tub.
It was the bath that sold it to me: we upgraded to a suite.
I adored the bath with the twinkly star lights above it. I craved it every day on the trails and slithered into it every afternoon to ease my tired muscles. Whilst Dougie was fascinated by the individual hand basins with their eco-friendly touch-activated taps, I wallowed in the tub like the aptly named Happy Buddha, the luxurious beauty products from the Rituals collection that are provided for guests.
The smart kitchen facilities gave us a bit more space to make drinks and snacks. The stunning log burner in the suite's living room added a warm glow, perfect for my post-ski curl-up with a book and a glass of wine on the comfy sofa. Dougie tasked himself with the job of master fire-tender; fiddling with air vents and log distribution to achieve optimum heat.
Using Finnish products whenever possible is at the heart of the Ylläshumina's ethos. It's these little touches that take things up a notch. Designer furnishings such as Alvar Aalto light fittings; elegant Iittala glassware and crockery; sumptuous textiles from quality Finnish brands, Lennol and Familon.
Our suite was still a traditional log cabin but one which has been constructed and decorated to exacting standards. It's clear a great deal of thought and expertise has been put into the design. Add to that the covetable furnishings (a mirror with wow factor, exquisite cushions and throws) and amenities (home cinema, coffee machine) and you can appreciate why these new accommodation choices are becoming very popular with guests.
Stylish improvements to the main hotel
Modern styling can also be seen in the newly extended reception area of the main hotel building. There are striking lime-green chairs and black sofas with shocking pink cushions. Contemporary sheepskin-covered seats can be found opposite the huge slate fireplace - my favourite spot for a lingonberry liqueur nightcap.
The original dining room remains largely untouched as it is a traditional, beautiful space, steeped in the history of Ylläshumina and owner Toivo's cross-country skiing career. The creation of a trendy wine bar, however, gives this whole new interior a touch of Nordic chic.
L7 - a stunning luxury lodge in Ylläs
The Qvist family has another treat to tempt lovers of luxury. A new lodge, with the intriguing name, L7, is located six kilometres from the village on the shores of Lake Kukaslompolo in the national park. Originally owned by a Finnish bank to entertain international business executives and politicians, this extraordinary lodge is now available for couples and small groups who are looking for somewhere unique to stay.
We were lucky to have a private tour of the new accommodation after previous guests had just jetted out. We weren't the first to make a comparison with a secluded lair from a James Bond movie. This magnificent building, constructed from 27-centimetre-thick timbers, has large picture windows offering stunning views of the surrounding woodland.
There are seven bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. At the heart of the lodge is a vast living room with impressive stone fireplace and dining room with a large feature table. Guests will be catered for, from breakfast through to dinner, with menus created by Michelin chef, Jyrki Tsutsunen.
Staff are on hand to tend to your needs and arrange activities. The lodge provides all the gear you require such as snowmobile helmets and snow suits. There's a ski waxing room: pick up skis from here and head off onto the trails direct from the door. A snowshoe route will also take you from the lodge to a wilderness cafe.
Return from your adventures and relax in the excellent sauna or outdoor jacuzzi. The slightly elevated position away from the village means L7 is perfect for aurora spotting.
Just imagine booking this whole lodge for your family or group of friends for a special occasion. How fabulous would it be to be pampered in this private hideaway, knowing that this is your home for a few incredible days?
For those of us who might fear the isolation, fear not. L7 is situated at the end of a short lane just off the main road: a few minutes' drive from the hotel. There is excellent WiFi coverage and the Smart TVs in each room connect with Hotel Ylläshumina so communication with the rest of the world is easy.
We were in awe of this exciting development. When it was originally constructed, everything was made to the highest specifications. There have only been a few alterations, mainly to the bathrooms. This means L7 retains much of its traditional charm, with some essential tweaks for modern living.