Falling in Love with Winter in Finland at Iso-Syote

Sunrise from Iso Syote hotel finland

Don’t like the cold? Neither did I when I decided to go to Finland for a spot of Winter fun at the start of 2015.

On the other hand, I’ve always liked the idea of the northern lights, clear skies and fabulously frosted landscapes. All of which, it appear, seem to require putting up with a spot of chilly weather.

I travelled around various parts of Finland, and I’ve already told you about my amazing two day husky safari up near Rovaniemi in the Artic Circle.

Today I want to share with you my visit to Iso-Syote, Finland’s southermost fell, and the region of Finland that gets more snow than anywhere else in the country. It’s exceedingly popular with locals for it’s plethora of skiing options, and is wonderful for the visitor because you can do pretty much every Winter activity you had ever dreamed of from one handy location.

When we visited we stayed at the Hotel Iso-Syote, perched atop Iso-Syote hill itself. They also happen to be able to arrange all the tours listed on the page (and a few more to boot!) Here are some of the things we got up to (more on the hotel and what they offer at the end of the post).

Winter Activities in Iso Syote

Husky Sledding

That husky sledding experience I had was pretty epic, but I appreciate that not everyone wants to spend two days on the back of a sled going into the wildnerness.

Perhaps a nice a relaxing 7km hour long ride under the winter sun is more your style – just enough time to get the hang of it, but not quite enough time to risk losing feeling in your extremities. With a nice cup of hot fire brewed coffee to finish off with? Why not.

So we did the husky sledding experience, which was a lot of fun, and not too strenuous, and unlike my previous foray into the world of being pulled along my dogs, I managed to avoid falling off entirely. Which was nice.

husky sledding iso syote finland laplapd


I’m not going to lie, snowmobiling was far and away my favourite winter activity in Finland. I first got my hands on a snowmobile up in Rovaniemi with Lapland Safaris, and decided then that this was a mode of transport I could get right behind. Not least because of the heated handle bars.

Up at the Hotel Iso-Syote, nearly every experience requires the use of a snowmobile in order to reach your destination, a fact I was most pleased about. Husky Sledding? Take a snowmobile to get there. Ice Fishing? Take a snowmobile to get there. Northern Lights safari? Drive around in the dark in a snowmobile chasing the northern lights.

I’m sure you get the idea.

I spent a great deal of time driving a snowmobile during my four days up in Iso-Syote, and loved every minute of it. Even those two times I buried the snowmobile deep into a pile of snow and spent a good amount of time digging the poor thing out. It was, at least, warming.

girl snowmobile Iso Syote lapland sunset finland

Ice Fishing

Fishing. I’ve done a fair bit of it over the years, and could never quite see the point, especially as you can find perfectly decent fish at most fish mongers without having to go through the hassle of baiting a hook and sitting around wondering if anything interesting is ever going to happen.

In this case though, the ice fishing did require a good long ride on a snowmobile to reach the destination, which was particularly good fun over the snow and slush of the lake. Yes, I did get stuck and take an hour to dig my snowmobile out. No, that wasn’t part of the itinerary.

Other highlights of ice fishing include having a hilariously tiny fishing rod, getting to play with a giant hand drill in order to pierce the ice and cooking sausages over the fire, accompanied by hot, fire cooked coffee.

It basically didn’t matter that we failed to catch any fish at all.

ice fishing girl finland lapland

Northern Lights Chasing

Ah, those elusive northern lights. I caught a glimpse of them up in Rovaniemi on my snowmobile safari, but it just left me wanting more.

So a three hour snowmobile trek down into the valley to find a dark place and catch the lights seemed like a jolly good idea. And not only because of the thrill of snowmobiling in the dark, also because, well, the northern lights!

Ok, so I didn’t get to see the northern lights. I mention this now so as to save you from any heady anticipation followed by disappointment.

It turns out the northern lights aren’t something you can just see on-demand. There has to be solar activity and flares and a clear sky and various other factors.

I did get a clear sky and a warm campfire though, which at –35C was very appreciated. Plus the opportunity to take photos like the below. Which made it all worth it.

fire under the stars lapland finland iso syote northern lights safari


The only activity we did which didn’t require a snow mobile. Boo! Still, strapping on snow shoes and tramping around the massively surreal landscape around the Hotel was still quite the adventure.

Much like many of my other adventures, this wasn’t without mishap. Snowshoeing takes a bit of practice to master, particularly on the up or downhill phases, so there was a spot of stumbling to contend with. It was all worth getting a camera full of snow though, because the views up here, across the surrounding frozen landscape, were quite magical.

Plus those frozen trees are pretty epic looking, I think you’ll agree.

snow shoeing iso syote finland


Where we stayed

As I mentioned, we stayed at the Hotel Iso-Syote, which was located wonderfully at the top of Iso-Syote hill. This offers stunning (seriously, unbelievable) views of the surrounding landscape, easily the best view from any hotel I stayed at during my time in Finland.

It also turned out, much to my surprise, that the hill was the warmest place to build the hotel, due to the fact that cold air sinks (can’t beat science!). So even when temperatures hit –30C in the valley below, the air around the hotel was a far more reasonable –12C or so. Yes, I appreciate that’s not exactly warm, but it’s still easier to cope with than –30C!

Sunset from iso syote finland

As well as arranging all of the activities that we got up to, the Hotel is also at the top of the ski lift for easy access to the slopes, has a sauna (this is Finland after all) , swimming pool, two outdoor hot tubs and a variety of massage therapies.

Finally, the on-site restaurant offered a truly excellent a La Carte menu, with all the classics you’d expect in Finland, including reindeer and salmon (of course!), or daily buffet options. Accommodation ranged from simple twin rooms up to a gorgeous suite, as well as individual cottages for 4 – 8 people.

If you’re looking for a place where you can experience all the wonder of Lapland from one handy spot that also comes with a bar, excellent restaurant, great views and a plethora of post-activity relaxation options, then we can very much recommend it.

You can book directly with the hotel or compare deals on HotelsCombined for Iso Syote to get the best price.

How to get there

The easiest way to get to Iso-Syote is by car - it’s approximately a 1.5 to 2 hour drive from the city of Oulu, which is an hour’s flight from Helsinki. There is also a bus connection to Iso-Syote from Oulu.

For more information on reaching the hotel, check out their travel information page here.

frozen tree iso syote finland lapland

Looking for more ideas for your trip to Finland in Winter? Check out this post Jess wrote, that details the top 15 Winter Activities in Finland you have to try!

Our trip to the Hotel Iso-Syote and associated activites were in partnership with Visit Finland, who covered the costs of our accommodation, food and activities. Flailing around in the snow, burying snow mobiles and expressing opinions are all authentically me.

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