The summer-2022-opened Cahkal Hotel places you more than 400km above the Arctic Circle in a vast expanse of the Finnish wilderness.
This summer saw the launch of Cahkal Hotel, a boutique property co-founded by the husband-and-wife team, Ville and Margit Eskonen, in the remote village of Kilpisjärvi, which lies close to the northwesternmost point of Finland and the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Set amid mountains and forest close to the shores of Lake Kilpisjärvi and Lake Cahkal, this secluded site sits right by the point Finland, Norway and Sweden meet, a place known as the Three-Country Cairn, affording exploration of the surrounding wilderness across each border.
An area that people originally came to as reindeer herders, Kilpisjärvi is now largely focused on the tourism Lapland attracts, with its remote location making it more of draw for adventurous travelers than the masses. The Eskonens spent several years working in hospitality and adventure tourism here before deciding to embark on their own venture by creating a high-end boutique hotel, distinguished at first sight by its stylish Scandi design, that fills a gap in the hospitality offering found in this area of the Finnish wilderness. An environmentally conscious property, the hotel utilises both solar panels and geothermal energy.
Accessed via Tromsø in Norway (a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the property) or Kittilä in Finland (three and a half hours away), the modern Nordic lodge provides a scenic base for exploration of the vast wilderness it’s surrounded by. Having spent several years leading excursions through this vast landscape, Ville is behind the hotel’s offering of outdoor pursuits, leading whatever excursions he can himself and bringing on other expert guides to accommodate all of the hotel’s guests.
Ville takes guests out on adventurous excursions on foot, by mountain bike and helicopter, revealing dramatic pockets of this enormous landscape, with insight into the local Sami and reindeer herding culture in the village itself. In summer, days are spent e-biking along mountain trails, hiking in the Finnish and Norwegian Arctic landscape and going foraging for mushrooms and berries in the surrounding woodland. You can see it all from above on a scenic helicopter flight and set out on fly-fishing excursions, either hiking, e-biking or reaching the fishing site by helicopter first.
In fall, this verdant landscape is transformed with the seasonal colours as red, orange and yellow foliage sweeps across the land and the midnight sun makes way for darker nights revealing the Northern Lights in all their glory. Deep snow then covers the ground from November to May each year, with the Polar Nights, when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, painting the sky with pastel hues until January when spring begins.
Ski-touring seasons runs throughout all of the winter and spring period with tours taking in the highest peaks and longest runs in Finland. A snowmobile or sleigh ride through the valley is followed by skiing and snowshoeing the slopes, and guests have the opportunity to join a local fisherman on the frozen lakes and meet a local reindeer herder at a reindeer farm that’s been in the reindeer herding family for several generations.
Back at the hotel, the time between all of this outdoor exploration is spent recovering in the private yoga sessions of the hotel’s scenic yoga lounge and unwinding in the mountain-view Finnish sauna, which has a connecting lounge complete with an inviting fireplace and an outdoor terrace leading down to a stream amid the trees.
Altogether, the hotel encompasses 23 smart, modern guest rooms. The Cahkal Suite and Cahkal Studio are both located in a standalone building for additional privacy and they each have a private terrace overlooking the mountains. The suite incorporates two bedrooms as well as a lounge area and its own private sauna.
Guests gather in the hotel’s main lounge – incorporating a fireplace flanked with stacked logs, soft furnishings bringing warm fall colours into the space and paintings depicting the mountain this hotel sits alongside – before dining in the light-filled restaurant, which is also proving popular with outside visitors, pairing smart, modern décor with views over wooded landscape where reindeer appear through the trees.
The seasonally changing menu uses locally sourced ingredients such as Arctic whitefish, reindeer and an array of berries and mushrooms. Depending on the season, you could try a moose carpaccio, pike ceviche or chanterelle risotto, all with suggested wine pairings, before finishing with a dessert highlighting local flavors such as lingonberry. The bar puts out the hotel’s take on classic cocktails with ingredients such as cloudberry tying them to the locale.
Now that, in September, the landscape is blanketed in fall colours and the nights draw in, the hotel looks forward to the long months of deep snow and polar nights that provide the winter experience travelers are so drawn to Lapland for.