At the foot of the great ancient, smooth-topped mountain of Saana, by lake Kilpisjärvi, there’s a place where modern man faces unlikely dilemmas: how to cope with ultimate silence and harsh nature? You may also wonder, if there’s nothing, what are the accommodation options, if any, in northernmost Lapland?
The enterpreneur twins Simo and Sauli Vanhapiha have an answer: Tundrea. Throughout the past decade, the almost identical thirty-something brothers have dedicated their time for improving their family business in one of the most remote locations of Arctic Europe. When the rest of the brothers’ school class left Lapland and moved to southern Finland after high school, Simo and Sauli did the opposite and headed to Kilpisjärvi. The small town in northernmost Finland sits next to Norway, a five-hour drive north from the Arctic Circle. This area includes most Finnish ancient mountains that Finns call tunturit or fells.
The brothers’ wish is to offer people the chance to experience the smallness of man, without compromising comfort; they also offer film-friendly and full-service packages to film productions in the Kilpisjärvi area.
“In the beginning, running the company was stressful. Being an entrepreneur in Finland is not the easiest path to take, but it has all been worth doing,” the Vanhapiha brothers say.
Their rough beginning, with the loss of a family member, is behind them now, and the brothers are able to enjoy the best parts of Kilpisjärvi: the beautiful nature, silence, hiking on the ancient fells, paddling, and an almost year-around chance for xc-skiing.
Unlike in most of the areas in Lapland, Kilpisjärvi’s high season is in summer time, as the area is famous among fishermen and hikers. However, the Vanhapiha brothers have invested in marketing the area also as a winter destination and believe the best days are yet to come.
“There’s hardly any light pollution, and the Northern Lights come often. Also, snow is here almost all year-round. Norway and its mountains are near. I have a gut feeling that the meaning of these northern destinations will increase in future,” says Simo.
The Vanhapiha family originates in Muonio, 200 kilometers south of Kilpisjärvi. The company’s story began decades ago, when twins’ father saw potential in an almost empty but demanding Kilpisjärvi, and decided that the place should offer more lodging, particularly cabins for tourists.
Now, the company has luxury chalets, apartments, and a caravan area. There’s also à la carte restaurants and two big huts equipped with a barbeque. Not content with the current offerings, the brothers have ambitious plans to expand the business.
“I have to admit that the circumstances are harsh up here, especially for a person as social as I am; the silence is sometimes almost unbearable. Fortunately, there’s lots of activities you can do here, and the local food is excellent. Also, living here differs from having a holiday here. Our mother always said that only the strong survive in Kilpisjärvi,” Sauli says.