The Frozen Wilderness: 3 Ultra-Luxury Off-Grid Scandinavian Retreats To Escape To This Winter
- 23 Jan '24
- 1:25 pm by Satarupa Datta
Imagine vast stretches of frost-sculpted tundra forest bathed in a stillness occasionally interrupted by the fleeting visits of Nordic wolves or the elusive lynx. While there’s never a guarantee to catch the aurora borealis during the season, the region’s patented sky view cabins are a surefire luxury pad to witness the celestial phenomenon. During winters the snow drapes the landscapes of Scandinavian wilderness for as far as the eyes can see. In addition to the famed northern lights display, there are experiences that go beyond the ordinary and easily count as once-in-a-lifetime winter adventures. For this season, DP curates a list of ultra-exclusive wilderness escapes where nature, wildlife, and luxury coexist in the quiet seclusion of the land of the Vikings.
#1 Experience The Epitome of Exclusivity in Lapland With Octola
Located 20 minutes from the Rovaniemi International Airport in Helsinki, Octola is a standalone luxury lodge cloaked by 740 acres of private wilderness. Tucked away in the tundra forest sits a 10-room lodge, and two-room super suite villa with ensuite facilities paired with elegantly designed cosy common areas, a dining room, and a sauna. The founder of Octola and CEO of Luxury Action, Janne Honkenen, conceived the design of Octola together with a Sämi architect who understood his philosophy of luxury and the local region. The whole structure of the lodge is inspired by the traditional ‘laavu’ buildings of Lapland which were used in the past as shelter homes for the nomads.
At Octola, the chef flaunts his cooking chops by putting seasonal locavore feasts for families on the table as Nordic food is all about fresh seasonal produce. Pork, beef, reindeer, mushrooms, fish, rye bread, cheese and potatoes form a major part of their diet and menus are always source-to-table.
For those who seek the thrill of winter adventures, the in-house wilderness guide can arrange for tailormade winter activities like dog sledging, cross-country skiing, ice skating, as well as ice bathing. Octola prides itself on the private spa and health clinic being the region’s first. The latest addition is an exclusive glass igloo suite outfitted with a full glass façade that extends to a private lounge and dining area with a private butler and chef making it truly exclusive.
The glass-fronted suites offer the best northern light sightings from every corner of the suite – from the bedroom leading to the outdoor private hot tub. The glass igloo suite already falls under Robb Report’s 50 greatest hotel suites in the world in 2024. A big part of the founder’s vision is to guide people from the city into the serenity found outdoors, showing them how to fall in love with the great outdoors. Believed to be the last true spot of wilderness left on the European continent. The beauty of Lapland rests in its stark and vast expanses; it is in this sense of openness that the luxe Octola lodge shines.
Getting There: Octola is 20 minutes from Rovaniemi International Airport in Helsinki. There are direct flights from London, Dubai, New York, Shanghai, Zurich, and Nice. There is a helipad stationed for Private Charters.
#DP Loves – The private chef-led dining experience under the glass-roofed ceiling of the Igloo suite coupled with the views of the remote landscape
#2 Wolf Lodge Norway Is A Blend of Luxury & Wilderness On Polar Park Grounds
An alarm call in the wilderness transforms the otherwise calm demeanour of the Scandinavian woods. Here it announces the arrival of arctic wolves within the periphery. Wolf Lodge in Tromso, Norway extends an authentic dose of Scandinavian adventure within the Polar Park Arctic Wildlife Centre, the northernmost animal park in the world. With warm fur throws that drape the sofas, wolf photography taking up the walls and antelope horns stylishly wall-mounted as an art piece, the interior choices are timeless and reflect a contemporary safari aesthetic.
Three master suites with ensuite bathrooms are laid out on the immaculate grounds in complete seclusion. The floor-to-ceiling glass window and the open layout of the timber-clad facade dissolve into the surroundings. This space also creates a cosy corner to catch special sightings of the wolves as they roam on their home grounds and peer back at you. The carpe diem spirit lingers long after sightings of the northern lights from the viewing deck of the lodge drink in hand. One should know that watching the aurora borealis is the second-best experience here. The first and the most exclusive is the ‘Wolf Visit’, a guided excursion inside the park to meet the wolves up close and to carry back that ultimate memorabilia – ‘A wolf kiss’. That means here you can meet the wolves and watch them frolic in the snow as these creatures are trained to interact with humans.
As part of the suite experience – a private chef prepares gorgeous meals. An authentic Sämi dinner is cooked in the tented ‘laavu’ that serves reindeer meat cooked on an open fire. An overnight adventure into the vast Norwegian wilds will only elevate your Scandinavian experience a notch higher. Activities like snowmobile rides, quad biking and mastering the art of mushing to navigate a sledge led by huskies offer an immersive experience to discover the staggering beauty of the Norwegian wilderness. Combine this with a private helicopter ride to a sleepy fishing village called Lofoten Island and watch the majestic sea eagles hover above to catch glimpses of orcas swimming beneath the ice-cold water.
Getting there: Fly to Oslo with Turkish Airlines (stopover in Istanbul) or Qatar Airways (stopover in Doha), then to Bardufoss Lufthavn by Norwegian Airlines. Wolf Lodge is a 50-minute car ride from Bardufoss Lufthavn.
# DP Loves – The responsible approach to tourism of The Polar Park. Wolf Lodge Norway’s overall mission to educate locals and visitors about Arctic animals and to spread awareness of preserving the nation’s natural heritage is admirable.
#3 A Sheepfold Turned Farm in Iceland Offers Unparalleled Luxury and Adventure
Up in the wild north of Iceland, mountains rise from the river along the fjord on the Tröll peninsula allowing for gorgeous views of the northern lights. Eleven Deplar Farms is a sheep farm converted into a luxury experience that stands in the remote Fljot valley on the Tröll peninsula where travellers gain an immersive Icelandic experience without compromising on luxury. The farm features thirteen ensuite bedrooms with unending views of the picturesque snowy landscape. Each suite is named after Norse Gods and prominent figures in Icelandic folklore. Floor-to-ceiling windows, wrap-around decks, and geothermal heated pools with viewing lounges only heighten the aurora borealis experience Keeping the Scandinavian minimalism at its core, the rooms feature sophisticated but pared-down interiors that complement the serene surroundings.
At Deplar Farm the chef prepares traditional Icelandic meals with international flavours for all guests. What mostly get served are the ingredient forward plates such as sustainably caught fish and farm-raised lamb dishes paired with Icelandic craft brews and wines from Deplar’s extensive cellar.
The farm houses an exceptional spa, a geothermal-heated outdoor pool with a swim-in bar, isopod flotation tanks, a sauna, and a media room that checks all the boxes for a comfortable Scandinavian getaway. If you want to experience the outdoors and celebrate the spirit of the Icelandic mountains in winter, venture off the property to go dog-sledging, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The beautiful rolling descent and steep couloirs make the Tröll peninsula an ideal heli-ski ground. Boasting two helipad stations, Deplar Farm lures passionate heli-skiers from across the world.
What sets these wilderness retreats apart is their gorgeous and off-the-map location. Moreover, the free-standing design of their remote lodges hugging the edges of the mountains and empty valleys are memorable design marvels. Inside, elegant interiors are fully covered in waxed poplar veneer and enveloped in world-class amenities. At the core of the farm’s hospitality stands a belief that to traverse to the last of the wilderness left on earth, to experience ultimate adventure, modern travellers need not forgo traditional comforts of luxury lodgings and embrace newer approaches to grandeur and comfort.
Getting there: International flights arrive at Keflavik International Airport, 45 minutes from downtown Reykjavik. Next, reach Reykjavik domestic airport and take a 45-minute flight to Akureyri. Upon arriving at Akureyri, the Deplar farm concierge will receive you and take you on a 90-minute drive to the Eleven Deplar farm.
# DP Loves – The indoor and outdoor bars are stunning and lively. Live music and karaoke accompanied by a mixologist whipping cocktails fill up the night air with good energy. The outdoor bar is an ideal spot to observe the Northern Lights. Given the freezing temperatures, an amaretto hot chocolate wouldn’t hurt.