I’m just back from 4 nights in Swedish Lapland. I loved all the snow, scenery and the activities we did. Ice fishing, husky dog rides, snowmobiling, visiting a Sámi reindeer farm. If you go you are sure to come back with some rather special memories of the snowy-white forest landscape.
We spent a night at the famous Treehotel; a collection of designer Tree Rooms perched in the forest. A new experience of living close to nature! I slept in the Birds Nest which was very comfy, warm, and the little windows up high in the tree meant the view was awesome. However you could sleep in the UFO, the Mirrorcube, the Cabin, the Dragonfly, it really depends on what takes your fancy!!
Another different experience is the Aurora Safari Camp, a collection of Lavvu tents set around a central social tent with a roaring open fire outside. Each tent is kept warm with ‘in-tent’ stove fires which need to be kept stoked up throughout the night. It’s best to keep setting your alarm for every 1 ½ hours, so you can keep the tent nice and cosy.
It’s worth spending a couple of nights in Luleå, a vibrant university and industrial city which also houses the first Facebook server outside of America. In the winter Lule river comes to life with people enjoying a walk, ice skating, riding bikes, kick-sledding, snowshoe walking, cross country skiing, generally getting exercise and fresh air on the massive area of frozen river very close to the centre of town. A 15 minute drive up the road is the world heritage churchtown of Gammelstad. With its collection of church cottages, a museum and the largest medieval church in Norrland built in the fifteenth century.
We went to the Ice Music Concert in Luleå, which isn’t to be missed if you are in town on a Friday or Saturday evening in January, February or March and they are performing. A unique concert hall made from giant igloos with musicians performing on a stage made of ice and instruments made of ice! With an indoor temperature of -5 °C warm clothes are a must. You can sample reindeer meat, moose, fresh fish, lovely breads, hot cinnamon buns and refreshing lingonberry juice; all popular in this part of the world. However don’t worry all dietary requirements are taken care of even if you are in the extreme wilderness, you won’t go hungry. There is a huge range of varying accommodation choice. Quirky, cosy, homely, modern or as much in the wilderness as you wish. Remember though, you will find the accommodation compensates for the cold outdoors with excessive heating indoors.
We drove the snowmobiles on the glistening ice & snow, stopping off for lunch outside on an open fire. It’s hard to imagine that we were snowmobiling on frozen rivers and lakes which would be full of boats come May time.
Our dog-sledding trip took us on a stunningly scenic journey into the beautiful snowy wilderness of frozen lakes and forests and you got a real insight into the Siberian huskies way of life in these conditions. I find the Sámi Culture and Reindeer Husbandry fascinating, and this stems back from when I spent 2 months in Sweden with the Young Farmers movement, many years ago.
On this trip we were very lucky to visit ‘Lars’ a Sámi who lives in the forest wilderness and is from a long line of reindeer herders. It was great to meet his reindeer and find out all about his way of life with his reindeer. The Sámi have followed their reindeer to different seasonal grazing areas for thousands of years.
You can never guarantee seeing Aurora Borealis, but keep looking and always ask the locals if there is a chance of seeing them that evening as they have an eye for the sky!!
A few Top Tips
1. The best time to visit is March, you have lengthening days, the sun may even appear, but still plenty of snow and rivers still frozen, it’s a true winter wonderland.
2. Take ice/snow grips for your footwear, such as Yaktrax (larger size due to fitting hiking/snow boots). Good investment for using in the UK after your trip.
3. In the spring take sunglasses as the reflection from the snow can be bright.
4. In the arctic region the temperature can range from -5 °C to -35 °C. Wear 3 different layers (base, mid & outer layer) of clothing and use an oil based moisturiser to avoid cold and sun burn to your face. Let me know if you would like further details on the layering principle and what you should and shouldn’t wear. Avoid jeans; wool and silk will reward you with real warmth.
5. A rucksack is useful and more practical than a handbag or shoulder bag.
6. Generally you would remove outer footwear when you go inside and sometimes slippers are available for you to borrow or you can walk around in your thick wool or thermal socks.
7. Take your driving licence if you wish to drive the snowmobiles.
Whatever activities you do and whether you do see Aurora Borealis or not, you will have a truly unforgettable experience.