During the winter of 2016, some friends and I went on a trip to the North of Finland, a region called #Lapland. We spent about ten days in a small village called Saäriselka and we got to experience some amazing things. If it wasn't for the fact that I have many other places to tick off my bucket list, I'd go there every year. #travelbucketlist Here are a few of my reasons why you should visit this place.
#1 Winter wonderlands
The first thing that strikes when you get off the plane (we landed in Ivalo), is the blinding white light of this #snowglobelandscape. During cloudy days, you might feel like you're the only color element on a black and white movie set. On sunny days however, you'll find yourself between a clear blue sky and a field of diamonds. #diamondsareagirlsbestfriend Thanks to the sparse population, you'll also be able to find amazing scenery of uninhabited forests and frozen lakes. If there is one place you'll be able #walkonwater it's here!
#2 Cosy winter moments
Be honest, who doesn't like a nice campfire? It's not only nice on a tropical beach with desperados, but also after a long day in the cold with some hot chocolate, red wine and a sauna. #lifegoals #cocooning
When staying in the region you have two main options: going for comfort or adventure. We went the comfort-way. On our trip, we rented an apartment with private sauna and kitchen, which we soon stocked with wine and other #comfortfoods to help us defrost (the kitchen, not the sauna). The other option (I would have loved to try), is staying in a cabin or lodge in the woods during a multi-day trip with snowmobiles or dog sledges. This is probably a bit closer to the the true North experience. Perfect chance for glamping in the wild with your own #packofwolves.
If you're looking for an organised adventure, I would recommend: Explore the North.
#3 Polar fauna
Needles to say that the animals living in the jungle of South-America differ significantly from the ones you'll find here in Lapland. The below-zero-temperatures aren't for everyone. #subzeroweather Even Though the fauna here is not so diverse and colorful as the one in the rainforest, hoping to see a moose or a bear #fromafar brings a bit more thrill to each excursion you make.
For us, we weren't so "lucky" to spot a bear or a moose in the wild, but we saw lots of huskies and wild-ish reindeers. But fortunately, we ran into a few of them in the supermarket, in a can. #mooseinacan #bearinacan If you go to a local restaurant, you'll probably get the option to put bear salami on your pizza . #exoticfood If you are not really into that, you can also go visit some moose farms more in the South, no bear farms exist to my knowledge however.
#4 Santa Claus
If, like me, you're part of #teamchristmas, what better way to spend a holiday than checking out the home of the holiday spirit himself? #Santa Although Santa supposedly lives on the North pole, Lapland doesn't seem too different. In Rovaniemi, a city more to the South, they have built an entire village/amusement park in Santa's honor. #santaclausvillage We didn't visit it, because it was quite a drive from Saäriselka, but we got a little local consolation prize, when we found one of his branch offices. #santaclausiscomingtotwon
#5 Husky sledge rides
One of the things I would definitely recommend, is to go for a husky ride. Although I'm not exactly known for my love of animals #scaredycat these huskies really amazed me. Our guide taught us a little about these magnificent creatures and we learned that each of them has his/her own personality. There are dogs that run well together and dogs that fight, you have brothers and sisters and lovers, and old dogs and new dogs and alpha males and old wisemen. The guides know the distinct personality of each dog as they're all part of one big family. All those personalities make sure that there is also a #peckingorder when it comes to strapping them in front of the sledge or compiling a pack. It's truly fascinating to see all these different personalities come to life.
The tour we booked was only 3h long so we didn't get a lot of quality time with our dogs. I would recommend to do a longer tour and, if possible, an overnight tour. This will definitely feel a bit more like an adventure, as our tour mainly followed some predefined tracks the dogs seemed to know by heart. #trulyexplorethenorth
A little side note: it's better to take the tour during colder days, as during hot days (aka 0° C) it gets too hot for some of the dogs to run and you'll have to push the sledge when going uphill #freecardio
#6 Fast and furious snow scooters
If driving a dog sledge going on average 10km/h isn't fast enough for you, a good alternative (or not even alternative, you should try both) is renting a snow scooter and going on a trip. #adrenalinerush #dashingthroughthesnow
Renting a scooter, you will get the option get one by yourself or for two. If you're going for a longer trip (more than 3 hours), I advise you to take one for two (if you can), so you can switch drivers once in a while. The machines are quite heavy and if you're going fast, keeping them on the tracks takes a lot of arm strength. #bicepstraining
We got lucky, as thanks to a cancellation we got ourselves a private tour with two guides. #privatetour I mention guides in plural here, as you'll need at least two of those #hulkmen to pull your scooter out of the deep snow when you go off road. #yeswecrashedit #severaltimes During our trip we saw lots of wild reindeers, made our own bonfire (at least the guide did), had a nice meal and got to see a very broad area. Still I'm pretty sure the highlight of this trip was making our own #snowtoilets and trying not to pee a whole in them. #livingontheedge #girlproblems Even though it's a physically though day, it's totally worth it!
#7 Adventures on a budget
As neither husky rides nor snow scooter rentals come cheap, at one point you'll probably find yourself on a #cashflowcrossroad looking for more budget friendly entertainment. Luckily there is plenty of things to do in Northern Finland.
On days when we hadn't planned any big activities, we went looking for some easy hiking trails with unique scenery. On a lot of these hikes, we used our snow boots or moon boots #nottonameabrand, but renting snowshoes is one of the other options that can be quite nice.
Going on hikes during the day, will give you the perfect opportunity to discover the best places for watching the Northern later on (e.g. frozen lakes).
If you're ready to take your physical health test to the next level, you can try to go #langlaufing. I swear it looks a lot easier than it is. We rented some "ski's" in a local rental shop, hit the slopes and winged it. #bigmistake I don't think there was anyone on the slopes that didn't pass us with the corresponding #touristseyeroll. Turns out technique is key, so look it up before you go! ;) (I had to take another 2h nap just to recover. #thenapster)
Once you decide you've done enough physical exercise, it's time to relax. And what is a better way to relax than going to a spa? Now Lapland wouldn't be Lapland if this spa wouldn't include a whole lot of #snowandice.
During one of those well-deserved-lazy-days my friends and I went to Sauna Inari, a small drive from Saäriselka. Here you'll find a traditional smoke sauna in small huts in the snow. Next to the huts there is a hole in the ice where you can take a short bath to refresh. The cold is crazy, but the energizing feeling you get afterwards is as well. And, admit it, how many of your friends can say they took a true ice-bath? #thisiswhywedoit #polarbearchallenge
#9 Northern Lights
Obviously, I saved the best for last. If all of the above didn't convince you to explore the North, then this last point should do the trick. This natural phenomenon was probably the main reason that compelled me to go to Lapland. And lucky for use, the stars aligned!
During our entire stay, as soon as the sky went dark, we started looking out the windows of our apartment, hoping to catch a glimpse of the blue/green dancing lights. It was already over halfway of our stay and still no luck. We were getting a bit anxious, since the weather forecasts didn't bring us good news either. #50shadesofgrey The next day we went hiking on a frozen lake, no clouds in sight, about one hour drive from Saäriselka. In the evening we returned to our hotel only to see nothing but grey cloudy skies. At that point we decided to drive back to the lake in the dark and there they were, the most magical thing I've ever seen. We laid on the lake for about an hour, staring at the sky in complete awe and complete silence. #perfectsilence I think in our busy lives we tend to forget what real silence sounds like. It was magical on its own.
When you look up the Northern lights 90% chance that glass igloos will pop up. We visited them during the day, and although they seem perfect on the pictures. They only are if you actually get to see the northern lights (which isn't guaranteed). If not, it's just an expensive room without a lot of privacy (and I'm guessing comfort). So I would recommend to do it like we did, follow the weather channel and go #northernlighthunting.
Now if you're an experienced photographer I don't need to tell you that this phenomenon isn't easy to photograph. This was my attempt of photographing the Northern Lights. As you can see I totally mastered all the functionalities of my camera. #50shadesofblack
I hope I got you convinced to visit this place, it truly is magical. And if you like snow, it might be a good alternative to your annual skiing trip for once.
Don't hesitate to email me if you want to have some more tips!