Lapland: a name that conjures up images of Santa, Christmas, freezing weather and warm cozy lodges. But it is so much more than that. Admittedly I visited in March and Santa was long gone, hibernating away next to the fire in a cozy cabin somewhere.
When we landed we were treated to a balmy -1 degree centigrade (I say this because temperatures over the winter can get down to -40!) Everything was coated in a smooth white blanket of snow and the magic of this place, especially for children, was immediately apparent. We only had a weekend here and my girlfriend Julie and I packed it full of activities.
First up was Cross Country Skiing. I can snowboard but I have never gone near a set of skis. I was surprised at how easy it was to pick up. I can’t imagine its downhill counterpart would be anywhere near so forgiving. We spent a couple of hours sliding through snow covered pine forests, not a person in sight. Things went quite differently that night.
We decided to venture out on the skis at 9pm to go hunting for the elusive Northern Lights. I have been fortunate enough to witness the Aurora in the past but for Julie it would be her first experience and she was tingling with excitement. We headed out alone back into the forest. After an hour or so we stopped when a faint green glow started to slowly snake across the sky. I took my skis off and set up my camera gear. By now it was down to -20 and it doesn’t take long for that cold to seep through your layers of clothing when you stop moving.
The Aurora gradually got brighter, in a giant arc to the North glowing a luminescent green. We spent the next hour watching and photographing this incredible natural phenomenon. The cold started to become too much and we decided to ski back.
It was here that we ran into problems.
We realized our skis had frozen up and we were unable to clip our boots back in. We tried for ages to warm them up and to free them but to no avail. We ended up walking back through deep snow for an hour with numb feet. We learned our lesson!
The next day we were up at 5:30 to watch the sun rise. The temperature had dipped to -26 and our rental car took over half an hour to defrost! It made me wonder how people live day-to-day in these conditions. We made our way down to a partly frozen river. It was like a scene from a Disney movie. Rays of golden sun splintered through steam rising off the river. Every inch of tree was covered in a glittering white; our breath froze as it left our mouths.
Later was another “bucket list” activity: riding a husky sled. We were briefed and outfitted. It was a visceral experience, the dogs were loud and feisty and I was surprised by their pulling power. They seemed to love every minute of it. We managed to get ourselves stuck in a snow drift for a short while, but the rest of the 20km trek went without incident although I was pleased to get back into the warmth of our cabin at the end.
We spent that night in an Aurora Dome at the Harriniva Resort. The dome is a insulated geodesic tent with a large window overlooking a frozen lake. It is heated by a log fire and is kitted out stylishly with a huge cozy bed. We built a fire out front at dusk so we could sit outside and watch the night sky. We sat there, toasting marshmallows until the northern lights came out to play. This was my favorite part of the whole trip and an experience I won’t forget.
I feel we didn’t even scratch the surface of Lapland. With many beautiful national parks, loads of extra activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiles, downhill skiing and wilderness experiences, there is plenty to keep an adventurer busy. The locals are very friendly, the food was good and the landscape is simply breath-taking. It is a destination we will definitely return to soon.