Where better than Lapland if you want to feel festive and find the snow? With London looking unlikely to provide us with any for another Christmas we hot-footed it up towards the Northern Lights to get our festive on.
So a few things to think about if you’re planning a trip to Lapland –
1. It really is, really cold around December time, at one point it was minus 20! If you take your gloves off it feels as though your hands are starting to burn. So choose your clothes wisely. We opted for thermals and ski gear as well as balaclavas for any outside wanderings.
2. Really plan your trip well as you can include husky rides, Northern Light spotting by snow mobile, reindeer feeding, skiing, ice fishing and so much more. It would be a shame not to pack in as much as you can.
3. Find a place to stay that partners with people offering experiences as they will be cheaper and all pre-arranged. They also have all the gear you’ll need! We stayed at Camp Ripan, an easy, 90min drive from Stockhom Arlanda Airport with a lovely little cabin all to ourselves.
4. Don’t expect a night life. This isn’t a bad thing, you can cosy up with mulled wine in front of the viewing gallery in the hotel or hang out in the spa. It’s so chilly you really don’t want to be out stumbling back in the snow!
5. Don’t be offended if you find Reindeer on the menu – because you will find reindeer on the menu – it is the equivalent of beef over there and really quite tasty as it’s all from wild herds – there are no reindeer farms. Just don’t tell Santa.
6. Hire a car – but make sure you remember your ‘snow driving’ rules. These are: slow down with the gears, not the breaks, turn into any skids, keep in a high gear as much as possible and of course, drive slowly.
7. Go to the Aurora Sky Station. Although pretty scary to get to, you take a cable car up to the top of Mount Nuolja, 900 m.o.h … it’s so worth it. We have no decent pictures as we went up in a blizzard and I was hanging on for dear life with my eyes shut BUT once you get up there it’s amazing. Lonely Planet has listed it as one of the best 10 places to see the Northern Lights from. They also have a cafe with huge vats of bubbling mulled cider.
If you’re a skier you can take a little excursion up Luossa Hill. They have all the kit you could need in a little cafe at the top which also has amazing hot chocolate.
Although the Northern Lights are not guaranteed on any trip North I would still recommend a Northern Light hunt by snowmobile. Going through vast snow-covered fields and woods by moonlight is amazing.
We found this gem of a spot when we stopped to look at a frozen lake. Not that we realised it was a lake as it was covered in thick ice and snow. Temperates took a dive to minus 20C and the massive flat expanse complete with rising mists was breathtaking. We had to get in the warm quick and found ourselves in the Sami Siida Museum complete with teepee cafe. They have just one option on the menu – traditional reindeer cooked over an open fire pit. You can also feed the reindeer lichen here from big baskets they keep at the door and pick up an extra fur hat or two for the walk back!
Sledging with the huskies was a dream. All you can hear when you go through the woods and fields is the panting of the dogs and the smooth parting of the snow. They are a bit stinky mind but you very quickly forget about that. We stopped half way to have fresh brewed coffee in a teepee surrounded by white and silence. It is truly hard to match the peace you can find in that environment.
We went with Lapland Sleddog Adventures who are excellent hosts and amazingly knowledgable. Run by a husband and wife team, they have just started up a new holiday offering called Tundra Magic which may well be next on our trip list! Tundra Magic gives you the chance to drive your own dog sled through the mountains close to the Swedish and Norwegian border. For three days you stay in tents and remote cabins. It sounds amazing.
This stunning Chandelier was at the Ice Hotel. I’m quite glad we didn’t stay here. Although the rooms are amazing, all created in different styles by different artists. The thought of spending a night in one of them? I think I would rather go back to our little cabin. I would definitely, on the other hand, take this chandelier home with me if it was only made of something a little more durable.