Around about this time of year, the winter blues set in and your misguided optimism about ‘embracing the cold’ has petered out. You’re watching reruns of Jeopardy in your jammies while wondering what flavor of pizza you will be ordering (Hawaiian) and scoffing the Valentine’s chocolates you bought for special someone. Well not this year adventure seeker—grab your snow pants and get off the couch because we are going to Lapland!
Finnish Lapland (it extends over Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia) is so much more than home to Santa and a great name for a strip club; it’s a veritable smorgasbord of winter fun no matter what your proclivities. Let’s start by flying into Helsinki…
Can I get a Hell Yeah?!
Helsinki; a tiny city with a big heart that’s worth exploring, especially from a culinary and design perspective.
Awarded City of Design status by UNESCO, Finnish design is evident in every home, store and restaurant and its architectural mores make for a picturesque city landscape. Visit the design district to get the most bang for your buck or hop on a food tour to experience the edible wonders of Finland. Start at the Helsinki Tourist Center for information, maps and tour schedules.
OK, enough buggering about with food tours and fancy dishes – let’s find some shenanigans!
Ready, Steady Snow!
Husky safaris are a common feature in Finnish Lapland and you can pick your own adventure; anywhere from two hours to seven days. Many husky safaris offer overnight stays in cabins or tents with a view to catching the northern lights.
The most important thing about the husky adventure and any other Lappish mischief you get into is dress properly. No seriously; you really do need another layer! When selecting a tour company, find one that treats its dogs humanly and with respect—check online for reviews.
Dashing through the Snow
Can you say reindeer friggin safari?!?! I can, and it’s so very, very awesome. Riding a sleigh drawn by Reindeer won’t be blowing your hair back, but they are the sweetest beasts. Sure this sounds a little sedentary and I know you aren’t into that, so we’re going reindeer racing instead. That’s right—strap a pair of skis on, grab the reins and hold on tight, this is going to be one hell of a ride!
Winterland in the Hinterland
1000km of snowmobile runs, 200km of cross country skiing and hundreds of ski slopes makes this the Disneyland of winter fun.
Lapland is also home to some of the world’s finest national parks. If you want to ski or snowshoe in and stay overnight, the Lappish government makes available (for free!) a number of hiker’s huts where travelers can safely stay overnight. The huts are equipped with fuel for stoves and wood for fires. There are huts which you can book or rent with slightly more luxurious accommodation (beds!) You can see the locations and information for hiker’s huts here.
I know you’ve been waiting for this the whole damn time – so on to the NORTHERN LIGHTS!
Northern Light Hunting
Ok, I’ll admit it – this was by far my most fun activity. I had already been to the Yukon to hunt the lights, but with no luck so I was extra determined this time. You can go northern lights hunting on huskies, reindeers, snowmobiles and skis and it does help to pass the time. But I wasn’t mucking about this time, so I enrolled the services of Northern Lights Hunter Extraordinaire, Jouni Männistö. Armed with all the latest technology, a flask of tea and an incredible knowledge of the area thanks to being on border patrol his whole life, Jouni is your best bet if seeing the lights is a priority. And they should be; they are spectacular!
Jouni is also a professional northern lights and wildlife photographer and his expertise in getting night shots was invaluable. Of course if you aren’t into adventuring and want to watch the lights from the comfort of your glass igloo, then head to Kakslauttanen where you can spend a night or two under the stars.
There’s no such thing as too much sauna
So I’m not your garden variety spa bunny, but after all that running, jumping, mushing and riding, I was pretty tuckered. My ingenious travel companion booked us into the Långvik Spa. They have more activities, treatments and pampering than you can poke a sharp stick at including a cold room which is set at -110°C and a mineral salt room too. I just hippoed in the hot tub and had about twenty saunas.
The relief and resuscitation was beyond measure and the fine dining was a welcome change from the utilitarian meals we had been eating. My faith in humanity restored, I boarded my plane feeling like the cat’s fleecy jammies.
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