Our clients come from all over the world

Of all the destinations we offer we get more requests from clients celebrating a wedding anniversary or big Birthday for a break to Lapland than any of our other destinations.

It’s really not difficult to see why as a trip to the Arctic for most people is once in a lifetime experience and so completely different to almost any other holiday they have been on before. After all if you are celebrating a silver wedding anniversary or a 40th or 50th Birthday then you want an experience that stands out from what you have done previously.

Who could not be captivated by the idea of being pulled through a pristine snowy wilderness by a team of eager to please Huskies or by the thought of staying in the world famous ICEHOTEL in an individually designed Art Suite? To crown it all of why not go Northern Lights hunting in Abisko in Swedish Lapland probably the best place on earth for consistent sightings of the Northern Lights.

In addition you have unique wildlife, the indigenous Sami culture centred on reindeer herding and all manner of unique settings from fjords to mountains and icebergs to volcanoes.

In terms of places to stay there are small lodges, wilderness cabins with private chef and the unique Tree Hotel with its quirky rooms such as the Mirror Cube, Birds Nest ad UFO! Whether you are travelling as a couple or bigger group to celebrate, we can suggest itineraries that fit best for your group size.

Click on this link to see our suggested breaks for celebrating a Special Occasion

If you truly want to make your special moment an amazing adventure, why not combine more than one country on your Arctic Northern Lights holiday adventure. We offer great combinations of Sweden and Norway, Iceland and Sweden and Iceland and Greenland for spectacular journeys that will be forever etched on the memory.

Click on this link to see some of our longer journeys

We have, over 14 years, built up the expertise to knit together arguably the best journeys possible in the region and have reams of feedback from satisfied clients over the years. If you have a special occasion on the horizon, then give us a call to see what we can do for you.

There is no denying that our Northern Lights trips are popular, but as many of our Weekend a La Carte clients know, the journey up to Lapland can be just as rewarding. Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is well worth a city break either on the way to or from the arctic climes. Stockholm boasts a beautiful setting, mixed with wonderful cuisine, and if you are travelling through in December; some great Christmas markets.

However, as well as the superb Vasa Museum and being the location for Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy books, the latest addition is the ABBA museum. This museum will give fans the chance to wander through the various ABBA memorabilia, sit in the helicopter that was used as the album cover for their “Arrival” album, and even take to the stage as a Dancing Queen to be the fifth member of ABBA! The other four members will be dancing behind you in holographic form. After the worldwide success of Mamma Mia! in 2008, how could anyone resist such a tempting offer!

To make your stay feel even more like you are treading into ABBA’s footsteps, our breaks offer a stay overnight at the Hotel Rival, which along with being centrally located close to the shops and markets, is also owned by Benny!  All the rooms come with a CD of one of ABBA’s best-selling albums, and we have always had great feedback on this hotel. Our clients have told us that this feels like they have had a holiday before they even reach the arctic! So why not make your break that much more fulfilling.

 

For more information click here

Weekend a la Carte have worked with both the Hotel Arctic Eden and Abisko Mountain Lodge for a number of years and both hotels played a major role during the visits.

The Arctic Council ministry lunch for almost 500 people, including US foreign Secretary John Kerry was prepared by the chefs of the Arctic Gastro, the restaurant attached to the Arctic Eden hotel.

Not long after this Barbro Haggkvist, the manager of the Arctic Eden received a call from the royal palace in Stockholm saying that H.M. Konung Carl XVI Gustaf would like to come and have dinner in the restaurant. Using the freshest home grown produce including ptarmigan, moose, Arctic Char, blueberries and the unique Shitake mushrooms grown in the landmark iron ore mine an exquisite banquet was produced. He liked dinner so much that he asked the chefs if they would produce lunch for his party the following day in LKAB mine in Kiruna.

His Royal Majesty then proceeded for a trip to Abisko where Mina and Dick Johansson, owner managers of Abisko Mountain Lodge hosted the King who dined on 3 occasions in their restaurant.

I called Mina to get her reactions to this honour and to quote she said “This would probably not have happened 2 years ago but the northern lights fever that has spread throughout the world has so increased the profile of Abisko that not only are keen aurora hunters arriving en masse to see the northern lights, but member of the Royal family too!”

Being the first company in the UK to offer the Abisko Sky Station for aurora holidays this is hugely satisfying. For those looking for a great chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis we would strongly recommend that you follow in the footsteps of royalty and head for Abisko.

 

For more information on our Lapland Northern Lights breaks please click here

Northern Lights – The Age of the Aurora

Solar activities, also known as sunspots, are what regulate the intensity of the solar wind which in turn creates the aurora borealis. The sun has an 11 year cycle – or “pulse” – which regulate the intensity of the sunspots/northern lights and thereby also their consistency. Scientists have been monitoring this for hundreds of years and also know when to expect increases in activity.

As we now head into a period with very high sunspot activity – one could say we are in The Age of Aurora – which should therefore bring about some fantastic displays of aurora.

The next time this high sunspot occurs again will be first around 2022 – so if you want to view this nature’s splendour in the foreseeable future – now is the time to book a trip to the northern latitudes where this is viewable.

To see the Northern Lights Holidays we offer click here

Just come back from an incredible visit to Stockholm in Sweden. I found it be a city with a super mix of historical culture and learning with some outstanding museums, lots of relaxing on boat trips, quirky hotels and fun locations…and all with some delicious meals thrown in as well.

The Highlight was the Vasa Museum which houses a 17th Century Warship which sank 20 minutes into her Maiden Voyage in 1628. Having lain on the bottom for 333 years it was raised in 1961 and is virtually as sound and in as good condition as when she sank – the reason being she sank in mainly fresh water so was not subject to the usual rotting agents of salt. However it is still mind boggling to view the boat complete (she floated by herself when raised), the immaculate hat in the chest that lay in water for 333 years, the details of the myriad of carvings of sea serpents and mermaids on her hull, and even some of the remains of her sails! There is a great fun computer simulation where you can change the sail settings, ballast load and number of cannons to see how she should have been balanced to avoid sinking – a favourite with my 5 year old!

A trip to Stockholm cannot be complete without a trip on a boat around the city which we used as a hop on/hop off service to visit the main highlights and is a lovely way to take some scenic photos of the old city….and to rest the feet! Whilst we didn’t make it there are boat trips further afield to visit the Archipelago.

The Skansen Museum Stockholm offers an insight to houses throughout Sweden from the 17th Century as they have transplanted houses, farmsteads and windmills from throughout the country to this one location right behind the Vasa Museum. It even offers Reindeers, Moose and Seals to entertain the children and get the holiday balance right for the whole family.

For those interested in something a bit more highbrow the Nobel Museum stimulates thoughts on lifetime achievers and discoveries. I learnt all sorts of technical details – some of which I understood! However I did learn that there is a new Nobel Prize for Economics which was introduced in the early 60’s – Something I do have to confess that had passed me by.

For those considering taking a Northern Lights Trip to Lapland a stop in Stockholm on the way out, or back, can be a great fun and fascinating way to spend a couple of days.

Click here to view our Stockholm and Northern Lights Break

You can book a break to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, Sweden or Norway, where you enjoy not only great views of Aurora Borealis but also an arctic experience.

Predicting the best time to see Northern Lights
The current cycle of sunspot activity – known as Cycle 24 – has brought spectacular activity this year and that promises to continue over the autumn of 2013.

NASA tracks sunspot activity and tries to predict it because of the need for this information in the forward planning of space launches.

In its scientific and detailed article on Northern Lights and sunspot activity, NASA says it uses a few methods to predict cycle peaks.

“Relationships have been found between the size of the next cycle maximum and the length of the previous cycle, the level of activity at sunspot minimum, and the size of the previous cycle,” says the article.

“Among the most reliable techniques are those that use the measurements of changes in the Earth’s magnetic field at, and before, sunspot minimum. These changes in the Earth’s magnetic field are known to be caused by solar storms but the precise connections between them and future solar activity levels is still uncertain.”

So the best time to book a holiday to see the Northern Lights, if you haven’t already seen them, is autumn 2013, if these predictions are correct.

 

For more information on our Northern Lights breaks please click here

We arrived at the Kennels and the Husky Dogs were already harnessed up and waiting for us for our Northern Lights Hunt. We were hustled into a wooden shed where we put on our arctic clothing – an all in one, boots, gloves, balaclava and hat. I’d already layered up with thermals, tights, t shirts, jeans and fleece so I looked like the proverbial Michelin Man, but I didn’t care …I just wanted to be warm!

I wasn’t looking forward to this. It was minus thirty degrees Celsius and snowing heavily and I didn’t think it was going to be much fun. My husband and I sat on the sledge and with a jerk the sledge hurtled off. The dogs were keen – I’d give them that much! We were basically going out in a blizzard and it was so bad that we couldn’t even see the lead dogs. We were going out on a Northern Lights Hunt and I just didn’t understand why we were still going as everyone knows you can’t see the Northern Lights through thick cloud and snow. It was so cold that the snot inside my nostril froze and I huddled down miserably until we reached a lavu (think Red Indian tepee) where we were stopping for dinner. I couldn’t even enjoy the ride as you couldn’t see more than 5ft either side or ahead. I have no idea how the guide knew where to go.

At the Lavu our guide quickly lit a fire and whipped up an amazing reindeer casserole stew. Delicious and warming. We relaxed and chatted secure inside away from the cold outside. Later on I needed to do a Number 1 (as they say in polite society) so popped outside and I couldn’t believe it! The blizzard had stopped, the skies had cleared and there was a wonderful display of green Northern Lights. “Quick come outside” I cried – all needs of the loo forgotten!

Our guide came out grinning “You didn’t believe me did you Abigail? I told you they would come!” What a wonderful image that I will never forget. The lavu lit up by the fire, the dogs lying silent on the snow with the lights dancing above them. “Come on, let me give you two one of the most romantic nights of your lives” said our guide.

And so the most magical 2 hours started. Sitting on a sledge as the huskies ran silently across the frozen lakes and through the snow laden trees – all the time beneath the ever changing northern lights. Greens, reds and even a hint of purple as the Aurora Borealis shimmered, shifted and fell through the skies. Oh how glad I was I came!!”

 

For more information on our Husky dogs and Northern lights breaks please click here

Learn about your camera

Learn to operate everything well in advance, and be sure all works well. I cannot emphasize this enough … unless you’re a pro at working under cold and dark conditions, this will help more than you can possibly know. The last thing you want to do is buy a new, all singing all dancing camera and try it for the first time in a cold climate. Try it at home first and take it off auto so as to learn some of the basics and practice a little.  Trying to play with all the buttons on a camera at -30 degrees is not easy and you will miss the opportunity to get some great Aurora photos!

Take spare equipment

When shooting in below-freezing weather, it is critical to have a fully charged set of batteries, since the cold temperatures can quickly drain them. Should your battery discharge too early, you can extend its life by placing it in a warm pocket, close to your body, to warm it up. If you have a spare battery it’s always a good idea to take it with you so that you always have a fully charged battery available.   Fingerless gloves are a great idea when we shoot in cold weather; this allows you to have access to your camera controls and dials. It’s always wise to have a good chamois lens cleaner with you. Moisture can become a problem when coming in from the extreme cold to have a warm by the log burner.

Light pollution

Get as far away from artificially lit areas like cities or villages as you can. Light pollution will decrease the intensity of the aurora borealis you can capture. All our Weekend a La Carte Aurora breaks have been selected with a view to being in the best areas for viewing the Northern Lights. Whenever possible, include a foreground – frame the lights with trees, get them reflecting in a lake, let a person stand there. The possibilities are endless, try to think outside the box.

If you are checking aurora forecast websites, keep in mind that low activity can still be very acceptable for photography, particularly in the northern regions like Abisko. So actually, your location may be more critical than the intensity of the aurora display.  Expert Northern Lights photographers we work with tell us to photograph even the slightest activity as it will often show up better on a camera than with the naked eye.  The joy of digital photography being that you can delete and reuse.

Timings

Between 10:00pm to 3:00am seems to be the best times for viewings and so good to stay up late, a glass of wine at lunchtime and a late afternoon nap seems to be a good solution if you are an early bird.

According to scientific data presented on www.spaceweather.com, statistically speaking, March is the most active month of the year with October a close second.

Point and shoot cameras v DSLR

While it is not impossible to photograph the aurora with a little point and shoot digital camera, it is challenging indeed and we don’t recommend it.  Point and shoot digital cameras serve a great purpose but generally the cameras sensor will be tiny and they lack the feature controls on a DSLR camera.

For many, just viewing the northern lights is a life-long dream. And to capture them with a camera is both a thrilling and awe inspiring experience.

Be patient and enjoy the night sky. You are likely to learn a few constellations in the process!

For more information on breaks including photography sessions of the Northern Lights on our Northern Lights Breaks click here

A new moon will provide a star filled sky, which is incredible on its own.  The only problem with this is that if you want to capture the lights on your camera then the landscape in front of you is very dark and will make it difficult to add some perspective to your shots.

Some photographers say they actually prefer to capture the aurora when there’s a moon in the sky. Todd Salat at the website AuroraHunter.com wrote of shooting the aurora in moonlight:

“I personally like moonlight because it lights up the foreground and makes the sky a deep blue instead of pitch black like with no moon. I watch the lunar phase very carefully”.

In short the light from the moon is not the key thing but more important is the strength of the Aurora.  If they are medium to strong you will see the lights regardless of the moon, if they are weak then it will be difficult.  They best thing to do is to pick your dates carefully, October and March are historically the best months for continuous Northern Lights and the dark months in between give a good opportunity to see them.  The next thing which is important for Northern Lights hunters is to select your destination with a view to being out of town; light pollution is always a difficult thing to combat.

We have clients who have given us reports of excellent viewings in all sorts of conditions, the most important thing of all is to be there!!!

Recently I took a 4 day trip to Lulea to see how it fit into our Swedish Lapland Holidays programme. Whilst there I got to sample the area and some new activities, also meeting our main guide Graeme who coordinated a brilliant trip, taking me from each activity and making sure I felt right at home. It was very cold when I left the plane, which made me appreciate the superb outer arctic clothing which we provide for our clients. It really is a must in such chilly climates.

For the first night I got to stay at Nordkalotten Hotel, a gorgeous lodge situated around 10 minutes’ drive from Lulea airport. Looking out of the window of my room, I felt the full impact of being away from the main town, in regards to less light pollution (good for a sighting of the Northern Lights!) It also really gave the feeling of being back to nature. The hotel itself had a very peaceful, serene feeling with both a restaurant and bar, swimming pool and gift shop. If you want to experience Lulea town, a 10 minute taxi ride will get you into the centre. There are some good restaurants to sample. I would particularly recommend Cook’s Crog for a sumptuous 3 course Lappish meal.

On day two of my trip, I got to explore a UNESCO World Heritage site – Gammelstad, a picturesque town with a 15th century church, surrounded by 400 wooden cottages.

Then travelled onto Sorbyn Lodge for a fantastic gourmet meal by Richard, who when he is not in the kitchen creating masterpieces, is also the owner and musher of a pack of pure Siberian huskies. I got to meet them after lunch and could not believe how well trained they were. Gorgeous too! If you want to meet them and experience a husky sled ride, we do currently have two breaks on offer that do this in Lulea; our Best of Lapland programme and our Tree Hotel break.

That evening was spent at the Tree Hotel Sweden where after a tour of the premises and the individually designed rooms, (UFO, Blue Cone, Mirror cube, Cabin & Bird’s Nest) another fantastic meal awaited me. It was the perfect, cosy atmosphere to find out more about Brittas and Kent the owners of the hotel. I think this is one of the things that makes Swedish Lapland stand away from other breaks – being able to meet the people directly and find out about their passion and enthusiasm for their surroundings and way of life. Not something you can achieve from staying at a corporate hotel!

The next day I travelled to Pitea harbour and spent the morning on an Ice Breaker voyage. After being kitted up with the arctic clothing, we watched the ice breaking as the boat glided through the frozen water in the Bothnia Gulf. This felt quite surreal watching the icy sea cracking as the boat passed through. Then there was the chance to put on survival suits and float next to the broken ice. This was finished off with a lovely warming soup lunch and cake. Truly a one off experience which I would definitely not have missed.

The last day of the trip was certainly not going to disappoint! I had thought after the Ice breaker activity that nothing would top this, but I was wrong. Day 4 meant a transfer to Camp Brandon and meeting Goran and his colleagues on a frozen archipelago. Half of us travelled to the Ice Wall on snowmobiles through forests and over the frozen ice, and the rest travelled by hovercraft. Having watched the snowmobiles travelling off, I was amazed to see just how fast the hovercraft zoomed over the ice. It looked about 200mph but once inside felt like 40mph. Our guide, Anders told us about the area and we almost immediately overtook the snowmobiles who had a good 30mins head start on us! The hovercraft was able to travel over both ice and rivers, making it quite a ride! We arrived before the snowmobiles for lunch. This really was the ultimate thrill and highlight which cannot be missed! After the last wonderful lunch, the teams switched round and I snowmobiled back with my guide to the starting place. We went through frozen forests and complete isolation on the ice. In the middle of nowhere, it was hard to imagine the stresses of everyday life!

Unfortunately the trip was then over, but what an experience! During my brief time in Lulea I got to feel incredibly welcome by everyone I met and left knowing I had experienced the best, unique activities imaginable. People are always asking why they should choose one tour operator over another. The answer for us is simple; we provide real experiences with real people in small groups so everything feels unique and personal.

To experience some of these wonderful excursions, please click on the below link:
Best of Lapland – Lulea, Kiruna & Abisko

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