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What an absolute joy our trip to Swedish Lapland was – you know that feeling of worry that the transfer is not going to be there and you won’t like the food and the hotel? Well I have to say that lasted about half an hour and then I relaxed and enjoyed every minute. Máttaráhkká Lodge was wonderful, the first impressions were of the stillness, the absolute peace and quiet, with all this beautiful fluffy snow and the sun beaming at us in an utterly perfect blue sky. We sat on a little decked area and just breathed in all the fresh air looking to the distant snow covered mountains and then just couldn’t sit any longer and had a walk (plough) through the snow, spotting animal tracks everywhere – ptarmigan and artic hare – no moose or deer though, we wouldn’t see those until the next day when we ventured off on our snowmobile trip. First however was the stunning meal cooked by Roger and a wonderful hot tub experience whilst looking at the stars until it clouded over, then, once cooked and wrinkly all at the same time,  we made our way to bed.

After a marvellous buffet breakfast (I ate far too much) it was time for our snowmobile trip, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. There had been a fresh fall of snow in the night and the guide, Roger, who was following a GPS was a little uncertain of the route – we laughed as in the snowy wilderness how would you find your way? Thoughts of the Sami deer herders went through my mind but we zipped off into the unknown and within 20 minutes were lying deep in the snow unable to get up, floundering around like stranded fish! We had missed the track with one edge of the snowmobile with the result that it tipped over in the soft snow – it all seemed to happen in slow motion- and getting out of the snow again was hard work as we couldn’t stop laughing. After the guide had rescued us we journeyed for quite a while, the artic clothing keeping us snug and warm until Roger halted and said, sweeping his arm around “welcome to my office”. I looked around at the mountains covered in snow – there was no evidence of human habitation from our vantage point, it was pure unspoilt wilderness and realised that we had in fact being travelling on snow that was right up to the tops of the trees– what an amazing job to have! We shared a flask of lingonberry juice and then journeyed back, coming off the snowmobile another twice- the last time we were told it was a good spot to stop anyway as the guide had spotted some Moose tracks – we ploughed through the snow on foot to investigate and could see where the Moose had been eating the moss from the trees but the wise Moose had moved on elsewhere.

After lunch we visited the Icehotel, exploring all the rooms and chatting with other visitors discussing what we liked and what we loved about them – a visit to the ice bar was a must and amazing ice cups with wonderful coloured liquids, which was perhaps not wise, as we stood outside watching the harvest of the ice from the river below the hotel. Although we had missed the ice cutting demonstration we wandered around and admired the results – the swan was the most beautiful object with the sun shining through it and was the most photographed, from every different angle.

Then it was on to the Sami evening and what an entertaining time! First we met the guide and collected the snowmobile and the sled in which we sat to go and visit the reindeer sheltering in a little copse and fed them dried branches (there was a little competition amongst them as they were all the young males from the spring) then we were asked to look at the sky with the many brilliant stars and as we couldn’t see any indication that the aurora was going to visit we were asked to lay on the snow and make snow angels as that might appease the spirits (he was grinning from ear to ear) but my husband obliged, so then we could carry on to the lavuu and supper which was wonderful. He spoke of the beliefs that his people have in regards to the spirits of the ancestors and the influence that has on the generations as they come along, although nowadays they all have access to the ever increasing technology. As he warmed the food he spoke of the difficulties his people had experienced and how at one time they were not even allowed to build permanent houses. It is a plight comparable to the Indians of America – resident peoples being moved on and denied access to their own lands. He offered us a secret Sami desert (After Eight mints) which I have never eaten frozen but they lasted a long time! We watched the skies and had a brief glimpse of the lights before the clouds covered it over and we went back to the hotel with humbled hearts. A great guy, with a real sense of humour and natural entertaining abilities, who managed to educate us at the same time.

A very full day and I slept extremely well.

More excitement and trepidation – dog sledding. After greeting and harnessing the dogs we were shown how the brake was supposed to work (most important tool!) and how to move when cornering and told that we had to run when going uphill as the dogs would get too exhausted – I wondered about myself? However it was just the most incredible experience the sled travelling almost silently across the snow in picture perfect wilderness, a stop for lunch in a lavuu and a chat about the dogs, the guide Mia was heartfelt in her adoration of them, and onwards again – my turn in the sled in this time! Such fun and another fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Then we transferred to Abisko Mountain Lodge, another great place but in a different way. It was constantly busy with the guys from the heli-skiing trip (totally mad) and other guests sharing their experiences. We settled in immediately but then had to go to the Sky station for a meal and, we hoped, a good view of the Northern Lights. Sadly though the wind was blowing a gale and the skies clouded over fairly quickly allowing only a short viewing but we did see the awesome lights although it was disappointingly brief. It was such a shame that it clouded over.

The following night was amazing – we had booked up for a photographic training session aimed at teaching people how to successfully photograph the lights and we had picked the right night – the lights put on a wonderful display for us and we got some memories to keep forever on the memory disc. The time just flew by and at midnight the display seemed to be at an end – there was some high cloud coming in- but just as soon as all the cameras were packed away there was one last burst of stunning colour and clarity right above us – we had been blessed!

 

What an absolute joy our trip to Swedish Lapland was – you know that feeling of worry that the transfer is not going to be there and you won’t like the food and the hotel? Well I have to say that lasted about half an hour and then I relaxed and enjoyed every minute. Máttaráhkká Lodge was wonderful; the first impressions were of the stillness, the absolute peace and quiet, with all this beautiful fluffy snow and the sun beaming at us in an utterly perfect blue sky. We sat on a little decked area and just breathed in all the fresh air looking to the distant snow covered mountains and then just couldn’t sit any longer and had a walk (plough) through the snow, spotting animal tracks everywhere – ptarmigan and artic hare – no moose or deer though, we wouldn’t see those until the next day when we ventured off on our snowmobile trip. First however was the stunning meal cooked by Roger and a wonderful hot tub experience whilst looking at the stars until it clouded over, then, once cooked and wrinkly all at the same time; we made our way to bed.

After a marvellous buffet breakfast (I ate far too much) it was time for our snowmobile trip, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. There had been a fresh fall of snow in the night and the guide, Roger, who was following a GPS was a little uncertain of the route – we laughed as in the snowy wilderness how would you find your way? Thoughts of the Sami deer herders went through my mind but we zipped off into the unknown and within 20 minutes were lying deep in the snow unable to get up, floundering around like stranded fish! We had missed the track with one edge of the snowmobile with the result that it tipped over in the soft snow – it all seemed to happen in slow motion- and getting out of the snow again was hard work as we couldn’t stop laughing. After the guide had rescued us we journeyed for quite a while, the artic clothing keeping us snug and warm until Roger halted and said, sweeping his arm around “welcome to my office”. I looked around at the mountains covered in snow – there was no evidence of human habitation from our vantage point, it was pure unspoilt wilderness and realised that we had in fact being travelling on snow that was right up to the tops of the trees– what an amazing job to have! We shared a flask of lingonberry juice and then journeyed back, coming off the snowmobile another twice – the last time we were told it was a good spot to stop anyway as the guide had spotted some Moose tracks – we ploughed through the snow on foot to investigate and could see where the Moose had been eating the moss from the trees but the wise Moose had moved on elsewhere.

After lunch we visited the IceHotel, exploring all the rooms and chatting with other visitors discussing what we liked and what we loved about them – a visit to the ice bar was a must and amazing ice cups with wonderful coloured liquids, which was perhaps not wise, as we stood outside watching the harvest of the ice from the river below the hotel. Although we had missed the ice cutting demonstration we wandered around and admired the results – the swan was the most beautiful object with the sun shining through it and was the most photographed, from every different angle.

Then it was on to the Sami evening and what an entertaining time! First we met the guide and collected the snowmobile and the sled in which we sat to go and visit the reindeer sheltering in a little copse and fed them dried branches (there was a little competition amongst them as they were all the young males from the spring) then we were asked to look at the sky with the many brilliant stars and as we couldn’t see any indication that the aurora was going to visit we were asked to lay on the snow and make snow angels as that might appease the spirits (he was grinning from ear to ear) but my husband obliged, so then we could carry on to the lavvu and supper which was wonderful. He spoke of the beliefs that his people have in regards to the spirits of the ancestors and the influence that has on the generations as they come along, although nowadays they all have access to the ever increasing technology. As he warmed the food he spoke of the difficulties his people had experienced and how at one time they were not even allowed to build permanent houses. It is a plight comparable to the Indians of America – resident peoples being moved on and denied access to their own lands. He offered us a secret Sami desert (After Eight mints) which I have never eaten frozen but they lasted a long time! We watched the skies and had a brief glimpse of the lights before the clouds covered it over and we went back to the hotel with humbled hearts. A great guy, with a real sense of humour and natural entertaining abilities, who managed to educate us at the same time.

A very full day and I slept extremely well.

More excitement and trepidation – dog sledding. After greeting and harnessing the dogs we were shown how the brake was supposed to work (most important tool!) and how to move when cornering and told that we had to run when going uphill as the dogs would get too exhausted – I wondered about myself? However it was just the most incredible experience the sled travelling almost silently across the snow in picture perfect wilderness, a stop for lunch in a lavvu and a chat about the dogs, the guide Mia was heartfelt in her adoration of them, and onwards again – my turn in the sled in this time! Such fun and another fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Then we transferred to Abisko Mountain Lodge, another great place but in a different way. It was constantly busy with the guys from the heli-skiing trip (totally mad) and other guests sharing their experiences. We settled in immediately but then had to go to the Sky Station for a meal and, we hoped, a good view of the Northern Lights. Sadly though the wind was blowing a gale and the skies clouded over fairly quickly allowing only a short viewing but we did see the awesome lights although it was disappointingly brief. It was such a shame that it clouded over.

The following night was amazing – we had booked up for a photographic training session aimed at teaching people how to successfully photograph the lights and we had picked the right night – the lights put on a wonderful display for us and we got some memories to keep forever on the memory disc. The time just flew by and at midnight the display seemed to be at an end – there was some high cloud coming in – but just as soon as all the cameras were packed away there was one last burst of stunning colour and clarity right above us – we had been blessed!

Click here for breaks to Lapland Northern Lights.

The new Lapland and Iceland season is now upon us and as such we have quite a few excited people who can’t wait to see the Northern Lights. To help plan for your experience, Apple have created an Aurora forecast app . This clever little app lets you see 8 days of Northern Lights viewing for both Iceland and Lapland in the north, (along with the southern hemisphere as well). To access this app all you need is either an iPad, iPhone or iPod with either Wi-Fi and/or 3G signal.

For iPhone and iPod users, go into your App Store and on the search option type in “Aurora Forecast”. Click on the app (looks the same as the photo below) and press the “Install” button.

Both of these devices will then show you a date screen: Click on the date you are interested in and scroll down to the Iceland and Lapland bar. This way you will be fully up to date with the aurora!

Following on from this original Northern Lights Apps blog posted in December 2011 in relation to an app that forecasts the Northern Lights, the designer has now incorporated more updates into this app, one of which is compatibility with iPad as well as the iPhone and iPod.

Other exciting updates include an easier way of viewing the Northern Light forecast for both the Northern and Southern hemisphere at the push of a button, quarterly hour updates, and push notifications informing you when the Lights peak above a set level. For more information on this please click on the two links below. Happy viewing!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aurora-forecast./id539875792?mt=8

http://tinacinc.com/AuroraForecast/

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

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