Firstly I have realised that I am much better at giving advice than taking it, as my bulging suitcase will tell you. Every day I advise clients on what are the best clothing requirements for Arctic conditions and so you would think I would know better than anyone which items are best to take, but no, panic set in and I took EVERYTHING. In hindsight I can now see that was unnecessary as two thirds of my suitcase didn’t get touched for the whole trip.
The early start (7am flight) at the airport was fine as the excitement made me jump out of bed with a speed not seen since Christmas 1981 when I knew for sure I was going to get a Sony Walkman, (if only the latest gadgets were that simple to use).
Really impressed with the SAS system, printed luggage tags and dropped off bags with great ease. On arrival at Stockholm had a bit of a trek over to Terminal 5 to get connecting flight but even with only 1 hour between flights this seemed plenty of time – very seamless system. The only scary bit at Stockholm airport was the price of the doughnut I nearly bought, my hunger soon disappeared once I had calculated (3 times) that the price was actually £3.20 for 1 sugary doughnut.
On arrival in Kiruna we were met by Mikko, who must be the chirpiest man in Sweden. We speak to him regularly throughout the year and he is always happy and sure enough he greeted us with a big smile and a hug. With it being such a small airport we had collected suitcases and were in the van and on our way in a few minutes and at the hotel within 15 minutes. The snow everywhere is just mesmerising, and having never had a cold holiday before it was just amazing to see so much beautiful deep white snow.
Our first port of call that evening was Mattarahkka Sami Lodge. What a delight, Mikko took us over to his lodge where we were wined and dined in a lovely cosy environment, then off to the hot tub on the roof. The thought of stripping off and standing semi naked on the roof of a building at -20 degrees was not one I relished but hey ho, when in Rome…….
Well, we loved it, with sole use of the hot tub it is a really personal way to enjoy the luxury of being in a remote environment with no sounds and no street lights, time to collect your thoughts on the day and stare at the stars in hope of seeing the Northern lights…. which we did! What a superb end to day one!
Day two saw us on a Husky Sled, being led through the wilderness by a team of 5 dogs who were chomping at the bit, luckily the brake is very user friendly under your heels and I had mine on nearly all the time so there was no need to worry. Fabio, our guide was great, so experienced even though young (mind you, everyone seems young to me these days!). Halfway through the activity Fabio took us to a tepee and within 15 minutes he was serving us a lovely Salmon soup lunch that he just seemed to whip up in no time on the roaring fire which he had just built, and not one firelighter in sight – how do they do that?! Coffee and cake and back on the huskies, we swapped over this time so both of us had a chance to drive the sled. We live in the South of England so snow is pretty rare, possibly a day or two a year if we are lucky and then you wake up in the morning and its gone or mushy and dirty so it was such a delight to be led through the loveliest crystal white snow for several hours. An amazing activity! Once back at the base we were introduced to all the husky puppies, soft, fluffy bundles of joy.
A couple of hours were enjoyed in Hotel Arctic Eden this afternoon having a snooze; we sat down in the room for a couple of minutes and woke up 2 hours later! I guess going from the cold to the lovely warm hotel makes you drowsy. Enjoyed a delicious meal in the Arctic Eden Restaurant in the evening and then out for a walk. On the way back I was peeling off the arctic clothing, I was boiling. How can it be that at -22 degrees I am taking off my coat but at home in the UK if its 1 or 2 degrees and I am frozen. A phenomenon!
Day three we had a snowmobiling activity booked and sure enough at 10am we were promptly collected. We were kitted out with a bit more cold weather gear, had a safety talk and were off. When we left the UK I wasn’t bothered whether I drove or not but halfway round we swapped over and I drove and loved it. Even though we were on a mountain, the track is so good you feel safe at all times so no worries there. Reindeer for lunch, delicious. A warm by the log burner and then off to the IceHotel.
The IceHotel is quite breathtaking, it’s like nothing we had ever seen before. We felt like children running from one room to another, each one offering a different wow factor. A drink in the bar was a definite must. VERY pricey but then we knew it would be.
Back to the hotel and another late afternoon sleep, it’s exhausting all this enjoying yourself.
Day four and we are off to enjoy a day with our Sami guide, Hakan. He first of all introduced us to all his Reindeer and then asked us to Lasso one each for our sleds. My husband managed to Lasso his first time, and from quite a distance. I’ve never seen him walk so tall as when he led that Reindeer must be a caveman thing.
Its official, Reindeers are hilarious! They look like a caricature of themselves; they happily eat from your hands. We were taught how to rig up the sled, all very simple as with everything in Sweden, simple and efficient. The Reindeers led the way along the track which had been carved out earlier on in the season and we sat enjoying the blue skies and wonderful white scenery; very magical. Back at the Tepee we had a delicious lunch and Hakan entertained us for a while with his stories. He is a real character and I could have sat there all afternoon but all good things come to an end and we had to zoom off to Abisko for the final leg of our adventure.
Our transfer came bang on time and we spent the journey listening to the driver tell us lots of really interesting facts. I was intrigued by the Ice fishing we saw on the frozen lakes. They would set up a small one man tent in the middle of a massive frozen lake, drill a hole and then just sit in it waiting. I usually find fishing an unusual pastime but this was especially bizarre. One of the men even had a caravan, which he had positioned right out in the middle of the lake and drilled through the caravan and through the lake and dropped in his rod, GENIUS !!!
Abisko Mountain Lodge was great, a lovely layout which encourages people to mingle and socialise. We had dinner and then off to the Sky Station for an evening of spectacular northern lights … or not, as was our case that evening (but we did have a giggle up there whilst waiting for the blizzard to die down a bit as we could barely see the hand in front of our face on this mountain). It was a very unusual night as they have had 95% of evenings with Northern Lights this March, some were the best light displays ever witnessed by the photographer we work with, Chad, but unfortunately we had the snowy, cloudy night… can’t win them all.
Day four is sadly the day we have to return to normality. This is the first break I have ever taken that is in a colder climate and it has definitely given me the bug for more. As Fabio, our Huskies guide said: “Travel is the only purchase that makes you richer”. What a wise young man he is.
For more information on our Northern Lights breaks click here