My last winter trip of the season has just ended and what a trip to finish on! I am now more excited than ever for next winter in what promises to be another exciting season with plenty of solar activity and therefore northern lights! This trip was slightly different to others as it was to Lapland…….the only real Lapland (or so Finland claim!), Finland. When I considered what to expect on this trip I had visions of over-crowded, over-commercialised `resorts` full of Santa merchandise, I couldn’t have been further from the truth!
My first few nights were spent in the wonderful wilderness of Salla. Salla is a small resort with a huge amount going for it. A large county with very few people right alongside the Russian border (I wish I had had a visa as I was itching to go across). The tourist area of Salla is based around a ski centre which has 15 downhill slopes of various difficulty ratings. So do you need to be a skier to enjoy this area? Certainly not (I am no skier!), however it is fun to have a lesson or 2 and enjoy the magnificent views. But if skiing is not for you then fear not you will not be short of choice when it comes to daytime adventures. My day started with a 2 hour husky safari where I drove a team of 6 plus 1 passenger. I love husky tours and each one is so different. This trip offered warm sunshine (not guaranteed), stunning views (guaranteed) and a stop in the wilderness for coffee, buns and sausages cooked on an open fire. All in all a great trip. After a delicious lunch in a local restaurant at the bottom of the slopes and a couple of hours attempting to ski with my exceptionally patient instructor, Vladimir, it was time to view the accommodation on offer in the area.
My base for my 2 night stay was a small but fully equipped and well-located cabin. These 1 bedroom cabins are great for couples and offer a great location near to a couple of restaurants, the ski slopes and a spa. For larger groups and families there are a variety of cabins up to 4 bedrooms. All are of a very high standard, offer all mod-cons and are furnished in a simple Finnish fashion. Some include jacuzzis and many have a fireplace but all, of course, feature the finish staple – the sauna! The accommodation was all great and would offer any family a wonderful home from home for a trip to Lapland.
After another delicious meal of homemade mushroom soup, locally caught arctic char and pannacotta with the Lapland-grown berries, cloudberries, it was time to prepare for my evening excursion, reindeer sledding under the northern lights. This was a trip I was really looking forward to as this was my first time reindeer sledding. The trip did not disappoint despite the lack of aurora. It was a full moon and laying back in my own sled tucked up on reindeer skins we slowly plodded along through the dark forest. With a short stop to feed the reindeer calves and a longer break to warm up in front of the fire with hot chocolate and cookies this excursion is something I will always remember.
My time in Salla had come to an end but my trip was far from over. My next destination was Savukoski. A destination with 10 times as many reindeer as people and the lowest population density in Europe (excluding Greenland and Spitsbergen). And I thought Salla was in the wilderness! The tourism in this destination is based around 1 hotel, but this great hotel offers all you could want and more on any Lapland trip. From comfortable rooms to delicious food, exciting activities to karaoke and friendly staff with a great sense of humour. I enjoyed a thrilling snowmobile tour, a Finnish massage (to ease my ski-induced ache and pains) and a tour of the nearby nature centre which offered information about the local history, traditions and nature. My evening was spent enjoying great food and wine and watching the locals and tourists have great fun joining in with karaoke. To top it all off the northern lights decided to make an appearance to prove that Finland really is a great spot for aurora watching!
Both Salla and Savakoski have an awful lot to offer the tourist who loves wild and rugged nature, enjoys good accommodation and food and wants to reconnect with the natural world through seeing the Aurora Borealis (an amazing natural phenomenon),meeting local huskies and reindeer, hiking in the forest or flying across frozen rivers on snowmobile.
All-year destinations with the ability to spot aurora from late august to early April, Finnish Lapland really is a special spot in the world. For more information or a quote for a trip to one of these destinations please get in touch.