It is a whole new world up there! Everything is just so different, you are suddenly stepping into winter land with its amazing culture and breath taking landscapes! There’s a strange kind of magic that cannot be described in words alone, it can only be experienced.
The Lapland territory expands across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia which makes it an international meeting point without borders. It is inhabited by Sami people, the indigenous people living in the arctic area with their own language, culture, and cuisine. The very best arctic region.
I got the opportunity to experience a 6 days adventure through my university in Jönköping, where I was studying abroad, it was a big bus full of international students eager to experience the north pole and to see the highly vaunted aurora borealis.
We pretty much crossed the entire country from South to North when we embarked on the 24 hour bus drive to the North Pole, from Jönköping to Kiruna!
The road trip on a bus full of international students was an experience on its own! But that’s a different story 😉
Here’s a list of a few activities that you must do while visiting Lapland
1. Explore the town Kiruna, Sweden in our case
Kiruna is the northernmost town in Sweden with a population of no more than 20,000. The mining industry is the largest source of income for this town; however, the town has been forced to move due to mine subsidence. The mine is the reason there’s a town at all but as the mine grows the town is in danger of being destroyed by subsidence. The city is being re-developed to be located 3 kilometers to the east.
We had the chance to explore the mine which is the largest and most underground iron ore mine in the world.
2. Enjoy the nature and breathtaking views
We spent one night in the cabins that were just outside the town of Kiruna, what an experience! It was just like camping but at a -25C/-13F temperature. First we had to chop the wood ourselves for the fireplace in our cabins including the sauna (yep there was a sauna in the middle of the wilderness), the toilet was a tiny wooden room far from all of the other cabins and walking towards it with the low temperatures was a pain on its own, there were no showers, no wi-fi, and the only thing on the menu was reindeer. Definitely not the type of vacation anyone is looking forward to; but fortunately I love adventures and I enjoy nature specially if the northern lights are visible at night.
In picture below I am chopping some wood (or pretending to chop some wood) 😦 it’s definitely harder than it seems and no matter how strong I would strike, I couldn’t get it right. So the guys did a good job chopping the wood, but at least I tried! and I posed for this picture as well 😛
Below are the real heroes who saved the day! Our guide is the one wearing the green jacket, he was born and raised in Lapland so coping and surviving the extreme low temperatures comes as second nature to him. I was very impressed with everything he knew, besides speaking Swedish he also spoke Lapp which is the language Sami people speak.
Below are the cabins where we stayed, two cabins for all the international students, one cabin for the sauna, one cabin for the dining room, one cabin contained a grill, and the other cabins were occupied by other renters. (We were the loudest college students playing cards until very late at night and going to the sauna at midnight in our bikinis when the temperature was -30C, fun times!) I remember it would get so hot in the sauna that we decided to all go out and jump in the snow then we would come rushing to the sauna as we were freezing 😛
3. Try reindeer
In the Sami culture, wealth is determined by how many reindeer the family owned, these were some of the reindeer that were on our cabin resort. Our guide made us reindeer soup for lunch and it tasted surprisingly delicious, since it was the only thing on the menu along with Swedish knäckebröd there were no complains 🙂
There were plenty of activities to do during the day, such as ice fishing! Our guide made a couple of holes in the frozen river which had to be constantly re-opened, the temperature was so low that the water kept re-freezing very quickly. I had never seen anything like it as I was raised in a very tropical and warm climate.
5. See the aurora borealis of course!
The Northern Lights are a must see at least once in a lifetime, they are magnificent! I had this awe feeling to have the opportunity to see this phenomena and to grasp the immensity of earth in all of its splendor. It did make me feel so minuscule as I gazed at the vast sky dancing with lights. Every angle was a perfect shot, I would have stayed all night contemplating the sky except the temperatures were so low that I couldn’t feel my feet or hands. We were lucky to had the chance to see the lights three nights in a row as there were no clouds in the sky.
6. Dog Sledding
Dog Sledding is a must when visiting Lapland! It is a popular activity in the countryside surrounding Kiruna along with riding snowmobiles. During this trip we got the chance to try both, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
7. Ice Hotel
Ice hotel…WOW! It takes approximately 8 weeks to build the hotel every year, construction takes place from October – December. Every single room is astonishing and is uniquely designed by the best artist from the world, every year the design is different.
The hotel has a cozy feeling as it is kept -5C inside while the temperature is around -30C on the outside! All the rooms were decorated differently and we had limited time to see the hotel so it was a bit challenging to see every single room, take pictures, and behave; after all it did feel like a playground in an amazing castle where everything is made of ice!
Since a picture is worth more than a thousand words, I’ll leave some pictures that will better describe how beautifully crafted the rooms were.
As you can tell I was having a bit too much fun taking pictures 😛 An amazing time with friends!