I had just finished reading both Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang. I had seen a trailer for the new, not long to be released, film of Call the Wild starring Harrison Ford that took me back to when I first read the books as a schoolboy and fancied having a re-read. The books are fictional stories based around Jack London’s experience of the Yukon around the time of the Klondike gold rush. Having finished rereading the adventures of Buck and White Fang, the main characters in the books, I was itching to experience dog sleighing, Northern Lights and Arctic adventures.
Suitcase Travel had been wanting to expand their Northern Lights programme, which up until this time was focussed just on Norway’s Hurtigruten Coastal Cruise and Iceland. Scandinavia’s Lapland that sits above the Arctic Circle offers something different to Iceland with the ability to do Dog sleighing and snowmobiling alongside being right under the path for best Northern Lights viewing.
It was beginning of January, just got back to work after New Year festivities and thought, can I get away, as it is January and our busiest month, but surely 3 days out of office cannot do any harm!
7 days later, I am flying out of East Midlands, one of several local airports that operate charters to Enontekio in Finland’s Lapland. It is a direct flight (only 3.5 hours) on special charters that make this trip a fantastic price (from £799 per person including excursions and cold weather clothing).
Arriving at Enontekio and stepping off the aircraft brings a sense of excitement as this is no big international airport, in fact we are the only aircraft on the snow-covered tarmac and literally parked outside the entrance door to the terminal building! Everywhere is white and the cold air does strike you, but only adds to the excitement of what is to come.
We are heading by luxury coach to our arctic base, the village of Karesuando in deepest Lapland. The village is split into two with one side on the border in Finland and the other is in Sweden. We are staying on the Finnish side. The journey is only 45 minutes and what a magical journey, there is nothing other than white Tundra and forest, lit up by the little rare light that this far north achieves at this time of year. There is nothing around except nature, you immediately do get the sense that you are going to be staying in true wilderness.
We are staying at the Davvi Arctic Lodge set in a delightful forest area on the outskirts of the village. The décor is very wooden lodge type, but rooms are comfortable and certainly very warm as typical of Scandinavian living. After checking in we are taken off to get our cold weather outdoor gear (all included in the price). This consisted of a massive all in one thermal suit that goes over your clothing and designed for extreme cold weather with snow boots.
On return to the hotel a list of your activities and what days you will be doing them are listed on the notice board. Then it is time for dinner. The holiday includes full board which has a choice of meals from a buffet including choices for vegetarian and vegans. The food is typical canteen style, so nothing special, but it was hearty (much needed for the fuel you are going to use) and tasty.
After dinner was our first venture out to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings. The hotel sits at the bottom of a hill and walking up, the trees start to thin out, leaving amazing open skies and views above the village with nothing but a mix of forestry and tundra that lies beyond – The starkness and openness was simply magical. Also, a great position to view the northern lights when they arrive. It is amazing how, though we are in the middle of the night, there is still enough light created from the moon that is then reflected by the snow that makes walking and seeing possible.
We have two excursions today visit to the reindeer camp and a forest trek to seek the Northern Lights.
Our first excursion, reindeer camp, is not until the afternoon. So we spent the morning walking across the bridge that separates the village and Finland from Sweden. The village itself is small but does have a café, to enjoy a break and a hot chocolate. The village’s fame is that it has the most northern church in Sweden that supposedly has appeared in one of the Coco Cola adverts. The village has also had a visit from Dai Lama.
Arriving at the Reindeer Camp on the outskirts of the village. We were introduced to the reindeer and then taken out for a slow cross country trek on a sleigh pulled by the reindeer with guides walking along side. Though this was one of the gentler of the excursions on this trip, it was amazing being pulled along on the tundra. You are met with stillness and silence as you move and the starkness of snow cladded scenery is mesmerising that then turns into beauty against the twilight skies full of reds and yellows as the sun just hovers on the horizon. Back at the camp we were told more about the indigenous people, the Sami, in how they lived and invited into a traditional Tepee to have some sausages cooked over the central fire and warming Lingonberry juice.
Later that evening after our evening meal we are taken on a guided forest trek in search of the Northern Lights. The trek finally ends in an open area on the hill behind the hotel with sweeping views of the skies without any light pollution. A campfire had already been set up and hot lingonberry juice was ready and waiting for us. We sipped the hot warming juice whilst waiting for the Lights to come out with the weather app confirming there was a good chance of the lights coming. Alas they did not arrive and retired back to the hotel (no forest trek needed) at 11.30pm – but the lights did come out at 1 pm and the hardiest of the group did stay up to watch (I had seen them before and I wanted to be fresh for the huskies).
The moment has arrived we are up early and off to the husky farm. As soon as we arrive you can here the dogs barking from their kennels. We are told it is morning and having had their breakfasts they are excited about getting out and running with the sledges. Before meeting the dogs we were given a run down on how to control the sledge and the dogs. I became quite nervous as the instructions became daunting, putting one leg here and scrape the foot there, but once you start it is quite easy. You are put in pairs, one driving and the other sitting in front (driver and passenger swap positions halfway around). The dogs come out and are fitted up to the sledges. Their howling and playful barking is just adding to the excitement. Then we are off, starting off slowly as everyone gets used to putting their feet on and off the break, then we are out of the camp and in the silent wilderness. I have never experienced anything like this and the pages of Jack London’s books came flashing through my imagination as I am driving these beautiful animals.
This evening we are booked onto the snowmobile trek in search of the Northern Lights. Again, we had initial instruction in how to use these machines with all the safety protocols. Then we set off to the frozen lake where in the middle you have the open skies. You travel in pairs and like the huskies you swap halfway in driving. This was just as exhilarating as the huskies. The navigating was slow whilst traveling through the forest, but once we hit the openness of the frozen lake we opened up the throttle and whizzed across. We were a bit unlucky with the Northern Lights as the skies were cloudy and we had some snow, but this did not take anything away from this excursion being exhilarating and fun.
Sadly, the trip has ended and time to come home after breakfast and returning our warm weather clothing.
This was a fantastic trip and great value for the money paid and what was included. Ok, I did miss the Northern Lights (I should have been hardier!), but they had appeared more regularly all season and had appeared every night between returning and writing this blog. But missing the lights did not take away anything from how fantastic this trip was. What we did get to see was the magnificent twilight skies that appear during the day where the sun barely touches the horizon. This phenomenon throws up colourful skies full of reds, oranges and yellow that for me are as magnificent as the Northern Lights. I am wanting to go back and do a longer trip that involves more husky trekking.