I was so excited when I found out that I had won a trip to Lapland, within the Arctic Circle. But nothing could have prepared me for perhaps one of the best experiences of my life so far.
Our plane landed on a runway covered in thick ice thankfully the pilot had done the trip many times before. The airport appeared to be like a small outpost in the middle of nowhere. It felt like I had been placed literally on top of the world. With outstretched arms, I could almost touch the stars above me! The scenery is not like anywhere else I have experienced. The sun only peeks above the horizon for a very short part of the day, creating a wonderful pink sky above pure white landscape. Everything felt pure and fresh. There was a stillness that filled the air, creating an unusual atmosphere.
Temperatures normally drop on average to -20, which anyone would think is cold enough but during our visit it went as low as -40! Thank goodness for the warm snow suits and boots provided. The coldness hits you as soon as you go outside. Ice forms on every exposed bit of hair, icicles form inside your nostrils and the ice cold air captures at the back of your throat. If I dared to take my warm gloves off within 30 seconds I felt pain surging through my hands.
The highlight of my trip was the stay in the original Ice Hotel. Everything including the chairs and beds are made from snow and ice blocks taken from the nearby river Torne. Artists are invited to create different rooms and decorations. It is like entering a huge igloo. Each suite had an individual theme; ours was a Hollywood film set. Seeing is truly believing! A trip to the Ice Hotel is not complete without a visit to the Ice bar, where drinks are served up in a glass made of ice.
At bedtime we changed into our thermals and warm pyjamas, put on our warm hat and gloves, collected our special thermal sleeping bags and retired to our ice room. Our beds were made of ice with a mattress covered with reindeer skin. Our room reached -5 through the night. I thought we would be freezing, but it was surprisingly warm. In the morning a girl woke us with a glass of hot berry juice, which was stored in a rucksack on her back.
Our first day was spent on a Husky sleigh ride. The Huskies were like a bunch of noisy teenagers, eager and excited to be on their way. We sat on the sleigh, whilst they raced through pretty forests and over iced lakes. I let out a few laughs and screams, it was so much fun. During the experience, our guide lit a fire in a small tepee, where we enjoyed delicious homemade soup. Be aware there are no toilets so dropping your thermals is an experience of its own. In such low temperatures, knee high in snow.
Later that day, we embarked on our next adventure. A snowmobile trip to Wilderness Lodge. Our two hour night journey took us across the ice lakes and forests. On arrival we were given a sweet little lodge, with its own log burner and sauna. A hearty meal was serviced in the main lodge, cooked by the local hosts. It was a unique experience with a homestead feel. The journey on our snow mobiles the next morning was magical, made special by the appearance of a wild reindeer which ran across our path.
I really enjoyed the food during our stay; it was hearty and rustic, with ingredients used from the surrounding forests and waters. I enjoyed trying Reindeer and moose, created with sauces made from local berries.
I was really hopeful that we would be lucky enough to see the Northern lights. But on this occasion they did not appear during our trip. Perhaps it’s a good enough excuse to go back again.