My friends will tell you I hate the cold, so its a bit of a juxtaposition really, that I’ve always wanted to visit the Arctic – I blame Attenborough. Now that I’m based in Stockholm, it seemed the perfect time to realise my dream, after all the Arctic circle is virtually on my door step – well 1236km from my door step to be exact.
For four days me and my other half ventured 200km north of the Arctic circle, to an area of incredible contrast. On one hand, this is the land of Scandinavia’s indigenous Sami population, its home to bear, lynx, moose and wolves, and is where the Northern Lights puts on its annual show over an impressive mountain scape. On the other hand, it’s also iron mining country, home to several skiing resorts and the base of the renowned Ice Hotel that pulls in a large portion of the region’s international tourism.
This is not your typical “fashion blogger” destination, in fact you don’t get much more un-fashionable than thermal underwear, but if you have an adventurous spirit and are awed by nature, you will fall in love with Lapland – I know I did.How I got there. I flew Norwegian from Arlanda, Stockholm to Kiruna airport, and returned with SAS. Norwegian has free wifi onboard which never fails to make me happy. We stayed in Björkliden, which is approximately 1hr 30mins journey by train (140 SEK) or by bus (250 SEK).
Where I stayed. We stayed at Hotell Fjället in Björkliden Fjällby which is part of Lapland Resorts group. There are numerous accommodation options available in the “resort” (it’s pretty small so resort sounds like an over estimation) such as cabins and a mountain lodge. Hotell Fjället is a comfortable hotel with ample public spaces, including a cosy living area with an open fire place and a fantastic restaurant (try the Arctic char or reindeer steaks for dinner). It wouldn’t be Sweden without unisex saunas (yep, make like a Scandi and go for a naked sauna with your fellow ski troupe) and a rowdy (but family friendly) apres-ski bar. Rooms are basic, but well equipped with all your essentials. You can rent your equipment and ski straight onto the slopes from the front door – bliss.What I did. I am a newcomer to this whole skiing malarkey, but I am totally and utterly hooked. This was the perfect place for learning to ski, as there was virtually no one on the mountains and the snow conditions were fantastic. The lift systems are basic (I still fell off them a few times though), and I am informed that the off piste skiing conditions are second to none. Your ski pass is also valid for nearby Riksgränsen and there is a free daily shuttle bus.
We also tried out cross country skiing, which I had assumed was a bit of a”granny” version of skiing, but how wrong I was! There is a beautiful route around the huge frozen lake, but after 5km of grappling up hills and then catapulting down them (much to the amusement of my fellow lycra-wearing companions) I called it a day before even getting there!
It may be touristy, but it is definitely worth going husky sledding. 14 excitable dogs pulling a sled across National Park is an experience I will not soon be forgetting. The most ethereal moment of the trip was seeing a Moose and her calf crossing the frozen lake – I have never felt so far removed from my city life.
Unfortunately we didn’t see the Northern Lights – well, we saw a bit of green cloud, but not the dancing displays you see in travel mags, but heading up to the look out tower and admiring the stars was incredible in its own right.
Although I didn’t stay at the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, I went for a tour around the annually constructed (it melts every summer) hotel that gave London the Ice Bar. It is an architectural feat if ever there was one, and some of the suites are incredibly beautiful – I’m not sure if I could handle -20*C outside followed by -5*C in my bedroom though…