How to find the northern lights – Lapland

written by womenofpoland 21 April 2017
How to find the northern lights – Lapland

I’ve never dreamed of a trip to Lapland. It’s was too far for me. Just like in high school, I thought I wouldn’t go on Erasmus because my knowledge of foreign languages was too low. 🙂 Meanwhile, I was on Erasmus already 2 times, I was also on Camp America and I saw a land that I haven’t even dreamed of! Don’t hesitate to fulfill your dreams! And you have to hold on. Just believe in yourself and go for it! Maybe it wasn’t an independent trip, but it was till the best experience that I have ever gained.

Lapland – travel expenses

Probably many of you are interested in this issue! Just keep in mind that my trip to Lapland took place in 2014. Hence, the prices quoted by me may not overlap. But let’s try to count everything. 😛 I was traveling with the Timetravels travel agency and the cost of the trip was as follows:

  • The cost of the trip (3 nights in cabins, bus ride, sleigh ride with reindeer and visit to Sami village, no meals) – about 300 euros
  • A trip to the Arctic Ocean – 50 euros
  • Dog sledding – 65 euros
  • Dinner at the restaurant (beer and reindeer hamburger) – around 17 euros
  • Copenhagen-Helsinki flights – 100 euros (round way)
  • Arrival to Copenhagen Airport from Lund (both ways) – 25 euros
  • Arrival to Helsinki Airport from Helsinki Central Station by bus (round way) – around 8 euros
  • Luggage storage in Helsinki – 4 euros
  • + Food (I don’t remember how much I spent on it)

As you can see, it wasn’t the cheapest trip  😉

A trip route

We started from Helsinki, as already know those who first found the Helsinki post. 🙂 It was the end of the March – supposedly good time to watch the northern lights. We left the capital of Finland near 8 PM and went on the way to Saariselkä. We stopped in other places to pick up other students who joined us from other cities. Longer breaks we made at Ranua and Rovaniemi. We arrived to Saariselkä on the late evening. However, this is not the furthest point we have reached during this trip. The next day we set off on a trip to the Arctic Ocean to Bugøynes in Norway, which I will describe in a separate post. Here, we will focus only on Finland 🙂

A trip route

Ranua Zoo

To our great surprise we stopped in Ranua, where the main attraction is the Arctic Zoo (it means that only the animals that live in this zone). Unfortunately, we were fully aware that such a scenario could happen because we were originally going to the Kemi’s ice castle. But this year the winter was too hot and they told us that castle was already melted. So sad, because in the internet it looks really interesting in comparison to the zoo, which I don’t like as an institution.

Ranua Zoo

Ranua Zoo

Visitng Santa Claus Village – Rovaniemi

We were so excited when we approached the real Santa’s house in Rovaniemi! Finally it was one of the main attraction of this tour. When we got off the bus, we all felt Christmas time, even though it was closer to Easter. There was still plenty of snow, and the Christmas decorations and Santa’s House inscription worked well for our imagination. We went straight to Santa’s cottage, where elf girls were organizers of the queue to the Santa’s office. When we finally managed to enter, in spite of the large group, Santa Claus personally greeted every single person in his/her own language. 😀 It was amazingly cute! Then we made a group photo  and the tour organizer bought for us this pictures for 25 euros (the most expensive pics in the world I guess) and sent it to all by the e-mail. 😀 😀 So, if someone has doubts about how Santa is earning money, here is the answer! And the smaller the group, the more they pay for the picture!

After the visit we had some time to walk around the village, buy souvenirs, take photos, etc. I sent two postcards! Interestingly, there are two cases and one is for immediate shipping and the other for shipping on Christmas Holidays!

Of course the place is very commercial and focused mainly on your wallets. Nothing suprising – we expected that.  But, I don’t regret this time and money. Still a cool experience. Perfect for a stop on the way, but for a special trip – not necessarily. 😛

In front of the Santa’s House

Santa’s Village

Santa’s Village

Santa’s Village

Santa’s Village

Picture that was worth 25 euro 😀 Amazing! I’m on the same row as Santa, on the right side 😛

On the way to Saariselkä

I don’t remember where we exactly made this stop, but it was already behind Rovaniemi. Anyway, it was a big supermarket like tesco/carrefour with a couple of bars and junk food. They gave us some time to eat and make some shopping. They didn’t provide us meals and food, so we had to buy something to eat and drink for later. 🙂 We ate a dinner and then we went to the supermarket.

Saariselkä

Right before the sunset we reached Saariselkä. Land of ice and snow. Honestly, I imagined we would live in cabins in the middle of nowhere. In a sense, it was like that, but there was a lot of cabins! And almost every cabin was occupied. It turned out later, that Saariselkä is a very popular holiday ski-resort and because the season is exceptionally long, the business is thriving!

Our cabins were really great! Most of them has two floors and they can fit 10 people. In our cabin were: Italians, Spanish, Czechs, Korean and I, Polish. 😉 You can only guess that there was a problem with keys, but … well it wasn’t that bad. In such places the houses are open 24/7. Everyone feels so safe and people who live there don’t close the door. However, we were closing our cabin, but “garden” doors were broken and everyone could enter through them.

Besides, in the cabin we also had a sauna. We managed to organize once a “sauna” evening. After a few minutes in the sauna, we ran in swimsuits straight into the snow! So much fun! 😀 This kind of activity is a must in Finland!

Our Cabin’s

Our Cabin’s

Our Cabin’s

Unexpected guests 🙂

Having fun in snow 🙂

Looking for the Northern Lights

In the evening, we were really tired after the exciting day. But nobody was thinking about sleeping. 🙂 We wanted to cought the northern lights and that was our main goal of this trip! Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky. Despite the application on the phone, the favorable weather and the favorable season of the year, we haven’t been able to see this amazing spectacle of lights. One night, a green glow appeared on the sky, but it was so poorly visible and even the best camera couldn’t capture it. I saw photos of friends from this place in December as they photographed their cabins with almost green sky! It is a pity we didn’t succeed.

On the second day we went for a day trip to Bugoynes.

Dog sledding (Day 3)

It is amazing that every day of this trip I was expecting something with great excitement. That was before going on the Arctic Ocean and just before the dog sled! We left early in the morning, however we were still in Saariselkä. When we arrived we were greeted by several dog keepers who told us about their dog and then divided us into two groups. The first went straight on a dog sled and the other went to play with the puppies first. I was in the second group.

  • Funny puppies 😀

It’s so hard to explain how much fun we had with those puppies. They were super cute and adorable! Fantastic feeling and plenty of endorphins, especially for the fans of the four paws. Puppies were of all ages and most importantly – they were mongrels. Yes, there were no racial dogs, only mongrels. Thanks to that the dogs were stronger and lived longer. I was only worried that they had quite small cages in which they lived, but the owners claimed they would often release them just to train them for future work.

Of course, after such a play and hug, the smell of our clothes was awful 😛

Puppy power!! 😀

Puppy power!! 😀

Puppy power!! 😀

Puppy power!! 😀

Puppy power!! 😀

Puppy power!! 😀

  • Let’s go!

Before our turn, we received a short training. On what commands to move, how to stand, how to break, etc. The steering was not such a trundle, because the dogs were running on the already trodden path. After a quick familiarization with the rules, we went in pairs and choosed a sleigh.

The journey lasted around an hour. For half of that time, one person was driving a dog sled and the other was sitting in a sleigh. I was sitting first in the sleigh, but I definitely liked it when I was “the driver”. In general, this feeling is amazing. Especially when you are doing it for the first time and in a place like this!

During the tour we had to maintain adequate space due to the dogs safety. It was hard to stop them and they could run in the sleigh in front of us. I know something about it, because once it was so hard for me to stop and we barely got to the next sleigh!! These dogs have truly unearthly power. We were going very slowly, but once we got quite nice speed! Apparently the colder the better the speed the dogs are able to achieve. The most optimal temperature for them is about -30 degrees Celsius. When we were there, it was several degrees below 0. In addition, dogs must be suitably matched in pairs. 🙂 Otherwise they will bite each other. Same when one of the dogs is working not enough hard. Then others get upset and start to bite this dog, which I saw on my own eyes. 😀 😀

Husky Safari <3

Husky Safari <3

Husky Safari <3

Husky Safari <3

Husky Safari <3

Husky Safari <3

Finnish flavors

It was quite early when we finished our Husky Safari. Although not everyone came back to the cabins, because I don”t know if I already mentioned that those tours that I attended were extra paid and they weren’t mandatory? So, we were devided in to small groups, because not all of us had same plans. Right after the Husky Safari, you could go on a snowmobile ride.

Meanwhile, for a dinner we decided to try local food. Our guide recommended to go to the restaurant (yes, there is something like a restaurant there 😛). The dish that was recommended to us was the hamburger with reindeer meat that was even highlighted in the menu. So, an Italian, two Russians and I ordered this Hamburger and local beer. 😀 Overall it was good. But it was not such a taste that I would stand up now to say whether a traditional hamburger is better than a reindeer. I would have to try one again. 🙂

Hamburger with reindeer meat.

With my russian friend 🙂

Lapland and its violent atmospheric phenomenon

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we jumped out for a quick shopping trip. When we were on the way back to our cabins, it started getting dark … as it turned out it was not a sunset, but an unexpected snowstorm . The temperature dropped sharply, which we immediately felt. I was frozing because when I walked out I had dressed a little lighter because of the beautiful weather. Therefore, I adhere to all that in such places, is much better to dress warmer than lighter. You never know how the weather will surprise you. 😉

Such a lovely weather 🙂

In the evening…

We were integrating, playing, drinking and looking for the northern lights without success 😀

Santa’s Office

We had to leave our cabins in the morning. So they packed our luggage and gave us additional free time in Saariselkä. Ah, I wish we could stay longer … Our meeting point was next to the office of Santa Claus. 😀 Exactly! I couldn’t believe that in Saariselkä is located such a beautiful house. Of course we took so many pics of this Santa’s Office. 😀

Santa’s office

Santa’s office

Saam’s Village

At the end they took us to the Saam’s village, where we had the reindeer sleigh ride (compared to the Husky Safari very boring 😛). Besides that we met with an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi. An elderly woman came to us and started sing beautiful folk songs. They were really beautiful and I regret that I can’t share them with you. They also provide us some information about this people: Saamos (Saami or Sami), are people inhabiting Lapland – a historical-geographical region in Northern Europe (Norway, Finland, Russia and Sweden). Genetically Sami are quite distant from other peoples living in Scandinavia, showing relatively close (though small) relationships with the Finns – presumably as a result of hundreds of years of population mixing. They occupy the least favorable areas of the northern tundra of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The whole meeting was a really fantastic summit of this amazing trip!

In the village of Saam, we had a meal – grilled sausages.

Reindeer sleigh

Reindeer sleigh

Reindeer sleigh

Reindeer sleigh

P.S. For the uninitiated and those who haven’t noticed – don’t be surprised that some reindeer has only one corner. This is normal. Reindeer lose the antlers in the spring. 🙂

To sum up

After a wonderful meeting with the indigenous people, we re-entered the bus for a few hours and headed to Helsinki. Full of impressions and new experiences! That was the best trip I’ve ever had. I would love to go back to these areas and sleep in Igloo.  🙂 In any case, Lapland is an amazing place in Europe. Still undiscovered, virgin and intriguing.

What is the most amazing place you’ve visited?

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