When I go on holiday… I love to get going! Don’t you just hate to hang about all day for an evening flight? So I was pleased with the early start from Heathrow and to be in snowy Kiruna, 200kms inside the Arctic Circle, in time for lunch!
There are dog sled transfers from the airport but I arrived at the Hotel Ripan in a ‘traditional’ minibus.
Kiruna is the largest town in Swedish Lapland, and my hotel was just a 10-minute walk from the centre. Even better the hotel is in a vast nature area, so it’s a delight for walkers, outdoor enthusiasts and families with children. It’s the land of the Midnight Sun in the Summer months, but this time of year (March) with the snow all around, it is a magical winter wonderland… and a chance to see the Northern Lights!
For those who seek relaxation – the hotel’s spa offers a supply of locally made products to enjoy. Was it really just a few hours earlier that I was jostling with the throng at Heathrow? And now I was soaking in an outdoor hot pool surrounded by glistening snow and looking up at a clear blue sky!
I loved my hotel, but there are other choices in Kiruna for example there is the Hotel Arctic Eden. This hotel was a school and has been converted into a modern comfortable place to stay with an indoor swimming pool and wellness centre. There is a superb restaurant next door to it decorated in the style of a Sami settlement. Sami are the indigenous people of the Arctic, they are the reindeer people, formerly known as the Lapps.
And so my Lapland Adventure began!
I started with a dog sled. Just a short drive from Kiruna are the kennels in Laxforsen. Our guide prepared us with warm gear ready for a ride through the beautiful Arctic landscape. The dogs are keen and excited, and so was I! We left the kennels at a cracking pace, but with no car engines we traversed silently through forests and on frozen lakes. Exhilarating! Our turn around point was a teepee style tent with an open fire to get warm, and after a hot drink, we were back out in the still countryside and the return journey.
A little further, and a beautiful drive from Kiruna, is the Bjorkliden Mountain Resort. The drive was like being in Narnia as we skirted the huge frozen Tornetrask Lake. The resort is 500m above sea level with huge panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the natural landmark ‘Lapporten’ – a gateway in the mountains. This is the place for downhill and cross-country skiing, and lots of other winter activities – the skiing is on ungroomed pistes.
In search of wildlife we had a short drive to the Abisko Mountain Station STF in the heart of the Abisko National Park. We looked for moose, mountain fox, polar hare, wolverine and lynx. This area is most famous for its micro climate which provides the best conditions to see the Northern Lights. There are rooms to stay at the Mountain Station, which is homely, and while there you can visit the Aurora Sky Station via the chair
lift. In the evening you just relax after dinner…. and wait for the Northern Lights! Nature’s Night Cabaret – the Aurora Borealis!
The climax of my trip was an overnight stay in the Ice Hotel! Located in Jukkasjarvi on the banks of the river Torne, the Ice hotel is in the heart of the unspoiled wilderness. Every year they build the hotel anew with ice carved from the frozen river. The Ice Hotel is a lovely art exhibition during the day from 10.00 – 18.00, a curio in its own right. Reception has an ice desk and there is a long lobby with a beautiful ice statue of a horse at the end of it.
I decided to have a drink in the Ice Bar … in a glass made of ice! There is a range of rooms and suites and some have themes like the London Undergound and Movies! If you prefer to be warm, you can opt to stay in the bricked part of the hotel. There are also various snow activities here but one that particularly took my fancy was to drive out onto the frozen river in a Mini!
The anticipation rose as we had dinner in the Ice Hotel restaurant, the décor made to reflect the Northern Lights and I prepared for a night on ice! You cannot take your usual bedtime comforts to your room – no hot chocolate tonight! So we left our luggage in lockers and picked up our thermal sleeping bags for the night. The bags work on body heat so, even though tempted, it is advisable not to wear too much! It’s a Leap of Faith! So, in my sleeping bag I lay down on the mattress which was on a reindeer skin covering the bed made of ice. The furniture in the room looked pretty and was also carved from ice, but not inviting enough to use! Outside my bag it was minus 5 but inside my bag I felt very cosy. The stillness and total silence was mesmerising and I soon fell asleep. Suddenly it was morning, and I was woken with a lovely hot cup of lingonberry juice. I had survived!!
I was loathe to get out of my warm sleeping bag, but once I did I made my way to the warm reception area and enjoyed a hot shower and sauna. Then to breakfast! Everyone was smiling and saying how well they had slept whilst tucking into a hearty hot breakfast.
Swedish Lapland is a region where Nature dominates and is great for holidays in summer or winter… but for an extra special experience have a night in a Hotel made of Ice!!
I hope you will come and see me, so that I can plan a perfect trip for you to this vast wilderness area in the Arctic Circle.