06 March, 2011

A weekend above the Arctic Circle

We were more than 150 km above the arctic circle!  We spent several days in and around Kiruna, one of the very north-most towns in Sweden. We flew up and took an 18+ train ride back, and packed the time in between with cross-country skiing, alternately roasting and freezing in the sauna & ice-cold lake water, mushing dog sleds through the forests, being completely mesmerized by the golden green northern lights, eating reindeer in a Sami teepee and running through the Ice Hotel. As my Finnish friend said, we were doing the most touristy things, but they were *so* *much* *fun*! We had a great weekend. The weather was a perfect -5c and sunny.

I posted most of our pictures in the slide show below (minus the aurora borealis pictures...our camera is crappy in low light.)

We traveled with a group of my friends--five ladies and Stu. He was a good sport, especially when we were gossiping about how cute our dog-sled guide was (a bit like a Norse Brad Pitt.)
We stayed at the lovely Camp Alta in a giant, cozy cabin. We tried out cross-country skiing over a frozen lake, where others were ice fishing. I have never ever been on skis before. Once I got the hang of it, it was super! Especially with that insane Lapland wind blowing...you could really get up some speed without doing a thing. Except when it was time to go back, and we were skiing *into* the wind. I think my eyelashes froze.

The camp had a large sauna, and we made friends with another group who liked the room super wet and super hot. Everyone (except me, of course, 'cause I'm a wimp) jumped into the trapdoor in the sauna floor into the ice cold lake water below to cool off. They all loved it, but I would have either a) drowned b) bobbed out as a popsicle, or, most likely c) gotten sick.

Friday morning, we took a dog-sledding tour...38 km of beautiful Lapland countryside. We were 2 people per sled, hitched to 5 dogs. I don't really know what else to say about it, but I absolutely recommend doing this if you head up north, because it was amazing. The dogs were fun, the sights were great, the ride was exhilarating, the lunch was delicious, and the guide was cute (as afore mentioned.)

We spent an afternoon in Jukkasjärvi, running through the Ice Hotel (literally running...it was like a playground!) The rooms are really clever, beautiful works of art, though I basically affirmed that I don't need to *sleep* there. Which is fine, because at $400+ a night, I can't really afford to sleep there. I think the Ice Hotel deserves its own post, to come later...
But in Jukkasjärvi, we visited the Sami church and had reindeer sandwiches in the teepee. Which was a little weird, since the Sami Museum it was attached to is also a reindeer preserve. But we were fortified for the walk back to the Ice Hotel, walking on top of the huge frozen, solid Torne River, enough to get a few cocktails at the Ice Bar (You pay more for the glass made of solid ice, so they get cheaper the more cocktails you have, so we had to make the price worth it!)

And we had a great trip back on the night train from Kiruna to Stockholm. We had a short lay-over in the small town of Boden, which randomly had the best American-style diner and giant burgers and steak fries. To demonstrate just how "authentic" this place was, they actually asked how they wanted the meat cooked, which is something no other Swedish restaurant does when you order a burger (they just don't get it in this country.) Boden's Suzy Qs...such a boon! The rest of the trip, we watched movies and ate junk food and drank cheap wine-in-a-bag, and I feel a little grainy today because of it.


  1. Wow, what a cool trip you made to the very north. Love your pictures. The whole thing is exotic even to someone like me that grew up in this country. I have to make sure to do this sometime in my life. I have always wanted to try dog sledding and to visit the ice hotel. What an awesome experience and trip! Cool and cold! I think you were wise not to jump into that icy cold water, I totally agree on your reasons for not doing it.

  2. What an amazing adventure! Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you.