I was lucky enough to spend Christmas in Lapland on a Northern Lights trip arranged by Weekend A la Carte. What a great experience!
After spending an interesting day in Stockholm where I visited the VASA museum, a must for any visitor, and wandered around a couple of their famous Christmas markets, sampling the delicious hot chocolate along the way, we headed north to Kiruna, 350 Kms above the Arctic circle.
On arrival, we were transferred to the Abisko Mountain Lodge which is on the edge of Abisko National Park and has a great reputation for seeing the Northern Lights. The hotel was delightful with warm comfortable rooms, a welcoming atmosphere and amazing food. The hotel also provides its guests with arctic weather gear that kept us nice and warm throughout our stay – even at night when we were on our Northern Lights Tours.
The highlight of the trip for me were the activities snowmobiling through snow covered woodlands, ice fishing on the frozen lake and my favorite, a four hour dog sledding trip into the national park, a breathtaking experience which I will attempt to describe below.
On our second morning, all snug and warm in our arctic clothing, we met Aaron, the owner of the dog sledding company, outside the hotel and walked a short distance to his kennel where we greeted by 60 howling and barking huskies. Beautiful animals but what a sound! It’s impossible to describe the decibel of the noise but it was super loud. Aaron explained to us that this is ‘happy’ behaviour by huskies waiting for their daily ‘run’. They get very excited and express that vocally! This ‘happiness’ continued as the team of sled drivers organized the sleds and the dog teams.
We were using two-man sleds with a driver and a passenger (us). Each sled had 6 dogs to pull it. Each dog team has a lead dog and each dog has a role in the team in terms of its placement. Once the prep work was complete, we jumped onto the sleds, sitting astride the wooden sheds on reindeer mats. And then it began! The moment the sled drivers shouted the ‘go’ instruction to the dogs, they fell totally silent and charged forward and the sleds took off. It was like someone hitting the ‘off’ button on the vocal and the ‘on’ button for the motion at the same time. Remarkable.
We headed up into Abisko national park under the magical polar light. In late December there are only 5 hours of daylight and no sunshine (sun is too low to get over the horizon) so you get this soft delicate light. And as the sleds move forward in a long line, one settles into a gentle movement as the dogs do their magic. There is a certain peacefulness in the experience. You hear the sled rails sliding on the snow, and the occasional shout to the dogs from the drivers – go, stop, faster, slower (all in Swedish of course!)– but otherwise there is a delightful silence.
And you are surrounded by stunning alpine scenery. Breathtaking. The first part of the trail is through thinly wooded areas, across frozen rivers and up gentle ravines where the drivers start to help the dogs by pushing forward with one leg to keep up the momentum. That can be quite a workout for the drivers but they have lots of experience. And later in the trip, we traveled across broad open frozen lakes when the speed really picks up as the dogs charge forward. Exhilarating.
After about 90 minutes of sledding, we stopped by a tepee that had been set up for lunch. Cooked on an open wood fire on a grate that Aaron and his team brought with them, we were served delicious reindeer chilli with bread and warm cinnamon rolls, along with hot coffee. Totally yummy. Perfect to warm us up and sustain us for the rest of the trip. After lunch, we sadly turned back and headed home under the fading light, (back to Abisko Mountain Lodge and our nighttime activity of hunting for the Northern Lights). And when we arrived back at the kennel, the racket started anew!
A truly magical experience and a wonderful way to spend four hours. I will remember it forever, and was without doubt the highlight of my Northern Lights Holiday.