If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll know how I feel about Scandinavia. It’s my favourite part of the world for so many reasons, and I won’t bore you by going into it yet again. But I’d never been into the Arctic Circle until this New Year. Yes, it was just as magical as you might expect. And yes, I want to do this once-in-a-lifetime trip all over again. So, let’s talk about what I got up to in Lapland…
Where in the world is Kayleigh Tanner?
I stayed in the snappily named Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, which really is in the middle of nowhere. But that’s exactly why I chose this spot – I didn’t fancy being in the more touristy resorts of Levi or Rovaniemi. And I made absolutely the right choice. This is a true winter wonderland – glittery pine trees arching under the weight of the fresh snow, and the tiny twinkly lights of the distant ski slopes. Properly gorgeous.
Tiny baby husky puppies
There’s nothing that make me go mental like tiny fluffy animals, so going to meet 150 huskies blew my little mind. The Finnish guide told us all about a typical day in the life of a Lappish husky, and WE GOT TO CUDDLE A HUSKY PUP. DON’T EVEN. DON’T EVEN. Then it was into a sled for an amazing ride through the Arctic forest. Now, this was a seriously bumpy ride, but utterly, utterly magical. It’s hard to believe places like this exist in the world, but I remember having a rush of adoration for the world and being able to go places as we jostled through the trees. If you ever go, you have to do this.
Jenson Button, watch your back
Yes, that’s right – I rode a snowmobile! I didn’t actually expect to really enjoy the snowmobiling, but it turned out to be the highlight of the whole trip. They’re pretty easy to ride in all honesty – just an accelerator and a brake, and turning just means throwing your bodyweight to one side or the other. I’m generally a fast person in every aspect of life (I truly believe pavements should have fast and slow lanes), so I was in my element roaring through the Finnish woodland wilderness in the pitch black. At one point, the guides stopped us in the middle of a clearing in the trees, and we listened to the pure silence. Unfortunately we had a lot of cloud coverage the whole time we were in Finland (and a lot of fresh snow), but I like to think the Northern Lights were above us somewhere.
(Not) hitting the slopes
As I’ve said before, I’m not really built for walking around on slippery surfaces, but being so close to the ski resort Olos, I thought I should probably strap on some skis and give it a whirl. However, I didn’t trust myself on the slopes, so I was the one awkward one in my group who did cross-country skiing instead. Here’s a secret: it’s HARD! It’s really hard. I think if I’d done it for more than an hour, my thighs would still be burning now over a month on. I didn’t get much further than shuffling around awkwardly at the bottom of the slopes (well out of the way of the competent skiers, don’t worry health and safety fanatics), but there was something quite exciting about sliding for a few metres before jamming my poles in the snow to slam to a halt. And how the hell do you turn round in skis anyway? It was fun though and I’d love to try it again.
The snow gear
We actually had it pretty easy while we were there – the coldest it got was about -10, but the weeks either side of our visit saw the mercury fall to around -28 (ouch). As a result, I was often a little bit too warm in my snowsuit (thank god it looked so gorgeous right?). Because I’m a hardnut, I pretty much just wore two layers under my snowsuit every day, along with a ridiculous hat (I hate hats), heavy duty gloves, thick thermal woollen socks and rubber snow boots (no slipping over for Kayleigh, the world’s clumsiest idiot). A word of warning: start suiting up at least 15 minutes before you need to be anywhere. You’ll be zipping and unzipping various limbs in and out of the bloody thing for quite some time on your first attempt. And a second word of warning: when you go inside, be sure to unzip the top half and wear it around your waist or you’ll roast. Those things are HOT. In both senses of the word.
Where is the hygge?
I really don’t think I need to say this, but to clarify: the hygge is real in Lapland. All of it, all of it is so cosy and cute and beautiful. I know this is controversial, but one of the things I love about winter is the prevalent darkness, and with just a few hours of ‘grey light’ a day (the sun never broke the horizon while I was there), we were in darkness from around 2.30pm-10.30am every day. It makes everything feel especially snug, and makes you appreciate getting indoors. This is the perfect example of outdoor hygge – it’s not just about settling down for the night surrounded by candles and swaddled in a blanket. It just goes to show that you can go outside and still feel cosy, content and immersed in magic, and I am absolutely positive that I’ll be back.
Have you ever been to Lapland? Would you like to go? Let me know in the comments!