I was very fortunate one winter to do try out the whole package with Aurora Holidays in the northernmost town in Finland, Utsjoki. This sleepy town really turns into a real winter wonderland when the snow comes. Anyone looking to do some winter outdoor and cultural activities between November and April with the added bonus of seeing the Northern Lights, then Aurora Holidays is the company to book it with. For me it was a magical experience and I am hoping to go back to the area again to relive the magic.
What I like about the tour company is that they would pick up visitors to the area from Ivalo airport, then on the way to Utsjoki gives visitors the chance to go to a local supermarket and buy all their drinks and food which they require for the visit. How cool is that?
I totally love the accommodation here. The cottages here are equipped with everything from the everyday kitchen amenities to a fridge/freezer, hob, kettle to a dining table next to the window to which I could sit and have a lovely warm meal cooked by myself and looking out at the beautiful landscape. There is also a sauna, yes, I couldn’t believe it, my own private sauna so everyday after I done a days activities, I would go in here and relax. There is also a television, standard size beds and clean washroom facilities, everything one needs for a winter’s break.
What I love about the cottages is that I can just walk out and I would be looking at the Northern Lights. There are just absolutely stunning and I have spent many hours at night here just seeing them dancing in the sky. There were some periods as I stood on the frozen river next to the cottage where the sky would be complete darkness then suddenly BOOM, the green coloured lights are dancing all over the place. I will never forget this and has remained with me. I can never forget their beauty. Also if there is one evening that the Northern Lights can’t be seen over Utsjoki, then the guys at Aurora Holidays will try and get you to an area where the Northern Lights may appear using high-tech systems which detects possible likelihood of the lights appearing.
Aurora Holidays offers extra activities which can be done for a fee ranging from snowshoeing, visiting the local village and having an adventure with husky dogs. Here is what I experienced.
I felt as if I was walking like a penguin at first after I put on the snow hoes for the first time in my life but after I while I mastered this and was doing the slow short hike up the nearby hillside. The terrain wasn’t difficult which was great so I can recommend this to people of all ages and fitness levels. It’s a great morning workout seriously. At the top of the hill, our group was treated to a lunch break in a private hut which had a fireplace which was rather nice and cozy. The views looking out to the north, over the river and into Norway was just nice on this clear winter’s day.
Husky dog sledding experience in the Arctic wilderness
I have never done husky dog sledding before and I was told that this activity is so much different to the ones in the touristy places in other parts of the Nordics. Instead of a short ten to twenty minute ride going in a small circle like most companies do, I was flung out into the Arctic wilderness for a two hour ride with one of Norway’s leading husky dog leaders.
The day started with a drive to Tana Bru over the border in Norway which is about an hour’s drive from the base in Utsjoki, Finland. On my arrival I met Tom, the leader for the day who was going to be in the leading sledge and gave myself and the rest of the group I was with instructions on how to get the huskies to pull the sledge and how to stop in emergency. For the first half of the ride, I opted to do the steering etc whilst the other person I was with got herself wrapped up warm in the sledge and just looked on. Not too long after our arrival we were off whizzing through the snow and out into the wilderness.
After a few minutes I noticed the huskies I had were not as fast as the ones pulling the other sledge (but it was a good job I was at the rear as there were only three sledges being pulled on this trip). I had six huskies pulling our sledge, the leaders did well but the two in the middle keep crossing the main rope so I had a little bit of an off-balance when in motion. At the rear the two dogs (who were both females) were trying to hump each other (having sex basically) while the other huskies were working hard to play catch up on the other sledges.
Going around corners was a scary thought at first as the foot brake has to be applied once into the curve but after a while I mastered that. Only on steep downhill sections was when the foot brake had to be pressed hard otherwise I would have gone flying over the dogs or gone to the side, let go off the sledge and the dogs would have ran off into the wild.
The course was mostly flat, the trees were bare (as it was the end of the winter months), the winter sun shining its rays on us (where I did get a suntan on my face so don’t forget the lotion) and the sharp cold breeze on my face was enough to keep me awake and focused.
The other two sledges in front of me were so fast that they left me behind by a far distance in most places and as the ride went on, my huskies were getting slower but still doing the job. Just before the end of the trail, there were quite a few downhill sections and trees to divert around and that was probably the fastest part of the ride for my team of huskies.
After the ride I sat besides an outdoor fire drinking coffee and hot juice reflecting on the mornings ride. Despite the problems (which were minor) I had, I really had a very enjoyable ride and one I won’t forget. My voice was hurting for a while as I kept shouting STOP and GO all the time, in some parts confusing the huskies as they didn’t know if they were coming or going. This has been one activity I have been wanting to do for a long time and I was glad to do it with Tana Husky (the name of the company who supplied the huskies).
Aurora Holidays then picked up the guests who went on this activity and took us into the centre of Tana Bru where there are some local shops to buy products where the highlight is Tana gull og solvsmie where they produce a lot of beautiful jewellery which most is made on site. Then it’s the drive back to Utsjoki.
Snowmobiling and Ice Fishing
Another first for me, snowmobiling! But I didn’t drive the vehicle, I was a passenger in a sledge which was pulled by the snowmobile. Would you trust me with a machine that powerful over the snow. I also wouldn’t have a clue where I was going as everything is pure white up here in the winter months. After a lengthy drive into the wilderness from Utsjoki, I was taken to the top of the fells and the landscape up here is truly amazing. Eventually I was taken to a frozen lake where my ass was freaking freezing for a few hours, didn’t catch a fish but you know what, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Taking in Utsjoki
This one is free for guests booking a stay with Aurora Holidays and is a good way to learn more about the local way of life and culture. Sights include the Sami Bridge (the bridge which links Norway and Finland in this part of the world), see one of Europe’s largest salmon fishing rivers, check out the local church plus the Kirkkotuvat which are accommodation huts for the church. Then there is also the chance to have a hotel snack and drink in the local cafe, buy souvenirs from the shop (which has a lot of handmade souvenirs) and there is also the northernmost bar in the European Union to check out.
I also took part in having a meal with local Sami people which was a great way to find out about life, culture and food. This is NOT part of Aurora Holidays but did this whilst I was here checking out the area.
Learn about the Sami people and culture
This I found really interesting whilst spending a day with Aurora Holidays in the town of Inari (a couple of hours drive south). I was fortunate enough to see the World Championships of Reindeer racing but afterwards I took in the Siida Sami museum which is a great way to learn about the indigenous people of Lapland and their way of life. There is plenty to see here with fantastic visual displays and authentic Sami tools and clothing. I didn’t find this museum dull and found it very informative.
If this sounds like the sort of tour you want to do whilst in Lapland, then check out Aurora Holidays website and book it up! But be quick, due to space, the tour package do book up very quickly for the winter season (they are also open in the summer for hiking packages). Out of all the travels I have done in the world, this is right up there at the top. Everything was done to detail and everything was perfect. The guys at Aurora Holidays know what visitors want and expect and they do deliver.
To book your accommodation and tours with Aurora Holidays – click here and don’t forget to mention you saw the company via Danik The Explorer