Tag Archives: Arctic

Top 5 scenic drives in Lapland for road travelers touring North Europe

2017-06-05

It is a long way to the north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland in Scandinavia, from other parts of Europe. Yet, so many road travelers make the trip that during the busiest summer season in July and August, popular camp sites can be fully booked if you arrive late in the evening. Enjoying the great outdoors is the primary reason for visitors to drive to the far north, and while doing it, why not enjoy the best scenic drives while on the road.

Here are the top 5 scenic drives in the land of fells, fjords, reindeer and Sami people as ranked in the travel guidebook Lapland. Some of the routes cross the borders of Finland, Norway or Sweden.

Lakselv-Nordkapp

Travelers who are heading to Nordkapp can approach the Europe’s northernmost point from Alta or from Lakselv. The road from Lakselv to Nordkapp is the one to take if you want to maximize your time taking in spectacular scenery. Without breaks, this drive takes about 3-3.5 hours.

A video that shows the sceneries along the Lakselv-Nordkapp road:

Lakselv is located at the southern end of Porsangerfjorden. Heading north of Lakselv, towards Nordkapp, the road (E6 and E69) follows the shores of the fjord. You can admire fjord views practically all the way to Nordkapp, apart from two long tunnels that dive into a mountain and under the sea.

There are plenty of places to stop and take a break on the way. It is really better to stop on the roadside and take time to absorb the scenery, take some photos, and perhaps take a dip in the sea than to drive slowly and block the narrow road. Local truck and bus drivers may want to go faster than tourists even though the road is narrow.

Karigasniemi-Utsjoki

The road from Karigasniemi to Utsjoki may not be one of the best known road sections in Lapland, but it definitely is one of the most beautiful. The road follows Tenojoki River which is famous for its wild salmon and trout. There are many places along the road where fishermen can stay at a cottage and hire a local guide with a boat to fish for the famous Tenojoki salmon. One thing is common for all travelers: everyone admires the varying landscape. The lush river valley, high fells and snow-capped peaks come into view as the road undulates along the river shores.

You can choose to drive on the Norwegian or Finnish side of Tenojoki River. I have only made the trip on the Finnish side where the road was in good condition. Roadside carparks were built in scenic places that provided beautiful views to the river and the surrounding fells. In Finland, the road starts from Karigasniemi village, and in Norway from Karasjok. There are no bridges across the river between Karigasniemi and Utsjoki.

Narvik-Kiruna

The road between Narvik and Kiruna shows the many faces of Lapland landscape. In the west near Narvik, fjords and mountains create the unique scenery Norway is renowned for. From Narvik towards the east, the road ascends to a mountain plateau. Approaching Abisko, a whole new world opens up: mountain peaks, lakes, rivers and scarce vegetation establish a unique landscape that doesn’t look like anything you have seen before. As Kiruna comes closer, scarce vegetation gives way to lush forests as the landscape changes from fells to undulating forests and hills.

The landscape between Kiruna and Narvik is shown on this video clip:

There are many roadside carparks on the way, especially near Abisko. During weekends, the carparks may be crowded as locals head to lakes and rivers to fish and hike into the fells. Abisko and Riksgränsen are the only places where services are available along this road section.

Kong Olavs Veg

Kong Olavs Veg (King Olav’s Road) leads travelers from mainland Norway to the Lofoten archipelago and across the islands. The scenery is pretty much continuously spectacular: mountains, fjords, villages and fishing ports. There is not a dull moment on Lofoten no matter which road you choose to drive. Occasional bridges and ferries along the way let you admire the landscape from the sea as well.

Summer sceneries along the roads of Lofoten can be viewed on this video clip:

Winter/spring sceneries along the roads of Lofoten can be viewed on this video clip:

Roads, even the main roads in Lofoten, are narrow and some sections can be a bit bumpy. Take care that right-side wheels travel on the white line on the right edge of the road, because local bus and truck drivers want to drive at their own speed on the roads they know so well. Plan your trip so that you have plenty of time. Driving across the archipelago is slow because of narrow and twisting roads, and villages on the way.

Bjerkvik north of Narvik is the place to start the road trip to Lofoten. An alternative route is to take a ferry from the mainland (for instance, from Bodö or Bognes to Moskenes) and drive across Lofoten from west to east.

Karesuvanto–Skibotn

This scenic road takes you from majestic fell landscape in Finland to beautiful fjord mountain landscape in Norway. The highlights of this trip are Saana fell in Kilpisjärvi and Lyngenfjord.

This video shows the sceneries between Karesuando and Skibotn:

The starting point is the village of Karesuvanto that is located on both sides of the border in Finland and in Sweden. The village can be reached via E45 from Sweden and via E8 from Finland. From Karesuvanto, head west along E8. The road follows the border river Muonionjoki and gradually ascends to the gently sloping fells. Kilpisjärvi is a destination of its own for travelers. A hike to the Saana fell is highly recommended. Towards west, after Kilpisjärvi, you enter Norway and the landscape changes. Fells get steeper as the road winds down towards the sea. The village of Skibotn welcomes road travelers to the shores of the beautiful Lyngenfjord.

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

This was extracted from the travel guidebook to Lapland that has more information and tips for all travelers who are planning to visit the last large wilderness of Europe.

Nordic food and travel book Eight Arctic Seasons has won the Gourmand Award for the best Scandinavian title

2017-05-30

8 Arctic Seasons is a book that lives and breathes the sensitive Arctic environment as it describes gourmet meals prepared from local ingredients that often are enjoyed outdoors. The book also takes readers to exquisite adventures to the North. Above all, it is a beautiful book filled with photographs of the Arctic moments, meals and landscapes.
8 Arctic Seasons book in the snow with Liisa KokkarinenLiisa Kokkarinen, Editor & Co-author of the book took it for a spin near North Pole.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau. Every year, the best food and wine books (printed and digital), and food shows on television are being awarded.

In 2017 award ceremony in China, 8 Arctic Seasons: Discover – Taste – Experience was the Scandinavia Cookbooks category winner in the global Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Janne Honkanen and Liisa Kokkarinen, who were the key contributors to the book, have day jobs at Luxury Action Ltd. The company is based in Finnish Lapland from where it covers the entire Nordic region, including Greenland and even North Pole. Custom tours are planned with the environment and gastronomy in mind, a source of inspiration for the book as well.

The book is available both as printed edition (at Akateeminen bookstore) and as an ebook (check availability and prices here).

Still wondering what the eight Arctic seasons are? Starting from summer, they are: the ever-rising sun, Midsummer harvest, colors of autumn, the first snow, Christmas time, frosty winter, crusty snow and departure of ice.

An image from 8 Arctic SeasonsAn image from 8 Arctic Seasons.
8 Arctic Seasons book, food photo
Eight Arctic Seasons book in the North with Liisa Kokkarinen

The best destinations for landscape photography in Lapland, in the northernmost region of Europe

2017-03-07

Lapland is a vast wilderness region in the northern Europe. It is a land of Sami people and reindeer, fells, fjords, rivers, marshlands, and many types of wildlife. In other words, a fabulous destination for outdoor lovers, road travelers who appreciate majestic landscapes and for nature photographers. I recently wrote a guidebook to Lapland, and since I have extensively toured the region I can tell that it provides almost endless opportunities for delightful nature photography.
Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle. From travel guidebook LaplandThe Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi.

Before I share you my recommendations for the best places to visit and to take those perfect pictures of fells, fjords, villages, reindeer and people of Lapland, let me give you my estimation what is the most photographed place in Lapland. It probably is the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland. Rovaniemi is a major traffic hub in Lapland where tourists arrive across the world. The Arctic Circle is only a few miles from the airport and from the city, and it has developed into a major attraction.

Top 5 places in Lapland for exciting landscape photography

Abisko, Sweden

Abisko, Sweden. Lapland, north Europe
The scenery in Abisko is magnificent both in summer and winter. In summer (July and August) it is warm and you can shoot through the night because there is some sunlight even at midnight. In winter, it is cold and dark, but the Northern Lights, snowy landscape and perhaps spending a day on a ski track makes it all worth it.

Kilpisjärvi, Finland

Kilpisjarvi, Finland. Saana fell in Lapland, Scandinavia.
Saana fell is the landmark and the most photographed item in Kilpisjärvi, but there is much more. Kilpisjärvi is located in the fell region, but you don’t have to go far towards west when the landscape changes quite dramatically. After entering Norway, gently sloping fells turn into mountains, gorges and fjords of Norway. Great variety for photographers in a relatively small area.

Lofoten, Norway

Lofoten, Norway. A fishing village port on shore of a fjord
Lofoten is a large archipelago on the northwest coast of Norway. When you arrive on Lofoten, you can forget about rushing from one place to the next. The landscape is all about mountains and fjords across the islands. Small villages and tiny fishing towns here and there on the shores remind travelers that people live here, too. The sea provides additional photography opportunities: whale, seal, and bird watching tours give a new perspective to the scenery and wildlife.

Tromsö, Norway

Tromsö, Norway, view from mountain above town
Tromsö gives photographers opportunities not only to capture images of spectacular sceneries, but also city life. It is a vibrant city, full of young energy that university students bring to the streets, many restaurants, bars and cafés. Since mountains and fjords surround Tromsö, hiking to the heights or taking a sea tour provide many new angles for photographers as well.

Ylläs, Finland

Reindeer at Aakenus fell in Yllas-Pallas national park Finland, Lapland, north Europe.
Ylläs is a year-round destination for vacation-goers who seek outdoor activities, but especially Finns love to hike in this fell region in autumn. Fabulous fell sceneries around the year, reindeer, wild berries, and the colors of autumn. In addition to the environment, Ylläs and the region around it is a home for a few resorts that make traveling and staying in there easy and convenient.

How, where and when to travel in Lapland?

A trip to Lapland requires some planning because the distances can be long and towns are few. The guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) I wrote helps in all aspects of planning and actually traveling in this exotic region.

Here are a few bookstores where the Lapland guidebook is available:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook Books
Google Play Books


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Planning a trip to the northernmost region of Europe, Lapland? This is what you need to know

2017-02-23

The northernmost region of Continental Europe, Lapland, is a vast wilderness area where the great outdoors invite people to hike, ski, fish, ride a mountainbike or simply just admire the scenery. Located north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland is also the home of Sami people and their reindeer.

Since Lapland is quite far away from large centers of civilization and distances in the region can be long, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for a trip to the region. The best way to explore the region is to drive, and it shows during the summer when the roads of Lapland see the number of motorhomes, cars and motorbikes considerably increase.
Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image
Some road travelers have a mission to reach Europe’s northernmost place Nordkapp (North Cape), whereas others explore fells, fjords, hiking paths, Sami culture and small towns of Lapland. There is something for everyone, except for those who require big-city sights.

Now, you can plan your Nordic journey with a Klaava Travel Guide titled Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. The book features the sights, destinations, activities, events, wildlife, and everything needed for a successful trip to the north. Special sections for road travelers highlight the best routes and tips for driving in varying conditions.

Information on the book’s availability and prices can be viewed at this page.

Below a few sample pages from the book.

hiking destinations in Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)
Scenic drives in Lapland (north Finland, Norway, Sweden)
City of Tromsö, Norway in travel guidebook Lapland
Abisko national park in Sweden, Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)

Richly illustrated book 8 Arctic Seasons shows how to experience Lapland and its unique delicacies

2016-04-14

Over the cycle of eight subtle seasonal transitions, Lapland’s Arctic wilderness alternates between the mysterious beauty of mid-winter and the sun-flooded light of high summer. The life of local people and the region’s wildlife are dictated by these seasons that also determine the traditional food enjoyed in the region. The book 8 Arctic Seasons: Discover – Taste – Experience combines the lifestyle and tradition of Lapland in richly illustrated expression of the Arctic’s varied, contemporary gourmet delights.
8 arctic seasons
To celebrate the North Pole Menu introduced in the book, 8 Arctic Seasons was launched at the North Pole. It was probably the world’s first book announcement ever in the North Pole. The event was organized by the book’s producer Luxury Action.

book cover image: eight arctic seasons
8 Arctic Seasons is available at Amazon, Google Play, and at other online bookstores. Read more about the book and download your own copy here.

Surfing between snowy mountains under the Northern Lights in Norway

2016-04-02

Surfing brings images of gorgeous coastal waves in Hawaii, California or perhaps in Portugal in mind. Young, tanned surfers smile in the sunshine with surfboards under their arms. Surfing may have its origins in warm seas and sunny places, but some surfers have discovered a special place to ride the waves in the far north, in Norway.

Tatiana Weimer reported in Le Monde that she had discovered a surfing community in the tiny village of Unstad in Norway. Norway may be a somewhat exotic place for surfing, and Unstad even more so. It is located north of the Arctic Circle on Lofoten islands. Essentially, this is Lapland where you are supposed to ski, take a ride on a sledge pulled by huskies, fish, or photograph reindeers instead of riding the waves on a surfboard.

Photo by Unstad Arctic Surf

Photo by Unstad Arctic Surf.

Nonetheless, that is exactly what the first brave surfers have been doing in Unstad since 1963. Only a few were ready to fight the temperatures fifty years ago, but as equipment have developed, more surfers have taken interest in northern waves. In 2003, Unstad Camping was established to provide shelter and accommodation for surfers and travelers (Unstad is a very remote location in a remote region of Lapland, facing directly the Atlantic Ocean. If the waves are great, the wind and rain can be strong as well.)

The remarkable thing is that it is possible to surf at Unstad in winter when it is dark, but the Northern Lights may light up the sky. Another remarkable thing is that the sea is free of ice, even though a few meters/feet above sea level or a few hundred meters/yards away from the shore everything is covered in snow or ice. The explanation is the Gulf Stream which carries warm water from south to the shores of Western Europe, keeping its climate temperate.

A documentary film about surfing in Unstad North of the Sun has been created by Jorn Ranum. Three surfers: Inge Wegge, Jorn Ranum, and Heikki Puussa show how they survive the winter and enjoy surfing north of the Arctic Circle. Here is the trailer of the movie North of the Sun:

If you are interested in visiting Unstad or surfing in Lapland, Unstad Arctic Surf has more information, and they also organize surfing trips and courses.

This is how lovely Lofoten is in summer – view the on-the-road video:

Guide to finding, viewing and photographing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

2015-11-29

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is a spectacular phenomenon that occasionally lights up the night sky in the far north. Green, blue, red, violet and many shades of these colors dance in the sky, forming shapes and pulsating almost like living creatures. Seeing the lights is pure magic that no one will forget. There is no photograph or video that can show how impressive the real thing is when the sky lights up. So, here is a guide to finding, viewing and filming the Northern Lights by yourself.

Northern lights are frequently visible north of the Arctic Circle. It is possible, but rare, to see the lights south of the Arctic Circle as well. In the far north, the lights show up regularly, and spotting them is pretty easy if the following key factors have been covered.

aurora borealis, timo newton-syms, Ruka Kuusamo

Photo by Timo Newton-Syms in Ruka resort, Kuusamo

1. Season. In summer, it is not dark enough in the night to see the Northern Lights. The midnight sun sheds light through the night and prevents human eye spotting Aurora Borealis. Autumn, winter and spring are the seasons for Northern Light viewers.

2. Weather. If it is cloudy where you are, the lights give their show to someone else who is admiring it in a place where there are no clouds.

3. City lights. Even though there are not too many large towns north of the Arctic Circle, you want to move away from the brightest city lights if you want to see the full light show.

In northern parts of Lapland, long term statistics show that the Northern Lights phenomenon occurs in three out of four nights. Yet, if you want to increase your odds in seeing the Northern Lights, you need information on two things: the weather (for clear skies) and solar winds (when a strong burst is going to make contact with earth’s atmosphere).

You can find detailed weather forecasts, for instance, for Nordic countries at national meteorological web pages:

Weather forecast for Sweden: www.smhi.se/vadret
Norway: www.yr.no
Finland: en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi

Predicting the time when the Northern Lights appear is based on the sun’s activity. The sun continuously emanates electrons and protons to the space. The flow of these electrically charged particles is known as the solar wind. The wind correlates with bursts of sunspots. When a burst causes strong enough solar winds, the particles arrive in earth’s magnetosphere in one or two days. When it happens, the particles collide with gas in earth’s atmosphere and turn on the colorful lights for the majestic show.

Northern Lights prediction service for Lapland: www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/
Predictions for other regions: spaceweather.com

Viewing the Northern Lights

Viewing the light show is simple: look at the sky. When the Northern Lights are alive, the northern sky is the silver screen for the show. The colorful lights are easily seen by the naked eye, no instruments or aids are required. In order to maximize your viewing area, position yourself so that nothing blocks your view to the northern sky.

The lights are not harmful, they are dancing at the height of 100 km / 62 miles and above from earth. Only an extremely strong solar wind may cause disturbances to sensitive magnetic and electric devices.

You don’t have to search for a particular place where seeing the Northern Lights is supposed to be guaranteed or the views are better than in another place. It doesn’t make a difference if your viewpoint is at the top of a mountain, bottom of a valley, at the yard of a rented cottage or at a car park. Especially in Lapland, ski resorts, hotels, and activity centers like to advertise how their place is the best for viewing the Northern Lights, but in reality, only the previously listed factors matter.

There are hotels, like Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland that has cottages with glass roofs. Then, you don’t have to go out at all, but you can sit on the couch (in the dark) and wait for the light show to start.

Apps and alerts for Northern Lights

Some Nordic national meteorological institutions have public alert systems that send out email messages when the Northern Lights are expected, and a number of ski resorts, like Levi and Ylläs in Finnish Lapland have their own mobile applications that alert of lights. Alert applications that can forecast the appearance of lights in all areas are available for Android and Apple mobile devices.

For Android phones and tablets:

Aurora Alerts

Northern Lights Alerts

For Apple mobile devices:

Aurora Forecast

Northern Lights Alerts

Alerts via Twitter twitter.com/Aurora_Alerts
Web page that shows the situation in Lapland www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/

Photographing the Northern Lights

You can try photographing the rapidly changing lights with an ordinary compact camera or camera phone (choose the night mode), but if you want to capture decent images you need better gear, and you have to know how to use the gear. You need:

– A camera that can take good images in high ISO setting. The higher ISO value you can set, the better your chances are for capturing a sharp image.
– A lens with wide aperture. f2.8 or less is recommended.
– A tripod.
– Spare batteries if you intend to take more than a few pictures in cold climate. Freezing temperatures quickly suck out life from batteries.

Tips for shooting the Northern Lights:

– Set the largest aperture your lens allows.
– Choose the highest ISO value that still provides reasonable image quality.
– Set the focus at infinity. Do it manually. If you can’t, focus on the most distant object you can see.
– Set the exposure time to as short as possible. For instance, if the aperture is f2.8 and ISO value is 800, try exposure time between 4 and 15 seconds.

aurora borealis, carsten frenzl, Kilpisjärvi

Photo by Carsten Frenzl in Kilpisjärvi.

aurora borealis, whatimom, Canada

Photo by Whatimom, in Canada