Tag Archives: Lapland

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)

Even without daylight, mysterious lights glow in Lapland in winter

2016-12-23

The daylight period is short or even non-existent in Lapland during the weeks before and after the solstice, but it doesn’t mean that it is completely dark in winter in the Europe’s northernmost corner. Snow covers the ground in the whole region, efficiently reflecting every beam of light the stars, the moon and other sources emit. Other sources? Yes, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) can transform the whole sky into an exciting lightshow in Lapland. Let’s take a look at a photo gallery that shows this phenomenon.

Northern Lights. Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd
The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd).The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd)

The Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen  (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).The Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).
NorthernLights, through a glass ceiling. Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic ResortThe most comfortable position to view the Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).

Read more about the Northern Lights in this article that also features tips for photographers. A travel guidebook to Lapland is available here.

The most likely places to see the Northern Lights are north of the Arctic Circle. In fact, the light shows are frequent in the north, it is just the weather conditions (clouds) or summer (too much sunlight even in night) that may prevent viewing the lights. It is possible to see the Northern Lights south of the Arctic Circle as well, but the chances are much lower than in the north.

So, where do you travel in order to be inside the Arctic Circle? In Europe, the destination is Lapland. Here is a map where you can see the Arctic Circle. You can also spot the photo locations on the map: Rovaniemi in Finland right on the Arctic Circle, and Kakslauttanen about 250 km / 155 miles north of Rovaniemi (via road).

Map: Lapland, Arctic Circle, Sami region

The Icehotel in Swedish Lapland to stay frozen and open for guests around the year

2016-12-12

During winter, there is an abundance of raw material available in Lapland if you want to build a hotel using blocks of ice, or a castle from blocks of snow. In fact, an icehotel has been operating in Swedish Lapland in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna for many years, and a huge snowcastle is built every winter in the city of Kemi in Finland. Both are commercial establishments that accommodate guests in hotel rooms and serve visitors in restaurants inside the arctic buildings. Now, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi has announced a plan to keep the building in ice around the year, and open for guests.

Icehotel, Jukkasjarvi, Kiruna, Sweden, Lapland

Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi in Swedish Lapland.

Even though Lapland is not a tropical paradise during the summer, temperatures rise to +25 C / 77 F in July and August. Not to mention that the sun doesn’t set at all in Lapland during late May, June and July. It won’t be an easy task to keep a large building made of ice intact and safe during the months when temperatures are above freezing point.

Architectural Digest reports that the Icehotel management is going to use solar power to keep the frozen structures in -5 C / 23 F through the summer months. The solar power will be used to keep the walls and structures inside the hotel cool, because the outmost walls will be constructed from concrete. Pretty smart: since the sun is up all the time during the Nordic summer, why not suck its energy and keep things cool with it.

ice blocks for icehotel

Big blocks of ice for the construction of Icehotel.

Klaava Media’s travel author (who is writing a book about Lapland) visited the Icehotel in spring 2016, and only ice was used for the building at that time. She had an opportunity to follow how the icehotel is built. Here is how it is done.

The Icehotel is located on the shores of lake (some people argue it is a river, but it definitely looks like a lake) Jukkasjärvi. When the lake freezes in autumn, the construction of the hotel can begin. Special tools are used to saw huge blocks of ice from the lake. A forklift with custom-made fork lifts the block from the lake. Forklifts transport the standard-size ice blocks to the construction site, or to the warehouse.

View a video that shows how ice blocks are being lifted from the lake and transported to the warehouse.

Once the concrete exterior and the solar power system is ready, the Icehotel intends to keep nine deluxe suites (complete with private saunas and baths), 11 art suites, an ice bar, and an ice art gallery open during the summer (year-around). Hotel founder Yngve Bergqvist believes they will actually be more energy efficient than earlier: “We will produce around 75 kW between April and September, leaving an energy surplus that we can utilize to run existing buildings such as a restaurant, offices, and warm guest rooms.”

Summer of 2017 is the first summer when the Icehotel will be open even and ice after the snow has melted from the ground and from the lake around the site.

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

The Lighter Side of Traveling in the Far North: A Day at the Reindeer Races

2015-03-26

Lapland is a land of surprises. We all know that Santa Claus has his home in Lapland – in Rovaniemi, Finland to be exact – but it may be surprising to you what reindeers are doing when they are not in duty. Some of the reindeers, it seems, like to race.

Reindeers raced for about 210 meters/230 yards slightly uphill. Two animals raced against each other and the winner proceeded to the next round. Video recorded in Koskikatu in the center of Rovaniemi. It is a pedestrian street, and a primary shopping area of the city.

The race speed is so high that the riders are wearing helmets.

For more fun events, habits and places in northern Europe, check out the book The Lighter Side of Finland by journalist Russell Snyder. He has observed life and people of Scandinavia for years and has discovered the funny side of the northern culture and people.