Tag Archives: Lapland

Spring is the best time to enjoy snowy activities in the wild north of Scandinavia, Lapland

2017-04-06

The dark winter in the northern hemisphere has been left behind, and the sun shines brightly on snowy slopes of fells in Lapland, in the northernmost region of Europe. Even though the nights are cold, the days tend to be warm (if it is sunny – and it often is) making spring the ideal season to enjoy outdoors activities in the snow.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.


Skiing is perhaps the most popular way to experience the magic of the north. If you mention skiing to the local Finns, Norwegians, Swedes or Sami in Lapland, they may assume you are referring to cross-country skiing. It is a good idea to specify what kind of skiing you mean: downhill or cross-country. Cross-country skiing tracks can be found practically in every village, town and tourist center. Downhill skiing slopes with lifts are available in large resorts, such as Ylläs, Ruka, Levi (in Finland) and Riksgränsen, Björkliden (in Sweden).

Snowmobile safaris have become very popular recently. You can ride a snowmobile yourself (highly recommended – it is a lot of fun) or take a backseat on someone else’s snowmobile. Resorts rent snowmobiles and organize guided tours to the wilderness. Most places have designated tracks for snowmobiles, which means you have to stay on those tracks. The tracks also help you from getting lost in the vast region where people and towns are few (and mobile phone signal disappears after a minute or two).

Husky dog sledge tour in Lapland

Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Tourism & Marketing Ltd.


There are, however, plenty of reindeer roaming in the wilderness. The animals must dig deep into the snow to reach plants to eat. The owners of the reindeer usually bring supplemental food to the animals on their snowmobiles.

Snowmobile rides are fun, but the engines make some noise. Dogs can take you to a completely silent ride in the snow. Huskies are more than happy to pull a sledge, and once they settle to their travel speed, it is amazing how silently they go. You can sit back, admire the scenery and appreciate the work dogs are doing.

When the sun sets, a magical show starts in Lapland. Spring is also a wonderful time to see the Northern Lights, because the nights are dark, but it is not cold as in winter.
The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd).Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.
The high season for spring travel in Lapland is March and April. Easter tends to be the busiest time at resorts and airports.

What you should know about traveling in Lapland

In the spring, be careful with the sun that also reflects from the snow: wear sunglasses and if you are exposed to the sun more than an hour or so, apply sunblock to your face.

I have written a guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) that helps in all aspects of planning and exploring this exotic wilderness region both in summer and in winter.

Here are some bookstores where the Lapland travel guidebook is available:

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

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

Priceless experiences for a travel show host in Lapland

2017-03-21

The BBC Travel Show host Ade Adepitan visited Finnish Lapland in winter in order to discover how the indigenous Sami people live and how tourism actually helps them to keep their old culture alive. The host spent his time in Inari region which is the central place for Sami in Finland.
BBC Travel Show, Finland Special in Inari, Lapland
The Travel Show episode 163 (Finland Special) shows how reindeer get their food in winter, how people fish when the large Lake Inari is on ice and how it is possible to move around in wilderness even in winter.

The whole show is good fun, but especially the segment where the host Adepitan rides a snowmobile for the first time is priceless. Just look at his face and reaction when he turns the gas throttle. BBC doesn’t allow watching the Travel Show outside the UK, but here is a link for those whose computer or smart device has a British Internet address.

The Lapland episode of the BBC Travel Show only shows the Inari landscape in winter. Here are a couple of photos from my Lapland travel guidebook that show the sceneries in summer. Thousands of road travelers, fishermen, hikers, cyclists, all types of outdoor lovers like to travel around the region in summer. Skiers are the biggest group of travelers in winter.

Inari Lake, Lapland, Finland

Inarijärvi, FInland.

Lake Inari, Finnish Lapland: fishing at night.

Next time when the Travel Show visits Inari, I would like to recommend them the Siida Sami Museum. It is the best place in Lapland to get comprehensive information on Sami people, their history, culture, way of life, and current means of living.
Inari Siida Museum. Lapland, Finland, Europe

Tips for traveling in Lapland

A journey to Lapland can be an experience of a lifetime, but independent travelers should plan their trip because the distances can be long and services are only available in towns and in some villages. The guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) helps in all aspects of planning and exploring this exotic wilderness region.

Here are some bookstores where the Lapland travel guidebook is available:

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

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

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)

Travel photo gallery 2016: Lapland, France, Belgium

2017-01-24

In 2016, my long project of photographing and writing a travel guidebook about Lapland was completed and the book will be published in early 2017. Since it was a long project, photos from Lapland has been included in earlier galleries as well.

Lapland covers the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland, which makes it a large area to travel (geographically also Russian’s northwest region is Lapland, but it is not featured in the book). It has been called as the Europe’s last large wilderness and that is exactly what it is. Outdoors lovers’ and road travelers’ perfect destination.

View sceneries from north, south and central Europe:
Reindeer at Aakenus fell in Yllas-Pallas national park Finland, Lapland, north Europe.

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.