Sue was on a skiing holiday in France when she received a text from her brother, Ali, founder of Activities Abroad, asking if she would like to come into the office – ‘just for a few hours’ - to ‘help out’. 12 years later, she is still there, ‘helping out’ as a full-time Marketing Administrator!
If I could be anywhere right now, it would be Finland; over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle at the Holiday Village Valle Hotel, looking out over the frozen Teno River towards Norway on the opposite bank.
The people of Finland refer to the north of Finland as Finnish Lapland; in the north of Finnish Lapland lies Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality of Finland which borders Norway. Just outside the main village, this cosy base offers a wonderful escape, one which I was lucky enough to experience in December 2018.
Take a walk on the wild side
Hiking features during many of our autumn Aurora Zone holidays. As an activity it allows our guests to witness the dazzling autumn colours of Lapland and enjoy the forest and fell scenery of the national parks at close quarters.
Lapland in the autumn is a stunning multitude of colours, as the leaves turn to an array of red, gold, yellow and brown whilst the sky is often blue and cloudless before the first snowfalls in October and November. There is much to see on autumn hikes and you are more than likely to come across wandering reindeer who forage the forest floor for mushrooms and berries.
Some of our hikes will also introduce you to one of the other important animals of Lapland – the husky. Despite the lack of snow, Autumn remains an important time for the dogs, who will be involved in the safaris in the winter season, as they will begin to train in the autumn months. Hiking is an important part of this training programme and you will get to help with their exercise.
Each hiking activity is in the company of expert local guides who will point out the flora and fauna along the way. The guides are extremely passionate about the nature here and you will learn all about what makes the spectacular surroundings so special.
Witness the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed
However, one of our favourite trends is the innovation of Aurora accommodation, which allows you to gaze up to the inky night sky and watch the Northern Lights hypnotically dance, all from the comfort of your bed.
Aurora accommodation takes many forms including Aurora Bubbles or Glass Igloos. These wonderfully designed structures give you a distinctive location in which to sleep, ensuring you can enjoy warmth and comfort, all whilst giving that all-important sky view.
From experiencing one unforgettable night in this specialist accommodation to spending each night of your holiday searching the skies as you are tucked up in bed, there are a range of options to suit every trip!
Scroll down for our Aurora Zone destinations that will allow you to experience a night under the Arctic stars.
The coolest place to stay
To spend the night in a room or igloo crafted from snow and ice is a long-held dream for many and somewhat of a bucket list item.
Despite what you may think, you can keep surprisingly warm and cosy inside the rooms as you're protected by the elements and have plenty of Arctic-grade bedding to wrap up in.
For many people, it is the chance to marvel at the incredible talent displayed in the sculptures and carvings which is a highlight. For others, it is the knowledge that you will be amongst only a handful of people who get to spend the night in one of these stunning rooms before they melt away in the summer months.
Regardless of your motivation, there are few better ways to complete your winter adventure and few hotel experiences in the world that are this remarkable - we highly recommend an upgrade wherever possible.
Fishing in the winter months
Ice fishing is a tradition which dates back centuries. Essentially it is the practice of fishing of drilling through a thick layer of ice and snow to reach the water below and the fish that may be lurking.
Its history is rooted in survival, when ice fishing was essential for sourcing food in such remote locations.
Whilst modern ice fishermen use sonar and powered drills, the popular pastime which is enjoyed by so many locals remains relatively unchanged and wonderfully simple. It is this experience that many of our holidays allow you to enjoy.
When ice fishing, you not only get an insight into some of the traditions of the region's past but you can also enjoy the delights of your natural surroundings, as you spend time in a wild winter landscape.
This back-to-nature experience is a wonderfully peaceful addition to your winter holiday, whether you have been fishing before or this is your very first time!
Inspired by world-famous ice and snow accommodations, the village is constructed annually to showcase local talented artists and to provide a memorable and unique night's sleep for adventurous travellers.
The rooms here will only ever be enjoyed by an exclusive few during the season as come summer the rooms will return to the rivers of Lapland as the temperatures melt them away.
The winter village is part of Torassieppi Reindeer Farm, which is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the region, dating back to 1847. The reindeer farm has its own accommodation and guests at the village will enjoy their breakfast here.
A night's stay in one of the ice and snow rooms is a fitting way to complete your unforgettable winter adventure.
The world's coolest hotel
The ICEHOTEL® is one of those places where even if you are not knowledgeable about Swedish Lapland or indeed Lapland at all, you will likely have heard of it or perhaps even know someone who has slept there. It is an accommodation option that we get asked about frequently and remains a bucket list experience for many.
The hotel is constructed each season in the small village of Jukkasjärvi in Northern Sweden on the banks of the Torne River. It is from this river that the hundreds of blocks of ice are harvested to form this hotel. A truly breathtaking spectacle, the ICEHOTEL® develops each season, changing its scale and design but always boasting some truly amazing sights.
It usually covers around 5,500 square metres and utilises 1,000 tons of ice and 30,000 cubic metres of 'snice' (a combination of snow and ice).
The ICEHOTEL® is a large scale operation, yet still retains its magic through its incredible and ever more complex designs and by offering adventurous visitors a very special place to rest their head!
The minds behind The ICEHOTEL® also created a new year-round experience - the ICEHOTEL 365. Complete with 20 beautiful ice suites, an ice bar and ice gallery, this hotel has been created like the original ICEHOTEL®, with inner walls made from ice blocks, but has some extra help to keep it at a perfect -5°C throughout the warmer months, too! Combining exterior concrete walls, steel pipes drilled into the permafrost below, powered by solar panels, and then thoroughly isolated, this is the world’s first permanent Ice hotel.
Spend a night in the treetops
The concept rooms here have all been created by some of Sweden's top architects and represent the bringing to life of some remarkable ideas. From a carefully camouflaged mirror cube to an out of this world UFO - these rooms are guaranteed to make a lasting impression.
Each room is effectively a sophisticated tree house, either suspended in the treetops or built on platforms that set the room amongst the bows of the trees.
The scenery which surrounds these rooms is idyllic and, as they are situated within the Aurora Zone, your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights from your treetop retreat are excellent if the conditions are favourable.
The Treehotel is the perfect way to make your stay in Swedish Lapland even more unforgettable and can be added to the majority of our trips based in the Lulea region.
Scroll to learn more about the innovative rooms.
A way of life
In the far northern reaches of Finland, Sweden and Norway, snowmobiles have become part of the way of life during the long winters. The machines are now a cornerstone of everyday life here, not only as they keep remote communities in contact with one another during winter but, they are also a key element in the local economy.
Their introduction has transformed the lives of many locals and when they are used for recreation or by visitors, the environment is treated with a great deal of respect.
Snowmobiles offer guests an exciting chance to experience the wilderness of these regions and to gain a better understanding of it as a result. It puts you directly in the driver's seat, allowing you to explore areas of the winter landscape that would otherwise be inaccessible.
As darkness falls, snowmobiles also become a handy mode of transportation to help you outrun any localised cloud cover. Imagine speeding along the Arctic tundra to reach a location with a break in the clouds and as you turn off your engine, the Northern Lights start to appear overhead.
Please note, to drive a snowmobile you must be over 18 and have a full driving licence.
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