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Saija – Dog Sledding in the Aurora Zone

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Details

Saija is a throwback to simpler times. Indeed, Saija translates from Finnish to English as "The Quiet Place" and that is absolutely spot on. This is a place to immerse yourself in nature surrounded by iced-over lakes, snow-laden forests and gently sloping winter fells.

Of course, the great beauty of Saija’s isolated location is that there are very few signs of human development. This means that there is little light pollution and when the Aurora comes out to play, you are sure to enjoy the view unsullied by urban glare.

The focus during your stay is on learning the skills required to become a dog sledder or "musher". You will start gently enough with some introductory runs before embarking on a thrilling overnight adventure with your canine companions.

There is something rather special about the relationship between a musher and their team. On this trip, you will experience how that relationship develops and how you come to rely on your dogs and they on you. Throughout the stay, you will drive the same team on each run and soon get to know the individual and collective traits of the animals.

The first few days prior to your overnight adventure are spent at Saija Lodge. It is a place that exudes warmth and homeliness from the moment you walk through the door of the main building.

You will sleep in wooden cabins, all of which have their own sauna, so you can enjoy that most Finnish of Finnish activities, steaming. The cabins are just a short walk to the hub of daily life here, the main lodge. This is where you will take your daily meals, spend your free time and become part of the Saija community. Down by the lakeside are the Sky Cabins which provide a real treat if you fancy lying in a warm comfortable bed while watching the night sky and searching for the Northern Lights (please book in advance to ensure availability).

Surrounded as you are by a frosted wilderness, you may well want to use some of your free time to explore your immediate environ. There are cross-country ski and snowshoe trails from the lodge which allow you to discover the silent nature that envelopes the site.

You can book additional activities, such as snowmobiling, before you leave or when you get to Saija. However, during peak times, there can be limited capacity so you may wish to reserve your favourites before your holiday to ensure availability.

This seven-night dog sledding adventure offers the perfect opportunity to search for the Northern Lights while staying at the remote Saija Lodge, deep in the Finnish wilderness. Although this trip focuses on dog sledding, you’ll be staying in an ideal spot to search for the Aurora in the dark skies above. The trip builds steadily over the course of a few days before culminating in an adventurous overnight husky safari with you at the head of your own dog team.

Itinerary

You will be met and transferred from the airport to Saija and given some time to settle into your accommodation. Dinner this evening is served in the main building, just a very short walk from your accommodation.

This first meal provides you with the chance to meet your fellow would-be mushers and excitedly discuss the days ahead. If you have never been dog sledding before you will find that you are not alone and that it is perfectly normal to be slightly nervous beforehand. The likelihood is that with the immense benefit of hindsight, you and the other rookies will be laughing about your initial nervousness as you reflect later in the week.

During your stay, a guide will host an introduction to the Northern Lights. This will include information about the science behind the remarkable phenomenon as well as the many myths and legends that emerged before our scientific understanding took hold.

There will also be the opportunity during your stay to try a traditional smoke sauna. Arrangements for both this and the Northern Lights presentation will be made on this first night at Saija.

After a long journey, you may well be ready for bed but do not forget to cast your eyes skywards before returning to your cabin. You never know when Lady Aurora might decide to make an appearance.

Included Meals:  Dinner

[OUL] Oulu Airport, Finland To Saija Lodge
Airport Transfer
Duration
00:00
Saija Lodge - Check In
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

Today is all about getting to know your new surroundings. There is a good chance that you will have arrived in darkness and the first glimpses of the pristine winter environment are enough to take your breath away. It will also be pretty chilly so after breakfast, your guide will get you kitted out with your cold-weather gear which you will keep for the duration of your stay.

There will also be a tour of the facilities available here at Saija. If you haven’t booked additional activities in advance then now is the time to do so. The last day at Saija is free to do as you wish and many take advantage of the chance to try activities other than dog sledding.

Additional activities include snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, as well as ice fishing and a visit to a reindeer farm.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

After breakfast, you really get down to business. Your guide will outline how best to work and relate to your team as well as discussing issues such as safety. Be prepared for a veritable cacophony of yips and yelps and barks and howls and all other manner of doggy noises because it is now time to meet your highly excited trail buddies, a team of either four or six sled dogs.

Your allocated dogs are now your responsibility. You will be in charge of their care throughout the safari, so treat them with love and respect and they will reciprocate.

These dogs live to run and your presence means that is what they are about to do. This will most likely be everybody’s first foray into the world of dog mushing, so a gentle 13km introductory mush close to the lodge is your starting point.

It may be a short safari, but this is when your relationship with your team really begins to develop. The initial adrenaline as the sled dogs try to break the land speed record is soon overcome as they slow to a steadier pace and you travel away from Saija.

If you thought Saija was quiet, then the word is about to be redefined. Out here in the wilderness where the snow stifles almost all sound, only the hypnotic rasp, rasp of your sled’s runners and the pitter-patter of canine feet breaks the silence.

You need to concentrate at all times but after that initial surge, you can start to relax as your confidence rises. It is a wonderful feeling to drive a team of dogs across a winter landscape, through snowy laden forests and across the thick, thick ice of a frozen lake. You will be addicted long before you return to Saija for dinner.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

You’ve had the training; you’ve had your practice run and now it is time to get serious.

Today’s safari will cover up to 35km depending on local weather and snow conditions. Interestingly, sled dogs generally prefer really low temperatures and will cover far more ground in such conditions. In fact, in legendary mushing races such as The Iditarod and The Yukon Quest, mushers will often rest up during the relative warmth of the day and press on at speed during the night.

Today is nothing like those great races in terms of endurance and physicality, but it is a strenuous undertaking nonetheless. You have to be alert, especially when following the winding trails through the wintery forests but those are the times when you really feel like a dog sledder. Lunch will most likely be cooked over an open fire out on the trail and, of course, it always tastes better that way.

Don’t forget to show your dogs that you are their partner. On uphill stretches, they will look to you to help them out by pushing as they strain at the traces that pull the sled. You can expect some reproachful glances and a lessening of canine effort if you don’t play your part.

The combination of dog sledding and sub-zero temperatures is exhilarating, but also extremely tiring. The impact of all that crisp, fresh air really hits you as soon as you return to Saija. The temptation is to head straight back to your accommodation for a snooze, but the dogs come first and they need to be cared for before you even start to think about your own interests.

That’s dog sledding folks!

As ever, keep an eye out for the Aurora after dinner. In a perfect world, the lights will appear at around 10pm tonight for about half an hour. That way, you will be able to get a great night’s sleep ahead of the big adventure starting in the morning.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

This is it. This is why you headed north to the Arctic Circle. Over the course of the next two days, you will earn the right to call yourself a fully-fledged musher.

After saying a fond good morning to your dogs, you will help with loading up the sleds and head back out into the wilderness on an overnight safari.

Your accommodation tonight is in a wilderness cabin but first, you have to get there. Once again, you will cross the snowy tundra, frozen lakes and marshes as well as ascending gently rolling fells and winding through the wintery forests of Finnish Lapland.

When you do arrive at the cabin, there are chores to be completed. First and foremost, the dogs need to be fed, watered and bedded down for the night.

Once those tasks are completed, you can begin to think about human requirements. There’s wood to be collected for the stove and water for cooking with as well as feeding the sauna (out here you steam clean).  The cabin might be chilly initially, but once the fire is on the go and dinner is cooking there is probably no place you would rather be. With the darkness gathering outside and engulfed in complete silence, this is a zillion miles from urban living back home.

Best of all are the night skies. If it is clear and conditions are right, then you are unlikely to find a better vantage point to witness the Northern Lights. Standing in the still, dark night and watching the Aurora dance is an unforgettable experience and one that evokes all manner of responses. Some people cry, some yell in wonder, some dance and some simply lie in the snow and gaze up in wonderment.

It is even better if one of the dogs suddenly gives out a long and plaintive wolfish howl that curls hauntingly into the night. The Call of the Wild? You betcha!

If the Aurora didn’t keep you up too late, then you’ll be ready for a hearty breakfast before hitting the trail once again. After preparing the dogs and the sleds it’s more of the same gentle winter-white serenity as you spend the day winding your way back to Saija.

Once you do arrive back, there is a heart-breaking task to perform; you must bid farewell to your team. It is remarkable how quickly the bond forms between musher and dogs and this is the hardest part of any dog sledding safari. Sadly, you can’t pack them in your luggage and take them home so you just have to drag yourself away wiping a tear or two from your eyes as you go.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

This is it. This is why you headed north to the Arctic Circle. Over the course of the next two days, you will earn the right to call yourself a fully-fledged musher.

After saying a fond good morning to your dogs, you will help with loading up the sleds and head back out into the wilderness on an overnight safari.

Your accommodation tonight is in a wilderness cabin but first, you have to get there. Once again, you will cross the snowy tundra, frozen lakes and marshes as well as ascending gently rolling fells and winding through the wintery forests of Finnish Lapland.

When you do arrive at the cabin, there are chores to be completed. First and foremost, the dogs need to be fed, watered and bedded down for the night.

Once those tasks are completed, you can begin to think about human requirements. There’s wood to be collected for the stove and water for cooking with as well as feeding the sauna (out here you steam clean).  The cabin might be chilly initially, but once the fire is on the go and dinner is cooking there is probably no place you would rather be. With the darkness gathering outside and engulfed in complete silence, this is a zillion miles from urban living back home.

Best of all are the night skies. If it is clear and conditions are right, then you are unlikely to find a better vantage point to witness the Northern Lights. Standing in the still, dark night and watching the Aurora dance is an unforgettable experience and one that evokes all manner of responses. Some people cry, some yell in wonder, some dance and some simply lie in the snow and gaze up in wonderment.

It is even better if one of the dogs suddenly gives out a long and plaintive wolfish howl that curls hauntingly into the night. The Call of the Wild? You betcha!

If the Aurora didn’t keep you up too late, then you’ll be ready for a hearty breakfast before hitting the trail once again. After preparing the dogs and the sleds it’s more of the same gentle winter-white serenity as you spend the day winding your way back to Saija.

Once you do arrive back, there is a heart-breaking task to perform; you must bid farewell to your team. It is remarkable how quickly the bond forms between musher and dogs and this is the hardest part of any dog sledding safari. Sadly, you can’t pack them in your luggage and take them home so you just have to drag yourself away wiping a tear or two from your eyes as you go.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

Dog sledding is surprisingly physical and after two days of unfamiliar exercise, you might feel a bit stiff and tired. You would be fully excused if you decided to relax in the sauna and simply catch up with some reading.

However, if you are still feeling energetic and adventurous, there are activities to be enjoyed. The snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails are there waiting or, if you want to cover more of these immaculate landscapes then a snowmobile is the way to do so swiftly and exhilaratingly.

Included Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saija Lodge - Stay
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

If you are looking forward to leaving Saija, then it is very possible that you lack a soul. The gut-wrenching moment usually comes after breakfast when your transfer vehicle leaves for the airport.

As hard as it may be, you should probably be on board as it departs.

Included Meals:  Breakfast

Saija Lodge To [OUL] Oulu Airport, Finland
Airport Transfer
Duration
00:00
Saija Lodge - Check Out
Address : Taivalkoski, Oulu, Finland

What's included?

  • Return group airport transfers (Arrivals and departures which don’t meet the group transfer times will be subject to a private transfer supplement.)
  • 6 nights in an en-suite wooden cabin with sauna, 1-night wilderness cabin
  • Introduction to husky safari day
  • 2-3 hour husky safari
  • 4-6 hour husky safar
  • Overnight husky safari
  • 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners
  • Cold weather clothing for the duration of your stay
  • Fully qualified wilderness guides and instructors during activities

Accommodation

Saija Lodge
     
 

Delightfully located on the shores of Lake Jokijarvi, Saija Lodge offers the much-welcomed guest a genuine sense of peace and quiet in the remote wilderness of North East Finland. The lakeside location also offers astounding views of snow-covered fells.

Crafted completely from wood, Saija Lodge has a cosy, homely and comforting feel. A roaring fire and candlelight really set the tone. This ambience is accompanied by welcoming staff, wonderful home cooked food and plentiful space for unwinding after activities.

All in all, it is the ideal location to really escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and serves as an excellent base for either a multi-activity adventure or a specialist husky safari into the surrounding wilderness.

Hotel facilities

  • With traditional Finnish style, the main building of the lodge and its cabins are constructed entirely from wood, offering guests a rustic and warm charm.
  • The restaurant is located in the main building, where your meals will be served. Here you can enjoy a variety of dishes including local produce such as reindeer and fish, in addition to delicious homemade pastries and bread.
  • The lodge also boasts an on-site husky farm.
  • With over 25km of managed cross-country ski trails close by, you can hire skis for a small fee from reception if you have some experience.
  • There is also a traditional smoke sauna on-site, which can be heated on request for guests to enjoy.

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Key Facts

Pace Active
Holiday Type Land Only
Max Group Size NA
Cities / Destinations Finland, Saija
Brochure Code 2922
Price from
£2,385 pp
8 days

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Saija – Dog Sledding in the Aurora Zone

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