Enjoying an Arctic Wonderland
by Taylor Deer
I hope each and every one of you had an amazing holiday with family and friends! To continue the winter fun, I cannot wait to share the second half of my adventures in beautiful Finland.
After having an amazing first few days meeting Santa Claus, enjoying a 5-course meal in a fancy igloo, sleigh riding with Rudolph and snowmobiling through the beautiful Lappish forests, we started our next day playing with my favorite dogs – Huskies!
We enjoyed another morning indulging in the Artic Light Hotel’s amazing Finnish breakfast before we left for our morning at Tuulenpesä, a husky and yoga retreat center. (You could bet I was extremely excited about this excursion!) When we arrived, I fell in love with the property! It was secluded in a beautiful Finnish forest, surrounded by snow-filled pine trees, a beautiful frozen lake and a gorgeous Scandinavian house.
The owners of the house and husky retreat were two of the nicest people I ever met and they were excited to welcome us to their home and property. When we walked into their home, it was the perfect, cozy house to warm up in during the midst of winter. As we got ready to head out into the cold, we were greeted by a few of the owners’ Huskies that were happy to get outside and start sleigh riding!
One of the best things about Tuulenpesä is that they have shelter and a lot of space for all of the Huskies to eat, sleep and play! It was such a beautiful place. When we got outside by the frozen lake, we got to pet the puppies for a bit. They loved us!
Before we started sleigh riding, we were partnered up with one other person and the owners gave us a lesson on how to navigate the sled. One person would navigate the sled on the back. It is similar to being on skies, except the dogs do all of the work and all you have to do is press the break pedal to either slow down or stop, because those dogs could run away with the sled, that is how much they love it! The other person would lie down in the sled and relax.
I personally would have rather navigated the sled later on into the excursion, since I had never done this before, but I had to go first. When we first took off, my hat almost fell off, that is how fast the dogs were running. After a while, it ended up being a lot of fun navigating the sled. My group of dogs were definitely faster than everyone else’s, so I got worried when we were behind the others. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking though. I could only imagine how beautiful it is during the summertime as well!
In the middle of our adventure, we stopped in one of the most scenic areas so that we could take pictures and the owners even provided us with homemade glögi (refer back to my first blog to learn what this delicious Finnish drink is) as well as cookies to warm up with. It was the perfect little break.
Afterwards, we hopped back into our sleds and this time I was the one to lie down in the sled and enjoy the ride. The sled was very comfortable as it had fleece blankets to cuddle up with. I was able to take great photos while I was in the sled and savor all of the beautiful Arctic nature around me.
As we made our way back to the house, we got to play with the dogs one more time and then made our way into the owners’ house for some restorative yoga with the Huskies! They had the perfect room to do yoga; it was a winter wonderland dream space. The Huskies and the little kitty that they had came around and shared some kisses with us. It was the cutest and most relaxing morning. I felt so energized afterwards that I am dreaming about being back there right at this moment.
After an hour of one of the best and most memorable yoga practices, we headed downstairs where the owners had their fireplace going and their table was set for us to enjoy a homemade lunch. Between the fireplace, the candles in the windows, the grey sky outside and all of the warmth surrounding me, I felt at peace.
We were first given thin and hard grain bread and then the owners served us a hearty squash soup, which complemented the ambiance. For dessert, we were served chocolate cake with a nice cup of coffee. I was so thankful to the owners for making us feel at home. The couple that owns the house does so many great excursions in Lapland and I recommend everyone traveling to Finland to book one of their activities. Besides yoga with the Huskies, they do Husky ski tours, Husky hikes, forest bathing, yoga hiking and Arctic wellness days to name a few.
Later on in the day, we participated in another rather unique activity through Safarctica called Arctic Ice Floating. (Yes, you heard that right – swimming in Arctic waters!) About 20 minutes from the city of Rovaniemi, there is a beautiful Lappish space with a lake. Located deep in the forest is a beautiful log cabin that had a walking path out to the frozen lake where we would go swimming. To be quite honest, after we jumped off the bus it was so cold and windy that I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to participate in this activity. Then I thought, “Why not?”
When we got to the log cabin, we were given instructions and a thick neoprene wet suit that we stepped into with our winter coats and pants. These suits were so thick and heavy that we could barely even hold them. I was hysterically laughing once I jumped in mine because it zippered up to my chin and I felt like a giant balloon.
After we got into our wet suits, we walked down by the lake and I still was trying to figure out how I was going to get in that water without freezing. There was a little swimming hole that we would slowly walk into and float away. As I slowly walked down the ladder and got into the water, my wet suit quickly filled up with air. Since my suit was bigger than me and it was filled with air, I had no choice but to lie on my back. What is awesome is that not one part of me got wet with the water. I was thankful for that, as it was 4-degrees Celsius, which is 39 degrees Fahrenheit. (I thought it was going to be colder since we were swimming in frozen ice.)
Once I lied on my back, I automatically felt the lightness of my body float on the calm water and it ended up being one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. It was a little chilly, but it definitely wasn’t as cold as I expected it to be. Even though it was in the middle of the afternoon, it was already pitch dark outside. It was so serene as you could relax, not think about anything and look up to the sky and all of the snow covered pine trees all around. My cousins and I had a great time enjoying this excursion together.
When we were ready to get out after a half hour/40 minutes, I had a difficult time trying to climb the ladder to get out as my wet suit was so heavy and my hands were too small for the gloves attached to it. It was so funny; I wish someone filmed me trying to get out of that water. When we got back to the cabin, it was the best feeling taking that big suit off! The people running the tour gave us glögi and homemade gingerbread cookies to warm up with. It was such a fun and memorable activity!
Since we swam in the coldest water we have ever experienced, we were ready to treat ourselves to the ultimate Arctic spa experience. After we went back to our hotel to switch clothes, we headed back out to the forest to a cute Finnish house that is located deep in the woods to enjoy a homemade Lappish dinner as well as their hot tubs and saunas.
The house had a beautiful, long dining room table that we sat at. We were served glögi with liquor and wine with fresh rye bread. Our main course was reindeer with berries. (Yes, you heard that right again!) As many of you have read in my past blog posts, I am not the biggest meat eater and the thought of indulging in reindeer kind of turned me off, so I was hesitant at first. Since we were eating at someone’s house, I didn’t want to be rude, so I tried the reindeer and I actually liked it! The reindeer that was served to us was cold, so it tasted like a thick piece of Italian prosciutto. I was impressed with my taste palette. For dessert, we were served coffee and chocolate cake. (Oh the chocolate cake!)
After our unique dinner, we were ready to get in our bathing suits and hop into the hot tubs and saunas. It was so awesome being in the hot tub while it was snowing outside. It reminded me of my memorable experience swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. We had a great time sharing laughs and listening to Christmas music. It was perfect! I was hoping to have seen the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), but since it was snowing outside, it was too cloudy for any solar activity. (It was okay because we ended up seeing them later on so stay tuned!)
Since I can’t stay in hot tubs too long, I took a break for a little bit and then checked out the saunas, which was another awesome experience! It was the perfect treat to end our adventurous day. Before we left, the owner of the house took us for a quick walk and showed us where some of the locals go for winter swims. (A.k.a the real hot tub!) I was expecting some hidden geothermal hot spring, but it was an enormous frozen lake. It was actually a little freaky since I didn’t notice it at first and realized that anyone could fall in if they weren’t looking.
The following day was considered free time for us, which was nice because we were able to catch up on some sleep and explore the city of Rovaniemi. Because of the 7-hour time difference, I slept in till 12:30 pm. (I needed it!) We then headed out to the city to get lunch and explore the Christmas markets.
The city of Rovaniemi is pretty small and easy to navigate. One of the nice things was that the Arctic Light Hotel was about a 5-minute walk from the heart of the Christmas market area. I loved how the city was one giant winter playground. Besides the markets, there was an area for sleigh riding, an ice rink, chocolate shops, boutiques and great restaurants. This was the first European Christmas market I attended and even though it wasn’t as big as the market in Germany or Austria, it was still the perfect place to grab crafted souvenirs and Finnish home goods. I bought a fleece blanket and reindeer candle for my mom. She loved them!
During the day, we overheard everyone at our hotel say that there was a high possibility of seeing the Northern Lights in the area. I was so excited because I had the opportunity to faintly see them in Iceland, but I wanted to hopefully see them a little clearer this time around. One of the best apps to download when you are in Arctic areas is the Aurora app. It tells you the percentage of cloud coverage, predicted solar activity, the areas where there is the highest activity and more! It is helpful if you are dedicated to finding them. (We sure were!)
The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere causing a natural light display in the sky. They are usually seen in Arctic and Subarctic areas of the world.
Early in the evening, we had a private Northern Lights dinner in the woods through the Arctic Tree House Hotel – located in the outskirts of the city. When we arrived to the hotel, a van took us into the woods where a fire and wooden shelter was set up for us to sit comfortably while we would enjoy a homemade dinner. Just like all of our other outdoor dinners, we were given fleece blankets to warm up in front of the fire.
As we sipped champagne, we watched our cook make delicious cream of mushroom soup and a white Finnish fish in front of us. Everything was delicious and it was super filling! For dessert, we had a molten chocolate cake with whipped cream. Everything was delicious. The downside was that we didn’t see the Northern Lights, but it was still too early in the night.
Throughout the evening into the night, I kept an eye on the Northern Lights activity so that we would be sure to see them. According to the Aurora app, it said that the highest chance we would see the lights was between 12am – 2am. To pass time, my cousin Alexie and I went out to a great karaoke bar called Kansas that served delicious Finnish craft beer. It was the perfect cozy place to enjoy the night while waiting.
A little after midnight, I got a notification from the Aurora app letting me know that there was Northern Lights activity in Rovaniemi! We were so excited that this was happening that we rushed out of the bar and headed back to our hotel quickly to pick everyone up and head over to the region’s ski resort called Ounasvaara. The concierge working at our hotel told us that the top of the mountain was the best place to view them.
Everything was working out for us that night and it was meant for us to see these gorgeous lights since they started to appear right when we got there! It was incredible and one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Even though I had the opportunity to see them in Iceland earlier in the year, this time around they were clearer and the stars were brightly shining. We even got to see some shooting stars! (I thought those only existed in fairytales.)
I own a Nikon d3400 camera, so I “Googled” how to take pictures of the Aurora Borealis prior to traveling to Finland. A few hours prior to seeing the lights, I made sure to set my camera and ensure it was ready for any activity. Since I am not a professional photographer, I had a poor feeling that my pictures of the Northern Lights weren’t going to come out the way I wanted them to. Even though it is difficult to take pictures during the night in general, I was able to snap a few and saw the green color from the solar activity. I was stoked!!!
The lights started off the same way I saw them begin when I was in Iceland. It starts off looking like a cloud, but the difference is that the Northern Lights are usually curved perfectly. As the Earth rotates, the lights start to change and dance in the sky. It looked like God was painting in the night. We were all so amazed. It was probably our best night in Finland! If we were away from the city, we would have probably saw them even better, but we were happy with what we experienced. It is something I will never forget!
The next day was our last full day in Lapland. We headed back over to the ski resort where they offer skiing, snowboarding, beginner lessons, snow tubing and other winter sports such as cross country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing and more! Even though most of Finland is flat and the ski resort offers more for beginner levels, it is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of something you haven’t done before or learn something new!
Later on in the day, we did some more shopping in Rovaniemi. We were in the mood for pizza and were recommended a great place near our hotel called Pure Pizza. Before you start to question what Finnish pizza tastes like, it was delicious and Pure Pizza is definitely the place to go for a fresh margherita pie. I had mine with mushrooms and other veggies. Since I can’t go too long without eating my favorite food, it really hit the spot!
Since we were all exhausted from our exciting week in Lapland and needed to pack, we spent our last night enjoying the cozy Arctic Light Hotel.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about our wonderful time in Lapland. We have a great Finland package for you to book your next winter getaway! You and your family are sure to have a great time like I did with my cousins! Email me at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com or call us today to book your next adventure!
Happy Travels and Happy New Year!
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