Right, got to start this blog post with a photo credit. Thanks so much my new Danish friend, Donatas Poteliunas, for the incredible photos of the Northern Lights. What would our hunting party have done without you?
Finland! Land of saunas, northern lights and arctic life. We arrived in Helsinki after 3pm, and were welcomed to darkness and 2 degree temperatures. After making our way to our hostel, we wandered the streets, enjoying the cold and Christmas lights and displays in the main shopping street. After admiring beautiful trees and churches, we found ourselves a Ferris wheel and went for a ride. This was underwhelming, however was a nice Segway into drinks and nibbles at a lovely little wine bar, followed by tradition Finnish dinner at the Finnish version of Lonestar.
Friday we wandered down to the get the ferry to the Sea Fortress of Suomenlinna to explore. It was a freezing day but sunny, with some light snow flurries at times. The fort was a pretty impressive structure, built under Swedish and Russian rule in Finland and still standing today with an impressive outlook into the Gulf of Finland. After the fort we ferried back to the mainland to explore a circular stone church with copper dome roof. Although very different, it was quite a stunning church. In the afternoon we explored the Hipster neighbourhood complete with coffee at a Hipster café. That night, we flew to Rovaniemi for the most important part of the trip. Fun in the arctic snow and northern lights hunting. Our first day in Rovaniemi we thoroughly enjoyed a day of snowmobiling on fresh snow in the arctic circle, complete with snow showers. The area was incredibly beautiful and like a postcard with the birch trees covered in snow. On the trip we stopped off at a reindeer farm and went for a sleigh ride, as well as a husky farm and husky ride! On our trip, some kid even managed to fall out of the children’s sleigh being towed by the guide, sending dads running. After the dramas abated and we all made it back in one piece.
To finish the day we visited Santa at Santa’s village before sampling reindeer and local salmon and sausages for dinner. I have to say, the reindeer was quite delicious. On the way home from dinner, there may or may not have been a snow fight and some snow angels. The best thing about snow that far north is it is dry and puffy, and doesn’t stick or make you wet, it really is great.
Sunday, our second day of arctic fun, was quieter and low key. We went to the museum and learnt all about the history of people living in the arctic, the arctic way of life and the impacts of global warming. After burgers for lunch and a nap, it was time to get picked up for our Northern Lights snowmobile trip!
Once we were all wrapped up on our special thermal clothes and boots, we were off into the -10 degree night. It was quite windy so I think the wind chill made it even colder, maybe -15 or more. Despite wearing 2 sets of ice breaker merino thermals, my fleece, specialist thermal suit plus extra gloves, neck baiter, beanie etc. I was still freezing, or should I say below freezing? After a half hour on the snow mobile, my visor was up as I thought I saw something in the sky. Sure enough, a faint white was rippling across the sky, the northern Lights! A little while later we pulled up in a clearing and climbed off the snowmobiles to enjoy the white and green ripples of the northern lights. Although we only saw simple colours, there really were quite amazing. Luckily, Donatas on our tour had a camera and the skills to capture the Aurora Borealis, something me and my iPhone were not capable of.
When our group had all enjoyed and photographed the northern lights for a while, we were back on the snowmobiles and made our way to where we would light out fire and eat sausages and drink warm juice. This was very much needed at this point as I was absolutely freezing cold by now. Around the fire we heard the legends of the lights, involving a Firefox running from hunters. After that, we headed back to the clearing for a bit and then headed on home.
Our last morning in Finland was a slow and sleepy one, followed by a late breakfast and coffee out in town before we went to the airport. The day was uneventful with the exception of sprinting through Helsinki airport to catch our connecting flight, only to find we were getting on the same plane!
Believe it or not, this is Helsinki Cathedal
Helsinki Christmas lights
Being Spanish in Finland, whoops!
Freezing Helsinki mornings
The church on Soumenlinna
Soumenlinna. It might look like evening light but it was actually late morning and it looked like this all day
Looking out to the gulf on Finland.
Looking back to the wharf
Helsinki Cathedral by day
San cute in our snow outfits
At the edge of the arctic circle
Sampling the local brew
Traditional sausages and local salmon
Arctic beauty from the museum
Nighttime snowmobile rides