What a rare opportunity to go to a place many people either only dreams of or read about. I was extremely fortunate to be traveling to this amazing place along with my RTT colleague, Isabell Lettenmaier.
The trip began with an easy drive to Frankfurt Hahn where we boarded the plane for Arvidsjaur, Sweden; a mere three hour flight. The plane was roomy isles with three seats each. Upon boarding we were well catered to with the immediate serving of bottled water and then service of a choice of drinks followed by a dinner meal and more drinks while watching the onboard movie. When the plane landed the adventure was officially underway. We were greeted by our chaperone carrying a sign with Iglootel, picked up luggage and on to the transport van. The van carried 6 passengers in all and arrived at the Iglootel, which operates in conjunction with the Kraja and Silver Resort Hotel service. The ride took less than an hour with scenery mostly consisting of varying shades and patterns of white against an ever-changing light display as the sun was setting.
We arrived at the Kraja Hotel with a warm and welcoming décor at the reception desk. Here we could check in and read about and reserve our excursions acitivites in advance. We could also request the polar suits and boots for delivery (no extra charge). Double rooms were warm and comfortable with large windows and large bathrooms, complete with all the amenities; TV, free WIFI, hairdryer, etc.
The dinner meals were mainly meat entries, several selections of fish, and a vegetarian selection from the kitchen. Everything was served with style and taste in mind, by friendly staff. A small bar provided a ready selection of drinks and a stage for music on occasions. The morning breakfast from 6:00 to 9:00 was more than anyone could want. Coffee, tea, coco, eggs, sausage, bacon, fish, potatoes, beans, vegetables, pancakes, beans, breads, rolls, cheese, marmalades, yogurts, cereals, dried fruits- no one went away hungry.
The daily off-site activities were all are provided with a van service for transportation. Appropriate clothing is provided when requested upon arrival- definitely request it, you’re going to need it!!! A list of activities is offered at different times on different days so allowing everyone great options, variety and flexibility. These range from Rally Car driving on ice, speed four wheelers, snow mobile riding, Moose safari, Husky sledding, Ice fishing, snow showing, a visit to the Sami center and of course a stay overnight in the Iglootel. If you are lucky you might even see the Northern Lights if the conditions are just right.
Isabell and I chose the Moose Safari for our first activity and were not disappointed. The van picked us up with one other couple and drove us to the reserve. We were greeted by three lovey Swedes two of which took us in Snowmobile reindeer lined driven sleighs (two passengers per one driver). Gliding behind our drivers they took us on frosty forest trails to where the moose often feed. We spotted some moose quite quickly and were able to snap photos of them as they dashed through the forest. Afterwards we were invited into a wooden octagonal hut with a full burning fireplace in the middle. We were served moose or cheese sandwiches and hot tea or coffee. The three guides told us all about the moose and that this reserve was leased and controlled by the four families who used all the money received from tours to feed the moose. There were about one hundred moose on the 1000 square km.
Our next activity was the snow mobile excursion. Our first impression was that it might be more than we wanted to tackle, however, the receptionist behind the desk urged us to follow through. We walked down to the Experience Center to join a group of about 12 other guests. We were given instructions on how to wear the helmet and goggles, how to drive the snowmobile and what not to do. The ride began with all of us in single file driving across the frozen landscape through fields and into the woods. Although it was only about 3:30 the sun was already setting the landscape transitioned from light to dark. The longer I drove the more comfortable I became on such a powerful machine. It can go for 0 to 80 km in about 2 seconds. At timed intervals the lead driver would stop to make sure we were caught up with the group or to make sure we were all doing well? We also paused to stretch and gaze out over the valley as the silvery moon rose silently rose above the trees and hillside. A scene I will never forget. When it was over and we were back at the starting point, I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment.
The igloo has a fascinating story about its inception so visitors will enjoy a tour. We were greeted by our host and were given a tour starting with the igloo entrance. All the thought and effort that goes into a project is quite impressive. A melding of modern technology and old world Sami art and customs are evident throughout the igloo. There are specific challenges every year as the weather conditions factor into the construction of the structure. There are 900 sq. meters of space within a honey comb construction which includes the bar, the eating areas, sleeping rooms, game room, dressing rooms, sauna and whirlpools with and an amazing view up to the stars through an opening in the igloo. By the way, towels and slippers are provided. For dinner there was a simple menu of reindeer mushroom soup and rolls with free coffee or tea. Drinks were also available for purchase at the bar.
The overnight stay is planned for your comfort, but keep in mind that sleeping on reindeer skins in a polar sleeping bag is still a bit different- not that you aren’t warm, you will be, but perhaps you will find it more difficult to just fall asleep in these unique quarters. I mean, how many people can say they slept in an igloo! While packing your warmest gear don’t forget to pack a bathing suit, because the time spent in the open top igloo room complete with sauna and Jacuzzi is definitely a relaxing, romantic respite from the arctic cold.
The next adventure was the Husky sleds. The dogs were quietly harnessed in pairs snuggling together as the drivers explained how the experience would proceed. As soon as we were on board the sleighs, dogs the dogs came to life. Wild barking and howling pierced the cold air until the driver gave the first command and as though they were soldiers the dogs fell into formation. Having to hold the dogs back for fear they would go too fast, the driver took us over bridges, through the woods and over fields with stunning scenery streaming by. The most important thing on all of the excursions is to stay warm. Please wear the warmest of clothing and remember that the weather is not something that can be controlled.
A trip to the cultural center was a must for me. We drove about one hour to the reindeer farm and were greeted by the reindeer farmer who gave us a tour of his farm and his beautiful reindeer. His explanation expressed the utmost respect and care for the animals, this was certainly not just a business or hobby it was and is his life. He then shifted the tour over to his wife who took us into the traditional Sami hut area. Inside it was adorned with deer skins and a glowing fire in the center Lotti told us her own personal story and the history of the Sami people who follow the reindeer for survival for hundreds of years. This is her home of birth and she passes on the history with love. Per Swedish custom, of course tea and coffee were served along with dried reindeer meat. This was a lovey way to learn about the humble, peaceful, but skillful first residents of this incredible land.
This is not a trip for the faint hearted or those that want to lounge about in a deck chair. This is an experience for those that want to embrace a once in a lifetime escape into the pristine world of the North, harsh and yet fragile land above the Arctic Circle. Be aware that all activities require physical exertion and can be demanding. Your adventure will resemble more of the likes of an outdoor sports magazine rather than a dreamy cruise on the Rivera. Not recommended for children under the age of 16. If you have an adventurous spirit, want to do something extraordinary with your next holiday and work on your bucket list, this trip will be an incredible experience you’ll remember for a lifetime!
- Ann Miracle