Take a friend and tell him that you will go to Lapland. His answer will be in eighty percent of the cases “Then go find Santa!”. No, no Santa Claus, no sleigh and reindeer with bells, no letter, no elves and no gingerbread houses. Lapland is much more. Also because, geographically speaking, it is a very large region, between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, with landscapes that show long stretches covered only with snow, thick forests, frozen rivers, countries whose houses always show lights to the windows, immediately creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Our journey begins in Luleå, a Swedish town not too far from the Finnish border, which we cross early to reach Korpikylä, by the river Tornio. From here all our excursions will start, such as the one in Kukkolaforsen, a small fishing village with an enchanting view of the rapids and a few painted wooden houses of red, including the typical kota, which takes its name from the ancient fishermen’s huts which have become the meeting place par excellence in the cold Lapland winters: here you can sit by the fire and sip something warm, prepare the bread to eat together with a tasty whitefish salad and so refresh yourself after an excursion aboard a snowmobile that allows you to enjoy all the beauty of an enchanted and very cold landscape. But just cover yourself well, as everyone suggests.
And it is in fact right here, at the Arctic Circle (Napapijri for the Laplanders) that, rolling in the recently fallen snow, one understands the importance of wearing two pairs of socks. And then, normally, the moment comes when you think “But why did I choose to come right here?”
Why Travel Lapland?
“It is the discovery of another world, of other landscapes and other lights. These are places and latitudes that confront us with a way of life very different from ours. And then obviously one of the reasons for the trip is to be able to see the Northern Lights. It is not always possible but in any case the sky always offers magnificent colors and constant sunsets that are magical”.
After all, it is not even true that it is so cold, to hear Stefano who is now a regular in these latitudes. In reality – the few sub-zero degrees that accompany us in the first days of this journey are certainly not normal, at least in early January, when in these parts they are used to much colder temperatures. The fluctuating weather, and the alternation between (relatively) hot, and colder days depends largely on climate change, Stefano points out.
“The area between Sweden and Finland is subject to great climatic variability and therefore it is easy to pass between 0 and -20 degrees between one day and another. What has changed is the average figure, in the past weeks there have been many days when the thermometer has exceeded 0, with a clear tendency to warm up. This can also be a problem for tourist services, because for example, some excursions are more difficult to organize on less cold days, but it is especially difficult for daily life. The streets are covered with very slippery ice sheets and snow storms are more frequent. In general, the entire economy of the area can be compromised”.
But colder days will come, forecasts say that they are unusually true here. And it is a good thing, because if the temperatures had not dropped by a few degrees we would not have met Simona and Massimiliano of the Old Pine Husky Lodge, two Romans in love with Scandinavia who a couple of years ago decided to move here with their dogs and offer excursions with sleighs pulled by beautiful and restless huskies, who are waiting for nothing but running like mad in the birch forests, regardless of the fact that the passenger sitting in the sled often finds himself face to face with the lower branches.
And, above all, without all this cold, the dawn would not have appeared: instead, reassured by the cross-forecasting of specialized sites and apps, and by a more concrete observation of the sky, the wait in the cold did not prove to be in vain. But be careful; in some cases it is not possible to see it with the naked eye, but only through the lens of a camera. Look at the sky, then take a photo: if you are lucky an emerald green glow will reveal itself as in a spell. But on the other hand, everything here has a vague taste of magic.
What to do in Lapland?
Looking for the Northern Lights is the main engine of a trip to Lapland between September and March, when the long polar nights are colored turquoise and emerald, but it is not the only reason that pushes us around here. Here in fact, between Finland and Sweden, you can literally get lost in nature, jump on a snowmobile or sit on a sled to be towed by huskies who seem possessed: in the first case you can take a look at Lapland Safari’s offer, while, if you prefer to try the experience with the huskies, we suggest the Old Pine Husly Lodge run by husband and Roman wife who, however, decided to settle here on a permanent basis. Everything changes, of course, in the summer, when you can take advantage of the endless days by going by boat or canoe, walking through the birch woods, cycling or hiking.
Where to sleep in Lapland?
Difficult to resist the charm of the Lappish houses: in the snow they are always illuminated and, even from outside, they transmit a pleasant sensation of warmth and intimacy. It is therefore nice to plan a stay in one of these lodgings, transformed into farmhouses or bed and breakfasts: we stayed at the Hulkoffgården, in the snow about 40 kilometers from Haparanda. Here Pia to Kurtthey will take care of you by offering large rooms (if you are lucky from the window of the one facing north you can see the northern lights according to the warm weather), two saunas – one inside and one outside, for the less chilly, and sumptuous meals . If it is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, here they have made it a ritual based on every good thing. For the nostalgic, there is also Nutella. For those who prefer something different to the classic farmhouse, we recommend the igloo: the Kaksaluttanen Artic Resort , in northern Finland, in fact offers, in addition to more traditional (but not less fascinating) solutions, also a glass igloo for two people, in order to enjoy all the beauty of the Arctic sky while staying under the covers, and even on ice: here, even if the temperature drops to -40° outside, you can reach a maximum of -6°. Sure, it’s not exactly hot, but the service includes at least the sleeping bag. For the real intrepid.
What you eat in Lapland?
Lappish cuisine is mainly based on local products: in winter therefore, when nature offers less variety, it is easy to find yourself eating dishes that use more or less the same ingredients, even if combined in different ways. Salmon and potatoes for example, which are a must here, can be served according to dozens of recipes, all tasty in the same way. Meat (yes, also reindeer) and fish are the masters, but even vegetarians will be able to experience the cuisine of these places thanks to colorful salads and tasty pies. In Kukkolaforsen, overlooking the rapids of the Tornio River, you can for example delight yourself with the cuisine of Margit, one of the most famous chefs in these parts, who offers for example mushroom soup, whitefish salad, smoked salmon with orange sauce and, to top it off, vanilla ice cream with arctic raspberries.
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