Imagine staying in an ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna, in the heart of Lapland. During the day you're cross-country skiing or heliskiing and skateboarding, and in the evening a dog sled takes you further into the deep forests to watch the Northern Lights undisturbed. Or would you prefer to take a yacht for a different skiing route each day from the comfort of your accommodation? Or are you tempted by a gourmet and sauna tour in Finland? For lovers of winter and winter sports, Lapland offers untouched nature, romance, and powdery snow even in spring.
Lapland lies in the northern part of Scandinavia, mostly north of the Arctic Circle. This cultural region, traditionally the land of the indigenous Sami people, lies within Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Despite the current national borders, Lapland has its own specific characteristics. The main one is the beautiful and wild nature that stretches far and wide all around you. Finland is dominated by gently rolling plains covered in pine and birch forests, with the occasional lake or gurgling river. The west of Lapland is made up of fjords and deep valleys, and Sweden's highest mountains climb over 2,000 meters.
Have you ever had a drink from an ice glass? Can you imagine the rich crystal chandeliers whose trimmings are also made of ice? Would you like to have a wedding or enjoy a concert in the local ice chapel?
The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, is one of the most interesting places to stay in Lapland. Each of the ice rooms is adorned with unique ice decorations on various themes, created by sculptors from around the world who succeed in the prestigious annual international competition to create the rooms. The jury takes great care to ensure that the oldest Icehotel does not become kitsch like numerous copies, but maintains a high artistic standard and originality. The temperature in the icy parts of the hotel is slightly below freezing, but the warm sleeping bag you get at the reception, the sauna and waking up in the morning with a hot cranberry drink will fix that. A new feature is the year-round operation of the Icebar and a section of rooms located in the lobby cooled by the energy of solar panels. However, the main part of the hotel, with its chapel and main hall, continues to be rebuilt each year in the open air on the banks of the River Torne, from whose huge ice blocks are carved as building material.
Lapland's landscape changes only very slowly and getting anywhere in winter takes a lot of sporting effort. But you can ease your way into the solitude of the wilderness with a snowmobile or, as locals have done in the past, with traditional dog sleds. Such a trip in a landscape where many of the hills and mountains still have no name is an experience in itself.
The colorful spectacle, the mysterious green veil that hangs from the sky or curls down to the ground, is awe-inspiring. It's quiet and peaceful and you feel the power of the universe, which just so happens to send up such a "little" spectacle. The aurora borealis, as it is known in the northern hemisphere, arises from a cloud of particles ejected by solar flares all the way to Earth. The Earth's magnetic field shields us from cosmic rays, but where it is closer to the surface, i.e. near the magnetic poles, the particles penetrate the atmosphere, where the particles then interact with molecules in the atmosphere, producing the discharges seen as aurorae. The most important conditions for observing it are complete darkness, clear skies and high solar activity. Sweden's Abisko National Park is one of the best places to observe it. In winter, there are often cloudless skies and no light smog for miles around.
Heliskiing in Sweden, unlike in the Alps, has virtually no restrictions. A helicopter, together with a mountain guide, will take you to wherever the conditions are currently safe and good. There is plenty to choose from – the huge area of almost 200 square kilometers offers hundreds of runs. The best bases for heliskiing are Nikkaluokta and the large freeride resort of Björkliden/Riksgränsen.