Two weeks of real winter

The past two weeks I have spent in Äkäslompolo. For those of you who wonder where that is and has never heard of it: no worries, it’s nothing you usually hear of. It’s a village of 400 souls in northern Lapland (Finland), somewhere above the Arctic Circle. At this time of the year, days are rather short. Dawn starts at about 8am although you won’t see the sun before 10am; at 3pm it already starts to get dark again and by 4.30pm it’s completely dark. However, I must say that even at night it isn’t really dark. The snow lightens up the landscape and you can very well do a snowshoe hike at night (with a little help of a torch now and then).

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t always too good. Many days were cloudy and snowy. But at least we had two really nice days with sunshine and no wind. Luckily at least the temperatures were very comfortable all the time. Only the first two days we had -23° Celsius (which was really a bit freezing I must admit) but then commuted in between -8° and -14° Celsius. To my surprise the cold didn’t feel as biting as the 0° Celsius I am used from Switzerland. When we were outside doing some activity we really felt warm and often were all sweaty in the end.

Already in our second night we were very very (I mean very!) lucky to see the northern lights. From people we met during our tours we were told that they had come to Finland for four or more years in sequence never seeing a tiny bit of magical mystical light in the sky. So yes, we were lucky, as it was also the only night were we saw the lights in such intensity.

The two weeks passed very fast. But we enjoyed every minute of them. The action on the husky sleigh or on the snowmobile (I actually went twice on a snowmobile tour – it’s really fun! I would have gone on a second husky tour as well if it hadn’t been so expensive); as well as the golden landscape on our snowshoe hikes or the snowboarding day on Ylläs. By the way, just as a side note: Ylläs is the home “mountain” of Äkäslompolo – with its 718 meters it is the highest mountain in Finland.

Oh, and did I already mention the awesome feather-weight powder snow…?

And certainly we also spent some quiet days at home reading a good book on the sofa while watching the snow fall down outside.

Fortunately, we had two really wonderful sunny days which we enjoyed to full extent going on snowshoe hikes. Here some impressions…

Before going back home we had the chance to spend a few hours at Lainio Snow Village. Although I wouldn’t call it a „village“… It’s rather a hotel with its own chapel, a restaurant, a bar and a few dozens of rooms and suites – all built of ice and snow. I cannot remember how many tons of ice and snow they needed to build it up, but it were a lot. And they rebuild it year after year – and every time they do it differently. In April or Mai when the hotel starts melting they already start collecting the ice from the nearby river for the next hotel. It’s really amazing and interesting to see all the fine details carved into the crystal clear ice. However, I wouldn’t want to sleep in one of the rooms. It’s cool to have a look for sure, but having to sleep there is something completely different…

To sum up I can say that I finally experienced a “real” winter with some nice minus temperatures and a decent amount of snow (not this “summery” lax winters with almost no snow we had the past few years in Switzerland). Although one more thing about the snow: the locals were complaining that for this time of the year they are used to more snow. On average we had about 60-80cm of snow – usually it’s twice as much..! But I guess winters are getting more mild everywhere – even in the cold north, in the land of the midnight sun.

Oh… And if by any chance you go to Lapland, don’t forget to taste a hot berry juice, a salmon soup or a reindeer filet! And if you drink or eat it outside while you’re en route it tastes even better…

An this was the our cabin… But never mind about the name, even our travel guides weren’t able to pronounce it… :-)

In the gallery below you can view the pictures full-screen and there are also some more to see ;-)