A trip to the Arctic Circle is a great reason to look forward to winter, says deputy editor Miranda McMinn
Why go?: Because it’s magical. At a time of year when everything is dark and grim, it’s like we’ve fallen asleep and woken up in Narnia. We fly first to Stockholm then up to Lulea. Even the Swedish cabin crew and passport control are intrigued what we are doing going up there. Passport control wishes us “good luck ” – feel like we are in Scandi drama already. Out of the plane window we see frozen lakes and forests and gazillions of little islands, frozen coast and spits of ice. I’ve never been anywhere so totally clean – even snow on runway is white. We drive to the lodge through hamlets of rust red chalets, powdery dry tiny snowflakes dancing under outdoor light and arrive in a world on the edge of a frozen lake. I wake up to find a forest full of reindeer outside our back window.
The Swedish way of life up in the Arctic Circle is refreshing and interesting to observe. It’s a tough environment but the Swedish approach is practical rather than macho and very refreshing. You are trusted to make your own decisions for yourself and your children. The only concession to health and safety are special picks that people carry to pull themselves out of ice in case it suddenly collapses (which happens to some unfortunately or foolhardy souls taking a chance with thin ice as the seasons draws to a close) and everyone carries a sharp hunting knife in case a fish should suddenly need gutting.
You might see the Northern Lights (though we didn’t as it was cloudy).
Travel with: Activities Abroad offer then Brändön Lodge Frozen Archipelago Adventure – a four-night trip costing from £1,535 per adult (based on two adults sharing) and £1,045 per child (minimum age 4 years). It includes full-board accommodation, transfers, cold weather clothing for the duration of the stay and guided activities including ice fishing, a husky safari, snow fun, Northern Lights snowmobile sledge tour with wilderness dinner plus flights (London). Each group has a chalet and all (delicious and healthy) meals are eaten in the main lodge. Cold weather wear including hats, boots and overalls, is provided for both adults and children.
When?: Departures are from Dec 22nd 2016 to 15th Feb 2017.
You really must: Go ice fishing. Your guide takes you out onto the ice on a sledge pulled by snowmobiles and builds a fire on the ice. You sit on reindeer hides and drink coffee made from blackened kettle and munch cinnamon buns. Then you make holes with an enormous corkscrew – ice water gushing out then sucked back down like a toilet – you can watch it immediately re-freeze in front of your eyes. When you feel the pull of a fish it’s thrilling and the joy of an actual catch is as real for adults as for children – the fish is then cooked on the fire for you to eat. Eagles fly overhead waiting for the discarded fishbones and fishguts.
Have a sauna, then roll in the snow and sit in the wood-fired hot tub.
Drive a husky sled. There are few achievements I’m as proud of as this one. We are trained with urgently delivered instructions – plus one memorable one (imagine this delivered in a strong Swedish accent): ” if the dog shits put on the brake”. You take off – ten dogs pulling like nutters, and learn to leaning into corners. Sudden sharp turns to jolt you out of daydream – the sense of accomplishment at managing them when it’s your turn to drive is wonderful.
Bring back: Unforgettable memories.
Photography: Graeme Richardson
Monarch offers Arctic Experience trips between 30th December – 14th February for 3 or 4 night durations. The experience includes a reindeer sleigh, husky sled & snowmobile mini ride, ski suit and boot hire and of course the chance to see the Northern Lights on evening excursions to the Snow Village.
Arctic Experience trips start at £399pp for 3 nights or from £459pp for 4 nights.
Book here or call 0333 777 4740.