After we handed in all assignments – which mend the end of the exchange semester in Finland – it was time for Fabienne (my best roomie ever!) and me to start our Lapland road-trip. The trip were we had been looking forward to for already a long time and for which we got so nervous that we got almost sick … we did not book any activities and didn’t really have a plan what we wanted to do where, besides this, for me it was the first time driving in the snow. Nevertheless, the couchsurfing places were already organised more than a month before as well as the route – From Rovaniemi to Pyhä to Inari and back to Rovaniemi.
A seven day trip through the far north were we hoped to experience the real Lapland.
It was hard for me to picture what to expect – we don’t have mountains in the Netherlands, no hills, not that many lakes nor trees and for sure not that much snow! The sun goes up at 8.30 and down around 17.00
nope, I had no idea what to expect
After a harsh 13 hour train-ride – don’t go for the cheapest ticket when driving all the way from Helsinki to Rovaniemi! No sleep guaranteed – we picked up our cute little car and started the adventure … with being flashed because of driving too fast – great! -.- Luckily already quickly enthusiasm took over the bad feeling because of the beautiful landscape. The sunrise was so pretty, that we stopped at several places along the road to enjoy the view as well as the snow – still dressed for southern Finland and not Lapland so a bit chilly and very wet – and I of course took hundreds of pictures – I know … most of them look similar, but I just love to take pictures and to capture great moments, can’t help it ^^ Instead of a 1.5 hour drive, it took us 3 hours.
During our trip we wanted to do as much as we could, especially things we had never done before, and we surely succeeded in doing that! On the first day we started with cross-country skiing, which turned out to be very doable and quite fun, especially going down which went pretty fast! – I still feel sorry for the animals around us … going down went so fast (for me) that I could not help myself making some noise, besides this, me only having skied once in my life, at age eleven, caused some hilarious moments, going backwards instead of forwards or spontaneously falling down. A lot of fun!
The next day we experienced which muscles we haven’t used that much before, but this did not stop us from snowshoe walking to an invisible waterfall. It was a beautiful walk through the forest covered by a thick layer of snow and especially the valley was lovely! … however … the waterfall we have never discovered. In the evening we decided that we wanted to go to the sauna and go ice swimming – something we had to do before going home – sadly the company did not dig a hole in the ice, so it was “snow-rolling” instead, which really is not advisable! The snow quickly melted on our skin which made it feel burned. Luckily on the last day in Rovaniemi we managed to find a place where we could go ice-swimming. It was -18, next to the river – which was mostly frozen, except for the hole dug for swimming – there was a little tent which functioned as sauna were we tried to heat up before “dipping” in the icy water. It actually wasn’t that bad as expected! It was actually really refreshing – how surprising ? – and it felt so good! After two times “dipping” in the water I told myself that I could not call this ice-swimming so went for a third time – by now the sauna-tent was completely full with cold people and did not heat up anymore – to really go ice swimming, and I did. It felt so good and it felt like an accomplishment, nevertheless my feet seemed to be ice blocks for the next two hours …
Yeah … we have done some crazy things
I don’t know how it came, but on the third day in Lapland, we suddenly had the genius idea to go down the slope – the closed one ? – on a little pan sledge. I turned out to be crazy fast and so much fun!! Completely covered by snow we almost peed in our pants from laughing! Why don’t they everywhere make a side of the slope open for sledges? This was so much fun!
Other great things we have done were a snowmobile safari in Pyhä, which was wonderful! It went so fast – it was only the two of us and the guide … the advantage of the beginning of the season – and again, the landscape was so pretty! A 1.5 hours tour through the middle of nowhere.
Furthermore, we did a husky safari in Inari at one of our couchsurfing’s places. I looked so much forward to the husky safari, nevertheless I could not really enjoy this. Our host turned out the be the most negative and unsocial person on earth and one of the husky dogs on our sled was close to killing the dog next to him … in front of our eyes, just before we started the safari… a horrifying picture which I could not get out of my head :/ The photos I took from the safari are beautiful and it must have been great, but I could not see that at that moment …
Because of all this – we really did not want this to destroy our Lapland trip! – we decided to directly leave Inari and not stay another night at the host’s place, but to drive to Äkäslompolo – a place where one of our Swiss exchange friends kept saying we really had to go to, so we did. Luckily the Swiss girl – thanks Claudia! – could arrange a place at a hostel for us, so we could leave quickly. On our way – over extremely snowy and empty roads – we were even surprised by many falling starts and stunning northern lights!! I was so thankful! ^^ Something I really hoped to see in Lapland, the northern lights, so beautiful!!
Green ribbons dancing in the sky … unbelievable but real
As our friend said, Äkäslompolo is a place worthwhile visiting when being in Lapland. A quite empty/not seeming as an interesting place, but the snow makes the nature around there look so incredible!! For me the walk to the top of Kuer with our snowshoes was the most beautiful walk! It took my breath away!! Walking through a fairy-tale landscape with trees completely covered by snow, bending over the trail through the weight of the snow … and the 360 degrees view on the top … Stunning! Breathtaking! I could walk around there for days … so picturesque! Really, I am not exaggerating it was just beautiful!
Not only the landscape was, also all the sunrises and sunsets we have seen during our trip – which were almost directly after each other since the sun rises around ten and starts to go down around one or two. A completely yellow/orange or pink sky with white lakes and trees in front of it …
In Lapland I felt like a kid in a candy store …
Beauty all around me which made me so intensely happy!
I surely belief that driving around yourself really is the best way to thoroughly discover Lapland’s beauty. You can stop whenever, wherever and how long you want – which we extremely often did and led to fun and crazy moments – besides this, you are able to go to places where others won’t come. We for example stopped at the side of a dam when we were driving from Pyhä to Saarisälkä. We found it by accident, but it was a great place to have look around and take too many pictures. At that moment we also realized that it wasn’t that warm outside. After taking some pictures and walking to the middle of the dam our toes and fingers started freezing … shortly after also our nose, and then our eyelashes and hair changed into white … it turned out to be -27 degrees! Crazy cold!
Besides this, it makes it much easier to do couchsurfing which 2 out of 3 times turned out to be great! Those two times we stayed at the apartments of Finnish guys who grew up in/around Lapland. They were so kind and hospitable, we had lots of fun with them and they also gave us more insight in the life in Lapland – for example how it is to have 24 hours light in summer. Our first host in Pyhä took us on the first evening to a Finnish pub bingo, which was so much fun! – trying to learn the Finnish numbers in the last days – and on the second evening we played pool with a friend of him in a sports bar. We received his house key – they really trust everyone, the door is actually always open – so during the day we could do whatever we wanted to do and in the evening, when they came back from work, we spent some time together. The last host in Rovaniemi seemed to be so happy to have couchsurfers to break his daily routine that he was more than happy to do anything and so we have been talking for quite some time and ended our trip eating together in a burger restaurant – with our still frozen feet. Next time I only stay at a local’s place!
All in all a very happy story!
If you can, one day you should really go to Lapland!
Yes, it is extremely cold, but it is totally worth it!! The mountains, the lakes, the trees and the crazy amount of snow – for Dutch people – it’s wonderful!
… Nevertheless, the Lapland trip mend the end of my exchange semester … It was rather difficult for me to leave Finland last Sunday – even some tears have fallen … – I had such an incredible time! In only four months time I discover the beauty of Finland, have done so many amazing and crazy things, met great people and even made some lifetime – I hope – friends!
One more time I would like to thank everyone for making this experience unforgettable! <3