On Tuesday morning we flew out bright and early to Kittilä and got on a coach to Yllas where our hotel was. As soon as we got off of the plane in the tiny Finnish airport we were overwhelmed by how stunning the landscape was. Pictures will never really do justice to how beautiful Lapland is because I think that half of appreciating it is experiencing the temperature and the atmosphere in real life, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say that it is so worth seeing with your own eyes!
Once we'd got to the hotel, sorted out our snowsuits and boots that the hotel kindly provide you with, we went for a walk around the little town nearby. Although it was freezing (-16 degrees celsius on the first day), it didn't feel too cold and, coming from someone who deals with the cold very badly, that's saying a lot! You definitely need to wrap up warm but the cold isn't as piercing as you might expect so if you don't like the cold, don't let that hold you back if you're ever considering a trip to Lapland!
That evening we just relaxed, planned our activities for the next couple of days and had a very early night since we'd had to get up at 3am to catch our flight that morning!
The next day, once Mum and her friend Maddy had got over the excitement of the fact that it was still dark at 10am (they're honestly two of the very few people I've ever come across who love the fact that there's so little light during the daytime when it's Winter!), we had the opportunity to have some tasters of some of the activities we could do during our stay. These included reindeer rides, husky rides and driving snowmobiles.
It was such a lovely few hours trying everything out and, although we didn't choose to book onto the full experience of driving snowmobiles, I really enjoyed driving one around a small track and would definitely do it again!
That evening we'd booked to have a husky ride through some beautiful woods which is meant to be a great opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Seeing the Aurora Borealis is something I've wanted to do for years but sadly it wasn't cold enough and the skies weren't clear enough for them during our stay, which I've taken as a sign that I'll just *have* to go back and try again next year!
Not seeing them that night wasn't a disappointment in the slightest though when it came to it because I had the most incredible experience on the husky ride. We got to drive our own husky sleighs the entire way and, because I was paired with Maddy who didn't want to drive the sleigh, I did it the whole 10km route we went on.
I can't begin to describe how amazing it was and how clever these dogs are. At first I was worried at the thought of them carrying our weight as well as the sleigh so far and felt quite cruel that I was putting them through it, but even just two minutes with them made me see how much they love it. Whenever we had to stop for whatever reason they would bark and bark and be raring to go to the point where, despite the fact that we'd been told to only put one foot on the brake to stop them, they could still go when they all tried their hardest so I had to put my entire body weight on the break to hold them back!
As soon as they were allowed to go they would fall back into silence and seemed so content. The experience of spending an hour travelling around the beautiful snow-covered forest in almost complete silence is utterly indescribable - I don't think I've ever felt so at peace while also feeling elated at the joy of driving the huskies in my life.
It's safe to say this was the standout moment of the trip for me and I'd love to do it again and again!
On our last full day we had a reindeer ride booked for the early afternoon, which was a similar experience to the night before in that we got to drive the reindeer sleighs and rode through a stunning forest. Again, it was such a beautiful afternoon and, although I preferred driving the huskies simply because it felt more exciting, I adored this too.
After both the husky ride and the reindeer ride we were taken into a cabin with a roaring fire by the people who look after the animals and treated to some hot juice and cookies while they answered any questions we had about the huskies/reindeers. I have to say I found the Finnish people I met absolutely wonderful and they really seem to care about the well-being of the animals they keep. Their way of life is so very different to mine and it was hugely eye-opening to hear about their experiences and how they spend their year. There's definitely something to learn from those who don't live like us - their lives seemed to me to be so much less centered around technology and earning money and so much more about living in the moment and in nature. I'm not saying that one way of living is better than the other by any means, just that I think it's important to see other ways of living, if nothing more than to gain some perspective on our own.
In the early evening we went to the Lapland Snow Village, which is an incredible building made entirely of snow and ice that is built every Winter. It's incredibly impressive, with an ice bar and restaurant, rooms with beds you can book to stay in and even a chapel pictured above where you can get married should you wish to! I have to say, staying overnight or getting married there would definitely not be for me but it's an incredible thing to see that I'd definitely suggest if you're ever in Lapland!
Before we knew it it was Friday morning and time for us to say our goodbyes to Lapland. I really did love every minute and could see myself going back there year after year without tiring of it - the people, the food and the beauty are just magical and if you ever get the chance to go make sure you take it!