1 Catch the Aurora Borealis
Steadily gaining popularity in the past five years, the Swedish Lapland has become a popular choice for one to view the aurora borealis. And for good reason. According to Jonny Cooper — the founder of UK-based adventure travel specialist Off the Map Travel — the Swedish Lapland statistically, registers more clear nights than other viewing spots in countries such as Iceland, Finland and Norway. He shares: “The more clear nights you have, the higher the chances of you catching an aurora.” There seems to be much truth in this as we witnessed the lights for six nights straight. But take note, chances vary.
Don’t pay attention to all the talk on social media about not being able to see the Northern Light past 2015. Even though we are now on a downward trend of the solar maximum (the period of active solar activity), the sun is continuously producing energy that helps to create the Northern Lights. “Let me put it this way, the lights are equivalent to rain and rain storms. You will still see the rain but there are just less chances of a storm,” explains Cooper. “The aurora can happen at any time.” Hunting season begins in September and concludes in March.
2 Experience Tree-Living
The Swedish Lapland is also home to one of the world’s most interesting hospitality concepts: The Tree Hotel. In the midst of a pine tree forest outside the village of Harads hang six tree houses (none of which are built into the trees but are instead hung from cables). They take on unique forms such as a mirrored cube (featured in our Unique Hotels Around the World feature), a bird’s nest and even a UFO. Hung some 13ft to 20ft off the ground, the houses are accessible either via a ramp or an electronically operated staircase. The latter, we warn, is not for the faint-hearted. Bathrooms and a sauna are located at a neighbouring building, so if you prefer an arrangement that is more comfortable, we suggest you stay in The Dragonfly, the hotel’s version of a presidential suite with an en-suite bathroom. Famous guests have included supermodels Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss. Meals can be sent to your tree house or you can have them at the main guesthouse where meals are cooked and served by the owners, Britta and Kent Lindvall themselves.
3 Chill Out at the Ice Hotel
In the Swedish Lapland, the arrival of winter means, among many things, the creation of the world famous Icehotel. Located in Jukkasjärvi, 200km off the Arctic Circle, a large part of the hotel is made of ice and features ice rooms designed by artists from around the world. It attracts hundreds of visitors yearly and offers you the bone-chilling experience of spending the night in one of its icy accommodation. Temperatures in the cold rooms range between -5 and -10 degrees C. You will be given a thermal sleeping bag (the kind that adventure seekers take up to Mount Everest) and sleep atop an ice bed lined with deer hide. If you would rather only admire the artwork, opt to stay in a normal room equipped with overzealous heaters. When there, venture out onto the frozen lake to try catch the aurora borealis. The unobstructed open space makes it a great stage for when the lights come on. Just be sure that the lake is frozen solid. After which, have a drink or two at the winter ice bar.
4 Glamping in the Winter Wilderness
Located in a remote forest across the Råne River and the quaint town of Lassbyn, is the Aurora Safari Camp. An intimate establishment with just four rooms, it sets to offer visitors a memorable outdoor experience. To get there, Fredrik Broman, the camp’s founder and also veteran photographer, will transport you via his snow mobile across the frozen river. The 10-minute ride will offer your spectacular views of the countryside which this time of the year will be completely covered in snow.
When at the camp, guests will stay in one of the four lavvus (teepee tents once used by the native Sammi people of northern Scandinavia) that are furnished with beds and a firewood heater. The only downside to this arrangement is that you have to keep the fire going on your own, which means loading wood into the furnace every three hours to keep warm. Meals are cooked by Broman and served in the main tent where you get to exchange stories with other like-minded travellers. Washrooms are located in a separate tent that is a short walk from the lavvus and gasp, there are no showers here. To refresh yourself, head to the sauna constructed on a float, a few metres on the lake. Its remote location means that no artificial light can be seen from the camp and that increases your chance of seeing the Northern Lights. When here, book yourself on a dog-sledding tour of the area, an ice-sculpting class and even a private photography lesson with Broman himself.
5 Visit the Abisko National Park
This is the Swedish Lapland’s best-kept secret. Located 250km from the Arctic Circle, it is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and also Lake Torneträsk. At the height of winter, everything around you is completely shrouded in snow which makes it an ideal base for winter activities such as dog-sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoe walking, ice-fishing and of course, aurora hunting. Our favourite activity? Dinner at the national park where a local host will dig a spot in the snow and start a bonfire. Over the course of an hour, your host will serve you barbecued reindeer meat, vegetable kebabs and lingonberry cake.
When visiting, we recommend staying in the neighbouring town of Björkliden at the leading ski lodge Björkliden Fjällby. A 10-minute drive away, the hotel offers you the option of either staying in a two-storey luxe log cabin complete with a sauna or a comfortable room overlooking the lake. Also a ski lodge, you can also hit the slopes here. An added plus to us city folks? Free Wi-Fi is in all rooms.
For more information on the Swedish Lapland and bespoke luxury adventure travel visit offthemaptravel.sg or call +44 (0) 800 566 8901. Off the Map Travel is one of the world’s leading Northern Lights travel specialists.