Me and the other half had always been keen to see the Northern Lights, it was something on both of our bucket lists but we were put off by the ludicrously expensive short breaks. Who really wants to spend £2000 per person for 4 nights searching for Northern Lights without any guarantee of seeing them?
However, as we were getting married, we were thinking of destinations for our honeymoon and Northern Lights trips came up. I did a lot of searching but the prices were extreme and well out of our reach, especially with a wedding to pay for. Then one day, a ski company’s brochure came in to the office (whilst the place I work is now a business travel agent, it used to sell holidays and we must have still been on the ski company’s mailing list). On the front page of the brochure – holidays to Finnish Lapland and Northern Lights!
As this was a mainstream ski company, the prices weren’t crazy expensive. We looked at a 7 night, half board holiday including excursions and were pleasantly surprised by the cost. Although some people were a little confused by our choice of honeymoon destination, “what’s wrong with the Caribbean?”, we were really excited about having a different type of holiday and, hopefully, seeing the Northern Lights. And as we were getting married in winter, why not have a winter honeymoon to go with it?
We flew out the following March to Kittila Airport and based ourselves in the lovely little ski resort of Levi, 110 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I don’t ski, so cant comment on the quality of the piste, but Levi is great for beginners or those in to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There are some advanced slopes, but not very many. The town itself is absolutely beautiful and definitely delivered on the winter wonderland promise. It’s hard not to associate snow covered trees and twinkly lights with Christmas and Lapland is the home of Santa Clause but it was March and any reference to Christmas was minimal. I guess the Fins don’t want Christmas rammed down their necks all year either!
As neither of us are skiers, we weren’t much interested in the slopes but we did take the chairlift up the hill to get an aerial view of the town and have a hot chocolate in the café. We took a slow walk back down, stopping for pictures along the way. We were well prepared for the cold weather with base layers, fleeces, waterproof jackets, hats, scarfs and cloves. With temperatures down to -23c, you wouldn’t survive very long without proper clothing. Even taking your gloves off for a few seconds to take a picture was agony on the fingers. It was great! Most people have experienced hot weather, but this was something entirely different and not like anything either of us had experienced before. The sun shone bright every day and the cold was very dry, not wet and murky like it is at home. The warmest it got during our week there was -8c and that felt tropical compared to what we were used to!
Although we weren’t here to ski, there were loads of other activities to keep us amused. We booked a ½ day snowmobile excursion which was incredible. You can either share a skidoo between two or hire one for yourself. If travelling with kids, you can hire a little trailer for the back. Our guide took us out in to the wilderness, across frozen lakes and deep in to forest. After a short rest at a café, we swapped drivers and headed back. We didn’t go above about 30 mph but I’d never even been on a moped before so it felt lightning speed. It was so much fun! It took a while to shift the helmet hair though!
We did a reindeer sleigh ride through the trees, cuddled under blankets which was quite romantic. Neither of us are in to the whole romance thing but this was our honeymoon after all! The reindeer safari was certainly more sedate than the husky ride. The sound of the dogs barking and howling as we approached our sled was quite terrifying but as soon as we set off, the barks were replaced by panting as the dogs powered through the snow. They get some speed up and we took it in turns to drive the sled, remembering to keep a foot on the brake as we switched over to stop the dogs barrelling off without us! It was great to get up close and personal to the huskies and stroke their massively thick coats. Although the look scary, they were really quite lovely.
Most evenings were spent in the hotel bar and restaurant. We did venture to the frozen lake on a few occasions in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights away from the false light of the town but we weren’t so lucky. On one of the nights, however, we booked to stay in a heated glass igloo perched high on the hillside. The little pod had a small kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. The beds were the mechanical type found in hospitals – perfect for getting the right angle to stare upwards at the starry sky.
When we arrived, I cleared snow from the windows and the other half prepared us a romantic dinner with the bits we’d bought at the supermarket earlier in the day. Eating in restaurants is ridiculously expensive in Lapland but supermarket prices weren’t that different to home. I would definitely recommend booking half board basis at your hotel though, it’ll save you a fortune.
After dinner, I was in the kitchen making a batch of coffee, when the other half called out that he thinks he sees some movement in the sky. The stay in the igloo was expensive so I planned on staying awake all night just in case the Northern Lights decided to make an appearance. The movement in the sky proved to be just clouds.
At about 9pm, we’re staring skywards and something green catches our eyes. It’s just the faintest wisp but we both agree that we’d just caught our first glimpse of the Northern Lights. Within minutes, the wisps start to multiply and clouds of green space dust hang suspended in the sky. The clouds sit and move slowly across the sky for a few hours and we marvel at their otherworldliness. I must admit that I cry a little bit, this is what we came to Lapland for, this is the highlight of our honeymoon. It was quite a moment.
Despite being pumped with coffee, at around midnight we decide to try and get some sleep. The little curtains only cover up to waist height (you have to be careful not to give your neighbours an eye full!) so we can keep a watch for any developments in the sky from our beds.
At around 1am, I catch some movement off in the distance. We both tilt our beds so we’re sat up and watch as the sky bursts in to life. The lights are back but brighter and stronger than they were before. The lights dance and twirl across the sky, floating in, out and around each other, it’s like they’re playing a game of celestial kiss-catch. I look to the igloos either side of us and it looks like our neighbours are asleep. I’m glad we downed that coffee otherwise we’d have missed the spectacle too. There really isn’t a way to adequately described what the Northern Lights look like. Finnish folklore believes that the lights are created by a mystical fox’s tail whipping up snow particles in to the night, and as the lights move across the sky, you can see why. For another couple of hours, we’re treated to the most marvellous display of colour and wonder, tucked up nice and snug in our motorised beds, if there’s life out there.
Although we only spent one night in the igloo, it was worth every penny because we saw the Northern Lights. Had the lights not come out for us, it would have been a whole lot of money for not very much. Having said that, the other 6 nights of our trip were spent in the Crazy Reindeer Hotel which was full of Nordic charm and comfort. We upgraded our room to one with a private sauna which came in handy between walks in the freezing cold.
You can also book a night in the ice hotel at Lainio Snow Village, should sleeping on a bed of ice tickle your fancy. We visited the village and ice sculptures for the evening but regretfully didn’t stay the night. I would definitely consider staying there on a future visit though, I can imagine it’d be a great experience.
It’s a few years now since our Lapland honeymoon but the magic of the trip and the memories made are still as strong as the day we got back. Whilst I am a big lover of tropical climates, there’s just something enthralling about being in sub-zero temperatures and getting all wrapped up and cosy to go for walks in the snow. Add that to the list of exhilarating excursions and the opportunity to see the magic of the Northern Lights and you’ve got yourself a holiday of a lifetime that you’ll never forget.
Date of trip: March 2013
Price paid: £1500.00pp for 7 nights Half Board at the Crazy Reindeer Hotel in a sauna room with flights from London Gatwick, booked through Inghams Ski Company. The price also includes the half day reindeer safari, half day huskie sleigh ride, half day snowmobile tour, the trip to Lainio Snow Village and the night in the glass igloo.
Points earned: 3000 for paying with the Virgin Atlantic Black American Express credit card.