Lapland Express Christmas Special

12/22/2013 - 12/27/2013
by kuba10


DAY 1-2 - travel by bus from Uppsala to Kiruna, Kiruna, dog sledding, snowmobiling, hiking Luossavaara (724 metres)

DAY 3 - Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Rensjön - Sami family with reindeers, travel to Abisko National Park

DAY 4 - Abisko National Park - hiking in tundra, northern lights, sauna

DAY 5-6 - Abisko National Park - ice climbing, travel by bus from Abisko to Uppsala, stop at the Arctic Circle

DAY 1-2 - travel by bus from Uppsala to Kiruna, Kiruna, dog sledding, snowmobiling, hiking Luossavaara (724 metres)

My studies in Sweden was the time when my traveller's passion started. We tried to do as many trips as possible. Uppsala - the city where I was studying was a good location for exploring Scandinavia.

At the end of my studies I had the opportunity to participate in trip to Lapland made by Scanbalt Experience ( with special price for Erasmus students. I didn't hesitate for a second. The opportunity to explore winter Lapland and chance to see northern lights was very tempting.

The journey from Uppsala to the capital of Swedish Lapland Kiruna took us around 18 hours by bus. It was interesting to observe how snow level was gradually increasing while heading north.

When we arrived to Kiruna, it was like magic winter land.

It was the end of December and we were inside the polar circle, so we could experience the polar night. In Lapland it does not mean that it is completely dark, but the sun never rise above the horizon. I would compare the amount of light to the time shortly before sunrise, but it lasts all day long.

Right after breakfast we went dogsledding. They took us to the heart of tundra. It was cold as hell, but frozen nature around was amazing. We stopped by Sami tents where hot refreshment was waiting for us. It was fun to observe how dogs were excited and they were raring to run in countryside.

After refreshment in the tent we changed with the other group and went snowmobiling. It was fun and very easy to ride a snowmobile. Snowmobiling in frozen paradise was great experience. Even though I almost didn't feel my fingers because of the cold wind.

When we came back from the tour, we were walking around Kiruna a little bit. It is small city that grew on iron mines. Iron ore from Kiruna is high-quality and it is worldwide known. It is also source of income and employment for Kiruna and surrounding region.

We visited the most popular pre-1950 building in Sweden - Kiruna Church. This popular sight of Kiruna was built in 1912 and is one of Sweden's largest wooden buildings.

Since it was our first night in Lapland, we were hoping to see northern lights. To have the best view we hiked to the top of Luossavaara (724 metres) - the mountain in Kiruna. However we were not lucky with the weather, because it was cloudy night.

DAY 3 - Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Rensjön - Sami family with reindeers, travel to Abisko National Park

It was time to leave Kiruna behind and continue towards Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi. There are not many better ways how to spend Christmas Day than this one.

Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi is worldwide known and it is full of amazing ice sculptures. They offer just simple rooms (well you are still in Icehotel, so it is not that simple) or special rooms made by different artists. It is very prestigious for artist to get the opportunity to make the decoration of bedroom. There is also bar with glasses made of ice and ice chapel for marrying couples.

The hotel has been rebuilt each year from December to April and it is constructed from snow and ice blocks taken from nearby Torne River. The temperature inside the hotel is around -5 °C.

On the way to Abisko National Park we visited a Sami reindeer herding family in the small village Rensjön. They still live in a traditional Sami way in close relationship with their reindeers. The Sami people of Arctic Europe have lived and worked in an area that stretches over the northern parts of the regions now known as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula. They have inhabited the northern arctic and sub-arctic regions. For traditional, environmental and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved for only Sami people in some regions of the Nordic countries.

We were able to feed and pet their reindeers. Then we gathered in Sami kåta (tent) around fire and tasted their traditional soup.

When we finally reached Abisko National Park it was dinner time. We had great Christmas dinner consisted of several courses. It was a little morbid to have reindeer meat for Christmas dinner, but I have to say that it was really delicious. After dinner we gathered around open fire in Sami tent and give each other small presents. The only thing that could make this day better would have been northern lights, but we had to wait one more day.


DAY 4 - Abisko National Park - hiking in tundra, northern lights, sauna

The plan for this day was the tour to the fjords and stop in Norwegian town Narvik. Unfortunately the road to Narvik was closed due to huge amount of snow, so we just took the bus and went around Abisko National Park to see the surrounding nature.

When we came back we decided to do some hiking. There is a small circuit around the place we stayed that leads to long-distance trail Kungsleden. It was getting darker and darker, so we had to use our head lamps. It was fun to walk in wild tundra with anyone around being able to see only as far as our head lamps shine.

Traditional wooden-heated sauna was the best regeneration after our hike. Couple of minutes before our meeting for sauna the northern lights finally appeared and it was just breath-taking. To see northern lights (this appearance was quite strong) day after Christmas was unforgettable experience. Taking sauna with view of northern lights outside and opportunity to take a dip in the ice-cold lake was unbeatable.

The only negative side was that our cameras and our photographic skills were not strong enough to capture the northern lights, so all pictures are blurred. Sorry for that.

DAY 5-6 - Abisko National Park - ice climbing, travel by bus from Abisko to Uppsala, stop at the Arctic Circle

We spent the last day in Abisko trying to learn ice climbing. I was very excited and also a little scared, but it was great experience. We tried to climb beautiful ice fall with the help of experienced guide. It was very tough, my hands hurt a lot, but I would love to try it again.

It was proper goodbye to ice and snow kingdom of Lapland. On the way back we stopped at the Arctic Circle and headed back to Uppsala full of great memories.

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