Kevin Healy

Celebrating your birthday under the Northern Lights

Where does a Travel Agent with almost 30 years of travel experience travel to to celebrate turning 50? Somewhere extraordinary was the first thing that came to mind. Of course, the world is full of extraordinary places, so I was searching for somewhere “extra” extraordinary!

After throwing around a few ideas, I started thinking about what destination could really offer something like no other destination could. What sight would really be spectacular and something that I could share with my kids. Almost immediately I thought about the Northern Lights. I set about planning my adventure with friends of mine who own Scandinavian travel company 50 Degrees North who came up with the perfect itinerary.

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Six of us set off for Finland. We flew into Kittila, a small Finnish town 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Upon our arrival into the cute little airport, we were met with an outside air temperature of -18c! There was so much excitement though that we barely even noticed how cold it was and began our first transfer through the instant Winter Wonderland that surrounded us.

We spent our very first night sleeping under the stars in our very own glass igloo. Although the Northern Lights were not visible tonight, after a delicious typical Finnish meal, we lay about in the luxury of our cosy Igloos taking in the wonder of our surroundings.

The next day, we drove to Akaslompolo, an even more remote Finnish town. Here we rented the most incredible log cabin, which literally looked like something out of a storybook. It was truly a Winter Wonderland. We were all speechless the moment our driver turned the corner into our street and I almost had tears in my eyes at the thought of spending the next week here. It was just so spectacular.

We spent the next week taking in some of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The highlight for all of us would have to be the Husky Safari. We traveled by bus to a local Husky farm where we were met by very noisy and eager huskies ready for adventure. Each couple shared a team of 6 happy huskies who were leading our sled to “mush” our way through the most stunning snowy forest you could ever imagine.

In January, the daylight hours are roughly from 11.00am until 2.00pm so our 10-kilometre sled ride was spent watching stunning pink skies surrounding us as we mushed through the forest and over the frozen lakes. If you were the lucky one to be driving (everyone had an opportunity to do so), you would oversee your 6 very eager doggies! This is not always as easy as it looks! These huskies are extremely strong and eager to run. After 5 kilometers of mushing, we paid a visit to “Snow Village”, which is home to a stunning hotel built entirely from Ice and Snow. Here we enjoyed a delicious hot lunch followed by Blueberry Vodka served in “Ice Glasses” in the Ice Bar. The children were served warm berry juice in homemade wooden mugs.

We spent about an hour exploring the hotel rooms and surrounds of the hotel and the glorious views before meeting our team of huskies to go mushing back through the Winter Wonderland as the sun set giving us the most spectacular colours in the sky for our return to the farm via the snowy forest.

Words cannot describe the pure joy we all felt during this 4-hour adventure, but you could hear us all squealing with laughter from miles away! Our party consisted of my husband and I, our 2 children (aged 9 & 11 years) and my in-laws who are both in their 70’s so this is definitely suitable to all age groups!

In addition to our Husky Safari, we spent a day visiting a Reindeer Farm about an hour from where we were staying. Here we learned how the reindeers survive during the winter as well as hand-feeding them as they roamed free through the snowy fields. Again, another adventure was had as we hopped into sleds that were this time pulled by the reindeer through 1 kilometre of snowy forest. After heading back to the farm, we enjoyed a hot lunch followed by local Finnish sweets served by an enormous open fire outside. The children spent time tobogganing whilst we wandered through the small museum on site.

Other days were filled with cross-country skiing adventures, ice fishing adventures, shopping with the locals, eating local delicacies, cooking for ourselves and dining in local cafes, pubs and restaurants.

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Of course, the big drawcard for Finland is seeing the spectacular Northern Lights. Whilst they are of course spectacular, there is no guarantee that you will see this natural phenomenon, however The Arctic offers so much more as a destination and each day is more spectacular than the day before. It really is life waking up to an episode on Discovery Channel every day.

Thanks for the story, Annette - we are really pleased you had such a lovely birthday celebration with your lovely family!! We look forward to your next adventure.

You can do Annette's Finland tour as well - have a look at her itinerary.

Image credits: Annette Dal Sasso, Kevin Healy.