The Arctic Circle

A trip to the arctic circle, to be able to gaze up at the Arora Borealis (Northern Lights) has been one of those magical things that has intrigued me for a long time. The chances of seeing it however are mixed as it all depends on the solar flare activity at the time and having a clear sky. One of the best places in the world to see it is at Ice hotel in Karuna, another amazing place custom built from river ice every year.

 

“Out of the whole amazing trip the one thing that will stick in my mind forever will be the gohstly green image of the Arora shimering in a background of a million stars!”

Picture by Russell Marsh of the Northern Lights in Abisco Sweeden

 

Arctic Trip 2011

Having looked around at different companies to help sort this out I eventually settled on Weekend Alacarte as they offered all of the components I wanted and having spoken to them on the phone they were really friendly and very helpful.

Day 1

Early Start

Goodness early wake up this morning. 3.30 am!!! I hate that time of the day! It’s dark and it’s my favourite sleep time. Cab turned up at 4.30am and then we had the long but uneventful sleep deprived slog from South East London to Heathrow Airport.

   

Terminal 3 E – Arrived at last! Whiz through check in and sit down with a desperately needed coffee.

WRONG! Grrrrrrr.

Best made plans and all that.

I am stood here wondering why the queue is huge at 5.30 am when the rest of the airport is empty? There is a large bunch of people snaking it’s way around from the SAS check in desks and a bunch of SAS staff happily chatting away at the desks – nothing is moving? What’s wrong with this picture SAS senior people?

10 mins…..

15 mins…..?

Hmmmmm?

20 mins – just overheard a SAS staff member say that the computers were down and being fixed now. I asked why they did not announce that over the speaker system? Seems like that does not work until 6 am until “the special unintelligible voice” turns up for work. NICE planning ahead there.

There are some guys in the queue with some serious winter jackets on – they are going to cook on the plane!

OK were off and moving. To try and speed things up just used the online check in machines. Why can’t they make them simple to use? ….and why when they spit out the luggage tags don’t they come with idiot proof instructions on which bits to stick where? I am now stood here along with several other bemused people carrying tickets, passports  and 6 feet of luggage tags.

Rest of the check-in went ok. “Cold Land” (my kids term) here I come!

Uneventful flight other than the delay but a knock on at the other end.

Had a connecting flight from Stockholm up to Karuna in the Arctic Circle. Should have had an hour after landing before the next flight. No such luck.

We were due to fly out from Terminal 5 in Stockholm for the next part of the trip. Where was it? Right on the other side of the airport.  So there was a mad dash with several groups all running through the airport to try to get to the gate where the plane was already boarding!

After tearing cloths off to go through the security check I then had to race down the corridor half dressed while listening to my name announced over the speaker system telling me I was the last passenger and the gate was closing. (ohhh the humiliation) Tell me something I didn’t know – if your plane had not been late I would not be making your other plane late!

I love that look from your fellow passengers that you get when you stagger on to the plane and they close the door behind you. All up from here.

Flight was great although challenging knee space.

    Picture by Russell Marsh of the plane at Kiruna Airport Sweden

Watched everything below slowly go white. Amazing views.

Getting off the plane it was obvious this wasn’t “Kansas any more”. Goodness it was cold. I had my ski gear on that I use in the Alps and it was still chilly.

Picture by Russell Marsh at Kiruna Airport Sweden  Picture by Russell Marsh at Kiruna Airport Sweden 

Karuna is a nice little airport. Lots of snow there but not a lot of things near it.

We were picked up in the airport by Petri (our guide – sorted out by Weekend Alacarte) for the transfer to the ice hotel.

While traveling he told us that we had been very lucky with the weather and that 2 weeks earlier they had had some of the worst weather in decades. The area we were staying had been down as low as -43 degrees centigrade. (Industrial freezers don’t go that low!). (An interesting bit of trivia is that -40 Centigrade is exactly the same as -40 Fahrenheit. Both measurement systems meet at that point)

They then had a 4 day storm where so much snow had fallen that it had caused 3 separate avalanches in the mountains further north, completely blocking the railway track for over a week, as a result no one had been in or out of some of the towns further up north for  while.

Thank you sunny weather and a nice pleasant -8c.

On the way we tried to cross over one of the ice roads that went over one of the rivers.

Picture by Russell Marsh Ice Road In Kiruna Sweden

At this point Petri told us to unfasten our seat belts just as a precaution in case we went through the ice. (Through the ice!) He said that the chances were almost zero as the ice was well over a meter thick and would easily carry 10 cars but if anything did happen getting out of the truck fast would be really important.

I only needed to be told that once!

The view was amazing and I was looking forward to this little adventure, I had never driven over a river before – on the river itself. Unfortunately there was so much snow on it that even the four wheeled drive van with studded snow tyres could not get through it and so Petri decided that rather us risking getting stuck it was probably better to go the  long way round via the standard roads instead.

Sami Lunch

After dropping our bags at the ice hotel we were whisked away to a Sami “old school” cafe. Which was a tepee with a fire in the middle where we warmed up and had coffee and some great vegetable stew. Being a vegetarian I was expecting the whole eating experience to be difficult but being vegi turns out to be pretty simple out in Karuna simply because (I was told) they get so many of “us” going there to “hug trees and get close to nature”. Nice.

Picture by Russell Marsh Camp Fire

After a hearty warm meal it was back to the ice hotel to have a look around.

Ice Hotel

Checking in was a little long winded as the lady on reception first of all could not find the reservation and then tried to book us into the wrong rooms on the wrong nights. You book warm and cold rooms and its important you book the right ones in the right order given the activities you do. (Tip – book the cold room towards the end of the holiday. If you don’t sleep very well you don’t want to be tired doing any other activity. If it’s the last night then you can always sleep on the plane home).

Words can not explain how beautiful the Ice Hotel is and my photographs below certainly don’t do it justice.

Picture by Russell Marsh Ice Hotel Kiruna Sweden

The hotel it’s self is built new every year. This year it had over 60 rooms. The year before it had 90 but due to the recent global economic down turn they had gone for fewer rooms.

Every year they cut huge blocks of ice from the river and then store them in a custom built warehouse next to the hotel.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden      

This is then used to build the hotel the next year. The way they build the hotel is amazingly simple.  They have large metal frames that they use to form the corridors and basic rooms. They set the frames in place and pile snow on top. This is then compacted down to form a solid shape around the outside of the frame.

      Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

Once the snow is stable the frames are then lowered by about 40 cm and then just wheeled out leaving an ice corridor.

And then the magic happens. Solid blocks of river ice are then brought in to support, or be carved into different shapes to decorate the different rooms.

There are different types of rooms that you can stay in. Snow rooms which are very basic with just a bed. Ice suites which are a little bigger with some basic decoration with a bed table and chairs (all carved from ice of course).

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel Room

Then you have the art suites and the main corridor each of which have been designed and carved individually by different artists. These are absolutely beautiful mini melt-able works of art.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel Corridor   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel Star   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Basic Room

Finally there is a Royal Deluxe Suite which not only is hand carved but also has it’s own private electric key operated sliding door! Very James Bond.

All of the other rooms have basic cloth curtains that close to make them private.

The way the ice hotel works is that the rooms are all public from 10am until 6pm. Allowing tourists and guests to wander around and marvel at the rooms. After 6pm the rooms are then considered private like a normal hotel. The main doors are then locked to the public and guests have access through a private reception and entrance. After this time guests are only allowed in their own rooms and all of your clothes and personal items are stored in a private walk in locker within the main reception area.

Having walked around thee ice hotel for an hour in my normal ski gear it became very clear it was a bit colder than I was used to. My feet were freezing in my boots and thermal socks so we called in to the hotel “dressing area” and picked up some of the provided arctic weather clothing. This was a big set of bright blue thermal overalls and a pair of HUGE arctic boots.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

These were a cross between something a goth and Frankenstein would wear and dwarfed my own walking boots. They were amazing! The rest of the trip my feet were toasty and I advise any one to wear these if you go.

Along side the ice hotel is also what are classed as warm rooms. These are a series of small chalets that guests can book into just like any other hotel allowing you to use this as a base for any other trips planned.

       

I had booked in for two warm nights and one cold thinking that if I was going to have a bad nights sleep freezing my ass off it would be better at the end of the holiday rather than anywhere else. At least that way I would be alert for the other things I had planned. Turned out that was a good call and I would recommend this to anyone planning a trip.

My expectations on food had also been pretty low being a vegetarian. Vegetables are expensive to get that far north as everything has to be shipped in and it’s pretty much a fish and reindeer centre of excellence in the culinary scales.

We had been told when we checked in that there were two restaurants we could go to. One was a 15 min walk away further up the road and the other was just next to the hotel. We decided that the first night we would treck to the furthest one and try that first.

Food

So donning the new arctic gear we headed off up the road. By the time we set off the sun had gone down and it was snowing like crazy and freezing cold – the temperature plummeted below -12c. By the time we got there I was pretty cold and ready for something to eat. It was built from an old wooden school that had been converted into a restaurant but inside it could have been a trendy Restaurant in the middle of London!

      Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

The food was great! Had a nice goats cheese starter followed by lasagna and a great bottle of wine. The quality was totally unexpected and the staff were really friendly.

Could not have been better. Headed home full of warm carbs and ready for a good nights sleep.

Day 2

Huskies

Up early. Headed up to the nearby Ice Hotel Restaurant for breakfast. Again I was really pleasantly surprised. It was very modern and the food available ranged from standard cereals, pastries and juice through to hot bacon and eggs.

      

After a  great breakfast it was down to reception to wait for Beo (our new guide for the day) who picked us up in traditional, prompt Swedish style and whisked us away to the kennels to meet his dogs.

Other than a bit stinky they were not quite what I had expected. My TV vision of huskies are round faced fluffy dogs with curly bushy tails and blue eyes.

These I found out later were Siberian huskies. The ones we were going to be working with today were Alaskan Huskies. They looked a little like a “Heinz 57” but with the biggest paws I have ever seen on a small dog.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Husky Pup   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Dog Sled

Beo said that there were two types of dogs; ones bred to have pretty faces and ones bred to be able to run and pull. His dogs he was proud to say had been bred specifically as working dogs.

After harnessing up a six dog team and being given the fundamental pep talk on what to and not to do we were away. Goodness me those dogs are strong!

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

The sled set off with a jerk that nearly had me off from the start! By the time we headed off it had started snowing and the wind had picked up. Not that any of this bothered the dogs and according to my GPS they were pretty much running at a steady 12mph. The team followed Beo’s sled like it was attached with a rope, even when I lost him in parts of the forest the dogs new exactly where to go and stayed on his tracks. The views were amazing. Open wilderness, deep powder snow on both sides of the track and hardly any noise.  (Other than the freezing cold wind that is).

I was amazed at how thin the tracks were that we were on. At times only just wide enough for the dogs and the sled as it bounced along. At one point we ran head long into another group of sleds coming the other way. That was interesting!

There were about 40 dogs all barking, pointing in different directions and desperate to keep running. To stop the dogs getting tangled and so we could get around them Beo had me drive the dogs off the regular path and into the deep snow.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Road Block   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

Immediately it was clear that this was too tough for the dogs alone to pull my “chunky self” through the snow so I jumped off the sled skis to help push. Bad idea. I sank up to my hips in snow. It was pretty deep! I now had to waid through the snow and push the sled to get the dogs moving in the right direction. After 15 mins I had managed to maneuver past the other teams and get back on the main track. I was gasping like a fish out of water. Hard work being a husky and having to move a sled!

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

We set off back on the track, trees flying past at a pace. At one point we cut out across one of the frozen lakes, wind still howling, visibility was really bad and the snow was blowing horizontal. As we went we could see a small herd of rain deer huddled together by the lakes edge.

After a few more miles we pulled up at one of Beo’s small cabins in the woods and stopped for lunch.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

It’s at this point I became a little “sad” and in the middle of this beautiful landscape my technology craving kicked in and I took the opportunity to gain a few more Foursquare points by checking into his cabin. Not unsurprisingly I was the first person to check in there unfortunately I did not get any sort of great adventurer badge.

While I was fiddling with Technology Beo was getting down to sorting out lunch.  He quickly had a fire lit within a steal blackened hearth and we crammed into the small wooden cabin and sat down. The heat from the fire was great and just what was needed following the last 5 miles of cold wind and snow.

Vegetable soup and coffee were on the menu again and Beo laughed and told us that they bunched all of the vegetarians together on trips like this (there were 4 of us) as it just made it easier. Nice! A punnet of vegies. He said that keeping us together meant that they only had to worry about one type of meal, easier for everyone.

By the time we had finished eating the snow storm had blown past so Beo asked if we would like to take the opportunity to go snow shoeing in the woods. Always being up to try something new this sounded like a great idea and so we all put on the snow shoes and headed off into the woods. As we trekked Beo showed us different footprints and how to identify which animals had made them and how to work out how recently they had been there. Snow shoeing is actually good fun (something I never thought I would hear myself saying) although when we all tried to walk in fresh powder we discovered its actually pretty hard work. If you are too heavy as you take a step and you don’t balance your weight the shoes can sink down so there is a real technique to walking in them.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

After we had finished our little treck and Beo had fed the dogs it was time to head back to the kennels.

A great day out and really good fun. Being on the sled with the dogs and silently zipping through the trees feels like you are not intruding on nature but are more a part of it and you get to see much more wildlife. An excellent day!

Northern Lights

Tonight we are heading off to the Abisko to see the northern lights – fingers crossed that the weather we had for the dog sledding does not turn up tonight.

One of the best places to be able to see the northern lights is a at the Abisko sky station.

It’s about 100km North of Karuna in the mountains and so is high up away from all of the light pollution so you get a much better view.

We set off just as the sun was going down and the views of the sunset were incredible.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

As we headed off Petri the driver told us that the main industry in Karuna was the iron ore mine. Its the biggest and most sophisticated in the world and is the main employer in the area. As they have excavated the iron ore, a mountain of dirt has grown and huge hole in front of the main headquarters has now appeared as a result of the subsidence. We were told that the locals sarcastically call it Mordor from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – and I can see why.

As we got further into the mountains I was amazed by how many lakes we passed. I had not quite realised that there were so many of them. They are everywhere!

The drive was long but comfortable and after a stop of for a nice warm dinner we headed off to the bottom of the Abisko station.

Goodness me it was cold. -21c! The wind was blowing a gale and on top of all that it was snowing. Northern lights were not looking like they were going to be easy to spot tonight.

We all put our gear on and headed off to the station. I had on thermal underwear, ski salopettes, 3 ice breaker tops an arcteryx hoody, a North Face puffa jacket all finished off with arctic overalls and snow boots. (I looked like Bibendum from the Michelin adverts).

We got to the station chair lift. Originally I had thought for some bizarre reason that this would be like a ski  gondola. No. This was an “old school” 2 man chair lift. So to get everyone on they had to walk you into position and then stop the chair to get each pair sat down before they moved it on to the next. As we set off they then attached a strobe light to the chair which I was told was to make sure no none was left out there. The strobe light goes on at the bottom and is taken off when you get off at the top. That way all people on the chair can be accounted for.

And I can see why they needed the system. It was a 2 km trip up the mountain and because of people getting on and off it took us about 35 minutes. That was 35 mins sat in pitch blackness dangling on a chair lift 4 stories up at -21c with snow and wind….it was a long and pretty cold 35 mins! By the time we got to the top I was freezing cold even with all my layers.

When we eventually arrived at the top we were quickly helped off the chair lift and hurried into the viewing station.

Bliss! – It had a wood burning stove going and was exactly what the doctor ordered with hot chocolate on tap to help warm you up.

Once warm it was then back outside to see what we could see. By this time the clouds had cleared and you could see the stars – but no aurora borealis , which surprised me. I had thought that the aurora was always there but the reality is that it actually comes in waves mysteriously fading in and out.

It is stunningly beautiful and amazing to watch. The sky slowly changes from black to a ghostly green glow which fades in changes shape and then fades away.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

Luckily the staff up there were constantly watching the skies and when a new Aurora started to appear they let every one inside know so that you could stay out of the cold as much as possible.

We stayed up there for a couple of hours just watching in awe as the sky danced. It was all over too quickly and by about 10.30pm it was time to head back down.

The trip back down on the chair was just as cold but fortunately this time the wind was on our backs so a little more bearable. Once back at the minibus we all quickly loaded up and headed back to the Ice Hotel in Karuna. A very special night and one that I will remember for a long time.

Day 3

Snow Mobile Safari

After a very good nights sleep in our warm chalet room we were up early breakfasted and ready to go.

Our guide for the day was a Swedish Sami and a descendant from the indigenous people who roamed across all of Scandinavia herding reindeer and a keen snowmobile enthusiast.

   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Skidoo  

He told us that the every reindeer in Scandinavia was owned by someone and that there were no wild reindeer. They were all owned by the Sami people who herded them around the different regions and they then slaughtered and sold the meat and skins to make a living. Every year they would be rounded up into a single areas (4 to 5 thousand reindeer) and they would be sorted and branded. Each Sami owner had their own brand and this would be cut into the fur of the reindeer to identify them.

After a safety briefing on the snow mobiles we headed off into the hills.

Riding a snow mobile is great fun and a little like riding a motor cycle but more stable and comes with heated hand grips as standard.

When you are on well worn paths its pretty easy to handle but in deep snow you have to go pretty fast and effectively aquaplane over the snow otherwise the weight just sinks into the snow and that’s it you are stuck and going nowhere. I guess its a little like a jet ski that does not float.

As we went our guide pointed out a whole bunch of different wildlife and at one point we stopped turned off the engines and he pointed over to a tree that was about 50 meters away and told us that there was a Ptarmigan there. To me it looked just like a tree. Even when I got my camera out and zoomed right in it was only when it moved that I saw it a snow white bird the size of a big chicken. I decided that the guy must have telescopic vision!

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden

The landscape was just stunning, huge open vistas with a scattering of trees and mountains in the back ground. Sweden is a beautiful and amazing place. Almost twice the size of the UK with a total population of around 9 million. That’s almost the same number of people who live in London!

As we rode on a little further our guide told us that Richard Branson had put plans in place to build one of the Virgin Galactic space ports in Karuna.

This was a deal that had been done in conjunction with the Ice Hotel so that potential customers would have an experience of a life time. As part of the trip customers would stay in the Ice Hotel and then transfer to the Virgin Galactic space port to be flown up into space where they would also have the chance to see the aurora. How cool is that!

After a few more miles we eventually rounded a corner and stopped outside a small tent and unpacked ready for lunch. The tent was kitted out with all the “mod cons”. A few wooden benches with reindeer skins on and a hearth to cook on. Perfect.

     

Our guide expertly had a fire going within a couple of minutes and within 20 mins we were tucking into an impromptu vegi stir fry and a hot coffee.

There was something very calming about sitting there in front of a warm fire, full of food looking out onto the  still scenery. No noise, no rush, just peaceful serenity.

Ice Hotel Ice Bar

After a great day out on the snow mobiles it was time to hit the Ice Bar back at the hotel.

The whole bar was made of solid ice all meticulously and beautifully shaped and carved.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Bar

The dance floor, the chandelier, tables, chairs, bar and even the shot glasses were all made of ice!

A couple of drinks later I had that happy glow that only comes with alcohol and cold and tonight was the night we were due to stay in our cold suite.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Bar   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Bar   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Bar

We were told that at 6pm they were going to do a talk on how to survive the night. (not sure that is a good title for the talk).  So we and a bunch of others gathered outside of the Ice Bar entrance waiting to hear the warm words of wisdom.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

One of the Hotel staff then turned up and ran us through everything we needed to know. We were advised that the sleeping bags were very warm and that all we would need to wear is a thin single thermal base layer. Anything else and we would run the risk of sweating and that this would then freeze. Hmmmm my levels of confidence in my ability to get a good nights sleep were dropping with every word.

It was going to be an interesting night.

Ice Hotel – The Art Deco Room

We had chosen to stay in the Art Deco room, it was beautiful – It was a large spacious room with an icy table and chairs at one end and a bed at the other.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - ice Hotel

This room had been designed and created by Tomasz Czajkowski and Eryk Marks two creatives from Poland. They designed it as a statement to the fact that during the the two world wars and following the Russian occupation the Art Deco movement had never had the opportunity to flourish in Poland as it had done across the rest of Europe. This was their homage to a lost part of Polish history.

None of the rooms have lockable doors so its not possible to leave anything in the rooms themselves and we had been told that if we did it would freeze anyway so anything that went in the room, apart from our shoes would have to go into the sleeping bags with us.

Along with the Ice Room also came a large walk in storage locker in the main part of the Ice Hotel. This was a small lockable area where you could store all of your suit cases and clothes.

     

After dropping off all our gear and stripping down to thermal underwear and boots we grabbed our sleeping bags and legged it. When you only have your under wear on you certainly don’t want to stroll casually through those icy -8c corridors I can tell you. By the time we got to the room you could feel the cold starting to bite so the sleeping bags were quickly laid out, boots off  and I was in! The bag itself was huge and once I had been in it for five mins it was pretty warm. The problem was what to do with my face. I laid there in the dark for what must have been 20 mins with a toasty body and a positively freezing cold face. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep like this and then I had an idea. The bag had a draw string around the top part and so I climbed lower down inside and pulled it so tight that there was just a small hole for my nose to stick through. After that within ten mins I was sound asleep.

Day 4

Morning after the night before

We were woken up by one of the staff with a cup of warm lingonberry juice. It had been a steady -8c all night in our Ice Suite and I had slept like a baby surprisingly a good 8 hours sleep. We had asked for a 6am wake up but the reception had missed it and it was now 7am so we had to get ready a bit quicker than expected but it was not a problem.

After the warm drink in bed we quickly jumped out of the sleeping bags, put boots on and headed back out to the reception area to shower and get dressed.

The shower block was great, just like the showers in an exclusive spa. All tastefully kitted out but more importantly gallons of hot water. After a good breakfast we had enough time for one more look around the Ice Hotel at the amazing rooms.

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel   Picture by Russell Marsh in Kiruna Sweden - Ice Hotel

And that unfortunately was that.

We headed up to reception checked out and waited for our final guide to pick us up to head out to see if we could see a moose, our last big adventure before we flew home.

We drove for miles and saw some amazing scenery but no moose. Then as we rounded a corner we saw not moose but a small group of reindeer in the trees by the edge of the road. Its the closest we had been to reindeer the whole time we had been there. Very pretty animals with huge feet. They looked at us in a very uninterested way and just wondered further into the woods. After a short stop to watch them we drove on. Several more miles passed until eventually someone spotted a moose.

       

It was really hard to see as it was laid down in the snow and initially just looked like a large rock in the shadows. Its only when its head moved that you could really spot it. As we looked on we started to see more and more of them. All in all there were about 5 of them some stood further away and others laid down.

After a few more miles of driving and moose spotting we called in at a small Sami village where we grabbed coffee and lunch before heading back to the airport.

      

The drive back was direct with stunning views of lakes and snow swept roads and in the background the sounds of haunting Sami music that the driver had put on.

A great final memory to leave this unique landscape with before we flew home.

From the sophisticated and artistic craftsmanship we saw in the Ice Hotel, through to the amazing landscapes the whole trip was very special and I think uniquely beautiful.

A great trip I would absolutely recommend!

 

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Comments

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  2. The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth . As of 10 December 2015, it runs 66°33?46.0?

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