Visiting Svalbard was intense. At one point I found myself staring at the towering mountains across the fjord and feeling incredibly small. I can't really put the feeling into words but one thing is for sure: Svalbard is enchanting! Once visited, this place never leaves you and in all earnesty, Svalbard managed to make me want to live there.
When Vanessa of Magnetic North Travel proposed to me to go dog-sledding during my visit to Svalbard in June, I was slightly shocked for a second. Dog-sledding in June? Is the climate in Svalbard really that cold that there’s still snow on the ground in summer? I soon learned that it isn’t in fact that cold this time of year and that there’s such a thing as summer dog-sledding!
I would choose a hike in the mountains over a day in the office anytime but this morning, I’m not so sure. Is it even wise to climb a mountain when the view is so terrible and the weather that bad? I mean, we’re in polar bear territory and wouldn’t even be able to see one if there’d be one close by.
Svalbard. An Arctic archipelago halfway between the North Pole and the Norwegian mainland. 60% of the islands is covered by glaciers, and the landscape is a polar desert - you have to look closely to find any vegetation here. October to February is one long polar night while April to August is a never-ending day, thanks to the midnight sun.
To describe Svalbard in 3 words, I'd say barren, Arctic and just different from anything I've ever seen. Svalbard in the summer is brown rocks and tundra with patches of snow, and the blue, sometimes green-ish ocean. It's a very unique place and one that had made me fall in love with the Arctic all over again.
I cannot put this place into words other than that it's magical and that you should visit it at least once in your life!There also is the famous ice church where you can get married if you wish. I have to say that I never really had the urge to get married but standing in this church definitely made me turn into a hopeless romantic as well.
Could you imagine sleeping in a hotel made of ice one day? Or even getting married in an ice church? The Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lapland, offers you all of these and many more experiences and from this year onwards, even year round! We had the pleasure to take a look at the 27th Icehotel and what can I say? This place was as magical as they say!
Taking into consideration how expensive, difficult and exhausting it was to get to and from Kiruna, the last thing we wanted to do is spend even more money on expensive tours. And Kiruna offers a lot of those! If you're willing to spend $150+ on a tour that lasts 2 hours, Kiruna seems to be a good place to do so, but I can understand if that's not what you had in mind!
Planning a visit to Swedish Lapland? Here's my newest video from my Youtube channel, showing you all the things you can do and see in Kiruna when visiting! Oh and if you plan on going skiing, don't make Simon's mistake! He was genuinely afraid he had destroyed my camera, haha. Luckily it all went well and it lived to bring you the footage!
Well, we're not quite rid of the snow here in Tromso yet but I just wanted to use this day to say thanks to everyone tagging me on Instagram and using #snowintromso. I got to admire some stunning pictures of Tromso in the snow this winter! So I thought it might be nice to share my favourite pictures of yours and your favourite pictures of mine this winter!
We decided to visit Kiruna by bus and train in the naive assumption that it would be cheap. Considering our taxi fares and all the stress we had on our journey to and from Swedish Lapland, I certainly would rather spend a few bucks more and rent a car next time. But well, hindsight is 20/20. Don't make our mistakes on your trip to the Arctic Circle!
Driving on snow and ice sounds scary and I can totally understand if your immediate reaction to the title of this post was "hell no"! But bear with me for a second cause driving in winter in the Arctic isn't all just blizzards and avalanches. Especially not on the "highways" or well, main roads in Norway and Sweden.
If you're following my Youtube channel, you already know that the sun has made its way back to the Arctic which means my favourite part of winter has only just begun! Yes that's right! While some parts of Europe already prepare for spring, we here in Northern Norway prepare for the best part of winter - the bright one! As you may know, Northern Norway experiences polar night between late November and late January which means that during this time, we don't get any sunlight at all and only 2 hours of daylight each day.
Believe or not though, living in and exploring the Arctic isn't always as breath-takingly gorgeous as Instagram and Pinterest might make us believe. Sometimes it can be really messy. Like basically every time there's a snowstorm (she says while the wind is howling through her apartment at 69° North). Snowstorms can be simple - like when they're messing up your hair, smudging your glasses, disrupt an otherwise scenic view or lead to flight delays. Or they can be dramatic - like that day when Simon and I got stuck on top of a mountain in a snowstorm.
Simon was so kind to explain all and everything about polar night not long ago and while he described a few of the many things you can do here during the dark months as a tourist, I'd like to write about how we who actually live here cope with polar night. Now first things first, those who have grown up with polar night, like Simon, don't really have any issues with this time.
In case you read my post on the Northern Lights and you want to come to Tromso or just anywhere north of the Arctic Circle, you need to know something first. These regions experience something that is known as polar night during the winter. So what is polar night? Due to the angle of the earth relative to the sun, the sun will not rise above the horizon at all during the winter months in the region north of the Arctic Circle.
It's 8.30am on a Saturday morning at the harbour of Tromso in Northern Norway. The town is still asleep and there's no one around except for a few tourists on a boat named "Aurora Explorer" who capture mountain Tromstalstind at sunrise. It is a gorgeous sight indeed - a snowcapped mountain illuminated by pink sunrays.
So you finally decided to visit Tromso to see the Northern Lights. Let me explain you what the Northern Lights are, give you some tips on when and where to see them and share some mythology surrounding it. The Northern Lights are aptly named, because you can only see them in the northern parts of the world, that is the Arctic Circle and above...
Finland is the only Nordic country I haven't visited yet. Shocking, right? Well while I'm still dreaming of playing in the snow of Finnish Lapland one day, Mae-Gene from The Wandering Suitcase has already spent a vacation in a Finnish winter wonderland and is here today to tell you all about winter activities beside watching the Northern Lights!
Through my research and talks to various Greenlanders, I found out so much about the country, its people and culture, that goes far beyond all those other "10 interesting things about Greenland" posts. I mean: "Greenland isn't green but Iceland is - how crazy" - seriously?!!
Not long ago, the Norwegian airline Wideroe announced a new direct connection from Tromsø and Oslo to the Lofoten Islands, starting in spring 2017. This is good news not only for tourists but also for those like me who live up north. You see, Northern Norway is an incredibly big area. The region consists of three counties: Nordland, Troms and Finnmark.
If you just want to visit the main sights and museums in town and go on a guided Northern Lights safari at night, you really don't need to rent a car. However if you'd like to get outside of town and explore the beauty of Northern Norway at its best, I can highly recommend you to rent a car!
While I would advise you to bring at least a camera, really any camera will do, if you plan on seeing and shooting the Northern Lights in the Arctic - the pure fact that it is possible to capture the lights with a phone shows that you don't really need a DSLR (even though I really really want to have one...)!
The Lofoten Islands are truly the most fascinating place in Norway and although I do realize that the whole country is beautiful as hell, this archipelago in the Arctic is pretty much Norway in a nutshell. It's got everything! Fjords, mountains, farmland and even beaches that attract surfers from all over the world. Can you believe that?
Autumn in the Arctic is a special time. Not only because the leaves turn orange and make for beautiful snapshots but first and foremost because the sun is back! After 4 months with constant daylight, it's so good to finally being able to experience sunsets again!
Whenever I see the big cruise ships arriving to Tromsø during summer, I ask myself how on earth the tourists can have a good time here. Why? Because all they do during their 8-12 hours they have in the city, is going sightseeing by bus, shooting the Arctic Cathedral and Tromsø Cathedral, and going shopping for souvenirs.
Special treat for you: I have the boyfriend over to tell you all about what life as a reindeer herder in the Arctic is like. Simon tells you everything you never knew about what reindeers herders do in the 8 different Sami seasons!
Ever wondered what life in the Arctic was like? How often can you see the Northern Lights? What is Polar Night? And does Midnight Sun mean that you can see the sun every day at midnight? Click through to read the answers!
So yes, I guess I did a great deal of exploring Northern Norway already. Still, there are a couple of places on my Northern Norway bucket list that I haven't visited yet and while I also have pretty much the whole South of the country left to discover too, I figure that it's best if I check the places "nearby" first.
The cabin itself also had stories to tell with a portrait of Simon's great-great-grandfather hanging in the living room and well, no running water during winter as the pipes freeze and of course, no bathroom - an outhouse instead.