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I went to Finland last February with my boyfriend. Our flights to Finland were a bit chaotic but we made it in the end. We arrived at night so we couldn’t really see anything when we arrived but our guides met us at the airport and took us to the hotel, they were very friendly. Hotel Inarin Kultahovi is situated on the edge of a river which at this time of year is frozen over and is a very warm and welcoming place to stay. Apparently at this time the lake could hold the weight of a car but i wont be testing that theory!
The next morning we were so keen to explore that we rushed outside without our thermal suits on, Inari is amazing everything was covered in glistening snow and the air was really clear; it is a very small village with only a petrol station, two gift shops, a pub, museum and hotel, so it is very quiet. The pub has a sign outside which tells you the temperature and throughout our stay it remained about -7 degrees in the day.
On our first day we went to collect our outdoor equipment and clothing to keep us warm when taking part in the many activities (we had access to the snow shoes, toboggans, and skis etc throughout the week). Our first activity was cross country skiing, our guides gave us tuition at first but then we could have a go by ourselves. In the afternoon we had some free time.
Day two we went out for a explore on snow shoes. We saw a lot of wild reindeer and our guides told us all about the wildlife in that area. In the afternoon we went to visit a local reindeer farm, where we were able to feed the reindeer, we then went to have a drink in a kota (a traditional Sami wooden house, with a fire in the middle) In the kota we had a traditional drink called Glogi (hot berry juice) in a carved wooden cup. The owners of this farm told us a lot about the area and their ways of life and also explain to us about the importance of the reindeer for food, clothing and income through crafts made from their antlers. At the end of our visit we had a reindeer driving test on a sleigh.
Day three: A visit to the siida museum to learn about the local area and the local people and an afternoon snowmobile excursion. We all had chance to drive the snowmobiles across the frozen lakes and on our journey we saw reindeer and stopped to visit a wilderness church. The ride across the frozen lake was very bumpy due to the ridges in the ice, but it was great fun. We also stopped at a kota on an island in the middle of the lake, inside the fire kept us really warm and our guides had brought sausages, cheese and bread as well as biscuits and glogi which we cooked on the open fire. We were then shown how local people drill into the ice to catch fish before we drove back over the frozen lakes at sunset.
Each night we sat out by the lake hoping to catch the northern lights, but tonight was the first night we had seen them, they are quite eerie but amazing to watch, everyone at the hotel gathered to watch them, it is an unbelievable experience.
Day four: This morning we went tobogganing near our hotel and in the afternoon we started our trip to the wilderness lodge by snowmobile. On our journey we met a local man who had set nets under the ice to catch fish and he explained how he did this; we watched as he pulled his fish out of the water. After sunset we arrived at the wilderness hut on a small island, it was the only building for miles and it had no electricity. Here we had a nice dinner to warm us up with water straight from the lake to drink. That evening our guide went to the frozen lake to collect water for our sauna, he had lit the path ways by candles, and it looked amazing. The only downside to our night in the middle of nowhere was the arctic toilet! ; Basically at port-a-loo outside with barely any light! But that was all part of the adventure. In the evening we sat around the warm fire talking to our guide about the snowmobile competitions that they have on this lake, for example: in the springtime local people race to see how far they can drive on the ice by snowmobile before falling in!
Day five: we returned to our hotel in the morning. Then we drove to a local husky farm. The afternoon here was amazing we all went out on our sleighs for an hour and a half with six huskies pulling us along through the woodland. I sat in the sleigh to begin with reindeer skin to keep me warm and my boyfriend drove the sleigh. The dogs were so excited they were just dying to run off, they were so friendly too! We stopped half way around the course to take photos and change driver, but the huskies were yelping and barking at us because they wanted to keep going. Now it was my turn to drive the sleigh, this involved putting my whole body weight onto some iron teeth to push them into the ice in order to stop the sleigh, which isn’t easy! And leaning from side to side to turn corners, we had to hold on tight because lots of people from our group went flying off the sleighs around the bends, but no one got hurt! This was definitely the highlight of our trip. When we got back to the farm, we sat in a kota and had warm berry juice whilst listening to the owner of the farm tell us all about the huskies.
Day six: We spent the morning souvenir shopping before heading to the airport.
Finland has to be one of the best holidays I have been on. The guides were brilliant; they taught us so much about the local area and really looked after us. The activities were amazing and well planned and the food we ate was all local produce, for example: the food on the hotel menu included fish from the lake behind us. This trip combined all of the things I look for in a holiday: adventure, culture, relaxation and wildlife. A once in a lifetime experience!
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