The best way to make the most of winter is to fully embrace it. Like no staying indoors, waiting for it to pass but instead, grabbing those snow boots, warm coats and jackets and just heading out exploring. There’s just so much fun to be had in winter and it’s easily become one of my favourite seasons to travel.
And I’m not even talking about travel to warm places to escape winter… I’m talking about heading deep into the coldest places out there to make the most of winter at its peak.
Somehow, last year, we ended up having no real wintry trips planned (not even sure why now) and so as soon as the new year came around, a trip somewhere cold was the first thing on my mind.
I’ll cover all about the full details of how the trip was organised, what to pack and other things in another post (will link to it here once that post is up) but for now, I just had to share with you EVERYTHING we got up to.
After a direct flight from London to Finnish Lapland (Ivalo Airport), we found ourselves in a world covered in a blanket of snow and -27C temperatures to boot.
That first day though, we had no grand plans – we would follow a leisurely ride to our cabins with nothing but evening drinks and dinner, eager to get started bright and early the next day.
Except, when we checked into Muotka Wilderness Lodge (our home for the first couple of nights), the lure of the sauna rooms (the cabins we got had their own personal saunas in them) were something of a distraction and so post-dinner, the rest of the evening was spent indulging in the most wintry of Finnish traditions (sauna to heat up, swiftly followed by jumping into the thick snow to cool off).
Suffice to say, I went to bed that evening exhausted from all the running back and forth (and perhaps slightly from over-eating at dinner).
The next morning, we got up bright and early to head out and explore Finnish Lapland on snowmobiles.
By the way, you never have to worry about being too cold here.
I will sort out a packing list in another post but essentially, except for a few things, pack the same stuff you would if you were to visit anywhere else during winter (coats, gloves, hats…etc).
See, when you arrive, you will get a full-body suit which is super toasty and even boots, socks, gloves, hats and lots more extra if you need them.
They understand that these things can be one-off purchase for visitors, especially if it’s never cold in the part of the world you’re visiting from so they have you covered. And this isn’t just specific to Muotka Wilderness Lodge, this is for pretty much all the places you visit in Lapland (we even had this in Swedish Lapland).
Snowmobiling was such an amazing way to get out and about exploring places that would perhaps have been inaccessible to us, or indeed have taken forever to get to trudging in the snow.
It was just such a brilliant way to spend the morning, especially as things started to get brighter and brighter as we made our way through the forest, hills and countryside.
For the lack of physical exercise involved in snowmobiling, the hunger that arrived that afternoon took me somewhat by surprise!
Thankfully, we stopped off at Kaunispään Huippu Oyrestaurant up at the top of the hill for a rather surprisingly filling salmon stew (creamy sauce, with potatoes – so delicious).
Stuffed and without room for dessert (trust me, I was surprised by this too), we hopped back onto our snowmobiles and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon zipping through the Finnish countryside, before making our way back to our hotel.
Back at Muotka Wilderness Lodge, we decided to indulge in that Finnish sauna tradition again, albeit, differently this time by taking a dip into a freezing cold river (literally – they have to break the ice off the river hole every morning before anyone gets in).
There’s something so weird yet so invigorating about heating yourself up in a sauna swiftly followed by cooling down rapidly! It’s supposed to be good for your skin too which might explain why it tingles so much when you go back into the sauna after that cold dip in the river.
If you don’t have a cabin with a sauna when you’re here, there’s also a huge smoke sauna all guests can use here (you can even block off certain amounts of time for yourself) and it’s the best way to do it as it’s right next to said freezing river.
Thorough invigorated, and surprisingly still very warm (despite multiple river dips), we headed off to get dinner and drinks before going out again in the night, this time in search of the Northern Lights.
Typically, there’s a zero-tolerance policy on drink driving up here (like don’t even have a sip or you could get in trouble) but it was absolutely fine as you don’t have to drive, you have sleighs powered by snowmobile (driven by the hotel staff) to get you out into the wilderness so all you have to do is kick back and relax.
Alas, on this night, thanks to snowfall, the Northern Lights refused to come out to play (or were out playing behind the clouds) which was fine as we warmed up in a cabin (there was also a fireplace outdoors to sit next to just in case they did come out, sipped on warm teas and berry juice chatting away to our fellow travellers.
After a couple of hours out here, we hopped back into our sleighs and made our way back to the hotel.
Hoping the Northern Lights would eventually make an appearance – I did get up at like 3am to check just in case (which is when I took that photo above) but still nothing, even though by this point, the clouds had completely cleared up.
Until they did though, Lapland was proving to be just the visual delight my winter holiday plans needed. 😀