It is true, I am not gonna lie: if you decide to go to the North of Sweden for a trip, it is probably going to be about seeing the Northern Lights. Because they are beautiful in pictures and who wouldn’t want to experience that in reality? But, as it turns out, the Northern Lights find you, you can’t hunt them down. More often than not, you will be unlucky and see them from pictures other people you know took of the lights. Because lady luck smiled at them and not you. That is life, I guess.
But, stay positive, because I got you covered – here is a list of activities you can do during a trip like this, that might make you feel that it was worth it, even without the appearance of the Northern Lights:
1. Take a walking tour through the city you visited. I personally went to Kiruna, it is a beautiful quaint city, nothing more than a central square and a few beautiful colorful houses. Visit the Kiruna Catholic church, it is truly beautiful. Don’t be afraid to put on a ski gear and play in the snow like there is no tomorrow, too!
2. Pick a hotel/hostel with a Sauna. Go in there with your friends. It is such a Nordic thing to do! Bonus points if you are brave enough to roll in the snow right after your body temperature has risen (yes, we did roll in the snow – and it feels AMAZING).
3. Have a little picnic outside, yes, in the cold. Nothing funnier than trying to make yourself a sandwich, whilst wearing thick gloves, trust me.
4. Treat yourself to a lavish breakfast in the hotel after a day of sleeping in. We went on the trip with some of my classmates and it was right after a big exam, so we needed some rest, too.
5. Go to the ICE HOTEL. It is the coolest thing I have seen! They build it every year, out of sheer ice and snow. This year was the ice hotel re-incarnation number 27. For 200 SEK (student price), you get to check out all the suited, that are filled with ice sculptures and amazing masterpieces of art. If you have the money and the bravery, you can also book the suites and stay there for a night or more (note: the temperature in the ice hotel is always below zero degrees Celsius!).
6. Cook with your friends. Our hostel was equipped with a large communal kitchen, where we made the ultimate student food – pasta (bolognese) and pizza (from scratch). Yum.
7. Go out for a drink, or, better yet, go BOWLING. What a blast from the past!
8. Book a “survival trip”. Don’t spend the whole time in the town of Kiruna. Most of the activities include a pick-up from your hotel. We booked to go live in a Sapmi (the indigenous people of the North) hut, for 2 days. There, we had a taste of what Sami life is like – we chopped wood to heat up our hut, gathered water from the river, by cracking the ice and went ice fishing!
9. Do all kinds of winter sports – take a snowshoe hike, go cross-country skiing and sledging down a hill. Drive a snowmobile or even go dog sledging! There is also a ski center in Kiruna, but we did not have time for skiing, too.
10. Taste a different kind of cuisine. For my pallet, coming from the Mediterranean, some types of meat were unknown. In Lappland, though, the animals that are in abundance are not cows and chickens, I would suppose, hence they eat differently. I got to taste moose soup and an elk stew, reindeer and boar steak. Needless to say I was mind-blown by the taste and the consistency of these delicacies. The Northerners sure know how to eat well.
11. Don’t give up on hoping to catch the Northern lights. We kept going hunting for them every night, anyway, even if the forecast was not promising. Worst things worse, you will have gone on another hiking tour with your friends and probably your camera. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experiment with photography. After all, you will have probably gone in the woods or somewhere dark to look for the Northern lights, which is the perfect setting to play with long exposure photography and create “light paintings”, like the one we created and is the featured image for this blog post.
All in all, I guess the take-home message from this blog is to enjoy yourself, no matter what. There are plenty of things for one to do in a Winter destination trip, if they keep their mind open and have a great group of friends with them. I know I wouldn’t have had half the fun, without this group of people besides me, even if I had succeeded in seeing the Northern lights. Because without good company, who would you have to share the view with?
‘Till the next time!
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Photo credits Larsen Vornholz, Caroline Driescher, Barbara Dzino, Laura Köcher, Aman Sakhuja, Debby van Steenderen.
P.S. This post is dedicated to my wonderful friends and classmates that accompanied me on this trip. May we have such a nice time together again sometime! :*