Amanda Bernstein is in awe of the natural beauty of winter inside the Arctic Circle
For intrepid travellers bold enough to venture into ice cold temperatures to visit the remote environment of the Arctic Winter, you can now fly directly from London. Landing mid-morning in Kittila, Lapland, I am struck by the vast white snowscape set against the backdrop of the dark stark sky. I meet my burly, welcoming driver who takes the one-hour scenic drive to the Harriniva resort, where I will be staying for a three-day snow safari. On arrival, I am shown to my log cabin, which although compact, has its own sauna, making the perfect sanctuary for me to thaw out and warm my freezing body after my initial exposure to the sub zero temperature.
The following morning I rise early and join the other guests staying at the lodge to enjoy a swift breakfast before being introduced to my cheerful guide Rachel, complete with rosy cheeks and the clearest completion I have ever seen, who will be taking us on our first activity of husky sledding. The dogs are howling and barking with excitement as four of them are tethered to my sleigh, and Rachel shows me how to operate the brake with my feet. As the frenzied dogs start charging forward along the snow path, I steer them by leaning my body into the corners, feeling totally at-one with the magnificent winter landscape around me. I feel a sense of exhilaration as the huskies pull me along at speed, and my heart is pounding. These magnificent huskies have been bread for generations for sledding in this harsh climate – and they seem to love it.
The next day we prepare for the snowmobile safari, which is ideal for those who enjoy the thrill of activities such as quad-biking and jet-skiing. It is a unique experience riding on a powerful 600cc machine, with its skis at the front for steering and its tracks at the rear for traction in the snow. I travel at speed following my guide through the Lappish countryside, slowing down cautiously as I steer through the bleak forest, and then feeling a rush of adrenaline as I accelerate into the vast open snowy white landscape.
Later that afternoon, we experience the thrill of cross-country skiing with the narrow skis allowing me to easily manoeuvre along the snow paths. A completely different experience compared with downhill skiing, it is a perfect taster for those who have never skied before, as it is less intimidating with no slopes, but I have to work hard with my ski poles to propel myself forward.
After another day of adventure, we chill out in the freezing night around a bonfire to share our experiences with other guests at the resort, wrapped tightly with blankets and wearing copious amounts of layered clothing. The guides join us to explain about the local indigenous Sami people, who have shared the land for centuries with reindeer, on whom they are totally reliant not only for their food, but also for transport, clothing, tooling (from their gigantic horns which are shed annually). We are fascinated to hear that the Sami language has created 52 words to describe all the different types of snow they encounter in Lapland.
On my last night in the Artic, I get to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis phenomenon. I gaze at the mesmerising huge mist of technicolor clouds moving across the sky, and I am fascinated to discover that the intensity of the lights depends on numerous diverse factors, including light pollution, atmospheric haze, horizon angle and the intensity of the aurora itself. And luck is on my side. With all the elements needed to chase this natural light show, I am able to see for myself the miracle of the lights – the Northern Lights.
For more information on Harriniva visit www.harriniva.fi