Cold climes, warm lodges, the Northern Lights – Swedish Lapland offers up the ultimate winter experience, at -30 degrees!
Words: MANU KASHYAP
The big chill began when I accepted an invitation from Fredrik, one of my friends in the travel trade. Fredrik has wilderness camps in Swedish Lapland, and he promised six of us guinea pigs from different parts of the world an experience in the middle of nowhere.
My gut told me I needed some time in the middle of nowhere.
Now everything around me is covered in white powder, and this is how it will be for the next five days. Swedish Lapland (also written as Lappland) is the Arctic part of Sweden, home to the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun phenomenon. Here, nature awaits at her rawest and most beautiful.
Svante is waiting for me outside the airport. He tells me the most important thing in this winter world is the wire to charge your car. I’m thinking the most important thing for me might be to not freeze. Back in India, I thought I had togged myself up rather well for winter; here, I’m quickly discovering I was wrong. So wrong. I can hardly stand in this weather.
We drive down the highway, in awe of this stark beauty. The dark blue sky and perfectly round moon are holding up a signboard that reads ‘WELCOME!’. I resolve to disconnect from the world as I’ve known it and allow this place to work its magic.We pick up one more crazy – also underdressed-for-the-weather –friend, Jan, and then rent the right gear to survive the coming days. Much warmer, we retreat to Sorbyn, a small, cozy boutique lodge, where Cecilia welcomes us with a glass of white wine and a roaring blaze in the fireplace. We are joined by our other snow buddies –Christina and Pepe from Spain, Klara from the Czech Republic, and Karin from Sweden –for a meal of local delights.
Sorbyn is delightful. In Sweden, tradition and culture are important, and a love of nature, too. Scandinavian design is almost like modern art, with straight lines, elegant colours and a minimalist aesthetic. In both simple lodges and luxury hotels, space is utilised optimally and effortlessly.
WINTER HAS COME
We wake to a bright, crisp morning. The lake next to the lodge is frozen. Each and every molecule seems to be covered in snow. This is truly my immersion into the white.
Today is the day we meet our snowmobiles. Jonas, our guide and new friend, talks us through the instructions. It’s time to face my fears and make this machine my friend; it’s the best and only way to get around the frozen forest. The only way to get to the extraordinary Aurora Safari Camp, the first glamping site in the world for arctic winter stays. Fredrik and Jonas (who has years of experience in Kenya) have put together this one-of-its-kind project, inspired by African bush camps.
Aurora Safari Camp is about you and nature in the remotest place you might ever set foot in. It’s about the Northern Lights playing across a clear, dark sky at a latitude of 66o North. The Milky Way and star-gazing take no effort. And almost-perpetual winter here offers a choice of months – December and January are dark and mysterious, February has more snow and full daylight; March is the start of spring-winter, still crisp with lots of snow and bright, sunny days.
The camp is situated by the Rane River, deep in the forest, away from artificial lights, electric grids and road networks. The amazing cone-shaped lavvu tents are modelled on the temporary dwellings of the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, and these, with red and white colours bringing in a touch of Kenya, are super comfortable with warm beds, and heaters placed in the middle to keep you toasty warm in extreme weather conditions.
Erik welcomes us with hot tea and coffee around an open fire. We tuck into lunch prepared by Jeremiah, warmed by glasses of wine. Fredrik points out the different ways we can explore the area – on snowshoes, fat bikes, kick sleds or Nordic skis. Although bears usually hibernate in this season, the chances of spotting moose, roe deer and reindeer in the forest around us are very high; red fox and lots of birds too. We strap on our snowshoes, essential for forays into deep snow and to stay stable on ice. It’s not as easy as it seems, but I slowly get used to them.
By evening, Hannah drops into camp with 12 huskies. As the sun sets, we enjoy dog sledding, the animals obeying the simple commands given by the young girl. I feel the wind and ice buffet my face; I allow myself to be totally absorbed into this roller-coaster experience.
I also immerse myself in the sauna, sited on a float frozen into the river. Clean and warm, the sauna is the perfect place from which to stare at the stars and the aurora, ideal for friends or for solo introspection. It is a place from which to breathe in the solitude.