Sami people are the indigenous population in Lapland, or the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. They have practiced reindeer husbandry for 1000 years. Their calendar year begins in May when reindeer calves are born and follows seven seasons that parallel a reindeer’s life. Reindeer roam free in the forests during the summer months and naturally reform herds during mating season, when they are counted and tagged. The Sami people use every part of the reindeer. They use the meat for nutrition, the animal itself for carrying loads, the fur for clothing, and the antlers for knives and tools. Reindeers’ hooves are quite large to help distribute their body weight, forming a snowshoe of sorts. We visited a Sami reindeer farm for a reindeer sleigh ride to Santa’s Village. Our reindeer was Timo, a white reindeer. When a white reindeer is born, it is said to bring good luck for the next year.
Santa’s Village has a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as two very important stops: Santa’s office where you can meet Santa and Santa’s Main Post Office. After waiting in line for nearly an hour, we snapped a picture with the big man only to learn that we had to pay 45 euros for ONE PICTURE. So instead, we screen grabbed the crappy one below. We then followed the Arctic Circle line to Santa’s Main Post Office to mail my niece and nephew an official postcard.
We also learned how to mush during a husky sled ride. Most husky sled dogs are Alaskan huskies. They are trained starting at one year old and will work until around age ten. The lead dogs are the most focused and most valuable. They typically follow commands easily. The back two dogs are the muscle power and can physically pull the sled on their own. The middle dogs are usually the youngest and least experienced. The huskies work during the winter, up to 50 kilometers daily equaling around 2000 kilometers in a given season. Their ideal running temperature is -20 degrees Celsius. In the summer, they rest and play. There were 170 huskies at the place we visited.
One night we went ice floating in a lake. Our lobster suites kept us as warm as possible in the freezing water. It was an odd sensation and after about twenty minutes we were ready to warm up around the fire. We had hot berry juice, a local specialty, and gingerbread cookies.
Another night we went on an Aurora Trail expedition into the dark forests. We had sausages and gingerbread cookies around a fire while waiting for the glorious lights to appear. We saw a flicker of the northern lights on our walk up to our camp spot, but unfortunately no more showed the rest of the time.
For most of our stay, we stayed in town but we splurged one night for a glass igloo. The glass igloos are on the same property as the snow hotel, literally a hotel made completely of snow and ice. We toured the hotel before having a fancy salmon dinner at Kota Restaurant. It snowed all day, so we figured we had very little chance of seeing the Northern Lights that night. We awoke around midnight to find a perfectly clear sky full of stars. But still no Northern Lights.
Although we missed the Aurora which was a little disheartening, we know that we have been incredibly lucky with weather on pretty much every other trip. And we still had a blast with all of the activities in the Finnish Lapland. And just in case you thought traveling was all glorious, the below picture was taken during a twelve hour overnight layover in Helsinki. We typically take red eye flights or have layovers at night to save both time and money. It can be exhausting to say the least!