I saw glass igloos as a form of accommodations in Finland and could not stop thinking about staying in one myself and perhaps seeing the Northern Lights just by looking up. It seemed crazy at the time; I hate being cold. But when the opportunity presented itself, I could not pass it up. My husband and I booked our flights to Lapland and began shopping for clothing and accessories to wear during the adventure that would keep us warm.
Items we bought and were thankful to have once we arrived in Finland:
1) Hand warming packs. I got these at the grocery store of all places. They are called HotHands, and I used them every day when we did our outside activities.
2) Balaclava, not to be confused with the Greek dessert Baklava. I also got a neck gaiter that I wore all the time, but my husband found the balaclava to work just fine on its own.
3) Long underwear or base layers. I was able to find long workout tights for my husband from under armour. I was good with my yoga and running tights from Athleta. The one item we both purchased was 1/2 zip long sleeve shirts from REI; the brand Smartwool has two different thickness of merino wool fabrics. We opted for their Merino 250 to provide extra warmth. Having the shirt come up around our necks helped when we were out in colder temperatures.
4) Glove liners and high-quality gloves. The glove liners helped to wick sweat away from our bodies, especially important when we were snowshoeing. The gloves we have included a zippered compartment that fits one or two hand-warming packs on the top of the hand. This way, the pouch did not slide around in the glove while we were trekking around in the snow.
We were able to enjoy many activities while in Finland. We took advantage of the copious amounts of snow to try adventures that are inaccessible in the Southern United States.
1) Dog-sledding = SO MUCH FUN!!! I highly suggest you book a dog-sledding excursion if you have the chance. I thought it would take a lot of effort to make a whole team of dogs pull a sled in the correct direction. The hardest part was standing on the back of the sled and slowing them down. The dogs loved to run and pull the sled. They have mastered going to the bathroom while running. We stopped halfway through the tour to switch drivers, and the dogs rolled around in the snow for two minutes to cool off and then began barking again, ready to run. I have never witnessed such a speedy recovery.
2) Northern Light viewing = a must-do activity. I was not sure what to expect when I saw this activity listed on our schedule. We went out after dinner, not because the sun went down, but rather the cycle of the magnetic fields. We went to a spot on a small hill, and our guide built a fire and pointed out where we would see the Northern Lights if they were going to appear. I sat and waited until my eyes noticed this pale green color in the sky. I wasn't sure if the Northern Lights would come slow or quickly, like a firework in the air. My husband's camera, which was taking pictures on a long exposure, was seeing much more than our eyes. But then the green color got stronger and stronger as we just waited and watched this beautiful dance of flares and ribbons against the black background.
3) Snowmobiling = somewhat heated, always a plus. Being the driver for this activity had many advantages. The handles on the snowmobile were heated, so your hands stayed plenty warm. You also had the windshield to look through and block the wind and snow at times. The passenger was able to take in all the sights a little more. Unlike the dog-sled excursion, this one did not allow you to talk to your partner, so it felt a little longer because you only heard the engine of the snowmobile. My husband enjoyed this activity much more than I did. His need for speed was satisfied with this journey.
We felt prepared for this trip in terms of staying warm and being physically fit to enjoy all the winter activities. The first day there, we walked up the sledding hill twenty times just because it was so fun to ride a sled back down.
There were a few things that we were not prepared for when visiting Finland in the winter.
1) Being surrounded by darkness for 18 hours or more a day is hard on your body. The first couple of days, we were just tired after lunch because when you looked out the window, it was dark, pitch-black dark. Once our bodies got used to the timezone changes, it was hard to sit in the hotel room. So we went snowshoeing after lunch for an hour or two with headlights. We followed a path around the resort, but it was strange only to be able to see as far as your light reached.
2) Northern Finland is not known as a culinary destination. We were served reindeer in every way possible. As sausage, meatballs, on pizza, a filet, ground, and sauteed. You name it; we ate it when it came to reindeer. Our bodies were thrown off by eating that much of the same thing and not having a change with some white meat. We also only had one choice for lunch and dinner. My husband does not eat seafood, so when fish was on the lunch menu, he ate soup.
3) The Scandinavian counties rank as the happiest in the world. I am not sure how this ranking system works. We found most people to be very straight-forward, and it did not always seem as though they wanted us there. I know happiness and friendliness are not the same things. But I thought there might be more of a correlation than what we encountered. I was slightly offended when someone laughed at us for being cold. I honestly believe that if the same person visited me in the summer, they would be just as miserable with the heat and humidity. I felt very proud to travel and experience a place very outside my comfort zone in many ways. I want to think that I would feel compassion for a visitor to my home, coming from a location that is the opposite of my own.
Overall the trip was a blast, and I would suggest it to anyone looking for winter adventure. Having read my points of view, I hope that new visitors will be aware of the culture that they might encounter when visiting different locations.
As always, if you have any questions or would like more details about our trip to Finland in the winter, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to hear from you and know about your experience there.