Monday, 28 October 2013

Harriniva- 9km Husky Safari


I thought Harriniva had it all. Great accommodation, great location and great activities.

The pine clad rooms were really warm and cosy. It was hard to believe it was minus 20 outside. If it wasn't for the temperature gauge outside our room window I would never have known.

The food was excellent. Tried my first ever reindeer steak. Wow

I also loved the calm, unspoilt surroundings. It amazed me to see guests leave the hotel and head off across the frozen river on cross country skies to follow the miles of well marked trails that criss-cross Finnish Lapland.

That's the beauty of Harriniva you can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the hotel after your day's activities, have a few drinks in the bar, go for a sauna, book treatments at the wellness centre or head out for yet more wilderness.

Personally, the perfect ending to a perfect day was sitting in the outside Jacuzzi at 9pm with a view over the frozen Muonio River that runs between Finnish and Swedish Lapland. Very civilised!

As soon as we arrived at the Hotel we could already hear the huskies. As we walked through the entrance of the Arctic Dog Sled Centre I couldn't believe how many huskies there were. The dogs are really playful, some sat quietly in the snow enjoying the sun, but as soon as they got their harness on they were ready to go.

We got an introduction on how to handle the dogs, and how to drive the dog sled. I was a bit worried at first about forgetting the hand signs because I was so excited, but the guides were really good and made sure everyone was happy and understood before we set off. I decided to sit in the sled for the first half, and I have to say I couldn't stop laughing. As soon as my colleague took her foot off the break, we were off. I never expected the dogs to go as fast as they did. It was brilliant. As we headed out over the frozen lakes the dogs ran at a good pace, although some were keen to head off track into the deeper snow.

We stopped half way which allowed the dogs to have a rest, but as some were ready for the off we had to keep our feet firmly on the breaks. It was my colleagues turn to sit in the sled and me to drive. I enjoyed this just as much, and it took only a few minutes to feel confident that I could handle the sled. I particularly enjoyed the twisting trails through the snowy forest which require concentration and a foot ready near or on the brake to slow the dogs into the sharper turns. 

Loved it!


(Images: Antti Pietikainen)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Snowmobiling at Harriniva

It was a beautiful sunny day, with clear ice-blue skies. A perfect day to go snowmobiling across snow covered frozen lakes, and wintery forests. This was my first visit to Finnish Lapland, and I couldn't believe how calm and unspoiled the surroundings were. Snowmobiling was a brilliant way to get to see the scenery. I decided to swap half way to ride as a passenger. Personally I enjoyed this better, as I was able to sit back and take everything in (still holding on tight!).
Snowmobiling at sunset (Antti Pietikainen)
Our guide was fantastic, and would occasionally stop to point out some of the wildlife tracks en-route. However, my favourite part has to be when we stopped off at Santa's cabin. Unfortunately he wasn't home, it was April and Santa was apparently sunning himself in the Bahamas!
Snowmobile adventure (Antti Pietikainen)
I had never driven a snowmobile, or been a passenger on one before. But I have to say, it was a truly amazing experience, and one I will never forget.
Taking a break (Antti Pietikainen)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

My favourite things...

Having been lucky enough to see most of our winter destinations (perk of the job you may say) choosing a favourite destination is almost impossible. There is one place however that has really stood out for me recently.  In March 2013 I visited the Lulea region of Swedish Lapland and I am not sure whether I have ever returned home more excited about a destination.
Huskies (Pier Rynback)
The activities on offer provide some truly remarkable experiences including one of the most wonderful dog sledding trips I have come across anywhere. There are opportunities to witness some of Lapland’s wonders such as the frozen pack ice and the ever mesmerising Northern Lights. You can stay in unique places such as the awe inspiring Tree Hotel and the Aurora Camp – ‘glamping’ at its best - and there’s exceptionally comfortable accommodation at Sorbyn and Pine Bay Lodge. It was however the people that live and work there that were, above all else, the reason for my enthusiasm.
Sorbyn Lodge (Graeme Richardson)
Lulea is a region where small independent and family run businesses with huge amounts of integrity have come together to work to promote their region and create incredible memories for any visitors. They are passionate and enthusiastic, dedicated to their region and so keen to show you all that it has to offer.  This is tourism on a smaller scale than many areas and fuelled by a community spirit amongst the providers that I doubt that I will encounter again. The region has so much to offer in terms of accommodation, landscape and experiences that create life long memories but the people that provide all of these things are the key to the success. 
Sunset Lulea (GraemeRichardson)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My Favourite Destination

After joining The White Circle I went out to Luosto to assist our clients as the company’s representative accompanying a flight we had chartered over February half term.  I stayed in the small village of Luosto at the Tunturi Hotel and to this day it was one of the best weeks of my life.  A real highlight of my job is to visit as many of the destinations as possible and spend one or two days cramming as much as possible into my time. However, it was at Luosto that I really began to appreciate the slower pace of life, the friendly local people and the immense joy in the simplest of activities you may never even have considered.

I believe that there really is something for everyone at Luosto from enjoying the swimming pool, sauna and spa facilities at the Tunturi Hotel to curling up of a roaring log fire in a private log cabin to standing on the frozen lake behind the hotel, camera at the ready waiting for the spectacular Aurora Borealis.  

There are a number of downhill ski slopes in the village which are perfect for beginners or those (like me!) who are just a bit rusty and want to get some practice in.  It is at night that the ski slopes really come into their own… one of the things we advise clients who are keen on seeing the Northern Lights is to be outside and as active as possible (to keep warm).  I defy anyone to spend a few hours running up and sledging down the floodlit slopes to tell me they are cold! It is so much fun and really takes everyone back to their childhood. 

There’s the added advantage to night time sledging in that if the Northern Lights do appear you are far more likely to see them than those sitting in the hotel restaurant hoping to catch a glimpse out of the window. Nevertheless, my advice is to get away from the slopes if the lights do appear. The lake behind the hotel (approx. 400 metres from the ski slopes) is a much darker place and will enhance the view considerably.

The activities at Luosto are varied in duration and type and there really is something for everyone. If you just want to sample an activity they normally last from an hour (perfect for young kids or anybody who just wants a taster)  and go up to five or six hour snowmobile safaris  (a whole day in some cases).  A snowmobile trip to the only working Amethyst mine in Europe was one of my highlights and I still have the gem I dug up there sitting proudly on my desk in the office. 

So, it is with great confidence that I can say Luosto is my favourite destination*

*the above statement may be slightly biased as Amy witnessed her ultimate Aurora display during her first night at Luosto which coincidentally interrupted a fantastic sledging race.