One week in Luosto| Lapland (Finland)
As we impatiently counted down the days, we started to gather the things we might need including balaclavas, better quality thermal underwear, glove liners and thick socks.
Jean organised our trip through Kontiki and we were travelling with Swiss Air. We had our own check-in kiosk at the airport and were soon settled into our seats onboard. Landing in Lapland was super exciting with snow everywhere and it was already dark at 3.30pm. The next part of our journey was a two hour bus ride to the resort where we were staying. Even the bus ride was fun as our Kontiki rep Simone explained a few details about the resort and we could catch glimpses of the incredible countryside passing by as we headed further north.
We were dropped off directly at our cabin in Luosto which was really cosy and had everything we needed. We had booked a restaurant for the first night so we unpacked our ski gear and set off into the snow.
On the Sunday we spend the day getting to know our surroundings. There are only about 100 residents of Luosto so it’s small, and we went at a quiet time of the year so there weren’t many tourists either. We visited the local supermarket to stock up on a few things for the week, we collected our snow shoes and sledge and went for a walk around a beautiful frozen lake. Back at the cabin and we tried our private sauna and planned our activities for the week ahead.
The following morning we had booked a snowmobile safari. Neither of us had tried this activity before and it was incredible. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day (3 or 4 hours of proper light) and the scenery was just magnificent bathed in the colours of the sun as it rose and set on us. Our guide was very knowledgeable and stopped us a few times to show us interesting animal tracks and great places to take pictures. Halfway through the safari we stopped for a break where our guide made a fire and prepared tea and coffee for us with a delicious biscuit before we headed back.
Jean and I both took turns to drive the snow mobile and really loved it. It’s harder on the arms than it looks as you need a bit of strength to control the machine but we managed well. The driver has nice heated hand controls but my hands were pretty cold gripping onto the handles on the back even with two pairs of gloves on. We saw that they had a sledge which could be attached to the snow mobiles for people who couldn’t manage the vehicle themselves and there was also a smaller double trailer where a parent and child could sit together and be pulled by a snow mobile.
Tuesday's activity was wilderness skiing with Sebastian from Bliss Adventure. Jean and I have both tried skiing before but not recently, so fair to say we were a bit out of our comfort zone. The skis are fatter and short than normal skis with a cloth surface on the underside which helps grip the snow to go uphill. It took us a little while to get the hang of it but we really enjoyed ourselves. It’s really easy to manage slopes going upwards but we found going downhill a little daunting as it was hard to control speed and direction so we fell quite a lot. Fortunately the snow was deep around us and cushioned our fall. Sebastian was wonderful and full of knowledge about the forest and the wildlife living within it. We learned so much about the different variety of trees and their uses and even tried a bit of the sap from one of them. As we climbed higher, the view below started to emerge and it was incredible. We stopped to have a warm berry juice and take in the sight before we made our descent. As we zigzagged across the mountain there weren’t too many scary steep patches but we did take our skis off a couple of times to manage some of the more complicated patches.
As we approached our starting point we stopped for a drink at Lampivaara cafe. This is a lovely cosy spot which sell delicious doughnuts so well worth a visit. From there on it was an easy track back to the bus for our transfer back to the centre of the resort. A really great experience!
On Wednesday we decided to take the sort of snow bus up to the amethyst mine. The tickets were quite expensive but included the transfer, guided tour and a warm berry drink (we really loved that stuff). The bus was impressive with huge snow plough at the front and caterpillar tracks. On the way we stopped at the Lampivaara cafe again which gave us the chance to try another doughnut. The mine was great, perched on the top of a hill with great views and swirling snow. We were greeted by our guide who took us inside and gave us a drink before explaining a bit about the history of the mine and the kinds of amethysts they find there. From there we went down into the real mining area and were able to dig around to find our own (small) amethyst to take home. Jean took this very seriously and was banging away with his mallet sending shards of rock flying everywhere. We chose a couple of nice ones to take home before taking the bus back to the resort. We really loved this outing which was something completely different to anything we had done before.
Our outing on Thursday was one of my favourites - a snow mobile safari to a reindeer farm!! I had reorganised my glove situation so I was slightly more comfortable on the back of the snow mobile this time, and the route took us through beautiful forest scenery to the reindeer farm. We were greeted by our lovely guide who took us over the meet the reindeer. She explained that the ones we were about to meet were relatively used to people and we could stroke them while we were feeding them. She gave us each a bowl of lichen and pellets and they made a beeline for us when we entered the enclosure. We had such fun and were amazed at how friendly they were. The next part of the visit was a beautiful reindeer-pulled sleigh ride (watch the video) which was really magical and Jean and I cuddled up and enjoyed the scenery. When we got back, we went to a Kota (a traditional wooden hut) for a hot drink and biscuits where we had the chance to ask questions about the reindeer and life with them before we hopped back on our snowmobiles and headed back to Luosto.
That evening Jean has organised for us to try a traditional Finnish meal in a kita. The short walk to the kita was beautiful and we were soon installed around the fire in the hut where there was already salmon and vegetables cooking over the flames. At the end of the meal we were all invited to make our own pancakes which was lots of fun.
We woke up feeling a bit sad on Friday morning as it was our last full day in Luosto but we soon cheered up with we climbed aboard the bus to the husky farm to try some sledging. We were welcomed by Annoushka who explained how to manage the husky sledge and a bit about the dogs. Jean started off in the driving position before I took over and it was such fun if a bit harder than I imagined but lots of fun. The dogs pulling the sledges weren’t too friendly but we went to see some puppies afterwards who were really excited to see us all. After that we went for warm drink and a chat to warm up before hopping back on the bus.
The following morning, we were up early to get packed before the bus collected us to take us back to the airport. We were really impatient to see the children but sad to leave beautiful Lapland.
A few things we learned:
No surprise that it’s cold. We wrapped ourselves up well but we still found that out hands and feet were quickly cold when we weren’t moving. Be sure to invest in good gloves plus glove liners and thick socks and you'll need good shoes. We also bought some hand warmers and those were useful too. When you think you are well wrapped up, add another layer. The activities company gave us heavy snow suits, gloves, boots and helmets for the outings which were really necessary, even with our ski gear on underneath.
Obviously out on the excisions the toilet facilities are pretty basic with dry toilets in huts in a lot of places. Make sure you put some tissues and hand sanitiser in a pocket :-)
Be sure to drink a lot when you are out and about. It's really important to stay hydrated.
We were quite happy that there were lots of places without WiFi, including the cabin where we were staying and some of the restaurants. We rather enjoyed being a bit cut off but worth bearing in mind if that’s important to you.
All of the tours that we did were in English. We came across a couple of people who spoke French or German but English seemed to be the universal language for tourists.
The cost of meals and food etc wasn’t too different from Switzerland. The activities we booked weren’t cheap either, but Jean had booked three as part of my present and we had put some money aside to pay for the rest before we left.
We asked ourselves a lot whether the children would have enjoyed it. We saw plenty of children around but our personal conclusion was that ours are probably too young for this kind of holiday at the moment (although it would probably have been different if it was a very father Christmas/festive focussed trip). Our cabin was a 20minutes walk from the centre of Luosto so there was quite a lot of walking in the cold, some of the more adventurous activities wouldn’t have been suitable for a non-walker and it would have been very hard for us to keep Elio warm since he doesn’t move around much. We’ll have to take them back when they are a bit bigger.
Lapland is magical and one of the things that amazed us the most was the tranquility of the place. The thick snow insulates against noise and some of the remote places we visited were completely silent. When we were there at the start of January there were about 4 hours of daylight and we loved that too because it really gave us the chance to slow down. We settled into a little routine of doing some kind of activity in the morning then having lunch and going back to the cabin to read or watch a film together and we really needed that time to unwind and relax. We would love to go back with the children and hopefully see the aurora borealis which didn't make an appearance during our stay.
It’s just a spectacular destination!