Sunday, February 19, 2012

Adventures in the Arctic Circle

This past weekend we ventured out of our comfort zone and into the sub-zero degree weather of the Finnish part of the Arctic Circle (Lapland) seeking Northern Lights and lots of outdoor time in the ample snow. We had a wonderful, wonderful time and were simply happy to be partaking in so many new experiences! First, we flew from Amsterdam to Helsinki on Finnair. We both loved the airline - admittedly, this awesome performance may have made us like them more - but the friendly service, comfortable economy seats, and tasty snack (curry chicken salad sandwich) in 100% compostable packaging really sealed the deal for us.

We arrived in Ivalo - the Northern-most airport in Finland (see pic below):
...and realized very quickly that despite packing enough clothes to never be wearing less than 7 layers of clothing at any given time, our woolen "winter" coats looked like summer cardigans next to the huge down parkas that everyone else was wearing. The warmth provided by their coats was only bolstered by the copious amounts of champagne that people were purchasing and drinking on our 10 am flight. This aside, we were told repeatedly during the course of the weekend that we chose a very warm weekend to be in Finland - a few days before it was -40 degrees (sidenote: -40 Celsius is the same as -40 Fahrenheit. Crazy, eh?).

Anyways, we made our way to our hotel ~50 km outside of Ivalo:
On the drive to the hotel - we enjoyed watching snow whirl across the road

...and were blown away by scenes like this.
At this hotel we would be staying in a glass igloo in the hopes of catching the Northern Lights in the laziest [and warmest?] way possible AND because we were pretty sure that we wouldn't hold up so well in the ice igloos which stay between -3 and -6 degrees Celsius. It was incredibly amusing to us when we arrived at the hotel and the person who worked there pronounced our last name perfectly, without any hesitation but stumbled over the names of the other couples that had arrived with us whose names had far less letters and syllables. We also realized this is why airport personnel always ask whether David is from Finland when they see his last name. While Finnish words seem lengthy to our unaccustomed eyes, the spoken language is incredibly beautiful and we really enjoyed just listening to people speak (it's not eavesdropping if you can't understand, right?).

snow igloos!

After enjoying the view from our glass igloo, we headed out for our first sauna experience in Finland. Saunas are a pretty integral part of life there - apparently there are ~2 million saunas in Finland and the population of the country is 5 million! The saunas at the hotel were divided by gender and mine was completely empty; while David's sauna had several people (including one female and a guy reading Lolita). After the saunas we ate dinner and headed back to our glass igloo to take in views of the night sky.

In order to try to see the Northern Lights, we set our phone alarms to go off every 45 minutes or so - and despite my best intentions, I was not quite as great at waking up when the alarms went off as David. The times I did wake up I was still half asleep and kept thinking I was seeing the Lights. Sadly, we did not see them - probably because the light from the full moon almost directly overhead drowned out any other lights. However, we woke up in the morning extremely excited and enthusiastic to go on a little trip with these guys:
Husky pups - the fence was only there to protect them from being kidnapped and taken home by  me!


  1. The pictures are beautiful! I wish we were there. May be we all can go again to see the Northern lights for real!

  2. We agree, this should be a future family trip! Kiki always takes about having a white Christmas, and I think it's 100% guaranteed in this part of the world. We would happily spend more time there, and I can think of at least one person who would insist that we do every single activity possible... and we would all be fortunate to have that encouragement!

  3. OMG! This just seems magical. I can't believe you guys stayed in an igloo. How AWESOME. I think everything about this trip seems ideal from the large amounts of champagne being consumed to the sauna to the snow to the beautiful dogs! AHH! It seems like a fairy-tale. I think we most certainly ought to plan a Christmas there in the near future. Also, I just love reading the blog. You guys are incredible writers and I feel like I am reading a novel. Thanks for sharing and taking the time to add the pictures and commentary. I don't get to talk to ya'll as much as I'd like (silly school and work) but I at least get to keep up with the adventures. This one is my favorite so far.

  4. I am incredibly jealous of the awesome adventure that you two got to have!! Can Jeff and I come crash the Nagarkatti-Gude White Christmas family trip? Nisha, please bring two husky pups to the wedding, Wolfgang would love the company. ;)