Welcome to today’s “Where Is…?” – an interview series where I get to speak to fellow wanderers about where they are in the world. This week I am chatting to Annika Ziehen, who describes herself as a girl with messy hair, a thirsty heart, and the desire to be anywhere but home.
After living in New York and South Africa for many years, she is now back in Hamburg, working as a freelance photo producer and a blogger at the Midnight Blue Elephant. I love following along with her humorous travel stories, so be sure to check out her blog! Today she chats to me about her magical trip to Lapland! (I wonder if she met Santa???)
Welcome Annika, can you tell us a little more about your trip to Finland…
I was invited to Kakslauttanen, the original glass igloo resort in Finish Lapland. That is basically at the Arctic Circle – something I had to tell myself frequently because who goes to the Artic Circle?!?!
Kakslauttanen is half an hour drive from Ivalo, which you can reach with a quick flight from Helsinki where I was travelling through. At this time of the year, there is only one daily flight which fill up quickly and are not cheap.
Lapland is very remote, so just like island prices you will always pay a bit extra here because everything is a long way. While Kakslauttanen is not quite a luxury resort it is definitely not available on a backpackers budget. Especially the glass igloos are disproportionally expensive for what you get but then again, if you see Northern Lights while lying in bed I think it is worth it and oh so romantic!
What was the weather like during your stay?
April is shoulder season. For Lapland, that means the last chance to see Northern Lights and get some snow before thawing begins. We had about -5 degrees and quite a bit of mud and rain already but also some stunning sunny days.
May is their so called ‘ugly season’ as everything turns from white to brown before it gets green again. I thought April was the perfect compromise – still cold, still snow but with all the benefits of shoulder season. Also, it does get about -40 in winter and the sun doesn’t come over the horizon. While that promises pink skies and landscapes, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to handle that much cold.
Where did you stay?
Kakslauttanen offers different accommodation types for different budgets. The glass igloos are quite pricey but definitely worth the splurge if you get lucky and see thevNorthern Lights (I unfortunately didn’t while I slept in the igloo, there is just no guarantee). They are honestly not the most comfortable ‘rooms’ as they only have beds and a tiny bathroom. I much preferred my cabin that came with its own sauna and fireplace as well as the comfiest bed ever.
If you can afford it go for a Kelo-Glass Igloo which is half igloo half cabin. And if you are really hardcore you can always spend a night in a proper snow igloo too. Either way, the best part is transporting your luggage on a sled to your room!
What activities did you get up to? What was your highlight?
I had a pretty full program with huskie and reindeer sledding, exploring Santa’s house, visiting their horse stables, making my very own fire and drinking lots of hot chocolate. My favourite in addition to one tiny glimpse at a Northern Light were the huskies. Such beautiful animals and so fun to ride with them. A highlight was definitely to have one of the husky puppies named after me because well, it didn’t have a name and I suggested that Annika would suit her.
But even when there are no puppies you will have an amazing time – the landscape is unbelievable, even for someone like me who is usually such a warm weather person. I completely fell in love with the snow and felt like Elsa most of the time.
Can you recommend any other fun things to do?
One is pretty far off the beaten track already if you’ve made it to Kakslauttanen. The organised activities they offer are great, but even just walking on your own in this landscape is incredible. Everything is incredibly quiet and beautiful; at night I would just put my parka over my pj’s and walk around my hut to look for Northern Lights and felt like the only person in the world.
I also really took to the Finnish tradition of sauna-ing. Kakslauttanen offers traditional smoke saunas but even just the regular one in my cabin was a great way to unwind. The one thing I would probably skip next time is visiting Santa’s house. That was quite touristy (while they swear this is where he really lives) so unless you come with children, I would forgo that and rather go for a hike.
Any other travel tips you would like to add for anyone considering a visit to Lapland?
Lapland is a ‘country’ that has more reindeer than people and is home to the Samis, the indigenous people of Lapland with a fascinating heritage. They are also known as reindeer herders and I met one of them during our reindeer ride. It was an amazing chance to get a glimpse into their somewhat traditional life. I also got answers to all my questions about their history and the challenges that modern day life brings for them i.e. how to find a girlfriend if you are the only person in a 30km radius?
Where are you off to next?
I am off to Bali next for a bit of eat, pray, love. Also, lots of writing, doing yoga and diving. I will also take a quick trip to Jakarta to attend the PATA conference for some new business. But then back underwater – I can’t wait, I am having serious diving withdrawal at the moment and can think of very little else.
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
My all time favourite destination is Marrakech. While I first hated it, I just fell in love with it at some point and now I miss it frequently. I go at least once a year. There is just something wonderfully magical, chaotic and utterly charming about the city.
If you’re a travel blogger and would like to take part in this guest interview series, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org