Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wanderlust Part I. - Kakslauttanen, Finland

This is real life (in the Finnish Laplands).
I don't think there could be a more perfect day for sharing these vacation photos than today, a snow day here in NYC. (For the record, snow days are decidedly less awesome when you work from home..!) Since I am a photography-monster (I took nearly 1,000 pictures!) and our trip included 2 distinct parts, I'm going to break this up into 2 posts and hopefully share some wanderlusty images combined with helpful tips. Here goes!!

So to answer your (likely) first question, Dr. H and I decided to travel to northern Finland, in search of the Northern Lights, because of a picture I saw on Pinterest. I sh*t you not. I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights so when I saw THIS picture and was like "I want to go to there" Dr. H said "looks cool" and off I went to plan a trip of winter adventures and magical sky seeking! We settled on the Finnish Laplands, and Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort because of the great accommodations and activities options. The hotel arranged everything we did for us (which was clutch since we were doing our own planning). Our flights were through Helsinki (southern Finland) to Ivalo and then the hotel transferred us to their arctic wonderland about 30 minutes further north. We were there for 3 full days and nights... Ok enough talking... picture time!

There is never a guarantee that you'll see them, but we did,
on night one right outside the main lodge of our hotel!

We stayed in the Traditional House, an almost century old structure. We built
our own fires each day and everything. It was pretty badass.

I cannot describe to you how magical seeing the Aurora is. It reminds me of that
scene in Sleeping Beauty when the 3 fairies are fighting "pink! blue!" and flashes
of colorful light are filling the sky. They move and "dance" They are magic.

For our day 1 activity we did a Husky Safari. It was INSANELY awesome!
Dr. H and I had our own sled and took turns driving these beautiful beasts.

Daylight lasts only a few hours this far north this time of year. We took a
walk around 2pm and that's when I snapped this picture. 

Another mid-afternoon sunset shot, because OMG gorgeous right!?

Night time snowmobiling anyone!? Notice how bundled we all are...
it was about -25 degrees outside (pre-windchill!!!) 

During the day you can see how the heavy snow transforms the trees into
"snow monsters" which bend in all sorts of funky directions

That time we went for a "1 km walk" which ended up being about 3 km, all uphill

The week after Christmas, we put the reindeer back to work.

Into the woods...

This photo was taken after about 5 minutes of stunning Northern Lights views.
My camera wouldn't cooperate and I gave up on getting a picture and just soaked
in the beauty. And then I decided to try one more time to get a snap...

REALLY glad that I did.

Back on the snowmobiles by day which was really freakin amazing.
(check out the GoPro placement on the front of Dr. H's helmet)

I cannot even handle this. This is REAL!

The reindeer farm was unexpectedly awesome. 


It is so cold here that the snowflakes fall to earth in perfect fractal form.

A few important things worth sharing:
- There are lots places in the world where you can go to see the Northern Lights. For a list of top locations, click HERE.
- The best time to try to see the Northern Lights in most regions is between late Sept and late March
- Plan in advance (duh): While we did stay at the resort that inspired our trip, the igloos were sold out by the time we made our inquiry (barely 60 days in advance, so I can't be too upset). Since the Northern Lights have a "season", the hotels with optimal viewing book up early. Plan accordingly!
- Pack right: We did not mess around when packing for this trip. We took the forecasted temperatures to heart and purchased new boots, gloves and plenty of "base layer" clothing (We wore Uniqlo HeatTech, cheaper than the EMS-ish/sports brands and SO SO good.) I left the cute clothes and high heels at home. I was packed perfectly and though it was FREEZING, I rarely felt cold.
- Dare to be adventurous: I was pretty nervous about snowmobiling until I tried it. Dr. H doesn't love dogs, except, as it turns out, when they're huskies pulling him in a sled. A trip like this is wild through and through, so once you get there, be brave. 
- Expect the worst (hope for the best): For weeks leading up to the trip, we reminded ourselves that we might not see the Northern Lights and became determined not to let this ruin our trip. Just like any trip that centers around an activity/weather you can't guarantee, go into it prepared to make do without. That way when the sky lights up green on your very first night, your joy and amazement will be immeasurable. 

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