Top 5 winter trips under the dazzling Arctic skies
The Arctic region of northen Europe, crossing the countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland, quite rightly has cemented itself as a bucketlist destination for aurora hunters, nature lovers, outdoor activity enthusiasts and gastronauts. With island archipelagos with precipitous mountain peaks stretching along the Norwegian coastlines, sheltered bays with colourful fisherman cottages and atmospheric harbourfronts, meandering river valleys, snow-covered forests and the vast, white tundra, it is easy to see why. This is a destination in which nature and people live in harmony, each protecting the land for generations to come and shining a light on the quality of its offering and products.
The Arctic Route, a series of public transport routes seamlessly connecting the three Nordic countries continues to strengthen. Each journey is available daily, enabling Sunvil's destination experts to carefully-craft the perfect break for our travellers. Below we have highlighted five of our favourite combinations for inspiration.
Rovaniemi to Lulea
Though this route twins Finland’s Lapland capital with Sweden’s, that’s where the similarities end.
At a latitude of 66.5° north, Rovaniemi, the 'official residence of Santa Claus, sits almost exactly on the Arctic Circle and requires little in the way of an introduction. Most of our guests choose to stay on the outskirts of the city to enjoy the blackened skies and the quietness of place. Glass igloos offer the perfect vantage point to view the mystical waves of the Aurora in private and in the warmth and comfort of your bedroom - romantic and fun in equal measure. Your neighbours are the forests and frozen lakes; the perfect winter playground.
Two hours drive south of Rovaniemi, you'll reach the Finland/Sweden border on the Bothnian Sea. We recommend breaking your journey in Haparanda from where it is possible to participate in an ice breaker tour across the frozen sea - you can even float on the chilled waters (in a floatation suit), the perfect holiday picture. There is a fantastic museum in the town which provides insight on border-life and also the growth of the split town over the years.
An hour westward, brings you to the city of Lulea - now connected to London Heathrow by a twice-weekly direct flight service. A diverse and contrasting destination, Lulea encapsulates the best of a winter break in Swedish Lapland. A frozen coastline with small island communities offers a wonderful arena for snowmobile and ice breaker tours. Whereas, inland extensive forests, wild rivers and undulating snow-covered hills attract wildlife - moose and reindeer - and offer a pristine environment for dog-sled and snow shoe tours.
Tromso to Narvik, Abisko and Kiruna
This route has been a firm favourite of Sunvil travellers for many a year. Not only does it highlight the diversity of the region - mountain peaks, icy fjords, fishing communities plus the vast wilderness of the land of the reindeer and the king of the forests, Moose, but it also takes place wholly under the Aurora Oval offering travellers the optimum conditions for a sighting of this natural phenomenon.
To witness the Aurora Borealis is one of nature's miracles and an experience guaranteed to give you goose bumps. The illumination of the northern lights occurs when charged solar particles collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere. Green bursts of light are most commonly witnessed; these are collisions with oxygen atoms 100-200km above the surface of the Earth. Blue colours are collisions with nitrogen atoms at the same distance, whilst oxygen atoms glow red when excited by the solar particles.
Stops are included in Narvik and Abisko, to allow travellers to reap the benefits of slow travel. We also recommend to book-end the journey with a stay at the world-famous ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, where you will sleep in temperatures between -5 and -8 degrees centigrade.
Lofoten Islands to Kiruna
The Lofoten archipelago is the jewel in northern Norway's crown. The scenery is second-to-none and its appeal during the winter months ranges from quiet and peaceful in December and January to almost buzzing in late February to April at the height of the fishing season. At this time of year you'll see cod drying on racks on wharfs and outside the numerous colourful rorbu. Photographers and nature lovers will be in their element, just be sure to pack enough memory cards!
From the capital of the Lofoten, Svolvaer, your journey will wind across the island chain and onto the Norwegian mainland. At Narvik, you'll climb high into the Swedish Mountains onboard the Arctic Train, travelling the route of Norway's northernmost railway. It is a 43km trip that affords wondrous views throughout and stops en-route to offer time to appreciate the scene and to capture the scene on camera.
Kiruna is the final destiation, which at 200km north of the Arctic Circle is the northernmost town in Sweden. It is one of the best places to experience the natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis as well as for experiencing snowmobile, dog-sled and reindeer tours.
Tromso to Kirkenes
High above the Arctic Circle, the north of Norway is one of the most magical winter destinations in the world. Here the snow covers the landscape, mountain peaks dominate the scene and the sparking blue fjords are beguilingly illuminated by the low winter sun.
To make the most of an unforgettable journey beyond the Arctic Circle, we recommend combining time in Tromso with the frontier town of Kirkenes – just 15km from the Russian border. Highlights of this route not only include the destinations themselves but the modes of transportation and the activities on offer.
Read more on our Bewitched by Northern Norway seven-night itinerary.
Tromso to Alta
Synonymous with sightings of the Aurora Borealis, the evocative coastal city of Tromso quite-rightly deserves its place as one of the most-popular destinations in northern Norway. Backed by lofty mountains and with historic heart, Tromso has everything a winter visitor desires and more: picture-postcard scenery, a wealth of activity options (dog-sledding, snowmobiling, northern light hunts...), an excellent choice of restaurants, bars and cafes, fascinating museums and an extensive event programme.
Whilst the hustle and bustle of city life is enrapturous, the Sunvil team love to include Tromso as part of a multi-centre trip; thus offering contrasting views and experiences of the region. Whilst the Arctic bus route does not connect the two cities, a short flight does - and as you travel you have wonderful views over the Finnmark plateau and northern Norway's archipelago.
As you leave Tromso, the power of Mother Nature quickly becomes evident. The road hugs the coastline all the way and the views are nothing short of awe-inspiring. To the left are far-reaching scenes over the glistening waters of the fjord and to the right the snow-dusted mountains of the Lyngen Alps. Stops can be made along the way, including at the Arctic Panorama Lodge - a favourite of the team, or the journey to Alta can be completed in one day, arriving at 16:30.
Alta is a small, compact town, but here we recommend our clients stay outside of the town at Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge or at Glod Explorer. Alta's sustainable approach to tourism focuses on local entrepreneurs and emphasises the destination's connection with nature and the indigenous Sami community. Away from artificial lights, you are called to relax and to feel as one with your surroundings. Winter experiences are available in abundance and you can even spend a night in sub-zero temperatures at the Igloo Hotel.
In our opinion, this is a combination that could not be beaten.