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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Snow, Ice and Northern Lights: Jukkasjärvi

From Stockholm we flew farther North to Kiruna, which is located North of the Arctic Circle. Close-by is the small village of Jukkasjärvi, which hosts one of the most unique overnight experiences in the north: The Ice Hotel. A hotel built completely from ice and snow!

The first two nights we stayed in a warm and cozy Chalet, before we dared to stay in a snow room of the Ice Hotel where the temperature is a constant -5° Celsius. The bed is built with blocks of ice as bed posts and we slept on a regular mattress covered with reindeer furs. In addition we were packed up in a sleeping bag certified up to -30°C, so the only part that got cold during the night was the tip of our nose :).

We kept ourselves busy with activities and so we undertook a dog sledding tour and a snow mobile excursion on the first day, which were both very cool. On the second day we joined a cultural expedition to Sami reindeer herders, the original natives of the North. We had the opportunity to ride a reindeer sled around a short circuit in the wood and then had dinner in a traditional teepee around a roaring fire.

The main reason for our trip so far north were the Northern Lights. The Ice Hotel offers a variety of tours to places that have a good view and a good chance of seeing them. Unfortunately, the weather forecast wasn't good enough so the tours didn't take place. However, after leaving the restaurant after dinner our second night we looked up at a clear sky and noticed a strange cloud formation, looking closer we noticed that there was a tiny sheen of green to it... The Northern Lights! We quickly dressed up warmly, grabbed our cameras and headed out onto the frozen Torne River, from where we had a terrific view. The Northern Lights weren't that strong, so it was hard to see the color with the naked eye, but on camera the pictures turned out beautiful. Even though we mostly saw grey, it was amazing to see the Lights move across the sky. At one point they covered the hole sky in a long band just above our heads! (I don't have pictures of this because my camera was not up to this task...)

As guests of the Ice Hotel, we had free access to (almost) all rooms during the day and we used this time wisely to appreciate the special art suites. My favorites were Blue Marine, Dragon Residence, Virgin in Space and Beam me up.

Doing my research before leaving, I was thrilled to discover that there was a GeoCache close to the Ice Hotel, which was accessible even in winter. And so looking for that was very high on my list of priorities ;). Even though it had a trivial rating, it turned out to be more difficult than expected and it took two trips to the location before I finally had it in hand: My Northernmost Cache! :).

More pictures can be found in my web album.

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