Today is a day full of activities and a lot of firsts for us. The first activity might be a bit cruel for people who loves dogs. On 2nd thoughts, I probably would not do it again although we were ensure that the dogs were cared for very well and this was like an exercise that they well needed.
We travel to Saariselkä which is a resort village in northern Finland for a husky sleigh ride. When you arrive at the huskie farm, we were all given body suits to keep us warm as it is extremely cold during the ride as the cold will beat against our body and face.
Everyone will be asked to pair up for the ride, at first glance it looks dangerous as the sleigh is a small metal and wood sleigh where one person is seated and the other will be standing behind to control the speed and braking of the sleigh with a metal brake. Every sleigh has about 6 dogs assigned and the speed is extremely fast. The entire group moves together as a group in single line and the ride takes about 30mins. There will be a break during the ride for the 2 people to interchange their positions.
There is a small museum and hut after the ride for you to warm up by the fire and also get some hot drinks. During the entire trip, warming up by the fire became one of our favourite thing to do.
By the time, we travel back to the hotel, it was evening and our dinner was catered for at the hotel. Every dinner was buffet style with mainly Nordic styled cuisine which is mainly fish and seafood. You will also get some reindeer or beef meat and very rarely chicken meat.
We were informed by the guides that due to the weather, the optional ice breaking tour which we signed up for is not going to happen as the ice were not formed fully yet. This was suppose to happen 2 days later so instead we decided to opt in to the optional night tour to catch the Northern Lights. This optional tour actually brings us further out into the open wildness where there is less light pollution.
We arrive after 30 mins drive by coach at an open area with a few huts. These huts are called Lavvu which is a temporary dwelling used by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia. As it is further away from the city and lights, it is extremely cold and you definitely need to bring all your warmers with you. The time for these lights chase tours happen usually around midnight or later. Inside the huts, you can warm yourself next to the fire and only come out when the lights are sighted. To make the tour more worth it, the guide actually start up a barbeque with sausages and corn as well as warm wine to keep you warm and full during the cold in the night.
For the photographers, you will need to camp in the open while waiting for the lights. On our 2nd night, the lights came but was very vague only. The tour ends when we get the whole group consensus to return. For those who cannot deal with the cold, you can also wait in the coach with the driver as it is more warm inside. We ended the night after hanging around for 2 hours in the open as most of us could not take the cold anymore.
Today is the day we become childish as we visit a dreamlike place which is the Santa Claus Village
We get to spend an entire day at the village as there is so much to do at this place. There is the reindeer farm, the Santa Claus post office, workshop, restaurants, slides, souvenir stores and more.
Most importantly, you get to cross the artic circle. The Arctic Circle is one of the two polar circles and the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude as shown on maps of Earth. It marks the northernmost point at which the centre of the noon sun is just visible on the December solstice and the southernmost point at which the centre of the midnight sun is just visible on the June solstice. You will get a certificate for crossing the artic circle.
We took a reindeer ride which has a bigger proper sleigh which was also very fast and cold.
The reindeers are also very tame so you can always pet and take pictures with them.
Lunch is not included for this day so you can actually get to eat in a restaurant which is like the actual tent used in the past. The common menu you can find here is the grilled salmon with salad and bread.
There are plenty of sights to take photo of in the village and more than enough time to spend within the village. Most importantly, you can post postcards to yourself for the next Christmas at the Santa Claus post office with the official post office stamp. You can also pay a sum for a mystery letter from Santa!
You will receive the mystery letter or postcard during the next Christmas so it is really a great surprise and memento for yourself to remind you of the trip.
As part of the package, we also get a light chase tour at night with snow mobile. The group is spilt into groups of 2 and for little children who cannot get onto the vehicle can take the carriage which is connected to the guide’s vehicle. This time round, the ride on the snow mobile takes about 30mins and before the ride, you get changed into their warm one piece suit with extremely thick socks and gloves as the speed of the vehicle is fast and the temperature will be very cold. True to the drop of temperature, my camera froze and I was unable to take any pictures.
Again, we arrive at one of those huge huts where multiple groups of people can gather around the fire and warm themselves. Barbeque is also provided for those who are hungry. The lights we caught this night was the strongest and best with many dancing variations. This was a picture from my tour mate who was carrying a DSLR. As my camera froze, I could fully enjoy the lights looking at each pattern and colour as I relax by the hut while many of the group fiddle with their cameras. Again I find myself speechless for the beauty of the light and you can only feel it when you witness it yourself.
With the end of the night tour, there are only 2 more full days to the itinerary since the days are really short during winter.