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Arctic Europe: An Outdoor Playground Filled With Surprises


The scenery in Arctic Europe was like nothing I had ever seen before. Its beauty was quite literally breathtaking—and not just from the cold. Winter wonderland doesn’t really sum up the experience. Words can barely do the destination justice.

This is why Arctic Europe should be on your radar.

Nordic nations are rapidly growing in popularity, answering travelers enthusiasm for adventure. The region is also safe and seamlessly blends modern, sophisticated dining and accommodation options with a rugged outdoor spirit.

It may seem odd to head to one of the coldest regions of the world in the wintertime with the intention of spending hours outdoors, but that is the ultimate goal of most visitors to the Arctic, who find themselves spoiled for choice when it comes to activities—day and night.

Lapland is the land of Christmas, filled with reindeer and brimming with possibility. Want to travel on an ice breaker? Visit Kemi. Looking for endless snowmobiling trails that will carry you through the morning until sunset: stop into the Brandon Lodge in Lulea.

If sleeping in an ice hotel is your dream come true, the Lapland Hotel Snow Village can accommodate you. And if you want to swim in the Arctic Ocean, Lyngen, Norway, should be your first stop.

This barely scratches the surface of what visitors can do in Arctic Europe. When planning a visit, it’s a good idea to start in a major air gateway. Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki are some of the best jumping-off points for an Arctic exploration.

Starting in Copenhagen, it’s a quick flight to Lulea, Sweden, a small, charming city on the edge of the Arctic Circle that is its own hub of activity. The city offers boutique hotels, sophisticated dining options and unique evening activities—like a string quartet playing instruments made of ice in an outdoor square.

Lulea is also home to the World Heritage Gammelstad Church Town. The small community is one of the best-preserved examples of these widespread Scandinavian towns, filled with small homes that served rural worshippers traveling long distances to attend services. Visitors can access a visitors center and tours of Gammelstad year-round.

Snowmobile ride, Lulea, Sweden
PHOTO: Snowmobile ride, Lulea, Sweden (photo by Janeen Christoff)

At the Brandon Lodge, also in the Lulea area, visitors will find their adventure hub. The hotel offers a Pack Ice snowmobile tour, dog sledding, a Hovercraft tour, evening Northern Lights tours, a romantic Aurora Hideaway dinner, ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and Nordic Winter skills classes. Everything visitors need to keep warm in the chilly weather, such as snowsuits, goggles and helmets are provided and a sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi add to the fun.

Game of Thrones at SnowVillage
PHOTO: Game of Thrones at SnowVillage (photo by Janeen Christoff)

While there are several ice hotel opportunities, the Lapland Hotel SnowVillage in Yllas hits all the marks. The hotel features a new design each year and offers unique—and chilly—guestrooms with beds made of ice. For the second year in a row, the hotel has partnered with HBO and Game of Thrones and there are a few weeks left to stroll the icy halls of the Night King.

Once again, everything travelers need to stay cozy is provided, including a sleeping bag. Afraid of getting cold? A warm room awaits for those who need to feel the heat, and cabins are also available.

Reindeer in Levi, Finland.
PHOTO: Reindeer in Levi, Finland. (photo by Janeen Christoff)

Snowy Levi, Finland, is yet another adventure hub. Reindeer rides, an Elves Hideaway and some of the best skiing in the Arctic are at your fingertips in this resort village. It’s also prime viewing for the Northern Lights.

Visitors can see the Levi Big Five: the Aurora Borealis, a husky sled dog ride, a reindeer ride, snowshoeing and snowmobile safari.

Taking in the Aurora can be cold if you are outdoors, but head to the Levi Igloos, where glass-dome roofs let the northern lights in and keep the chill out.

Travelers can wind up their journey at the northern tip of Norway where, in Lyngen, they can embark on a truly adventurous activity: swimming in the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic swimming, Lyngen, Norway
PHOTO: Arctic swimming, Lyngen, Norway (photo by Janeen Christoff)

The Arctic Swimming and Sauna activity is an adventure but also a cultural activity as sauna is a way of life in Arctic Europe. Visitors truly learn the benefits of warming in the sauna as they leap into Arctic water in just a swimsuit—and they appreciate the warmth even more on the way back in.

Tromso, Norway, is an ideal place to end an Arctic journey. The northern hub offers many convenient flights but is also to the Polaria Arctic aquarium—the northernmost aquarium in the world. It’s also an Arctic adventure hub in its own right, providing easy access to traditional Lapland activities like husky safaris and northern lights viewing.


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