Saturday, January 14, 2017

Northern Lights in Finland above the Arctic circle

We have had the aurora boralis on our must see program for quite awhile. So as we were booking our Amsterdam trip for the family Christmas gathering in the Netherlands somewhere during a hot July day, I suggested to Sandee to go early in December and take the opportunity of being in Amsterdam to fly into Sweden for say 5 days, where I had identified a small village of about 200 inhabitants that had a hotel converted from an old military school complex that seasonally opened just for that purpose. I reserved through an internet booking site and got a confirmation number. 
Subsequently we booked a plane to an airport called Lulea and rented a Hertz Volvo to bring us via interstates to that village in about 2 hours.
By late October I tried to contact the internet agency for further info to the hotel and have a reconfirmation of our booking. Found out that the agency was out of business and emails bounced back. 

Trying to reach the hotel directly also did not succeed. I at long last found the company that developed and sold the booking website and a friendly Swedish gentleman informed me by return email that both organizations had ceased to exist. 
Nonrefundable plane tickets for 450 dollars was the cost offset against the savings of never buying travel insurance.  
But the god of auroras smiled on us and we were lucky to book the Muotka Wilderness Hotel for 5 nights outside a village called Saariselka, Finland. 
 This time we opted for a taxi service to bring us from the most northern Finnish airport, Ivalo, to Muotka several miles outside of the village surrounded by true snow laden Lapland forests.

The sun never rises above the horizon for 35 days during the period of our stay, giving our premises 4 hours a day from 10 am to 2 pm of spooky daylight, which gradually fades to clear starry nights and around 8 am the dawn light tries to gain ground again. 

Your picture show here clearly illuminates the atmosphere in which we found ourselves those glorious 5 days. 
Glorious, because during 3 of the five nights the lights danced for us high and low all over the sky.
Niina the bubbly hotel manager tries always to be the first person to greet you when you alight from the minivan. Her goal is to make every customer as happy as possible, with good quality buffet style meals, a range of activities you can sign up for and providing you with all the cold weather gear you need in a place, where the temperatures while we were there, dropped to minus 32 Celsius or minus 26 Fahrenheit. 
Since your extremities define your feeling of comfort, we had bought from Amazon foot and hand warmers to be strategically placed in our shoes and gloves, which amazingly last for 8 plus hours, warming those parts of our body. 
We also enjoyed during those starry nights the Big Dipper so low in the sky that it seemed touchable, and a moon looming large beyond and sometimes through the fir trees. 
We had booked an aurora cabin, which consist of a heated glass roof dome above our bed facing north into the sky that normally produces the dancing lights. It also had a sitting area, an ensuite bathroom and a sauna for 2.
I must admit to those of you that have not yet witnessed this phenomena in the skies, that at first instance a feeling of disappointment arises, as your eyes view more grayish than green in the dancing clouds. 
The camera, however, has much better pixel detecting vision than the human eye, and so YouTube and documentaries show much more color, as do the pictures in this blog. 
The scheduled activities you can optionally book and the 3 meals a day were a highlight as you only leave the compound with one of the booked activities or when calling a taxi to visit the nearby village.
We booked three activities, a sleigh trip to a Kota, or wooden hut that throughout Lapland can be found in the forests, so that travelers can find shelter when needed. The custom is to never lock a Kota and to leave it better provisioned than found with extra blankets, wood, kindling, etc. Therein you find a wood supply, a firepit and bunks to spend the bitter cold nights away from home in this Artic wonderland. For us together with 13 Singaporians it was a nightime outing to maybe witness auroras and place smores into the crackling flames. Well that night we had to stare into the firepit inside the Kota and never saw anything other than a thick wintery clouded snow laden sky.

The next day we did a husky safari trip followed the day after by a full day of snowmobiling with a midday luncheon at the top of a ski resort.
I will leave the pictures to tell the rest of the story, but you can tell Sandee's heart melted while holding the huskie babies.
All in all this resort comes highly recommended by us if all you want to accomplish is an aurora vacation and enjoy the winter beauty in true Lapland style. 
PS My camera had trouble with focus capturing the millisecond light flashes in a very dark environment, so my apologies for its or my shortcomings in photographing all this.