By Alexa P.
Over winter break I traveled to Sweden. We spent 4 days up in Lapland (the northernmost part of Sweden) and 3 days in Stockholm. During the 4 days up north, we visited Abisko National Park, for 2 nights and The Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, for 2 nights.
In Lapland, my favorite part was staying in the cold room for 1 night. The cold room (at the Icehotel) is a bedroom in a building that is made of ice. Ice makes up everything in the room, aside from a thin mattress, the reindeer skins covering the mattress and a pillow. Going into this many people think that they are going to be freezing. However, they recommend that all you wear to sleep is a layer of wool thermals and socks. You are given a heavy sleeping bag from the hotel and then you can head off to your room. If you follow the directions you are given at the quick info session, earlier that evening, you should be warm for the entire night.
I have to say that out of all of my itinerary, the food was the worst part. It was not bad food, it was just very different than what many people are used to eating (reindeer, elk and moose). In Abisko, there was a set menu for each night. The only other option from what was being served was a vegetarian option. At the Icehotel, there were more options and they also had a kids menu that consisted of more common foods. However, I would not say that the interesting food made my trip any worse. Know that reindeer or other meats are served at many off-site excursions, if this is not okay for you, I would recommend letting your hotel know. They may be able to get a vegetarian option for some of the trips.
I did not do any sightseeing in Lapland because the area is very remote and there is not much to see. However, I know that from Abisko, you could travel into Narvik, Norway and see the fjords. While I was on my trip, there was a lot of active Aurora. When we were in Abisko, we signed up for a northern lights photography class (which I highly recommend). You are given high quality tripods and Nikon cameras and are taken out to a clear area in the park. For about 3-3.5 hours you can take as many pictures as you want of the sky and nature around you. The guides, who are professional photographers, are very helpful and nice. You bring your own SD cards, so that when you get home, you can get all of the shots.
My least favorite activity was ice sculpting in Jukkasjärvi. You are given some, but not many tips on how to correctly and safely create a piece of art. Also, it is very time consuming and a lot harder than it may seem. I think that there are many other great activities to do instead of this.
The best food I ate in Lapland was probably at the wilderness dinner at the Icehotel. You are taken out to the woods and cooked a warm dinner inside a small cabin on a lake. If the lights are active that night, you have the opportunity to lie on reindeer skins on the frozen lake and watch the sky above you. For dinner we were cooked local foods, with a luxurious twist. We were made reindeer in a juniper sauce with grilled vegetables. For dessert we had cloudberry (a local fruit) creme brulee. I enjoyed this dinner very much and would recommend this to anybody that goes to the Icehotel.
I enjoyed staying at both STF in Abisko and at the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi. Both have very cozy vibes (except for the ice room) and are nice, warm places to come back to after a day outside in the cold. I would say that these hotels are far from luxury. If you are looking to stay at a super nice hotel that you might find in big cities like NYC or London, there are none in Lapland. You sleep in bunk beds and have small showers that have a curtain enclosing them from the rest of the bathroom. Though, I loved both hotels very much and think that they are perfect for the location.
As I mentioned before, the guides were amazing. They were very knowledgeable about the area and the history of it. I would give this part of my trip a big thumbs up. However, I don’t think this is for everyone. It is cold and dark for most of the day (the sun was rising around 9:00am and setting around 2:30pm). Also you have to be bold and adventurous to do this type of stuff. It is not like a warm carribean vacation when you go inside/outside whenever you want. Most of the activities are outside of the hotels, so you are doing the activity until it is over and you can return with the group. Though, if you are okay with all of this, I think that this is a great choice for you. Overall I think that Lapland was the coolest place I’ve been.