Over the last couple of weeks, Finland has been receiving some exceptionally good coverage around the world and has won the accolade of being named the safest country to visit by the Worlds Economic Forum and the Third Best Country to Visit by Lonely Planet (to be honest we’d have had it even further up the list there!). Here at Artisan, we are thrilled that one of our absolute favourite destinations is getting the exposure it deserves.
It is only when flying over the Greenlandic Ice Cap that the sheer vast wilderness of the country strikes home. Of course I knew all the stats, this is a country the size of Western Europe with a population of a large town in the UK. But still, when I flew over on a beautiful clear day, with hundreds and hundreds of miles of Ice and mountain below me, the utter scale became apparent. It is very much the Arctic I imagined as a child.
Ilulissat directly translated means ‘Iceberg’, and indeed the UNESCO protected Icefjord is the reason most people come here. Immediately on arrival at the hotel I could see 2 huge icebergs, floating a few miles away along the coast. From a distance they looked big…but nothing compared to the epic proportions, which become apparent up close to these imposing ice sculptures.
My swim between the land masses of Europe and America was far less of a challenge than I initially anticipated, it required neither years of training and preparation nor support teams and record breaking feats of endurance. On the chilly February morning which had been chosen for my swim, I woke in my cosy double bed in Reykjavik (which was to be the starting point of my adventure), enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast and waited for my crew to collect me in reception, without any real sense of trepidation at all.
Credit: Dive. is
I remember the first time Jouko, the owner of Nellim Wilderness Hotel, called me to tell me about his vision for Sarmi Lodge. Every time I had seen him for the last year prior to this phone call we had always got into an in-depth discussion of what he should look at developing next.
He had the idea of this luxury eco wilderness lodge which was completely cut off from everyone else and only accessible by taking part in a real adventure to get there.
I could completely see his idea but in practice not everyone wants to travel for a full day to get to a wilderness lodge, especially when Nellim is already ideally located as a wilderness destination on the side of Lake Inari anyway.
My idea was some kind of heated lounge chairs on the edge of the lake so people could watch the Northern Lights in ultimate luxury but you will need to watch this space for those to be built in the next few seasons...!
Photography has always been a hobby for me and I've even got a really good camera at home. Unfortunately, how it is in real life, you sometimes do not have enough time to learn how to use it properly. I mean, there are so many settings you can choose from and you also need to check the lighting conditions and who knows what else... So when I heard about this trip you can imagine that I was the first person to join in.
It is a brilliant way to combine a nice holiday and learn something about photography and how to use a camera.
One of the first tasks I had when I joined The Artisan Travel Company was to spend two weeks acting as the company's representative in the tiny ski resort of Luosto. Travelling north of the Arctic Circle on my first assignment all seemed a bit daunting at first but I got to know Luosto and our suppliers very quickly and found myself falling very deeply in love with the place because it has just about everything you could ever want from a winter holiday.
As a Product Development Manager, I get to visit loads and loads of places but this very often has to be done reasonably quickly.
Spending 14 nights in the same destination allowed me to appreciate the slower way of life, to get to know the wonderfully friendly locals and take huge joy in the vast range of winter activities available in Luosto.
Arriving at Kittila Airport on a very late flight from the UK last December, I was happy in the knowledge that I had a very short transfer to get to my hotel. No sooner had my friendly Finnish taxi driver helped me into the car, he was then helping me out of it 5 minutes later as we arrived at the hotel. I was quickly checked into my room and tucked up in bed in anticipation of tomorrow's adventures.
I was met the following morning by my guide for the next two days, Jaakko. He was absolutely fantastic with the small group I joined and had obviously built up a brilliant rapport with the members despite the assortment of nationalities and ages.
This morning's activity was cross-country skiing and once we had established that no one in the group had actually done the activity before he led us through the very basic first steps of learning how to move around with the ski's attached to our feet. Once we got our balance and had learnt to stand up (!) we began a short circuit so we could practise negotiating the skiing tracks which run alongside almost all the footpaths in Northern Scandinavia.
I have been lucky enough to visit Tromsø in Norway several times in recent years, both in the summer and winter months, and I really like the city. It has a lot to attract people, including some mind-blowingly good restaurants, lively bars, cute little shops and a really beautiful harbour area.
I thought I had seen most of what Tromsø and the surrounding area had to offer, but it was only on my recent visit last summer that I learnt of the island of Senja....
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