The Artisan Blog
2019 is almost upon us and we think there’s no better way to help beat the post-Christmas blues than to start planning your next holiday abroad. You could even make a New Year’s resolution to start ticking off some travel experiences from your bucket list!
As we enter the winter months, it can be tempting to simply wrap ourselves in a blanket and curl up in front of the television. But here at Artisan Travel, we believe that winter is a great season to get out and explore some incredible destinations and experience some wonderful bucket list activities.
As the summer sun begins to fade and the dark nights start to return, some travellers might be tempted to pack their passport away for another year. However, we believe there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the arrival of the winter months.
Now don’t get us wrong we love sunny escapes to places such as Croatia, Madeira and the Azores and there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy some of the last of the summer sun if you want. However, what these destinations can’t offer, as excellent as they may be, is the chance to enjoy some truly great bucket list, Arctic experiences.
Usually, when the Artisan team travel to Finnish Lapland we visit during the winter season between the end of November and the beginning of April. However, this year we were given the opportunity to travel to Finland and Norway in the month of May. Lapland in spring provides a very different type of trip to the ones that we offer in the winter months.
The Arctic Circle is generally associated with winter and long, dark nights but I have always found the prospect of the Midnight Sun and the endless summer days to be alluring. It is something which is hard to understand when you come from a world that has both light and dark each day. In fact, this natural phenomenon seems so unnatural to us in the UK that it can divide opinion. I have since returned from the far north of Finland and having just experienced the Midnight Sun for myself I can honestly say that it should be on every bucket list, and don’t worry, the hotels in Finland have excellent blackout blinds!
After hearing the many beautiful tales of Lapland and seeing some incredible photos of the Aurora Borealis and the winter landscapes of Finland, I thought, “there is no way it can actually look like that surely?”. But as we descended through the clouds into Rovaniemi, with the sun rising past a blanket of snow, I could not believe my eyes – it was just like the photos! The incredible snow that hung from every branch of every tree was such a breath-taking sight.
Despite having travelled to Finland several times by myself, I had never given my parents the chance to experience its wonders for themselves. However, in January they got to experience a holiday to Torassieppi in Finnish Lapland for the first time. Read on to find out what they made of their experience to the Arctic North!
To say we were apprehensive about going on a 25km Snowmobile safari is a drastic understatement. The closer to the activity we got the quieter Jorie and I became. However, when it was time for the activity we went along, watched the briefing video and before long we were being swept along on a snowmobile!
Despite being a fairly seasoned traveller to Finland myself, my parents had never experienced the delights of the Arctic North. However, in January they got to experience a holiday to Torassieppi in Finnish Lapland for themselves. Read on to find out how they got on!
Flying into Finland, we could see the vast spread of snow, frozen lakes and trees reaching out across the horizon and only as the plane touched down did we see just how deep the snow was on each side of the runway. An early flight meant that we landed in Kittilä around lunchtime, but it was on the drive to Torassieppi that we began to grasp the immensity of the wilderness in this fabulous country.
Despite having been lucky enough to experience the delights of Finland numerous times for myself, my parents had never had the opportunity to visit this amazing country for themselves. With my dad having a very special birthday coming up, I decided that I would give him and my mum the chance to experience this beautiful Arctic gem for themselves. Here's what happened from their point of view!
When winter comes around and the weather becomes more bitter, all I crave is cosiness and comfort in order to get me through the short grey days. This is why, when I read about ‘hygge’, my mindset on how to spend these potentially dreary months changed completely.
In case you haven’t heard of this revelation which is taking the likes of Pinterest and Instagram by storm, ‘hygge’, pronounced ‘hooga’, is a Danish word which has no direct translation in English. It does not describe anything tangible, but rather that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with truly enjoying life’s simple pleasures, particularly during the colder months.
Cold, dreary weather, post-festive season torpor, and back-to-work blues; welcome to the joys of January. How do we recommend you cure your mood?
Start planning your 2018 adventures of course!
We have a vast variety of bucket list holidays all around the world, skilfully designed by our Travel Experts with you in mind. We'll take you from the wilds of Finland to the sun-drenched island of Gozo; the fjords of Iceland and Norway to the volcanic paradise of the Azores.
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.
Tell us about your role
Being an Artisan Travel representative gives you an unparalleled insight into what goes on behind the scenes in Luosto. Not only am I the face of the company talking to guests but I am also in constant contact with all the operations behind the scenes; the hotel, ski resort, safari office, wilderness chefs, husky guides, giving me such an insight and an experience that I would never get from a holiday.
The crackle of logs burning in the stove
It has taken me an absolute age to write this blog because I can’t quite find the right words to describe the feeling of returning to a warm winter cabin after an active day spent engaged in winter’s Nordic activities. The deep snow serves to deaden noise so very often the only sound you’ll hear from outside is the wind and, on calm nights, it is almost eerily quiet beyond the doors of your wooden enclave. Inside, you get a sort of “Homestead on the Range” sensation which is enhanced by the crackle of logs burning in the stove and the creaking of the broad timbers from which the cabin is constructed.
Continued from TIME TO MAN-UP (PART 1)
Option 1: Go directly from the sauna into an icy plunge pool
It feels like being overcome by a panic attack
Believe it or not, this is the easy option!
From the comfort of a warm sauna........
(Image: Visit Finland)
Rush from the warmth of the sauna and submerse your body in the icy waters of a purpose built plunge pool – essentially, a big hole in the ice! The secret is to just go for it, hesitation can often result in failure and a dash back to the sauna's toasty sanctuary.
Time for my Fellow Northumbrian to "Man-Up"
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the recent program on ITV called The Land of the Midnight Sun featuring Alexander Armstrong but felt little empathy for his winter swim in the Norwegian Sea near Tromsø.
Tromsø’s position on Norway’s west coast means that thanks to the Gulf Stream it is generally warmer than other towns and cities located at similar latitudes. As Armstrong stripped down to just his swimming trunks, the temperature was -4°C and as he strode purposefully into the icy, grey waters the sea temperature was an admittedly chilly -1°C (the salt content means that sea water has a lower freezing point than fresh). That’s pretty cold by anybody’s standards but compared to what goes on elsewhere in Northern Scandinavia, this was a walk in the park on a balmy late summer evening.
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.
I have been lucky enough to visit Menesjärvi twice during my time working for Artisan. The first time was in September during the wonderfully scenic Finnish autumn. The drive here will take you away from the small town of Ivalo and into increasing wilderness – the trees grow denser, the roads grow quieter, and you pass nothing except a small handful of houses (owned mostly by local reindeer herders) before you come across the main hotel here.
Hotel Korpikartano is located on the banks of Lake Menesjarvi which at this time of year, is a beautiful glittering vista of water, reflecting the changing colours of the surrounding trees.
The important thing in our job is getting to know a destination and experiencing everything it has to offer. On my very first trip to Finnish Lapland I learned very quickly that the best way to appreciate the wide open wilderness spaces north of the Arctic Circle is by snowmobile. You can enjoy all sorts of activities here in Lapland; dog sledding and reindeer safaris, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing will all get you from A to B but nothing will show you as much or take you as far as a snowmobile.
My first snowmobile safari was blessed by a typically beautiful early-spring day (in the opinion of most locals, late-March and early-April are the best times to visit) with not a cloud to obscure the azure blue skies.
The other thing that struck me about this pristine setting was just how calm and unspoiled it is. Lapland must be as close to purity as anywhere in the world and the air is said to be the cleanest anywhere in Europe (and very probably further afield too).
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.
Being one of those people who tends to plan their day around meals and loves to try out new food, one of my favourite parts about travelling to Lapland is sampling the Scandinavian food which is rich, varied and plentiful.
In the depths of Northern Finland and Sweden, food is (logically!) sourced firstly from the landscape – fish are caught in the lakes, reindeers are bred in the forest and berries and mushrooms are foraged from the ground. This gives the food here a natural and fresh taste and I love the fact that the meals here feel so hearty and wholesome.
The very first dish I enjoyed on a visit here was a simple one – sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, but in the bitingly cold arctic environment it was, quite honestly, perfect.
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