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February 10, 2017

5 romantic experiences with a difference in Scandinavia

5 romantic experiences with a difference in Scandinavia
Snowmobile on frozen lake in Finland Scandinavia

Snowmobile in Finland

You may not automatically think of Scandinavia when you the consider things to do around Valentine’s Day. A proposal on the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a romantic dinner in Rome, a luxurious hotel in the Lake District or maybe a gentle stroll along a beach in Spain? However, there are many lovely experiences to be had in the Nordic countries of Europe, especially in winter; here are 5 of my favourites

Scandinavia – Norway

Take ‘the world’s most beautiful voyage’ to the Arctic Circle

Hurtigruten ferry in Honningsvåg harbour Norway Scandinavia

Hurtigruten ferry in Honningsvåg harbour

The famous Hurtigruten Ferry may not be the most luxurious of cruise ships but what she lacks in grandeur she more than makes up for in romantic adventurousness. Still running as a postal service, ferries sail daily from Bergen via deep Norwegian fjords up to Tromsø and Kirkenes in the Arctic Circle. You pass some of the world’s most stunning scenery and in winter the snow-clad landscapes are truly breathtaking. Stops include Havoysund and Honningsvag from where you can get off to visit the North Cape. It’s an unforgettable voyage.

Melt the ice in a Snow Hotel

Moomintroll and Snork Maiden in Kirkenes Snow Hotel - Norway

Moomintroll and Snork Maiden in Kirkenes Snow Hotel

On the outskirts of Kirkenes, 250 miles into the Arctic Circle, you will find a very special place to stay. Snuggle up together in the Kirkenes Snow Hotel and you’ll feel on top of the world – literally. Every year tons of ice are used to create a unique hotel which positively encourages togetherness. When I was there, two couples were on their honeymoon and there’d been an engagement party the night before. Each ‘bedroom’ has a different theme with beautifully lit ice-sculptures throughout. The temperature is a regular -4 degrees Celsius and there are lots of activities including husky and reindeer rides. Scandinavia accommodation doesn’t get ‘cooler’ than this …

Sweden

Get away from it all with Greta Garbo

 Ystad Saltsjöbad Hot Tubs Sweden Scandinavia

Ystad Saltsjöbad Hot Tubs

To be precise, stay in the hotel where Greta Garbo, the reclusive Swedish actress, went to get away from it all in her homeland. The Ystad Saltjöbsad Hotel in the Skåne region of south Sweden has everything you want from a luxury break in Scandinavia. Gorgeous beach setting, gourmet dining, classic Swedish design and the indulgent spa are all highly conducive to romance. Enjoy a bottle of champagne in a double bath or relax together in one of the outdoor hot tubs – perfect any time of year.

Have fika – anytime, anywhere

Fika in Malmo Sweden

Fika in Malmo

Share a big piece of chocolate cake or light-as-a-feather lemon sponge in a cosy cafe with the one you adore. The Swedes love their coffee and cake; you can get great bakes all over Scandinavia but in Sweden they make a big deal of Fika. It’s basically ‘coffee and cake with friends’ (or lovers!) and in most workplaces throughout the country they stop for fika everyday. I had the most divine brownies in a greenhouse at Malmo Castle – simple pleasures in Sweden.

Finland

Cuddle up on a husky ride through the frozen north

Husky sleigh in Finland

Husky sleigh in Finland

Wrapped up in reindeer furs, dashing through the snow on the husky sleigh in the north of Finland – magic. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to visit Finland as it’s covered in snow and there are lots of wonderful outdoor experiences for you to try. You could try reindeer racing or maybe a snowmobile safari across a frozen lake. In the evening sample local delicacies like Finnish meatballs, moose casserole, sauteed reindeer or Rönttönen, a pastry filled with lingonberries.

Iceland

Get hot and steamy with an old geysir

Geysir Hot Springs at Haukadalur

Hot Springs at Haukadalur

For a romantic break with a real difference, visit Iceland. This is definitely the quirkiest of the Nordic countries and can be very romantic. Stroll round the little streets of historic Reyjavik with its wooden houses, quaint museums and trendy bars. Take a tour of the Golden Circle to see the steamy geysirs and thundering Gulfoss Waterfall or go for a dip in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.

And finally …

Kallbadhus Malmo 03 photo Oskar Falck c Malmö Turism Sweden Scandinavia

Kallbadhus Malmo – photo Oskar Falck c Malmö Turism

There are plenty more romantic things to do and places to see in Scandinavia. You might see the Northern Lights at any time in winter, or maybe discover Norse heritage in Greenland – more info here www.best-served.co.uk/destinations/greenland – or get even more off the beaten track in the Faroe Islands. Without doubt, Scandinavia has something for all lovers of romantic travel.

This article is in collaboration with Best Served Scandinavia, specialists in tailor-made holidays.

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Romantic Scandinavia Experiences by Zoe Dawes

September 15, 2012

UNESCO Geirangerfjord – the ultimate Norwegian fjord

UNESCO Geirangerfjord – the ultimate Norwegian fjord

One of the highlights of my blog trip travels so far has been the cruise on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth maiden voyage to Norway.  From the lively and moving Southampton ‘Sail Away’, via a mill-pond smooth North Sea crossing to the fascinating Norwegian sites of Stavanger and Lysefjord, the Flåm rail trip from Sognefjord and the ancient port of Bergen, every moment created its own unique memories.  The pinnacle of that trip was, without doubt, sailing slowly through Geiranger Fjord, squeezed between towering mountains and cascading water, through some of the world’s most impressive scenery.

Queen Elizabeth in Geirganger fjord

We cruised into the fjord in the early morning through mist and rain, creating an atmosphere that was evocative but frustrating as the impressive grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage Site was draped in shadow.  Often described as the ‘quintessential fjord’, Geirangerfjord is an 8 mile long sliver of green water that slides its way between precipitous mountains decorated with streaming waterfalls and mostly uninhabited farm buildings clinging to their rocky sides.  When we got to the end of the fjord, the ship performed a delicate turn to get into position for us to disembark.  I discovered later that she was kept in place by Satellite positioning as it is far too deep to drop anchor.

 Geiranger Fjord, Norway

Disembarking by boat we were shuttled across the water to the village where a cluster of souvenir shops and cafes serve the regular stream of visitors that visit this popular destination.  Although there are only about 250 permanent residents in Geiranger, during the season about 130 cruise ships visit bringing several hundred thousand visitors every year. I was struck by the way the area seemed to quickly absorb all us tourists and how easy it was to find a quiet corner to explore.  Wandering up a lane at the back of the village I found a large stream thundering over jagged rocks, white painted cottages, an octagonal wooden church with a well-tended graveyard and this old wooden hut overgrown with weeds and bright green moss.

Wooden Hut, Geiranger, Norway

I’d booked a tour up Ørnevegen (the Eagle Road),  the steepest stretch of road up the mountain side from Geiranger towards Eidsdal. The road turns through 11 hairpin bends to the highest point 620 metres above sea level.  At the viewing point of ‘Eagle Bend’ I got a phenomenal sense of nature’s grandeur; far below lay ‘Queen Elizabeth’ , an insignificant craft amidst this awesome landscape.  To the right was the Seven Sisters waterfalls crashing down in silvery sheets into the dark waters below.  The skies had blessedly cleared and the view is one that will stay with me forever …

TQT & 'Queen Elizabeth', Geiranger

On our way back down the mountain, the tour stopped off at the ‘Norwegian Fjord Centre‘, telling the intriguing story of local people’s daily life and recreations in Geirangerfjord.  I ‘experienced’ an avalanche and learnt how this lethal snowfall is caused.  The beautifully laid out shop sold lovely jumpers, delicate glassware, regional produce and many other tasteful souvenirs to tempt the visitors.  I spent some time watching young volunteers using traditional crafts to recreate a typical farmstead.

At the end of the day I was extremely fortunate to be invited onto the ‘Queen Elizabeth” bridge as Captain Chris Wells and his crew set sail from Geiranger on our way our next port of call, Bergen.  The loud boom of the ship’s hooter reverberated around the mighty mountains as we slowly inched our way along the fjord.  As we passed the streaming ribbons of the Seven Sisters Waterfall the Captain said that Norway and its fjords was one of his favourite places in the world to take his ship – and it is easy to see why …

Seven Sisters waterfall from Queen Elizabeth bridge

Many thanks to everyone aboard ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and especially to Lisa Page from Cunard for a marvellous trip – and converting me to the joys of cruising!

April 23, 2012

Iceland and the Golden Circle; land of quirky natural wonder

Iceland and the Golden Circle; land of quirky natural wonder

Was it that unpronounceable volcanic eruption that brought Iceland into mainstream travel notice? Or maybe their spectacular banking debacle that created headline news; whatever the reason, suddenly everyone is talking about this latest must-see destination. Old Iceland hands may feel slightly put out as their secret world opens up to so many others, but for the rest of us, what is the fuss all about?  I visited for a few days on one of easyJet’s first flights to Iceland and got a brief glimpse of just what makes this country so extra-special.

Iceland Reykjavik

Iceland’s scenery is starkly dramatic, with vast areas of wilderness, often ice-covered, that create time and space to relax and reconnect with what’s important in life.  There are plenty of crazy outdoor activities to satisfy even the most dedicated thrill seeker, including snowmobiling, glacial hiking, ice climbing and white-water rafting.  With thousands of sturdy horses all over the island those who fancy riding have plenty of opportunity.  The thermal pools, including the internationally renowned Blue Lagoon, provide rejuvenating spa treatments and health benefits.  The capital, Reyjavik, has got enough bars and restaurants to satisfy every taste and culture vultures should be very happy as there appear to be concert halls, museums and art galleries on every corner. Icelandic Sagas seem to permeate every inch of the country and every fibre of the quirky, friendly, intrepid people who live in this dramatic island on the edge of the world.  And, if you are really fortunate, you may get to see the luminously sinuous kaleidoscope of colour that is the Aurora Borealis

The Golden Circle

Geysir in Iceland - image zoedawes

It’s very easy for a first time visitor to get a flavour of the place by doing ‘The Golden Circle’ – a relatively short trip that takes in a trio of the most iconic sights in Iceland.  I went on a tour of this area with a charmingly bonkers guide called Villy, who told us mind-boggling stories of evil trolls, malevolent elves and people who went mad on a seemingly regular basis with hardly any provocation whatsoever.  the ancient tradition of story-telling is obviously alive and well in this fascinating land of quirky contrasts.

Strokkur geysir

The first of the sights is Geysir Hot Springs at Haukadalur, a geothermal area of steaming land and bubbling mud pools.  The original ‘Geysir’, granddaddy of all other geysers, is now in retirement but its grandson, Strokkur, sends up a whooshingly spectacular plume of hot water and steam 30 meters into the air every few minutes. Watch out for the intensely blue bubble that bursts just before the jet explodes.  Take time to wander over to the colourful sulphur pools, pay homage to the old ‘Geysir’ simmering nearby and discover ‘Litl Geysi’r, merrily hissing and gurgling all but unnoticed beside the path.

Guide at Gulfoss

A short distance on is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Europe – Gulfoss, the Golden Waterfall.  On an L-shaped bend in the Hvita River, the falls cascade in glorious abandon 32 meters down in two stages, hurling out thunderous spray in a permanent cacophony of rainbows and mist.  Taking a bit of a scramble, it is possible to get up close and feel the power of nature as well as getting drenched in style.

Pingvellir Rift

Driving west through ancient landscapes with ice-capped volcanoes looming on the the horizon, you see the tiny birch trees – more like scrubby bushes – that were the only indigenous trees on this island and meant early Viking settlers had to import all their wood  for house and boat building.  The final stage of this tour is also the most significant and symbolic to Icelanders.  Reyjavik National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site close to Lake Þingvillaten.  For centuries it was the site of the Althing National Parliament and said to be the oldest in the world.  The Parliament Fields are situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the continents of Europe and America are slowly but surely drifting apart, causing all that volcanic and earthquake activity.  Wander around this evocative park and take time to stand and stare at the crystal clear waters and vibrantly green moss that clings to the old lava rocks.

Lindin Bistro

If you get time, have lunch at Lindin Bistro at Laugarten; it’s a Michelin starred restaurant without attitude – just excellent local produce and seasonal specialities prepared and presented with care and love.  The bread is baked in the ground by the nearby hot springs and their lobster bisque is divine.

Hotel Borg Reykjavik

I stayed at the lovely 4 star Hotel Borg in the heart of Reykjavik, on the main square, close by all the bars, restaurants, port and cultural sights.  I loved the art galleries and museums which encapsulate the diverse culture, history and contemporary identity of this compelling country.  Off the coast is the tiny island of Videy, with Iceland’s oldest stone building and Yoko Ono’s ‘Imagine Peace Tower’

Now it’s even easier and cheaper to get to Iceland from Europe as EasyJet has opened up a new route bringing in welcome visitors to experience these sights and so much more.  It’s a fascinating country that truly deserves the word ‘unique’ – go and see for yourself just how very quirky and special it is!

February 15, 2012

Beautiful Bergen in the rain

Beautiful Bergen in the rain

Gazing out across the bleak container base alongside which we'd berthed an hour earlier, looking at the sheeting rain against mist-shrouded mountains, I was not the least bit tempted to go ashore …

Bergen Port

I'd had a sleepless night being bounced up and down and side to side as we sailed south from the stunning Sognefjord & Geiranger – most definitely not in the throes of a passionate encounter.  The good ship â€˜Queen Elizabeth' had encountered a quite awesome storm and been deftly steered through it to arrive unscathed in Bergen – but too late for our tour of the old town & surrounding area.  Looking at the weather outside, I decided to snuggle up in a cosy corner with a book and simply enjoy a bit of peace and recover from the previous night's excitement …

Champagne corner

After an hour or so, I had relaxed enough and decided it was silly not to go ashore; after all, I live in NW England and Bergen has been likened to Manchester, because it rains so often.  A short coach ride out of the container port and … a step back in history.  Although it's Norway's second largest city, Bergen has the feel of a provincial town, with all the sights, shops and attractions within easy walking distance.  Because of the mist and limited time, I reluctantly decided not to go on the Funicular up to Mount Fløyen, where apparently you can enjoy “a spectacular view of the city and fabled seven mountains” – weather permitting. (How come cities are always surrounded by SEVEN hills, not six or eight?)

Bryggen

So I headed off to the harbour area of Bryggen, a collection of colourful old wooden warehouses. The Hanseatic merchants used to live and trade here but in 1702 a major fire (always a hazard in Norway) destroyed most of the building so these are the newer 18th century ones,  now tastefully restored.  There are plenty of inviting restaurants and quirky little boutiques selling chunky Norwegian sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves and other knitted paraphernalia and slightly less tacky than usual souvenirs.  My favourite was The Moose Shop, which is a bit funkier – got son socks decorated with blue moose (mooses … moosie?) and a couple of sturdy little notebooks for my journey jottings.

The Moose Shop

At the end of the wharf was an absolutely gorgeous 3-masted ship, with a beautiful gilded prow and complicated rigging. It's the ‘Statsraad Lehmkuhl', originally built as a training ship for the German merchant marine and now chartered by the Royal Norwegian Navy for the same purpose.

Statdsraad Lehmkuhl prow

Opposite is the sternly imposing 12th century St Mary's Church, the oldest stone building in Bergen.  Wandering back past the shops I found a little alleyway – by just going off the main street you suddenly feel as if you are in a time long gone and can almost hear the cries of the fishermen as they unloaded their catch to sell in the nearby fishmarket – another fascinating place to visit.

Ole Bull

The rain started to come down heavier as I returned to the ship, but I stopped to admire a large statue of a musician playing his violin beside a carved pool.  It's of one of Norway's most famous musicians – Ole Bull (should’ve been a matador …) – and as he played, oblivious to the rain, he seemed to epitomise the brief glimpse I'd had of this maritime city.  Bergen in the rain – a charming and evocative place – whatever the weather …

Many thanks to all the wonderful crew aboard Queen Elizabeth and the team at Cunard for a memorably wonderful Norwegian cruise.

November 11, 2011

Sample the simple pleasures of life in Skane, Southern Sweden

Sample the simple pleasures of life in Skane, Southern Sweden

One of the glories of Sweden is Fika … taking time out for coffee, cake and a chat. Heaven on a plate …  On a trip to the southern region of Skane (Skåne) I sampled a lot of VERY good cake as well as many more sensory delights.  It’s a land of beautiful beaches, fertile fields, medieval villages, contemporary design and vibrant towns. Linking in to the concept of sustainable living, there’s a great emphasis on locally grown-produce, organic farms and fresh seafood. Here are some ideas to help you make the most of a visit to this fascinating region, whatever the weather, whenever you go …

Malmo Castle Veg Garden

  • Stroll round Malmöhus Castle gardens and discover what’s growing in the organic vegetable patch.  Try Fika at the Slottstrad Garden Café.  It’s a quirky old greenhouse with grapes hanging from the vines and truly scrumptious chocolate brownies …

chocolate cake malmo sweden fika - photo zoe dawes

  • Go swimming from the quaint old wooden Kallbadhuset Bathing House at Ribban (Malmö beach) overlooking the Oresund Bridge and Turning Torso building.  Nudity NOT compulsory! End the day with dinner at welcoming Salt Y Brygge, one of the world’s first truly organic restaurants.  If the weather’s good you can sit outside and gaze across to Denmark …

 Bathhouse & Turning Torso

  • Hire a bike and trundle round Malmo (Malmö), a curiously compelling city that seamlessly combines old and new. Just off the medieval square of Lila Torg is the funky modernist Form & Design Center showcasing how very creative Malmo is.
  • Get sand in your toes on the beach at Mossbystrand.  Sample more delicious fika at the traditional cafe nearby.  Great homemade pastries and cakes – plus a huge range of fruit & herbal teas, preserves and some unusual gifts.

Fika Mossby Strand

  • Step back in time at mystical Ales Stenar, an ancient Stone Circle high above the sea.  Its original use is still unknown but the setting is spectacular. Below is the quaint fishing village of Kaseberga. Try the smoked prawns or chowder at Vendels where you can eat out overlooking the tiny harbour.
  • Walk in Wallender’s footsteps through the quaint old streets of pretty Ystad. Sweden’s most famous detective solves murders in Skane and you can get a guided tour to show all his favourite haunts.   If you’re lucky you might just catch a glimpse of the elusive Hornblower in the old clock tower.

Old Ystad

  • Escape for a while to one of Great Garbo’s favourite hideaway – the luxurious Hotel Saltsjöbad in Ystad. Relax in the sauna or Jacuzzi, run along the jetty and jump in the sea or, for something completely different, try their Gourmet Food package and cook a meal with their top chef, who’ll make you think you can win Master Chef without trying.
  • Test your limits – go abseiling at one of Sweden’s top national parks, Kullaberg Nature Reserve. If heights aren’t your thing try mountain biking, or just take a picnic and enjoy the scenery.  The bustling fishing village of Molle is reminiscent of Cornwall’s Padstow, with the iconic Grand Hotel looking down on all the activity.

Kullaberg harbour

  • Explore the old city of Helsingborg with Karnan, its unusual medieval tower and ornate City Hall and Venetian-style campanile.  Luxurious yachts jostle for space with high-speed ferries to nearby Denmark and the nightlife is buzzing.
  • Discover a real-life fairy story at the Sofiero Palace on the outskirts of Helsingborg.  Inside the palace there’s a fascinating exhibition telling the story of the Swedish Royal family’s summer residence.  The gardens are outstanding and the kids will love the children’s play area and quirky sculptures.  Exhibitions change in the palace and grounds so plenty of reasons to revisit.

Cocktail Couture Exhibition

Many thanks to Malin and Visit Sweden for organising this trip to Skane and to Sara from Four BGB for being a fab host.  There’s a great Face Book app to help choose the perfect trip to this fascinating part of the world.

May 23, 2011

The Historic Port of Stavanger & Lysefjord

The Historic Port of Stavanger & Lysefjord

They came hurtling down the mountain side scattering rocks and debris along the way.  As we edged our way closer to the side, they butted each other in their excitement at our arrival.  “When they see us coming from top, they rush down because they know we'll feed them some bread.”

Feeding goats Lysefjord Norway

‘They' were 3 mountain goats, a mum and her 2 kids, straight out of the puppet scene in ‘The Sound of Music'. Passengers crowded round taking photos of this unexpected scene, as one of crew hand-fed them.  We were on our visit to Stavanger on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth maiden voyage ‘Fjords & Waterfalls' cruise to Norway.  Earlier that morning we had berthed in Stavanger and we were all keen to get off the shop and get our first look at this stunning country.

Queen Elizabeth Stavanger

Lisa, Cunard's New Media Manager and I had booked on the Lysefjord & Pulpit Rock Tour which promised to give us “… a leisurely cruise along Norway's most southerly fjord past steep mountains and cascading waterfalls, to the famous natural formation known as Pulpit Rock.”  As we motored out of port in our very comfortable ferry we got a great view of our Mother Ship dwarfing the Stavanger skyline.  Our guide explained that this area used to be a thriving canning and fishing centre but with the discovery of oil it's now the petroleum capital of Norway.

Lysefjord bridge Stavanger

Sailing into Lysefjord we got a great view of the surrounding mountains and a huge bridge spanning the entrance.  Tiny wooden houses terraced down to the shore and lots of little boats were moored in front.  Further into the fjord we edged into a narrow cleft where apparently, vagabonds hurled rocks onto a local sheriff who was trying to get them to pay taxes.  That's one way of making your fiscal feelings felt …

Pulpit rock Lysefjord Stavanger

‘The Priekestolen ‘ or Pulpit Rock towered above us as we found out that some crazy people actually jump off its 600 metre height and see who can leave opening their parachutes till the last minute.  Unsurprisingly, none of us were tempted to try Base Jumping.  One of the most magical moment of the trip was the gentle strains of Grieg's ‘Hall of the Mountain King' playing as we sailed back …

Old Stavanger street

When the ship had berthed that morning I had opened my balcony door to find a little scattering of white wooden houses below. This turned out to be Old Stavanger, 18th & 19th Century buildings that have been beautifully restored.  On our return from the ferry I explored this little settlement, with its delightful flower-bedecked walls and quaint cottages.  Looking up down a side street I caught a glimpse of the Queen Elizabeth moored alongside.  It was time to return for our Sail Away to another port of call.

As I walked back up the gangway, I thought back to those agile goats waiting at the top of the mountain for the next boat to come and give them a snack …

Queen Elizabeth in Stavanger

I travelled to Norway on the Fjords & Waterfalls Cruise courtesy of Cunard Queen Elizabeth – long may she reign on the high seas!

March 18, 2011

Finland Fun: racing reindeer & speedy snowmobiles

Finland Fun: racing reindeer & speedy snowmobiles

“How many reindeer do you have?” asked the unsuspecting Dutch guy in our group.  Mika looked up towards the smoke-filled top of the Kuta and, after much deliberation, said, “All on this side of the forest, and all on the other …” We looked at him in dismay before Matti, our snowmobile instructor and infallible guide, explained that asking a reindeer farmer how many reindeer he has, is similar to asking an English person how much they earn – it’s just not done.

Reindeer farm Finland - quirky traveller

And so we were slowly introduced to the many fascinating and and diverse customs of the charming Finnish people .

The Snowmobile Adventure was organised by hotel and arranged by The Mighty Fine Company, who had booked my holiday.  There are plenty of different trips to choose, but zooming along on a snowmobile was a real favourite … and I discovered my inner racing demon along the way. What an exhilarating experience, driving through unspoilt Finnish wilderness, passing pine trees slumping drunkenly laden with snow, across shallow frozen lakes and past a very few people skiing, walking or sledging through this magical landscape.  One Mum was pulling two kiddies wrapped up snuggly on a brightly coloured wooden sledge … They waved and smiled shyly as we slowed to pass them.  Then it was a twist of the accelerator and we were off again on through open fields in the bright winter sunshine. 

Snowmobile in Finland - Quirky Traveller

 On arrival at the Reindeer Farm, owner Miki showed us how he marks the reindeer, a system going back centuries, then we fed them moss whilst trying to avoid those very pointy antlers.  Contrasting with the man-made va-va-voom of the Polaris Snowmobiles, we were then introduced to our racing reindeer.  Having been assured it was going to be great fun, I settled into the little wooden sleigh.  Mine was a racing champion and hurtled round at a great speed – the Red Rum of the reindeer world!

Reindeer racing in Finland - Quirky Traveller

Mika told us that the government limits the number of reindeer allowed, that Finish people still really enjoy eating the strong meat (tastes a bit like venison I think) and that wolves and bears are a danger in this area.  Controlled hunting goes on to ensure environmental concerns are considered.

The visit ended with coffee & pulla in a traditional Kota or Lavvu, a Finnish Teepee that the reindeer herders live in as they follow their herds across country and through thickly-wooded forests.  The Finns LOVE their coffee and drink many cups a day. Ours was poured from old kettles heating on the flickering pine fire, with pulla, soft cinnamon buns, heated on an intriguing metal contraption above.

Coffee time on reindeer farm Finland - Quirky Traveller

Getting back on the snowmobiles to return to warm hospitality of the Hotel Iso-Syote, I felt we had glimpsed a piece of life that goes on adapting to meet modern needs whilst ensuring that what’s important to tradition is retained as much as possible.

Reindeers on Finland Farm - Quirky Traveller

I stayed at the stunningly situated Hotel Iso-Syote at the top of Lapland’s most southern fjell in the heart of Finland.  This welcoming hotel has a unique combination of accommodation: comfortable rooms, log cabins, traditional kelo cottages and even an igloo for the more adventurous to stay in.  Other days out included an exhilarating Husky Safari and the Snow-Shoe shuffle through the snowy depths. I had my meals in the excellent Panorama Restaurant with its spectacular views of endless snowscapes unfolding across the valley.

View from Iso Syote Hotel Finland - Quirky TravellerWith grateful thanks to The Mighty Fine Travel Company for organising this magical trip.

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