For many people, visiting the high north is a very special experience. They come into a world completely different from what they know. Vast and empty, dark and covered in snow, this region has many things to offer that draw many thousands of tourists every year. And they have have many reasons to choose to do so. Below I have listed the ten reasons why I fell in love with the north, ten reasons to convince you to pay a visit to the Arctic too.
1. Northern lights
Of course. Even if this was the only reason it would be enough for me to go. Seeing the northern lights dancing in the sky is the thing that makes all trips up here especially magical. If you are lucky you will get to see the four colours, personally I am still waiting for my first multicolour display. You can see them if the solar activity is right, if the skies are clear and most importantly if it is dark outside.
2. Dog sledding
Only for this reason I would also still make my way. Enjoying the scenery while silently gliding on your sled is an experience you will remember for a lifetime. Oh and if you are lucky, you can help harness, feed and cuddle the dogs after your trip.
When you come to high latitudes, the character of daylight is very different from what you see in more moderate regions. Right now in early winter, you can observe a phenomena called the pink light. When the sun is very low or too low to even come above the horizon, daylight turns into a shimmering pink glow that has a beautiful reflection on the snow. After light has just returned in January there is the blue light, an extended sunset giving off a cool, blue colour. In summer you have the eternal summer evening light as the sun never sets.
The north is a place where you can still have the feeling of pristine, untouched nature. It is covered in great forests, protected by numerous national parks. In Sweden one of the most beautiful is Sarek, located in the Swedish mountains. But also some of the parks in the flatter areas in Eastern Sweden protecting old growth pine and berch forests or lake areas are unbelievably beautiful places both in winter and summer which make for perfect outdoor destinations.
5. Space and Remoteness
The plus to these nature areas high up north in Lapland is that you get far enough away from the world so you can really feel alone on this planet. They are not isolated patches of green in between cities. You could go in the forests for weeks if you would want to without meeting anyone. The only populated places you might pass could be very small villages consisting of a couple of families, not even always connected to roads.
6. Sami Culture
Sami’s are the indigenous people of northern Europe and even though they got more sedimentary and make practical use of modern technology, they kept many aspects of their traditional culture alive. They still speak their own language and many of them still hold reindeers for living. Some of Sweden’s hiking trails pass by seasonal Sami settlements in very isolated places. Learning about the Sami and their traditions also teaches you a great deal about the northern ecosystems and how they have been and are used in everyday life.
Many people coming up north witness the beauty of seeing a reindeer herd running through the forest or on an open field. Some meet an elk on the way, and very few witness the great predators of bears or wolves. The vast northern forests are the home of many species you can come by, for example beavers, weasels, Arctic hares, many different birds, and so on.
More than anywhere else, the high north is a place of extreme contrast. Dark, long winters suddenly turn into short, intense summers of non-stop daylight and overwhelming natural bloom. In either season, the other one could not feel further away. Returning to the same place in a different season will show you a completely different image and this makes it all the more interesting.
I have never felt more free than at times I was up north. The remoteness, the nature, the people,… it just all adds up to forgetting whatever is holding you back in life or the stress you experience at home. Whether you are standing on top of a mountain in a desolate national park, paddling down a stream or running over a frozen lake, you will feel a freedom falling over you that will instantly disappear as you leave.
The people living in areas like this are always of a certain character. You will encounter many strong, free-spirited personalities as you travel along. Many of the encounters I had on my journeys up north – even if they were only very briefly – have made me rethink where I wanted to go in life and who I wanted to be. Some of the most memorable wisdoms and quotes that stuck with me, I sampled along the way to and in the north.