Reindeer Safari and Skiing in Finland
By Candyce H. Stapen
Do something different this winter: go to Finland for a reindeer safari and to ski. Saariselka is a popular ski resort in Finland located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The Finnish people are fond of saying that in Inari, the countryside where Saariselka is located, there are many more reindeer than people.
We got to know the reindeer, the majestic, snowy woods and the locals on a reindeer safari, a Lapland tradition. As we sat snugly blanketed in our pulkka (a small, traditional, wooden sleigh), the reindeer pulled us through Lapland's pristine forests. The only sounds were the reindeersí gentle breathing and the tapping of their hooves on the packed, glistening snow.
Just the tops of pines and the hardiest of birches protruded through the more than six feet of snow. It felt like being in the middle of fairytale. Half-way through our 3-hour adventure, our guide provided lunch: reindeer stew mixed with potatoes and lingonberries that he cooked over a wilderness fire, and served to us in kuksas, traditional Lapp bowls. We wonít soon forget our reindeer safari and the peace of the Finlandís snow covered back country.
Other outdoor options: snowmobiling and cross-country skiing on the 150 km of nearby trails. Despite its popularity, Saariselka didnít feel crowded as there's plenty of space to enjoy this sweeping countryside.
After a day outdoors, we came back to our hotel's roaring fire and such Finnish delights as a sauna followed by a dinner of salmon soup and rack of reindeer. Saariselka offers a range of hotels some of which come with kitchen facilities and private saunas. Good bets for souvenirs (and holiday presents) from Lapland are the Lapp dolls, kuksas, and small paintings by Lapp folk artists.
If traveling with kids, consider stopping at Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, where the big man and his elves toil diligently at their craft. Santaís reindeers are on site. You can also post a letter home marked with Santa's unique Arctic Circle stamp.
Finnair offers a variety of tours and packages that include Saariselka and Rovaniemi.