There is a wide range of activities on offer at the Icehotel ranging from cross-country skiing, ice sculpting, ice driving (testing your driving skills on an ice track) and moose safaris. Most of the activities take place in the 4 hours of charming low light between 10 and 2. This gives the countryside an almost monochrome beauty in which figures are silhouetted against the snow.
Racing along forest paths in the snow on a snowmobile is a must-do activity. If you are lucky you may spot an älg (elk, although Americans call them moose) even in the low light. Although elk (moose) are shy, they are surprisingly unfrightened by snowmobiles, which makes it sound as if they are stupid. Perhaps they are.
Choose at least one trip which includes a lunch round a log fire in a wooden hut. The chances are the path to the hut will be lit by lanterns, which gives it even more charm and makes you feel you could only be in Sweden.
Reindeer sledging at a Sami camp
It is well worth making a visit to a Sami (sometimes spelt Sámi) camp. The Sami were originally nomadic but they are now generally settled and farm reindeer. A visit includes the chance to talk to a Sami farmer and feed the reindeer.
After feeding the reindeer comes the hard part: trying to tame a reindeer so that he will politely pull your sledge along. My attempts to tame this particular reindeer met with little success.
A reindeer ride is fun, if scary. You kneel on a sledge and hold on to a piece of rope tied round the sledge with your right hand. You use a rope in your left hand to attempt to control your reindeer as it hurtles or strolls around a 500 m track. Reindeer really have minds of their own and will decide for themselves how fast they wish to pull you along.
After the fun of the reindeer sledge ride it will be time to enjoy a meal cooked over an open fire inside a lavvu, a Sami style tent. You can guess what you will be eating. An amazing once in a lifetime experience.
Listen to the silence
Snowshoe walking is a great activity for a beginner to choose in arctic Sweden, as often there is often too much snow on the paths to be able to use cross-country skies. Jump into a sledge and get towed out into the forest. All you need to do then is to strap some tennis racket sized shoes to your feet and off you go. You will not to need to go very far before you can just stop and listen to the silence in the arctic forest. Wonderful.
Being towed along by a dozen huskies must be the most magical way of travelling out into the arctic forest. The howls of eagerness from the dogs to start running, the gentle creaks of the wooden sledge racing over the snow and ice plus the forest in low light make for a really special ride that you really have to do at least once.
The dogs are very friendly, but ever so keen to run. They howl impatiently to start running, but once they have had a good run they are happy to be petted until they think it is time to run again!
Walking to the old Sami church in Jukkasjärvi
Other than the Icehotel, the main attraction in Jukkasjärvi is the old Sami church. I recommend walking along the frozen Torne river to the church, which is at the eastern end of the village, and then returning along the road. The church, which was built in 1608, is the oldest existing church in Swedish Lapland.
The church is extremely beautiful. Although the eye is drawn to the paintings, find time to admire the organ above the door which is made from reindeer horns and birchwood. The views from the small church windows are also enchanting: idyllic Christmassy images.
As you walk through the village enjoy the beautiful houses, small stugor (cottages) and the welcome lights in the windows. In Sweden you are thought to have something to hide if you close your curtains at night, despite the cold. Swedes always have a warm light shining in the window, no matter how cold it is outside.
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