"Being an adult sucks" that was the thought I had over a year ago, as I was at the worst of all my countless jobs. A few weeks prior I had been watching a show with my mom about the ice hotel, which had long been on my bucket list, I asked her if someday she would go with me and to my surprise, she said: "sure someday." While at my miserable work, I thought of this and once again thought someday, and then thought of how we always say this. Yet, how quickly someday keeps slipping away. so I asked myself, "what did I need to make it happen?": time to plan and a reason to go and to convince my mom. It occurred to me I was just a year out from my 25th (yes that's a monumental birthday if I say it is) and my birthdays was in January the right time to go, so I just needed to convince my mom to keep her promise and see if my sisters or anyone else had the same dream. By February, my mom and sister Ali had agreed.
With the go-ahead, We started planning for real. I had already begun looking into planning it myself, getting everything in that I wanted: an Icehotel, the glass igloos hotel, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and on and on. With little to no knowledge of anything: many of the things I wanted todo were nowhere near each other, or I had no idea how to arrange things so far away in rural areas, it began to become complicated and expensive, I quickly found out travel agent's where the easiest way to go. I booked with Nordic Vistor and found the right trip, Northern Lights break. Using a travel agent also made it easier when we slowly added more people on first a good friend of my moms, then my eldest sister in spring and then in the fall, adding two more my middle sister and my eldest sister's good friend.
With a travel agent taking care of the logistics of Lapland, I wanted to look at rounding out the trip into a solid week. My first option was to go skiing, but between getting from Lapland to a European ski resort and then getting back to America logistically and time-wise didn't make sense. As logistics were critical, we chose between cities we could easily fly in and out with Delta, which boiled down to Paris, London, and Amsterdam as Delta's partner's European hubs. I had been to all three, but my sister and mom hadn't been to Amsterdam, so we agreed on that.
Flight to Amsterdam- Thursday I flew from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam none stops, the only one from our group that's was flying from Utah was my mom's friend, Michelle.
Arrive in Amsterdam- we arrived in Amsterdam before our layover to Stockholm. Mom and Ali flew in from LA. As I waited from them and trying to stay awake (did not sleep at all on the plane), I heard from mom, and Ali turns out they booked their Stockholm flight for the 13th (this foreshadowed more troubles) luckily after talking to few people in the airport they got on my plane.
Stockholm Sheraton- we finally arrived in Stockholm we made it to the hotel, where Sam, Jessica and Jess's friend Julie were already waiting. Having been in Stockholm before, I had seen how central the Sheraton was and had a friend who stayed there who loved it. Note: on our tour, we informed it was voted top three ugliest buildings in Stockholm, which isn't wrong. It's a very ugly facade but comfy and central.
Walking- after checking in, we all gathered in the bar, though, as I was desperately trying to stay awake, I had no interest Lollygagging around and begged to get out walking towards what I decided should be our first stop, the Abba museum.
Stockholm Medieval Museum- We stopped into the Stockholm Medieval Museum, which is free and inside an old underground aqueduct, which is cool to see.
Getting lost- From there, we walked towards the museum I decided as I had been in Stockholm three years prior for a total of 24 hours I knew exactly where we were going (I did not). However, I truly believe getting lost in a new city is the best thing you can do because of my directions leading us on the utterly wrong island. We took a water taxi across the bay to the abba museum, which ended up being the upside of getting lost.
Abba museum- one thing I had no desire to see my first trip but after one of my best friends had been obsessed with it, and as well as a coworker talked about how fun it is and the holograms you could sing with. I knew my sister Jessica would love the museum based on their slogan "walk-in dance out."Our main thought walking out was, "wow, they included every ounce of abba trivia ever known and thoroughly filled an entire museum, but just as fun as promised."
Spirit museum- Someone had heard about a spirts museum, and we all had to go. The museum comes with a spirit tasting at the end. The museum starts with a random art collection but then walks you through different aspects of sprits and making of them, including smelling experiences and facts about Swedish sprits and drinking songs. At the end we got our tastings and gathered around a high top to enjoy our first gathering as a group as cheered.
Night- did I mention I was tired? After the tasting, my mom and I headed back to the hotel to go to sleep, while the girls went to a bar and then to their dinner reservation.
Waking up- seeing as I went to sleep at like 6:30, so no surprise I was the very first to wake up which turned out to be a good thing, as I got a notification that the 8 am flight, Ali, my Mom and I were on, was canceled, and we were now on the 10 am flight with everyone else. Later, when Ali woke up and met me downstairs, and I told her what had happened, she then looked at the email and informed me that they had rescheduled us for a 10 am flight just the one yesterday (eye roll), which led to along time on the phone talking to the airlines, finally got us a refund for the original flight and we then booked the new flight for the new one only flight of the day to Kiruna.
Breakfast- our first breakfast in Sweden, we ate at the hotel, which had some of the best croissants and what would be a highlight throughout the trip Swedish pancakes well and just food in general!
Flight- now that we were all on the same flight we all went to the airport together and thus the final act of airplane problems we boarded the plane and then 20 minutes in had to turn around due to a problem and got back to Stockholm waited an hour before getting on a new flight and then reloading.
Arrive in Kiruna- When we finally arrived, we were met at the airport by a guide and loaded into the van (the perk of having 7 of us was that it was always a full van, so we never had to share).
Clothing- the first stop was to get gear at the tour headquarters. We were given the one-piece snowsuits, boots, helmets, gloves, Balaclavas, and hats. After we had all our gear, we reviewed our itineraries with a guide.
Camp Ripan- we were told camp ripan is the nicest hotel in Kiruna though we didn't have high hopes. The hotel was surprisingly cute and cozy. It consists of a bunch of cabins; each one has a main room with a tiny room off it with a bunk bed in it. Unfortunately, since our plane was late, we had little time to settle in like planned or explore the town, it's not big but cute; they had shops including an H&M, as well as a church we would love to explore.
Snowmobiling- we were picked up and taken to the snowmobiling site about a 20-minute drive. The snowmobile was set up to look at the northern lights, unfortunately, as they are a natural phenomenon and weather permitting (it snowed all day, but we were hopeful). The tour took us through the woods and up to a cabin where they set up a fire and cooked us dinner telling us about Sami's and the region. They made us reindeer stew and linden berry juice (this was the first of many). After dinner, we went snowmobiling back, luckily it was a little more direct this time (even though it was so funny it was freezing). even though it was exhausting it was the perfect kick off to the trip exciting but we had so much to come.
Breakfast- we were being picked up at 9 am so we all planned to meet up around 8:30 to have breakfast in the hotel reception hall. We were warned that lunch would be light and late. The hotel had a great spread of Swedish pancakes and linden berry jam as well as awesome fresh whip cream and a large assortment of other foods like oatmeal breakfast meat pastries etc.
Dogsledding- we were picked up geared up (highly recommend not having your snowsuits up and most gear still in your bag as it's a 20-minute drive). When we got to the dogsledding location, we had to wait a bit. There were dogs everywhere that were so adorable, so we "played" with them for a bit then were given instructions (a lot less than I expected) before long we were on our way. I soon learned the speed you went was the luck of the draw, as it's up to the dogs. That said, everyone agreed it was one of the coolest and most magnificent experiences of our life, some dogsledding companies just have you ride as they take you out, but we were able to actually able to drive. Though maybe the best moment was at the cabin and our guide said, "I'm so impressed a group of women would take a girls weekend and go dogsledding," though, him aside, the trip was perfect both driving and riding in the sled.
Downtime- When we got back, we finally had some downtime as we got back around two and had until 4. everyone was ready for a drink and something else to eat ( I can't even remember what they served us on the trip). It was a little late for lunch, but the kitchen whipped us up a cheese platter, and then I was bold enough to ask for french fries. They even whipped those up, entirely off the menu, and a real highlight the hotels Devore and lodging was great, but that right there won us over. I took the opportunity to take a nap while I had a chance while the others stayed and chatted.
Abisko- the drive to Abisko was about an hour, and we all end up falling asleep, which turns out our driver, the best Sami lady we had the day before as well, said it's an honor as you only fall asleep when you feel comfortable. We met the guide at the bottom lodge, where we walked a short bit (maybe 15 minutes) up to the ski lift. The guide gave a history of the area as we walked. The ride up the hill is long, and if we had been lucky enough to have clear skies and great weather, it might have been gorgeous; instead, it was cold, and nothing gets you cold like sitting outside for half an hour moving (burrr). By the time we hit the top, we were psyched to undress (our top layers) and get cozy inside.
Sky station- The sky station is really just an old ski hut (not some mid-century building the photos look like) though the food set up and the menu was beautiful a really interesting menu presented beautifully. Again reindeer meat or sams (pescatarian) rein-don't meat the best was the dessert if I may say myself. While we ate, we got a presentation on what the northern lights are scientifically (interesting but ruined that upscale feel). After dinner was viewing time, though, I was confident we wouldn't see anything given recent weather even so far out from Kiruna. But it was fun going up to the roof and laying on the snow looking up, hoping to see the elusive beauties, but no such luck. I was done we had until 11 we could stay, but anytime after dinner (around 8) you can ride down so by 9:30 I was ready to go get warm and head to bed (especially since there was still an hour drive ahead) by 10 I was able to convince everyone else and we all loaded up the van at the base of the chairlift this time (no walking needed).
Breakfast- we were all thrilled to sleep in as we had till 10:45, though we also had to pack again. we were thrilled the sun was out, and it was beautiful.
Check-in Ice hotel- the drive to the original ice hotel took about 20 minutes. I was excited, to say the least, everyone else came to see the northern lights (so far a disappointment), but I came for this one glorious night at the ice hotel and driving in I was not disappointed. first we had to check-in, we only had two rooms booked due to a mix up with our travel agent, and Jess had spent the last few days talking with them they were sold out, the hotel allows for 2-3 people per a room they made an allowance to put 3 in one room and 4 in the other. After all that was settled, we dropped our bags in the warm building (we would be assigned a full locker for each room after checkout was over but, in the meantime, had to pile them in a common luggage room).
Ice hotel tour- we had a tour of the hotel, I remembered reading this on the itinerary and asking myself, "why did we need to tour a hotel we are staying in?" It turned out to be fascinating learning about how it started, as an igloo art exhibition and guests asked to stay in one night and here we are 30 years later. Then learning how the ice is harvested right in front of the hotel from the river in March and then stored until November. They rebuild each year carved by a mix of new and returning artists with new, entirely new themes and rooms. Overall it just gave a perspective of how amazing everything we saw was. The tour is short only of the common areas, and then they let you look in all the rooms and explore for yourself. Seeing each room is incredible and amazing; my least emotional sister literally cried at one point in awe of it all. I, on the other hand, went over the insta story photo limit (who knew you could).
Ice bar- after we all had thoroughly explored, we met up at the ice bar and had a drink which is in itself an experience, I never got people going to ice bar in every tourist center but if they're like the ones at the Ice Hotel I get it. Drinking from the cups looking at the details and playing around was a real highlight, and I'm the farthest thing from a drinker.
Reindeer farm- There are a few different trips to Lapland Nordic adventure has the one thing not on ours that I had to do was visit the reindeer farms, so they fit into the schedule for us. We were told to wait at the tour pot and completely missed them and so at 2:10 we called and tried to figure out where they were though we weren't far so we don't know how they could have missed all 7 of us we eventually got it figured out the lady came back and found us. She picked us up in traditional sampi gear and was adorable and had two seeds attached to snowmobile she took us right out in front of the hotel over the river and to reindeer farm (it was freezing with the wind wiping at us but such a cool experience).
Reindeer farm- At the farm, we were introduced to the reindeer and even got to feed them which was so cool unfortunately reindeer are not really cuddly creators as we found out but not mean they'll come up and say hi if you have food there just not going to lick you or be real friendly. After we fed them they took us over to track where we pulled on sleds by the reindeers; they're not docile creatures, so you don't really control them they just hold them till you can go and then you can yell hiii to get them to go faster, but it's amazing. Finally, after all the reindeer games (yes, if Rudolph had been there, we would have let him join in), we huddled up in a tepee, and the sampi girl told us of her traditions and the stories of sampis and the injustice over the years. While cooking us reindeer and putting inside tortillas bread with lingonberry juice at this point, Ali said enough she had enough reindeer over the days and didn't want any more (we had a lot at this point). After lunch, they took us back the same way, and we cuddled up to brave the wind across the river (still so cool but so cold).
^standard room (see still cool)
Check in- back at the ice hotel the tourist had left and we were able to get into our warm room lockers, mom, Ali, Sam and I were in one of the ice suites a room where an artist-designed and carved. While Jess, Julie and Michelle were in an ice room still really cool, they instead all look the same. Because of this, we got a walk-in locker with a bench and space to change while they had a literal locker.
Drinks and dinner- after getting everything settled in and finding out which art suit we had (a little disappointing, especially after my sister, got numbers confused and thought it was my favorite one) we all got drinks at the warm bar next to reception before heading across the road we had dinner at the hotel restaurant where yes they did have reindeer, but Ali was happy to see it was à la carte (and choose not to have it). We all had different things, and enjoyed the relaxed night after the full days we had just had talking about how it was perfectly planned to start strong with activity and yet how each activity seemed to top the last for the most part, as well as talking about how excited we were at the prospect of finally seeing the lights the sky was clear and the solar flares would be strong.
Ice bar- after dinner, we end up at the ice bar again drinking and waiting for the peak viewing hours around 9:30. It seemed we had the bar to ourselves.We had so much fun before
Northern lights- we went out to the river as we were told that was the best viewing area, as it was absent of light pollution and open space. We found a nice snow pile and laying down, letting our eyes become adjusted. You have to let your eyes adjust as it's looking at fractures of light against the night sky to see the purity of the sky. Finally the last night we saw them, and it was so amazing particularly as we were just there together: no fancy activity just us, I had predicted the first night this would be the case. We continued to bounce between the bar and snowbanks in hopes of one more look, but in truth, the first sighting was the best.
Night in the hotel- the hotel rooms open at 6, presumably you could go to bed then, though most people spend time in the warm house where the showers, bathrooms, living room, and lockers are. When you are ready for bed, they give you a sleeping bag, and an insert and suggest you keep hats and long johns on under as well as advice on how to stay warm. Honestly, with 4 of us in the room, there were no problems the biggest thing was getting into bed without your boots on and not getting socks wet I opted for hopping around.