Visiting Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest

In May 2015, Bob from the Nature Travels team travelled to the provinces of North Karelia and Kainuu in Eastern Finland to visit our new experiences in the area. In the article below, Bob visits the kennels of our Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest.

Day 4 and 5 – Watching the fire, hugging the huskies Today I had a morning to explore Kuhmo before meeting Urpo to discuss canoeing in the area. As I was to discover, Kuhmo doesn’t need a morning to explore! Not only because it’s not exactly big, but also because it turned out I’d arrived on a special Sunday where literally the only thing open in town was the Shell garage and the hot dog café next door. Still, I gave the locals at the café some entertainment, attracting some interested stares firstly for turning up at all (unrecognised cars seem to be a rare thing here) and secondly for coming back again 20 minutes later for another visit when I’d failed to find anything else open. But soon enough it was time to meet Urpo to talk about our Canoeing on the Tar Route in Kainuu experience.


Urpo’s first words words were, “Hello, are you hungry?” as he held out a box of fresh Karelian pies, which seemed like a very good start indeed to the afternoon! After a quick munch and look at the equipment, we set off to a “kåta”, or fireplace, along the river to brew some coffee and talk paddling. We settled into the shelter and lit a fire to make the coffee, and Urpo began rummaging around in his backpack for the necessary bits and pieces. The rummaging became increasingly frantic until it transpired he’d forgotten one vital ingredient – we’d left the coffee on the kitchen table back at his house!

But all was not lost – one of the wonderful things about living in a remote area is how connected people are to their community – you can’t afford not to be. Most people I know, finding themselves out in the bush having forgotten something, would be faced with the choice of either going back to get it or doing without. No so in our case – a quick telephone call – Finland’s mobile network is amazing- to one of Urpo’s “neighbours” (we were 20 mins’ from Urpo’s house) a few kilometres down the road and a fresh pack of coffee was hand-delivered to us in our kåta minutes later…nice!


My afternoon ended with a lovely surprise. It’s rare to find anyone in a remote region who has just one job – most people put together a living income from at least two or three sources – and Urpo does a little moonlighting taking guests for nature photography. A quick stomp through his farm brought us to a little hide constructed in the forest. We crept inside, drew back the curtain, and I was amazed to discover a nest box with three beautiful Ural Owl chicks just a few metres away, with the female gazing watchfully down from a nearby pine tree. Absolutely fantastic – we watched enthralled for half an hour or so, wondering if the male might return with some food, but time was marching on and it was time to be heading to my next stop, the husky kennels.


Here I was greeted warmly by Aki and Suvi, the local hosts for our Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest, and with a flurry of fur and barking by their lovely huskies.

Then I had another amazing wild-themed dinner, this time with creamed wild false morel mushrooms (which are poisonous when uncooked but delicious when prepared properly) served with pike. Dessert was ice-cream (foraged locally that day from the ice-cream trees that grow deep in the forest *only kidding), and blueberries and strawberries picked the previous season.


No day in Finland is complete without a sauna, and this was a particularly nice one – wood-fired and located by a beautiful tranquil lake, with black-throated divers (“loons”) sending their eerie call across the calm water in the dusky evening light. Superheated by the sauna, I even braved a quick deep in the lake, which was a balmy 8 degrees. I have a Sami friend in Jukkasjärvi in the far north of Sweden who likes his sauna really hot (and I mean REALLY hot – you can feel your eyeballs melting), so it was so nice to be able to set my own temperature for a change! With guests sleeping in the main house, my accommodation for the night was a cosy little shepherd’s hut in the garden!


The next morning Aki and I packed two dogs into the car and drove to a local hiking trail, where we were going to be doing some “husky trekking”. Unlike pet dogs, huskies are of course trained to pull, and pull they do! So a traditional lead doesn’t do the job. Husky trekking uses a climbing-style harness round the waist to which you attach a shock absorbing lead. Result: they pull you along rather nicely! (Except my dog had a cheeky trick of waiting until I wasn’t concentrating then  trying to pull me off the path into the swamp).


We spent a happy few hours wandering through a stunning old forest, packed with signs of the rich wildlife of the area – from woodpecker holes to cones gnawed by red squirrels to (most exciting of all), wolf droppings.


Back home we ended the day with a wonderfully calm row across the lake to check the fishing nets. Here fish forms a large part of the dogs’ diet. Salmon offcuts from a local fish farm provide a nutritious and cost-effective main ingredient, while also making use of what would otherwise be a waste product. But closer to home, the dogs are also fed on roach caught just metres from the kennel. This not only makes use of a natural resource with zero food miles, but removing roach from the lake also has a valuable ecological benefit, reducing the disturbance of sediment and lowering the nutrient content of the water (the forestry industry can cause the lakes to have an excess of nutrients).

It was hard indeed to leave the warmth and hospitality of the kennels, but time was marching on and it was time to head north up the Russian border. Over the next couple of days I would be taking in the route for our Hiking in the Finnish-Russian Borderland tour, ending in Hossa, location of Snowshoeing in the Hossa Nature Park.

What To Do With A Day In Helsinki

Bob from the Nature Travels team spends a day exploring Finland’s capital in May 2015 as part of his visit to some of our new experiences in Finland.

Twelve Hours in Helsinki

The night train from Oulu (on which I had spent a restful night in unaccustomed luxury, in a private cabin with en-suite shower and toilet! – thank you VR Finnish Railways!) pulled into Helsinki station at just after 7am on a beautiful May morning.

I’d been provided with a 24-hour Helsinki Card city pass to try out (48 and 72-hour passes are also available), so before I went to bed the night before, I’d browsed through the brochure that comes with the card and planned my day. The Helsinki Card offers unlimited use of public transport and free or reduced price admission to many of Helsinki’s attractions.

Photo: Jussi Helstén/Visit Finland

As not much is open in Helsinki before 9am (or 10 or 11 for some of the attractions), I had a couple of hours to kill, so I wandered through the wide, quiet streets towards the water, where I settled down on a park bench in the morning sunshine for a snooze with a view, looking out across the shining blue Baltic Sea to some of the islands that fringe the shore and watching the sailing boats glide by.

Soon it was time to potter along the seafront to the main harbour for the Beautiful Canal Route sightseeing cruise, which is one of the many things that are free with the Helsinki Card.

The cruise is not so aptly named, actually, as rather than canals, the majority of the trip takes in some of the nearest of the gorgeous archipelago islands that lie just off the coast, but it’s great for a taster of archipelago life and a basic history lesson on Helsinki’s turbulent past. Prepare to be just a little jealous at how nice the Helsinkians have it when you see the idyllic summer houses!

Photo: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland

I’m not a huge art fan, but I do enjoy a look at a gallery or two in any city I visit, so after a spin on the SkyWheel (Helsinki’s version of the London Eye), it was time for some culture as I headed back towards the station for the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Whatever your view on modern art (mine ranges from “clever” to “rubbish”), it’s always fun. The Kiasma is well worth a visit, and once again free with the Helsinki Card. Prepare to blush if you’re caught staring too long at some of the rather naughty photos currently on exhibit.

Photo: Jussi Helstén/Visit Finland

With my flight time approaching, my day in Helsinki was already drawing to a close and I hadn’t yet bought the goodies I’d promised to take back to the office (in the end I settled on some licquorice and a bag of something wonderfully named Suffeli Puffi), but I still had time for a quick trip to the Ateneum Art Museum, just a couple of hundred metres away and right next to the railway station. Here they had a fascinating exhibition of photographic portraits of rural and urban Finns in the mid-1960s taken by Ilmo. I have to say this turned out to be the highlight of the day. Oh and you’ve guessed it, entrance is free with the Helsinki Card.

Then it was time to board the airport bus, wishing I had another day or two to spend – but with the recent addition of Finland to the Nature Travels portfolio, I’ll be back soon!

So, some top tips for Helsinki? Here are 8 things I really liked, and one I didn’t:

1. The loos are free.
Call me a cheapskate (you wouldn’t be the first), but I believe the possibility to pee for free should be a basic human right, and of the many things that are likely to trigger a rant, paying for public toilets is quite high on the list (try finding a free loo in Venice, for example, where a whopping €2 seems to be pretty standard). But enlightened Helsinki has a wonderful network of free toilets around the centre – hooray!

2. There’s a decent-sized supermarket right at the station.
Supermarkets in city centres can be hard to find, but the S-Market in the railway station complex has pretty much everything you’ll need for stocking up before a long train or bus trip or if you’re planning a picnic in the park.

3. It has a sensibly-priced airport bus.
Getting to and from the airport in many cities can be a real rip-off, but the Finnair Citybus (leaving from the bus station just next to the train station) is a very reasonable €6.50, or just €4 with a valid Helsinki Card. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

4. The city has free wi-fi.
The Finns are pretty hi-tech, with amazing mobile coverage even in the remotest areas. In Helsinki, there’s an open-access wi-fi cloud in the city centre for those who just can’t wait to brag about how much they’re enjoying the sights.

5. It’s cheap.
Well, OK, not cheap exactly, but not too bad at all for a capital city, especially a Nordic one. And the strong Pound against the Euro at the moment helps a lot of course. A lunch of salmon quiche, salad and bread at the centrally-located Svenska Teatern cost me €8.50 (about £6.50), while a decent baguette and two chocolate croissants from the above-mentioned S-Market at the station came to just €5.35 (about £4). Even entrance to the the city zoo, located charmingly on its own island, is only €12, or €10 with the Helsinki card, though sadly I didn’t get time to visit this time around.

6. It has beautiful clear blue skies and warm sunshine all the time!
Hmm…well probably not. But the day I visited was a gorgeous early spring day in late May when there was barely a cloud in the sky. Of course any city shows its best side in the sun, but the glittering water, the leafy green islands and the spacious avenues were a beguiling combination.

7. It has trams.
Enough said. How can you not like trams? (except perhaps if you live in Edinburgh, but that’s another story as only Edinburgh-dwellers reading this will know)

8. It’s walkable.
With “only” 600,000 inhabitants (though that’s still a lot when you consider the world is down to its last few thousand rhinos), Helsinki is very manageably-sized, and most things you’re likely to want to visit are within reasonable walking distance. That said, if you have the Helsinki Card, unlimited use of public transport is free (including the boat out to the island of Suomenlinna).

And the thing I didn’t?

Well, “didn’t” is maybe a bit strong, but the SkyWheel (Helsinki’s equivalent of the London Eye) was rather underwhelming. It’s free if you have the Helsinki Card, so certainly worth a go in that case, as you’re likely to find yourself down by the quay for other attractions anyway, but otherwise I’d recommend saving the €12 ticket price to sample some of the many other delights Helsinki has to offer.

Nature Travels has recently added many experiences in Finland to our portfolio, including Private Dog Sledding for Two in the Taiga Forest, Cycling and Canoeing in Eastern Finland, Island Cabin with Sauna in Eastern Finland and Snowshoeing in the Hossa Nature Park. All of these involve travel to Helsinki for onward connections. My thanks to Visit Finland for assistance with my recent visit and for arranging the Helsinki Card, and to VR (Finnish Railways) for the wonderfully relaxing train trip down from Oulu.

Gothenburg – Sweden’s second largest city.

Gothenburg is located right by the Kattegat sea, on the west coast of Sweden, and has a population of a little over 500 000. It is located about halfway between the capitals of Copenhagen in Denmark and Oslo in Norway.

The international airport, Landvetter airport, is 20 kilometres southeast of the city centre. It’s easy to get to and from the airport by shuttle bus, Flygbussarna, and the journey takes between 25 and 30 minutes. Buses leave from right outside the terminal building and the end station is the largest bus station in central Gothenburg, Nils Ericsson Terminal. Taxis or car rentals are also available at the airport.

Göran Assner/

The main street in Gothenburg is called Kungsportsavenyn (commonly known as Avenyn, “The Avenue”). It’s about 1 km long and begins at Götaplatsen and extends all the way to Kungsportsplatsen, in the old city centre of Gothenburg. It crosses a canal and a small park on the way. The Avenue has the highest concentration of pubs and clubs in Gothenburg.

Simon Paulin/

The Fish Church is an indoor fish market next to Rosenlunds Canal in central Gothenburg. The fish church gets its name from the building’s resemblance to a Gothic church and has a wide range of fish and seafood. There are two first-class fish restaurants, but there are also lunch and take-away options available.

Göran Assner/

The district Haga on the south side of the River Göta älv, was once so run-down and messy that large parts were demolished in the 1970s. The part that now remains is now the city’s prime area, its cobbled lanes lined with cosy cafes that sell plate-sized cinnamon rolls are very popular among tourists and perfect for a Swedish fika (coffee break with cake/bun). It has an old, cosy atmosphere – Gothenburgers love their coffee shops and the town is known for its relaxed cafe feel.

Gothenburg also has many parks and reserves, ranging in size from tens of square metres to hundreds of hectares. It also has many green areas that are not designated as parks or reserves.

Slottsskogen is Gothenburg’s largest park at 137 hectares. It has a free “open” zoo containing seals, penguins, horses, pigs, deer, elk, goats and many birds. You also find the Natural History Museum and the city’s oldest observatory within the park.


Some major events are held in Slottskogen such as one of the world’s biggest half-marathons, “Göteborgsvarvet”, with 64,000 participants, and the Music Festival “Way Out West”, which features a variety of popular music mainly from the rock, electronic and hip-hop genres. Slottskogen is also avery popular place to go for a picnic. It is permitted to have a few beers and a small barbeque on the grass.

Another large recreation area is Delsjö nature reserve area at ​​about 760 hectares with a 3km long lake. This area is perfect for those who want to get closer to nature without going far from the city centre. You can walk, run, cycle, ride, rent boats, play beach volleyball or why not go for a swim? This area is beautiful in all seasons. There is also a small café selling waffles during the summer. Göteborg is a cosy town well worth a visit at any time of year and a perfect add-on to any of our outdoor experiences in West Sweden and Skåne.


Skåne is the southern most county (or län) in Sweden its capital city is Malmö (the third largest city in Sweden).

Due to the Gulf Stream Skåne enjoys mild winters (perhaps with the occasional snow flake in January- February) and warm summers. Whilst the midnight sun does not shine in Skåne at mid-summer there is up to almost 18 hours of daylight in which to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery or the vibrant night life Skåne has to offer.

Justin Brown/
Justin Brown/


Perhaps one of the most unexpected things to find in Skåne is Ladonia, a self-declared independent micro-nation which can found in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve in the northern part of Skåne. Ladonia currently has 17000 citizens (none of whom live there) from all over the world, its own national anthem (the sound of stone landing in water) and a Queen (Carolyn I).

Ladonia began when Lars Vilks began creating a sculpture named “Nimis” from driftwood. For two years Vilks worked on the sculpture, a series of towers, without any one discovering it (the location being reached by boat or down a steep path). However once it was discover the local authorities tried to get Vilks to remove his sculpture which they deemed to be a building which are not allowed in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. This resulted in many legal battles, all the while Vilks  added to Nimis making a labyrinth of towers and walkways. He even built a separate sculpture Arx (made from reinforced concrete). Finally in 1996, Vilks declared Ladonia to be a independent Micronation as the local authorities could not control the area or enforce it’s own rulings. Since then people from all over the world have been applying for citizenship and it’s number s continue to grow!

The flag of Ladonia. a green cross on a green background.
The flag of Ladonia, a green cross on a green background.


Malmö is one of Sweden’s oldest cities and is full of historical and  cultural attractions, it is easily accessible from Copenhagen and Gothenburg.

Possibly one of Malmö’s most famous landmarks is the Öresund Bridge. The bridge spans about 8km across the Öresund strait connecting Malmö and Copenhagen via road and rail.

The Öresund Bridge whilst well know before for being the longest combined road and Rail Bridge in Europe has been made even more famous by the Scandi crime TV series The Bridge, in which Malmö’s police department and the Copenhagen police department have to work closely together when a body is found no the Öresund Bridge half way between the two countries!

Silvia Man/
Silvia Man/

In the oldest part of Malmö you will find Lilla Torg (Little Square), built in 1592 it was once a market square. Today Lilla Torg’s historical buildings are restaurants, bars and shops. In the summer it is busy with locals and tourists alike enjoying a meal or a drink out on the cobbled square or even in Malmö’s one and only Scottish Pub!

Miriam Preis/
Miriam Preis/

Ystad & the Österlan coast

Ystad is famous world wide for being the setting for Henning Mankell’s Crime series Wallander. Fans of the TV series can take a tour of the city to visit all the spots featured on the show (it is also a great way to see the many of Ystad’s historical buildings).

Nature Travels Sofia Carter
Nature Travels Sofia Carter

The Österlan coast offers beautiful picture postcard scenery, yellow fields with bright blue skies and the occasional red or white house dotted here and there and some of Sweden best beaches with miles of golden sand to stroll along or to lie on next to the turquoise waters.

Nature Travels Sofia Carter
Nature Travels Sofia Carter

If visiting the Österlan another must see is the Ales Stenar. Thought to have been made in the Iron Age, Ales Stenar is a group of 59 standing stones arranged in the shape of a ship and is Sweden’s largest remaining stone ship. The purpose of the stones ships is not fully understood; theories range from burial site to sundials!


When in Skäne there is nothing better to accompany your Fika than a slice of a local delicacy, Spettekaka (sometimes Spättekaka or spit cake in English).

Do not be put off by the name, Spettekaka is made from eggs, potato flour, normal flour and sugar, the resulting batter is drizzled on to a rotating spit over a fire (hence the name), each layer is allowed to bake before a new layer is added. When the cake has finished cooking it is usually decorating with icing (often pink and white).

Since the EU gave Spettekaka a protected geographical indication (PGI) you can only get a “real” Spettekaka from Skäne.

Melker Dahlstrand/
Melker Dahlstrand/

We offer a number of activities in Skåne including canoeing and Forest Yurt Retreat in Skåne next to the Kullaberg Nature Reserve.

West Sweden

West Sweden is a region (as the name suggests) in the west of Sweden, made up of the provinces of Bohuslän, Dalsland and Västergötland.

Västergötland is best-known for the largest city in the region, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city after the capital Stockholm. Gothenburg has two airports, Gothenburg City Airport and Gothenburg Landvetter Airport. Landvetter is Gothenburg’s main airport, located 25 km from the city. Gothenburg City Airport is the closest, just 15 km from Gothenburg. Both are just 20 minutes or so from the city by flight bus.

The region is also easily reached by flying to Copenhagen in Denmark. Right from Copenhagen Airport it is possible to take the direct train that reaches Gothenburg in just over 3 hours.

Gothenburg has many parks and nature reserves, which vary in size from tens of square metres to hundreds of hectares. It also has many green areas that are not designated as parks or reserves.



Bohuslän is Sweden’s westernmost province and situated on the west coast on the Skagerrak, the area of sea between Sweden and Norway. It is probably best-known for its coastline with smooth rock formations perfect for sunbathing, as well as for its fishing. Its seafood such as lobster and oysters are among the best in the world.

The archipelago consists of 8,000 islands, islets and reefs. The seascape environment is spectacular with calm, protected waters for kayakers of all levels with no strong currents or tides.

The small islands and villages that make up the Bohuslän archipelago are relaxing, but can be adventurous if you want them to be. Some of the best kayaking destinations that you should look out for include the Koster Islands, a part of the new Marine National Park, which boasts more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Sweden, as well as the wonderfully-named Väderöarna (“Weather Islands”) with ther seal colonies. You can also paddle around more protected by islands in the Fjällbacka archipelago or head to the picturesque islands of Orust and Tjörn.

The Bohuslän archipelago, with its many smooth granite cliffs, fishing villages and green islands, is a favorite of kayakers.



This province has a low population density of about 14 inhabitants / km² and just one city of significant size, Åmål. Dalsland is sometimes called “Sweden in miniature”. Dalsland has many lakes, plains and even one mountain area, the Kopparfjäll and Kynne hills.

The province has uninhabited areas characterised by dense forests in the northwestern highlands and lakes in the east, giving Dalsand its common title of “Sweden’s lake province”. Its sparkling rivers and thousands of lakes that dot the deep forests mean that Dalsland made for canoeing.

Dalsland is intersected by long, narrow gorge lakes, including Stora Le, Lelång and Västra Silen. Stora Le is as much as 70 kilometers long, counting the part that extends northward through Värmland and into Norway. Between the lakes are deep, hilly forests, interspersed with small villages, locks and farms.

DSCF8480Want to discover more of West Sweden?
By canoe or kayak is the perfect way to travel!

Outdoor Academy in Swedish Lapland 2015

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Outdoor Academy this year. This year was set in beautiful Swedish Lapland and the focus was on hiking, so I was very happy to be invited to such an event. The Outdoor Academy is a collaboration between Swedish tourist boards and the Scandinavian Outdoor Group to showcase an area of Sweden and all the brilliant things it has to offer whilst promoting Scandinavian outdoor equipment.

Elky and mountains

Invited on the academy were tour operators, retailers and journalists from Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and the UK with an interest in promoting Sweden. We all arrived into Kiruna airport and one of the first questions was “where’s Elky?” Thank goodness I remembered to bring him! Welcomed by our hosts and introduced to our guides, we were given a selection of equipment to use throughout our hike. It felt like Christmas had arrived early, I was just wondering how I was going to fit it all in my new backpack, let alone carry it up a mountain! Elky was greeted by old friends at a dinner of arctic char and reindeer heart to fuelled us up to begin our journey in the morning.


We started our hike, which would ascent 800m to Låktajåkka mountain station, early in the morning. The views becoming more and more spectacular the further we climbed. The autumn in Lapland is wonderfully colourful and the floor was awash with wild blueberries, we even found some cloudberries. We stopped for a lunch of dried food, which started of looking unappealing but once we added our hot water it magically formed into a beef casserole! I was appreciative of the warm woolly base layers by this point and felt toasty as long as I kept moving.

lakta inside

Warmly greeted at the mountain cabin, we rested our weary legs by the fire and were given waffles and a selection of toppings to try. The mountain station is famous for its waffles and I would thoroughly recommend them with cloudberry jam and cream. Although we were staying at the cabins, we tested out our equipment and cooked our dinner outside on our Trangia. The weather had taken a turn for the worst so we were allowed to eat it inside in the warm and the lovely guides offered to cook our pudding for us instead of sending us back outside, which was greeted with a cheer! The evening included a whisky tasting session of Swedish whisky, as I don’t drink whisky I gave mine to our brilliant Sami photographer and I’m told it was very nice. After being warmed up by the whisky, we were given a tutorial for night photography, the aim originally to take northern lights photos but as it was cloudy, we wouldn’t see them tonight so our tutor talked us through the best way to take night photos.


I woke up to snow the next day, which also happened to be my birthday so being born in September this was a first for me. Sofia at the Nature Travels office had kindly mentioned to the organisers it was a special day and when I went downstairs for breakfast, suddenly everyone started singing and I was presented with a cake and sparkler. Took me a while to work out what was going on but I eventually twigged they were singing to me! Rör ihop kaka, roughly translates as “stir together cake” and comes in any flavour you fancy but this morning I was enjoying chocolate cake for breakfast.



We headed out for our second day of hiking, it was still snowing and the landscape we were walking through was a striking monochrome. We were going downhill today and the further we descended the more colourful the landscape became, like falling into Munchkinland on the Wizard of Oz. Rainbows started popping up around us as we arrived at Karsavagge mountain station, where we would be pitching our tent for the night. After picking our spot, we pitched our tents and then had a lesson in how to lasso a reindeer. I was useless and nearly ended up lassoing my fellow participants instead of the antlers that were right in front of me! We cooked reindeer burgers over an open fire and then cooked the rest of our dinner using our trusty Trangias. During dinner I was serenaded with more birthday songs in German, Swedish, Dutch and Sami. Then a couple of Sami coffee sellers joined us and told us tall tales of how they make their lemming coffee. Early to bed as we have an early start and a long distance to hike in a short period of time to get to Abisko.


Woken up by a very cheerful guide at 6am, we had our muesli and then it was time to pack up. We start our 13km hike over relatively flat land, through a valley to get to Abisko by midday. Abisko mountain station is the location of the start of some of our summer hikes and winter ski touring. The weather was perfect today to enjoy the stunning scenery and we walked through a valley and then through forest to reach our destination at the gateway to Lapland. Once at Abisko mountain station, the girls jumped straight in the showers whilst the boys prioritised food.


The evening was spent sampling the wonderful food Abisko mountain station has to offer and we were all presented with a certification of completion, including Elky, who now has three! In the morning after a hearty buffet breakfast we were transferred to Kiruna airport, then we all went said our fond farewells from Stockholm, already missing the magnificent mountains of Swedish Lapland. Many thanks to all those involved in organising the Outdoor Academy in Sweden.

Kind regards

Niki & Elky

Nature Travels offers many tours in Swedish Lapland. Our winter adventures start from around mid-November ending late April and include Dog Sledding, Ski Touring and Winter Accommodation. For summer we also have Guided and Self-guided Hiking and Guided Canoeing.

How to stay safe on lake and sea ice!

Here in England we still have warm temperatures during the days, but at night the colder temperatures are rolling in. It’s now time to start planning your winter adventure! One of the adventures I hope to be able to do this winter season is Long Distance Ice Skating on the lakes or sea ice in and around Sweden.

When you grow up in Sweden, part of your general education is ice knowledge, knowing how to keep safe on and around the ice. All our experiences on natural ice are guided by experienced guides, but it never hurts to freshen up on some ice knowledge.


Photo: Hilary Neve
Photo: Hilary Neve

Ice knowledge:
NB: The following information is presented for general guidance and information only – it is not a substitute for professional guiding or instruction and Nature Travels accepts no responsibility for its accuracy or completeness.

This knowledge should be studied and discussed with those knowledgeable and experienced in activities on ice before going out on the ice. It is important to have a good knowledge of rescue techniques before going out on to the ice.

Never be alone on the ice.

Never leave children alone around or on the ice.

Always tell somebody where you’ll be and when you plan to return.


Never walk on ice unless you are sure that it will hold your weight. Blue ice must be at least 10 cm thick. Always test the ice with the ice pick if you are unsure.

It is important to know that there are different types of ice with different levels of support. The ice does not look the same everywhere.
Remember that new ice, spring ice, snow-covered ice and sea ice may be weak.
Know the ice weak points !

  • cracks in the ice
  • reeds
  • jetty
  • bridge
  • peninsular
  • drain
  • outlet
  • inlet
  • small passages of water
  • where there are stones, etc, under the water
Beat Kilcher
Photo Beat Kilcher

Always carry ice claws and other safety equipment on the ice.
You need, among other things, to take with you:

  • Small ice claws for rescue
  • Large ice pick to test the ice
  • Rescue rope
  • Something to help with buoyancy
  • Spare change of clothes in waterproof bag

When you go out on the ice, you should always have at least one adult companion (equipped with rescue rope) with you. It is not certain that you can manage to get out of a hole with only small ice claws. The higher the speed at which you are travelling, the further out you will be on thin ice before it cracks and the more difficult the rescue.

How to rescue someone who has fallen through the ice

If someone falls into the water, tell the person to swim to the edge of the ice and use their elbows to lift themselves partially out of the water. Have them go to the edge of the ice where they came from, since it held their weight up until that point, whereas the ice around the other edges might be weak. The weight of their wet clothes will probably make it impossible for them to lift themselves up out of the water––the main objective is for them to just get a grip on the edge of the ice, so don’t let them waste energy trying to pull themselves out.

They should use the ice claws to get a grip on the ice. Instruct the victim to kick their legs and to try to make themselves as horizontal as possible. They should kick their legs as they would if they were swimming and come out of the hole in a horizontal position, with their belly on the ice. Once the victim is out of the water, they should roll away from the hole to minimise the impact of their weight on the ice.

Be aware that would-be rescuers frequently become victims when they fall through the ice as well. Always have something between you and the victim – “the
extended arm”. You should throw a long object that the victim can hold on to, such as a pole, a rope, a tree limp, or even a long scarf. Connecting yourself with the drowning person with a long object will keep you out of harm’s way. Pull the victim out. Stay low, stay off the thin ice, and pull hard. If you have helpers, have them use their strength to assist with pulling and make sure they stay away from the thin ice.

Warm the victim. If the victim is breathing and conscious, bring them inside or somewhere warm. They may need to be treated for shock as soon as possible.

Get the victim medical attention as soon as possible. Even if they feel fine, they should still be examined by a medical professional.

Ice should be treated with respect, but don’t let this scare you! Skating on natural ice is a great adventure and a magical experience! Stay safe out there!

Sofia – From the Nature Travels Team

Photo: Candra Canning
Photo: Candra Canning

Visiting the Guest Houses in Eastern Finland

In May 2015, Bob from the Nature Travels team travelled to the provinces of North Karelia and Kainuu in Eastern Finland to visit our new experiences in the area. In the article below, Bob visits the guest houses for our Cycling and Canoeing in Eastern Finland and Cross Country Skiing in Eastern Finland tours.

Food, glorious food!

Following a lovely stay at the Island Cabin, my itinerary took me north for the 2.5 hour drive to Minna’s guest house, a converted school house and one of the accommodation stops on Cycling and Canoeing in Eastern Finland and Cross Country Skiing in Eastern Finland.

After another restful night’s sleep, Minna and I set off to visit Henna, Riitva and Anni – the lovely hosts of some of the other guesthouses used on the the tours. These are not faceless one-size-fits-all chain hotels – they are individually-crafted, authentic and untouristy, run with love and passion and with a profound respect for their surroundings; each with its own unique local character but every one offering a wonderfully warm welcome and traditional Karelian hospitality.


Being more familiar with the Swedish and Norwegian culinary traditions, I was surprised and delighted to discover a whole new area of Nordic food culture to enjoy – I certainly hadn’t counted on the food here in Karelia being quite so amazing!


The day was a delightful blur of chatting, laughing and being fed like a king, as well as saying hello to Henna’s reindeer and enjoying a sauna (not all at the same time!) What really struck me this day is how much the experience of local culture and food contributes to the enjoyment of a visit here, quite apart from the attractive rural landscapes and the fun and challenge of the outdoor activities, from Henna’s home-made, alcohol-free beer and delicious carrot and cauliflower soup with rosebay willowherbs to Riitva’s melt-in-the-mouth Karelian pies and cheescake (Riitva’s baking is well-known elsewhere in Finland, too!) to Anni’s amazing and creative use of wild plants.


Dinner at Anni’s was artichoke soup with home-made rye bread and egg mayonaisse, followed by locally-caught pike fishcakes served with a nettle sauce and two beautifully-presented side salads of cabbage garnished with edible flowers and a green salad with goutweed and all kinds of other wonderful leafy things I’ve forgotten the name of. The great majority of the ingredients for the meal were grown or picked right there on the organic farm. And it didn’t end there – breakfast time brought porridge with organic yoghurt, linseeds and crushed berries and a salad topped with yarrow and bread with gojiberry and apple jam. Oh, and I’ve forgotten the home-made squash that tasted delightfully of almonds. Oh, and I’ve forgotten the home-made pesto, too!


I should probably stop rambling now – you’ve probably gathered I’m no foodie journalist. But I’m seriously going to need to diet when I get back to the office…

Of course it isn’t all about the food (although these tours did recently receive the accolade of Finland’s Best Food Tourism Product) – the attractive Karelian countryside, with its quiet lanes, cool waters, thick forests and rolling agricultural landscape, is ideal to explore by cycle and canoe in the summer or on cross country skis in winter, with the guest houses placed a day’s paddle/pedal/ski apart. But my lasting impression here is that the guest house element and the warmth of the local hospitality and culture (plus the nightly sauna of course!) brings an added dimension which complements and enhances the outdoor activities, and means that when doing the tours you will start and end each day with a full tummy and a warm glow in your heart!

Best regards

Bob from The Nature Travels Team

Wild Swimming

Wild swimming has increased in popularity in the UK in recent years. People appear to embracing the idea of taking a dip in natural waters after years of swimming up and down lanes in a chlorine filled swimming pool. Swimming in the outdoors is totally normal in the Nordic countries, and “wild swimming” is somewhat a weird concept as that’s just how you go for a swim. If it’s warm enough, why would you swim indoors? Children are taught to swim at a young age and spend most of their childhood splashing in lakes, rivers and the sea.

Photo: John Hartshorn

For those who are not convinced, there are many benefits of swimming outdoors, including increased circulation, it gives you immune system a boost and it burns more calories than robotically paddling up and down a lane. Plus, it’s much more enjoyable! Winter swimming is also popular for the brave in Sweden, Norway and Finland in connection with a traditional sauna but you may want to just have a roll in the snow to cool down quickly as it can be quite a shock to the system.


Please remember that any sort of swimming has its risks and you should always be sensible in the water. Never swim alone, as wild waters won’t have the benefit of a lifeguard and if it’s very cold, get in the water gently as the shock of the cold water can cause difficulties. However, leaping into a lake on a hot summers day is highly recommended (as long as you’ve checked it’s deep enough for a dive bomb!). If it is deep enough, why not practice your dive, as a belly flop can be painful but does have the added bonus of splashing any surrounding bystanders!

Travelling to our nearby Nordic countries for some wild camping and swimming is a real adventure many children do not get to experience who live in countries where restrictions prevent them from doing these things that should be a part of growing up.

Dive bomb
Photo: Back to Basics in Cosy Cabins, Öivind Lund

Many of our summer experiences involve water from timber rafting and canoeing to staying at a cabin by a lakeside and you will have the opportunity for a swim the way nature intended. We still have some availability for our cabins and experiences on the water for the end of this summer, or maybe you would like some ideas for next summer. Take a look here.

My stay at the Wilderness Camp.

In May 2015, Sofia from the Nature Travels team travelled to the provinces of Bohuslän  in West Sweden and visits the Wilderness Camp in Bohuslän .

I drive slowly up the hill on the small gravel road and I’m wondering if I really took the right turn, but then I see another sign that leads me onto an even smaller gravel road with grass growing in the middle. Then I’m there! I park on the small grass with a sign saying “parking”. I step out of the car and walk up to the small building with a big sign saying “reception”. There’s no one there, I look up towards the traditional red and white Swedish cottage I can see, which I assume is my host’s home and there I see him coming out onto the porch with a big smile.

Toilett 7

Mats takes me into the reception cabin and give me maps of hiking trails in the area, a layout of the camp and other essential information. He also gives me the bedding and towels I’ve arranged. We then walk down to the camp together. When we’re closing up to the camp we pass the loos. There’s one composting toilet for when you need to sit down and one “men’s room” for those who want to stand. I’m very used to the Swedish style outdoor toilet, but this one gets high marks even in my book. It has a radiator and electric lights, it consists of two rooms one private area and one room for hand washing etc. and because it has a system where it separates the urine, it doesn’t smell at all.

DSCF8260Anyway, soon after that we reach the main area of the camp. It’s not big, it’s actually a lot cosier than I expected and from my impression from photos. There are six small accommodation buildings with two beds in each, and in the evening sun, they look like they’re standing to attention in their neat row. In the middle of the area is a hut for socialising. Inside there are tables and benches along the walls and in the middle an old iron stove that gives out a pleasant warmth.

Mats also shows me the kitchen hut, shower room, the sauna by the stream and the smoke house were you can have barbecues. There’s a relaxing “away from it all” feeling over the whole place. I thank Mats for showing me around and head for my little cabin, I’m staying in cabin number one. I make myself at home and think “This is nice!”

DSCF8222The camp is quite empty – at the time of my stay it’s only me and one other couple staying at the time – but I can never imagine it as feeling crowded. There are only 12 beds.

I spend a very nice evening enjoying dinner and reading my book on the porch outside my little cabin. I also go for a stroll in the forest up to a viewpoint. It’s a long time since I follow such clearly-marked trails, with the little map Mats has given me combined with the markings it’s an easy walk with no chance of getting lost. When I come back, I try out the shower and toilet facilities, but skip the sauna this time.

When it is time to leave the next day I really wish I was staying longer. I feel real at peace and feel like I had a break from modern life for a while. But I must move on and off I drive soon back with in the civilisation, but with a calmness inside and a smile on my face.