I was lucky enough to join one of our Northern Lights Dog Sledding in Lapland tours this March. I had previously visited Kiruna in the autumn so was excited to visit again and see the region covered in snow.
After arriving at the kennels and settling into the cabin, there was a handy information guide on the wall by the door that had a little map of the kennels and a description of the equipment we could take so I knew where to collect my gear needed for the tour. Gradually the rest of my group arrived at the kennels, we met for dinner and that evening we were treated to an amazing display of northern lights!
In the morning, we were all excited to get going. Mia, our guide for the week, met us for breakfast and talked to us a little about the tour and we were told the name of our dogs who we were going to be taken care of for the week.
Jahjah and Blondie were my lead dogs. As I found out as the week went on, Jahjah was a little anxious when out of his harness but confident and eager to get going once on the line. Luckily, Blondie could keep him in check and was a model lead dog. Adam and Senap were in the back. Senap (“mustard” in Swedish, has a brother called Ketchup) was quite young and I quickly worked out that he needed encouraging to pull ahead and not look at birds/eat snow/lick Adam’s ear. Adam was all business (as an ex-lead race dog) so didn’t have time for Senap’s distraction, but he was great for a cuddle!
After our instruction of how to handle the sleds, we lined up our sleds, firmly anchoring them so in all the excitement the dogs wouldn’t start without us, the lovely handlers were given the names of our lead dogs and they kindly fetched and hooked them up to our sleds. Once we were all ready to go, Mia was first to set off as our guide and would meet us at the top of the hill once we got going!
I’ll admit I’m a little nervous to go first after Mia but before I’ve thought about it for too long I’m heading up the hill. We’re instructed to go slow at first as the dogs are so eager to go they will want to go at full speed but they need to be slowed down to start so they don’t pull a muscle. Luckily I have no intention of going very fast and I head off rather bumpily up the hill to be greeted by Mia. Guides do stops every now and then to make sure everyone is behind them. Once we’re all at the top, we head off again and spend the day travelling through forest getting used to driving our sleds and gradually gaining confidence.
At the end of the day, we arrive at our cabin for the night and quickly learn the routine of unharnessing dogs, giving them a snack, fetching water to heat up for their food and chopping the meat ready for their dinner. Once the dogs are sorted, we have down time in the evenings for reading, sauna or etc. and Mia makes some incredible dinners! After such an incredible aurora display on the first night, the pressure is off to see them but we were very lucky to see some lovely sightings.
Mornings are spent feeding the dogs first thing so they have time to digest before we head out for the day. A big typical Swedish breakfast is eaten and we head out for our day’s adventure.
Each day is different, on this tour we stay at the same cabin a couple of nights in a row, which is great as we don’t have to pack up all our things each morning and can travel lighter. Only needing our shovels and reindeer skins to build our lunch seating, plus lunch of course! As I’m travelling in late March, the days are mostly sunny and beautiful, we only had one storm but I kicked myself for not having my borrowed ski goggles handy in the front of my sled to put on, so my sunglasses will have to do.
One day we are lucky to be staying near the route of the 322km Tobacco Trail race that started that day, so we walk out from our cabins in the afternoon and the racers look a little puzzled when they come around the corner to find some tourists having fika and cheering them on as they pass by in the middle of the wilderness.
It was a brilliant week and goes by far too quickly. I’m sad to say goodbye to my dogs at the end of it but I have promised more than one person not to bring any home so I have to return them to the kennels!