Arriving at Levi Husky Park, I hear the dogs before I see them – they’re howling, yowling, desperate to pull the sled. As soon as they’re hooked up to one, they raise their tails like happy flags, stoked for the sprint. These hounds live to run.
The dogsledding centre lies just outside the town of Levi in Lapland, high in the Arctic Circle region of northern Finland. It’s home to not only sled-running Siberian huskies, but also movie star wolves, arctic foxes, and even a reindeer who will take the food right out of your mouth if you pucker up (FYI no judgments here). There are a few sledding trips available – but if you’re pressed for time like I was, book in for the 4km sprint around Lake Munajärvi. I visited in early spring and the lake was frozen, making for some very easy-on-the-eye scenery.
Rushing across the ice with the musher behind me and seven ecstatic hounds in front, the ride is over far too soon. (Tip: Resist the urge to remove your gloves to take pics/video during your ride. I took mine off and my hands were painfully chapped for days afterwards – not a great idea when it’s already -18C and you’re being dragged by dogs attempting to break the land-speed record.) The whole experience lasts about an hour and a half and includes a tour of the facility as well as a hot chocolate. Definitely worth checking out.
Lapland is spruiked as Santa Claus’ North Pole home, and in the town of Rovaniemi there’s even an underground theme park devoted to the beardy (great if you’re travelling with kids). The area’s equally known for its reindeer and you’ll find them in everything from sleigh harnesses to stews. Being a vegetarian and committed Faunographer, I’m not keen on forking Rudolph, but my friend describes the meat as “strong, gamy, delicious… and a bit like moose”. Fair enough. Head to Restaurant Kammi in Levi village if you really must try it yourself.
If you’re in St Nick’s hood it would be rude not to road-test his preferred mode of transport, so head over to Reindeer Park for a quick whip around in a sleigh. The trail winds across frozen fields dotted with grand old pines – it’s like whooshing around a Christmas card, but nowhere near as exciting as the dogsled.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Levi and Rovaniemi for various budgets, but as I was there for work I was treated to the Levi Spirit Villas, just outside Levi Town in Taalovaara. The property has nine two-storey chalets posher than a Beckham’s pout (think: heated floors, private hot tubs and saunas, fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows). Even better, it’s right in the middle of the outdoor action, with 230km of flat-as-A4 cross- country ski tracks right at the front door. Well worth saving up for.
* Many thanks to Nokia for making this trip happen.
** I must apologise for the quality of these pics. I used two cameras on this trip and I lost the shots I took on my “good camera”. The pics used here aren’t my favourites, but you get the idea…
*** You’ll notice it’s been a while between posts… sorry about that; my day job got in the way of things last year but I’m baaaaaack! I really appreciate your patience – RM