Polar Express

Writer Kate Whitehead | May 9, 2018

Many of those who visit the Arctic are after once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The Northern Lights rank high on many people’s bucket lists and they don’t disappoint, but there’s plenty more to do, like snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoe walking and ice fishing. And when you have travelled so far in search of something out of the ordinary, a regular five-star hotel isn’t going to cut it; you want to stay in a place just as unique as those experiences. Luxury tour operator Jacada Travel has tracked down some knockout Swedish properties north of the Arctic Circle that will have you bedding down smack in the middle of an Arctic adventure.

Sapmi Nature Camp

If it’s a truly authentic Arctic experience that you are after, you can’t beat Sampi Nature Camp – it offers all the fun of glamping with plenty of outdoor activities and a chance to learn first hand about the indigenous people of this region, the Sami.

The camp is owned and run by Lennart Pittja, a Sami who grew up in a family of reindeer herders and is on a mission to share his culture with people from around the world. The camp consists of five traditional lavvu tents, a wooden cabin where meals are served, a sauna hut and a couple of incineration toilets (there is no running water on the camp). Pittja created the camp without cutting down a single tree – that respect for nature is at the heart of Sami culture, they live and breathe sustainability.

The camp is beside a river that freezes over in winter. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and you can pad your way across the river and enjoy the vast expanse of white and the absolute silence. It’s a chance for quiet reflection and perhaps a little awe at the beauty of nature.

Pittja has drilled a hole in the surface of the frozen river and dips a bucket in to get fresh water. Back at the cabin he puts the kettle on for a warming cup of coffee. It’s a chance to talk to him about his life and that of the Sami people. His first memory is of going up to the mountains in the summer with the reindeer, an annual trip that his brother continues to make with the family’s reindeer herd. Pittja is happy to speak not only about the traditions of his people, but also the challenges – climate change, the government and the increasing number of predators that are killing the reindeer.

Dinner isn’t just cooked by Pittja, he also caught the fish and smoked it himself too. When it comes to bedtime you snuggle down in a double bed in a traditional lavvu kept warm with a wood-burning stove. In the absolute silence of the early morning you can lie in bed and think about the reindeer who graze the land you are sleeping on and contemplate a life likely so very different from your own. Doubtless you’ll find there are some lessons and insights from this stay that are worth taking home with you.

www.sapminature.com

Tree Hotel

Picture a bunch of architects and dreamers on a fishing trip. To pass the time they talk about what their ideal tree house would look like. The ideas are fun and imaginative – one conjours up a UFO-styled tree house, another a mirrored cube – and while they sound like the stuff of pure fantasy this particular pipe dream came off the ground thanks to the determination of Kent Lindvall and his wife Brita.

The Swedish couple ran a 1930s to 1950s guesthouse for six years, but it was failing to attract enough guests to pay the bills. The seven tree houses turned their fortunes around, each built by a Scandinavian architect, are located in a wood in Harads and have proved a huge success, drawing visitors from all over the world.

The 7th Room is the most recent, largest tree house and opened in January 2017. The two-bedroom lodging is 10 metres up in the pine trees and even has its own bathroom with shower (yes, you can actually take a shower halfway up a pine tree). The only other tree house with a shower is the Cabin, overlooking the valley, spacious inside and with a wooden terrace.

My personal favourite is The UFO – it looks especially good at night and is reached by a retractable ladder that leads up through the base of the structure. It’s surprisingly spacious inside and can sleep five people. Another fun one is The Mirror Cube which is covered in reflective glass, camouflaging it among the trees. And who says treehouses are only for the able bodied? The Blue Cone (which is actually red – that’s Swedish humour for you) has a ramp for wheelchair access.

For guests staying in tree houses without a shower, there are two shower/sauna cabins less than a minute away. Those who want to get close to nature, but don’t want to be totally out of touch with the world will be pleased to know all the tree houses have Wi-Fi. And I can confirm that despite being up a tree in the Arctic, the connection is good.

Guests descend from their lofty lodgings in the morning and take a short stroll to the guesthouse for a hearty breakfast, packed with 1930s to 1950s memorabilia and a wonderful counterpoint to the modern tree homes. The Swedes are known for their design aesthetic and this project – where modern meets old school – is a prime example.

www.treehotel.se

Pittja created the camp without cutting down a single tree – that respect for nature is at the heart of Sami culture, they live and breathe sustainability