Our first days in Lapland were a great adventure. Driving close to the Arctic circle on frozen roads, hiking and snowshoeing in forests out of a winter fairy tale… (you can see photos from these previous days here, here and here) But as the end of the trip was coming near, we drove further north to Inari, Finland’s largest municipality, the least populated and also the capital of Sami culture in Finland. I feel we left the best part of the trip for the last days!
The main reason to drive that far north (300km above the Arctic Circle) was to know a little more about the Sami people. Who are they? The Sami are the only indigenous inhabitants in Europe. They have lived in the arctic regions of Europe (north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula) for more than 5000 years. Traditionally, reindeer has been the centre of Sami existence. At the beginning, they used to hunt wild reindeer, until the 16th century, when they began to domesticate entire herds and migrate with them. Even today, Sami people consume the reindeer’s meat and milk, use the skin for clothing and the bones to make all kinds of hunting and domestic utensils.
We didn’t meet any Sami in person (such a disappointment, I’d have loved to see them dressed in their colorful traditional clothes). But during our days in Inari we learnt a lot about them. We visited the Siida museum in Inari, where we discovered the history and culture of the Sami people and how little their way of life has changed over the centuries. As we learnt about the importance of reindeer in the region, we also visited a farm near Lousto, where we could finally meet these beautiful animals during a snow storm (we had been seeing their footprints in the snow in previous days). We also hiked to the Pielpajärvi church, a little wooden church from the 17th century (and one of the oldest buildings in Lapland), located in the depth of an arctic forest near a lake, where there used to be a winter Sami settlement.
And we hunted auroras! The first night we went to a lake near Saariselkä National Park. The forecast was very promising and the sky cleared just in time for the spectacle. But even with all favorable conditions, the northern lights were very weak and we didn’t see anything, except for a formidable sky full of stars (I’ve never seen so many stars in my life!!). Luckily, my camera captured a faint and small aurora in that starry sky.
The last night, we checked again all the apps and websites, hoping to see the northern lights. This time, the forecast wasn’t as good, but all the apps said that there was a small chance to see the aurora borealis. Once the sky was dark enough, we jumped on our car and drove to a frozen lake 20km north Ivalo. We couldn’t see anything with our own eyes except for a clearer part in the sky. I pointed in that direction and… surprise!!! There it was, a green line crossing the dark sky!!! After years dreaming with northern lights, I could finally see them! Well, ok, my camera did see them… It wasn’t the great spectacle of purple, pink and green lights that other photographers have seen when there are huge solar storms… But, hey, the sky was green and I could capture it! And being a weak aurora, that also means that there are more stars in my photos, including some meteors… So I’m happy with the result: I saw the northern lights and I got some nice photos of it!!!
Here are some of the photos I took during these last days in Lapland… I hope you like them! 🙂