Sorry it's Finnish-ed

I’m not used to waking up in complete darkness – but neither am I used to brushing my teeth on a balcony looking deep into branches of a frozen forest, pine needles glinting in the reflected light from my twin cabin. Yet this was how I started every day at Basecamp Oulanka, wrapped in thermals with the Arctic chill exfoliating my cheeks. Days are short here, but even in the blue-ish dawn, there is just enough light to appreciate the surrounding beauty through the thin gauze of cloud.

Eco-friendly log cabins Eco-friendly log cabins

This view mesmerised me every morning except the last. I dressed in a rush, with more layers than a wedding cake; I was too excited to concentrate on socks, fleeces and shell layers. Travel veterans emerged from their cabin, as cool as the snow around us, whilst I bounced about in snow drifts like an annoying puppy. My time here had been incredible already – skiing, snowshoeing, hiking along icy riverbanks and my first ever sauna, all crammed into what felt like no time whatsoever – but it was this that I’d been waiting for: dogsledding. Huskies, with their searing blue eyes, had haunted my dreams since childhood. The transfer to the start point was agonising, expectations built so high I was nervous I’d feel underwhelmed.

We arrived amidst a cacophony of barking, howling dogs, some of which almost reached my waist (I am vertically challenged at 5ft2). Suddenly, I felt a little daunted. These were powerful animals, leaping and straining against their harnesses, pawing at the air and each other, four or six of them to a sled. Our tutorial seemed terrifyingly short – there’s the brake, there’s the handle, hold on – and then we were flying across a snowy wilderness.

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The silence enveloped me in a frosty shroud. Not the merest yap from my canine companions now; the only sounds were their paws sinking into the snow and the hiss of the sledge runners slipping into the distance. It takes something fairly special to make me shut up, but this managed it. Even the gentle click of a shutter release seemed intrusive.

Exodus named this “Finnish Wilderness Week”, but it was only then, skimming over the drifts and snowscapes did I truly feel like I was away from everything. We didn’t see another soul; this untouched white Narnia captivated me. Dark, fairy-tale forests fringed our route, with vast open skies sprinkling us with gently falling snowflakes. The emptiness was liberating and invigorating at the same time.

Like all things, of course, it was over – but it was undoubtedly over and above my expectations as well. We sat huddled on thick bristly reindeer hides around a crackling fire, a flash of red in a blue-white world, chatting amongst ourselves. Steam curled up from our waterproof outer layer, and I couldn't stop grinning. In fact, I’m still feeling a little husky now.

Finnish Wilderness Week
8 days including flights.

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