I was surprised at just how powerful these vehicles were– you had to use your entire body to steer! Carly and I partnered up and when it was my turn to drive I may or may not have almost crashed going around my first turn… When I thought I was going to be the one to have an accident, Dana and Mackenzie beat me to the bunch. I suggest reading Mackenzie and Dana’s recaps for the full story 😛
We had all worked up appetites by the time we finished snowmobiling and lucky for us, we were greeted to a 3-course lunch Finnish lunch at The Bear’s Dinner. The menu included creamy root vegetable soup, arctic char and a sweet berry cake for dessert. But get this. The Bear’s Den is where Nick stayed on the show! It’s a small private cabin that’s part of Lapland Hotel Bear’s Lodge and it was pretty cool getting to imagine that this was the place where we had to make all of his decisions on the show.
Not sure if this was planned in advance or not, but during our lunch at The Bear’s Den we all conveniently got a little tipsy (let’s be real, it was) and vodka shots may have been on-hand. Wanna know what came next? We did a polar plunge in the lake. Yes, through a hole cut in the ice. To give you an idea of Lapland’s climate here’s what we were dealing with on this trip. Just imagine at least a foot of snow on the ground, fresh powder every night and a temperature no warmer than 35 degrees. According to our guides it was actually unseasonably warm and it was surprising that everyday wasn’t below freezing.
Did you know that Rovaniemi is the “official hometown” of Santa Claus? If you watched the show you may have been a little confused why on Rachel’s episode she and Nick got to meet the guy in the big red suit. Well, he’s a big deal in Finland. On our last morning we headed to the Santa Claus Village where it’s Christmas year-round. Now if I had been 10 years old, THIS would’ve been my freak out moment of the trip. We got to meet Santa. Yep, the real deal. While we didn’t get the same amount of one-on-one time as Nick and Rachel (he is a busy guy after all), it was still pretty cool getting to pretend to be a kid again. If you ever find yourself in Rovaniemi, the Santa Claus Village is very much worth checking out. It’s a holiday wonderland that includes reindeer sleigh rides, a building-size igloo with an ice bar (Princess Elsa would’ve approved) and a deceptively steep hill that guests can snow tube. I left wishing Christmas wasn’t so far away.
Earlier in the trip we had mentioned wanting to see an “igloo hotel” so that afternoon our guides showed us around a few other properties in Rovaniemi. My favorite was the newly-opened and eco-friendly Arctic Treehouse Hotel. Talk about a perfect place for a romantic wintery escape. The private treehouse-inspired cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, faux fur throws and luxury saunas were beyond dreamy.
The culmination of our trip came at Hotel Vartiossari. Now if I was a VIP celebrity looking for privacy, this is where I’d come. This luxury retreat-style hotel is located on a private island in the middle of river with the only access being on foot over a suspended wooden bridge. Not even kidding they had to pull our suitcases across the bridge on plastic sleds… By this point of the trip were were all exhausted. At dinner that night everyone had given up on makeup and at least I was on my very last pair of clean clothes. While we could’ve all probably fallen asleep early, there was one final thing we hadn’t yet been able to accomplish: seeing THE NORTHERN LIGHTS. So what did we do? We grabbed a few bottles of wine, made a bonfire and set up our photo outpost in hopes the lights would appear. Well someone up above must’ve been looking out for us, because soon enough we spotted a faint green glow over the horizon. Thankfully Ashley acted fast (and was smart to bring a tripod) and was able to capture a few incredible shots of the sky. It’s amazing what a camera can capture, versus what you can see with the human eye. While we could only faintly see the stars and glow of the lights, what the camera picked up was beyond unbelievable. What a way to end a trip, right?
I can’t thank our wonderful guides and the team at Visit Finland enough for such an incredible trip. I left Lapland with a few new friends and memories I’ll look back on fondly for the rest of my life. With all that Europe has to offer, I would definitely add Finland to your travel bucket list. The beautiful snowy landscapes, fresh organic food, welcoming people and rich Scandinavian culture felt like something out of a real-life Frozen. If you’re thinking about a trip of your own you, I’d encourage you check out these Bachelor-Inspired travel packages to Lapland. Warning: clicking may induce serious wanderlust.