We asked Tom Barber, co-founder of award-winning travel company Original Travel and Travel Editor of Esquire Magazine, for his top winter breaks.
After a European ski season like last winter, where the Alps experienced almost unprecedented levels of snowfall, it might be tempting to take to the slopes again this year, but there’s more than one way to have fun with your salopettes on. Here’s a handy guide to several other ways to enjoy the white stuff in destinations other than the Alps.
Slow travel (ie: taking your time) is something of a ‘thing’ at the moment and snowshoeing certainly fits this particular bill. Available across Lapland (so in Sweden, Norway and Finland), snowshoeing is a lovely way to explore an arctic forest landscape in virtual silence, meaning there’s much more chance of seeing wildlife such as reindeer in their natural habitat.
You might imagine that when the sea freezes in Lapland (yes, it’s that cold in winter) it would freeze flat. Not so. The wind sculpts the pack ice into bumps and troughs that are sometimes several feet high/low. All the better for this next activity - hovercrafting. Enjoy (if that’s the right word) hurtling across the ice, occasionally taking off before landing softly on the cushion of air. You may spot a seal or fish eagle as you speed by before returning to shore for a well-earned and warming mulled wine.
You don’t even need to go in winter to enjoy snowmobiling on Europe’s second largest glacier, the wonderfully named and year-round Langjökull. After a safety briefing you’ll don a helmet and head off at speed across the glacier. Stop near the side of the glacier for jawdropping views across to other Icelandic ice fields and the Kerlingafjöll mountain range. Then head back to nearby Reykjavik for a fun night out in the Icelandic capital.
Mushing a team of super-enthusiastic huskies through the snow-heavy forests of Swedish Lapland is a completely magical experience. The huskies themselves are bundles of energy who howl with excitement when they know they’re about to be strapped into their harnesses. You stand on the heavy wooden rails of your sledge and you’re off, gliding along the trail following your guide, the only sound a gentle hiss as the sledge slips across the snow at pace. Should you ever want to stop, jump with both feet onto the spring-loaded plate with spikes on it that dig into the ice. The dogs will – eventually – get the message.
Scandinavia is home to an ever-growing number of extremely quirky places to stay. The longest standing is the original Ice Hotel (in Sweden), where you can enjoy a night cap vodka in an ice (of course) ‘glass’ before sleeping in arctic sleeping bags on a reindeer mattress in an igloo surrounded by extraordinary ice sculptures. Meanwhile over at the Treehotel, you can sleep – as the name suggests – in one of a series of bizarre treehouses. Choose a UFO or a mirrored-cube for one of the most original night’s sleep imaginable.
For more details please visit www.originaltravel.co.uk or contact the original travel team of experts on 0207 978 7333.