Connect with the Sámi, ethical online travel agent advises
With peak booking season approaching for trips to see the Northern Lights in and around the Arctic Circle this winter, UK-based ethical online travel agent responsibletravel.com suggests five things travellers should know for a more authentic winter break.
“Although the Northern Lights are an ancient phenomenon, the mass marketing of them is still relatively new,” says Justin Francis, responsibletravel.com managing director. “Seeing the Northern Lights has become one of those horribly-named ‘bucket list’ things to do, and sometimes trips are bought impulsively as a result.”
He adds: “However, it is a holiday which will take tourists to some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, and into contact with indigenous cultures which need preserving.”
The first of the agency’s tips for travellers – which agents can also use to advise people when selling – is: Don’t set expectations too high. Even on clear days there’s no guarantee the lights will appear. So rather than planning everything around the lights, travellers should plan a rewarding holiday in general, with plenty of daytime activities. Seeing the Northern Lights is then the icing on the cake.
Second, connect with the Sámi. The indigenous inhabitants of northern Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia are becoming more dependent on tourism and can offer tourists fascinating insights into traditional life and culture in the Arctic Circle.
Consider snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and reindeer sleigh rides as alternatives to snowmobile safaris. Snowmobiles may be vital to everyday life, but snowshoes, skis and sleighs are a much less polluting, peaceful way to appreciate the frozen wilderness.
Avoid mid-late December if you’re not after the man in red. Families flock north for the festive season, so travellers wanting more seclusion and less Santa should travel outside this time.
Lastly, travellers are advised to book early and research options carefully. Word is out that this winter is set to be one of the best times for Northern Lights sightings for the coming decade. The best accommodation and activities will book up quickly.
[photo courtesy VisitFinland]