A JOURNEY AROUND THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
(story by Pratheesh Jaison)
My Arctic Circle journey began in Rovaniemi, Lapland. During my visit, the region was fully draped by a blanket of thick snow and temperature dropped up to -27 degrees. Even with layers of thermal clothes, the freezing weather was almost unbearable; but this did not stop me and my group from exploring the city, the snow-covered forests, rivers, and mountains of Lapland.
Lapland is a region of pure wonder and adventure. We made sure not to miss the most popular tourist spot -- Santa Claus Village. It was a fairy tale-like experience complete with elves and reindeers. We also tried amazing winter activities like ice karting, snow mobile riding in the forest, horse-back riding in snow-capped mountains, husky safari, and visited the magical ice world called Lapland Snow Village.
My entire Lapland experience was supernatural, almost dream-like but still felt incomplete since we left without luck of seeing the Northern Lights.
So we left Lapland and headed to the Land of Midnight Sun - - Tromso, Norway. Tromso has a very short daytime, the sun does not show up earlier than 10am and sets before 3pm. The rest of the time is dark, making it a perfect place to chance upon the Northern Lights.
On our first day, while we were on our way to pick up our luggage, my friend suddenly exclaimed "Look, the Northern Lights!". I turned and briefly saw a spark in the sky but due to the exhaustion from the long flight plus the biting cold, I didn't get very excited; I thought the sky was just dark and sun rays were peeking in between. I brushed it off and continued to load our bags then all of a sudden, a part of the sky shined greener than usual until the sky looked like it was scattered with emeralds! I've been dreaming about it since I was a child and when I finally had a chance to see it, I was so awe-struck that I did not even bother to get my camera to take a single photo. One item ticked off the bucket list! The emerald sky went dark again after about 5 minutes and we all left the airport feeling giddy, hoping that we will witness it again in the coming days of our stay.
Weather plays a major role in chasing the Northern lights so to make sure that we get our best chance, we decided to book a tour the next day. We headed to the northern part of Tromso and drove for almost 2 hours trying to find the perfect spot for our light hunting and finally settled near Sommary Island. It is a scenic place with stunning seashore and mountains serving as a back drop. The shore was wrapped in a thick layer of snow, some areas were even completely frozen. We braved the -18 degrees temperature and sat on the sea shore as we eagerly waited for nature to show it's magic to us.
While waiting, our guide offered us reindeer skins, blankets, wood for the camp fire, and some hot food. We also started setting up our cameras, ready to capture the elusive northern lights. That night, we were very lucky to witness a clear sky embellished with countless stars visible with our naked eyes.
The sky show began at around 10:30 pm and lasted for a couple of hours. Initially, we noticed faint glimmering lights in the sky which gradually became more powerful and visible. After a while, the Northern Lights showed up to its fullest and danced in all its colors until it settled to a neon green hue, all of these being reflected in the sea water. It’s nothing short of otherworldly. After taking a few photos, I laid down on the reindeer skin, gazed at the sky and appreciated "nature's fireworks".
I planned my Arctic Circle journey with a major goal: to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. That day, as I watched the majestic lights dance and flicker in the sky, I pondered on how lucky I was to be able to experience something like this and to fulfill a childhood dream. There's no other way to describe it other than MAGICAL.
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