Wintertime in the Arctic. Perfect time and place for a swim!
At least two adventurous souls thought so: Cicci and Sofia, travel consultants at the Nordic Visitor-Sweden office in Stockholm.
During their last inspection trip to Lapland earlier in 2015, they sampled traditional Arctic foods cooked in a lavvu, hitched a ride with some reindeer, chased northern lights on snowmobiles, talked to Santa and—after testing the indoor temperatures of our favourite ice- and snow-hotels—decided to top it off with a dip in the icy waters of Kemi, Finland. Why not?
This is We Tried It.
If you want to go swimming in a frozen sea, first you need to break open a hole in the ice. This is where the Sampo icebreaker ship comes in handy.
You wouldn't know it from the frolicking faces in the pictures, but the Sampo used to be all business. Until 1987, it was the official icebreaker ship for the Finnish government, clearing the waterways of the Gulf of Bothnia for trade vessels in the long, icy winters.
But since retiring from the public sector, the Sampo is now devoted to the enjoyment of visitors in the northern Finnish port town of Kemi, where the SnowCastle is also located. Day-cruises on the Sampo are about four hours long, including a guided tour of the ship's controls, a warm lunch and the optional "arctic swim".
When asked about what to wear for a Sampo tour, or for any wintertime visit to Lapland for that matter, Cicci had good advice:
"I think for anything you do in Lapland, you need to have good base layers, stuff that's thermal, comfortable against your skin and dries fast. Woolen and synthetic blend materials are really nice, and thick socks of course. The nice thing about the guided activities is that overalls or other warm outerwear are provided, so you don't have to pack a ridiculous amount of stuff in your luggage. For the Sampo trip, we were just dressed for a normal, casual day and brought some extra things with us in backpacks."
Naturally we had some questions for our Nordic Visitor explorers, about how it felt floating in sea. Sofia replied:
"This is one of the best things I have ever done, and I recommend everybody to try it! The feeling when you are in the water, have the suit on and relaxing among the ice and thinking I am floating in the ocean in the middle of winter and are not freezing...how many people can say they have done this? The staff on board helps you put on the suits, and it was a little bit hard to walk around since they are quite big, but with some little help you can walk. And yes, the suits do keep you warm!"
Easy! No swimming experience required, just a good sense of humour and a spirit of adventure.
Ready to break the ice? Nordic Visitor has a variety of tours in Lapland, including classic Finnish and Swedish Lapland holidays, that will give you plenty of conversation starters at parties for years to come.
For stories worth re-telling, Cicci and Sofia recommend our 5-day Best of Lapland tour. It's packed full of unique and memorable activities including the Sampo tour with optional "arctic swim", an overnight in the SnowCastle, a northern lights snowmobile safari and other adventures around Kemi.
- Top tip: Get inspired for your winter getaway by checking out these classic holidays to Lapland
Check out more stories from the staff of Nordic Visitor in our We Tried It series, and maybe come try some of these things for yourself!