Top 10 Travel Highlights & Surprises of 2017 (+ 2018 Preview)

Top 10 Travel Highlights & Surprises of 2017 (+ 2018 Preview)

As another whirlwind travel year comes to an end, it’s about that time to reflect and reminisce on my crazy year and highlight my top moments/surprises. In 2017, I traveled to 13 new countries including, Ecuador, Finland, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Cyprus, Oman, and Jordan. I also revisited some of my favourite countries including Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Norway.

In 2017, I visited a total of 17 countries on 4 continents. WOW. I didn’t even notice it was that many until I typed it out. I guess I’m really living up to the name Crazy Travelista. 🙂

Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Travel Highlights & Surprises of 2017:

1. Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos is on many bucket lists and a dream destination for animal and sea lovers. But it costs a fortune, right? WRONG. I did one week for under $1K. Yep, I got skills like that haha. You can read about how I did it here  and also free or cheap things to do in the Galapagos here.

It was just so fascinating to me walking around and seeing Sea Lions sitting on park benches, marine iguanas (that look like mini dinosaurs) wading next to me in the water, and stopping for a traffic jam of life size turtles in the wild. Oh, and seeing a sea horse up close in the wild was freakin incredible!

But my ultimate favourite memory was swimming with hammerhead sharks and sea lions at Kicker Rock. I’m not going to lie, I was scared shitless of jumping into the water above a shark, let alone a whole swarm of them. But it was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to pass it up. If you do ONE thing in the Galapagos, take the tour to Kicker Rock on San Cristobal Island.

Gopro Hero 5 Session underwater

2. Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway

One of my top 5 bucket list items of all time was finally fulfilled in Tromsø, Norway this year. I miss the Northern Lights in Iceland the year before and was so bummed. But let me tell you, it was well worth the wait and just made it that much more special when I finally got my first glimpse.

2017 Top 10 Travel Surprises

Not only did I see the Northern Lights, but they really put on a dramatic dancing show of electric neon green in the sky that I cannot describe it with any other word besides MAGICAL.

If you’re really itching to see the Northern Lights, Tromsø is a fantastic place to do so. I highly recommend the small family run tour company called Tromsø Friluftsenter. Hands down my favourite tour I’ve ever taken! You can read about my experience in my blog article Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø (+Beginner Northern Lights Photography Tips)

3. Lapland, Finland

God, I loved Lapland. I didn’t think i would enjoy it that much but it really surprised me. I’m not the biggest fan of freezing cold destinations, but Lapland has single handedly changed my mind!

2017 top 10 travel surprises os

What really captivated me was all the super unique winter activities that you can try that are specific to this region. My favourite activities were the Husky ride, snowmobiling on a lake to see the Northern Lights (unfortunately they didn’t come out that night), taking a photography tour of the arctic landscapes, and especially the sauna plus an arctic ice dip. I did end up seeing the Northern Lights in Levi the next day!

I also really enjoyed a reindeer ride and visiting an ice hotel. Oh, and you can also visited Santa Clause Village and cross the arctic circle! Where else in the world can you do these things?

The only thing I missed was sleeping in an glass igloo hotel, which I plan to return for one day!

Related: Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

4. Japan

My favourite destination of 2017 goes to Japan! Japan is like steeping into another world and I definitely experienced the most culture here than any other place in 2017. I’m not usually a big fan of huge capital cities, but Tokyo is certainly an exception.

My senses were constantly stimulated walking around the chaotic yet peaceful city, and I could have spent my entire time in Japan exploring Tokyo and been satisfied. My favourite part was experiencing an owl and cat cafe.

Other favourites included expiring Kyoto (dressing as a geisha is a must), climbing the Fushimi Inari shrine, taking a sushi making class, visiting the Bamboo forest, and walking part of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route.

Japan is easily one of my top 5 favourite countries in the world and it’s somewhere I will 100% return to. Japan was the cleanest and most organized country I have ever been with the most respectful people I have ever encountered. If only the rest of the world would follow their lead. 

5. Indonesia

Indonesia was near the top of my bucket list, especially Bali. And boy did it live up to my high expectations. I spent 2 weeks hopping around the islands, swimming with manta rays, snorkelling, surviving the craziest driving on a motorbike ever, chasing waterfalls, frolicking through rice fields, and slurping down smoothie bowls.

Bali is the perfect place to live it up in luxury, for next to nothing in cost. The people were amazing, the temples were grande, and the option for healthy food was endless. What’s not to love about Bali?

The only thing I missed was Komodo Island and Raja Ampat, which I plan to return to explore some day.

If you’re looking for the perfect place to solo travel, Bali is it! I felt safe and welcomed and I would highly recommend it for female travellers. Until next time Bali…

Bali articles:

How to Spend 3 Days in the Nusa Islands (Lembongan, Ceningan, & Penida)

Cute Places to Stay in Bali with Amazing Views for Under $40/night (+ 1 Splurge!)

6. Philippines

When I was younger, my family sponsored 2 Filippino girls who became like family (and lived with us for years). I always wanted to go see where they came from and I finally got the chance this year. With over 7000+ islands to choose from, it was hard to pick where to go. But since Palawan got rated the most beautiful island in the world, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

I spent a week between Coron and El Nido island hopping some of the most beautiful waters I have ever seen. I climbed the most dangerous hike I will ever do at Mt. Taraw and motorbiked around El Nido. I caught some epic sunsets at Las Cabanas and got daily massages.

 

I rented a kayak and paddled out to Bikal Beach on Cadlao Island through a gnarly storm that came out of nowhere (I’m glad I didn’t capsize and lived to tell about it hehe). Palawan was outstanding and gave me just the ideal amount of adventure and relaxation.

 

You can read about my adventures here: Palawan, Philippines | How to Spend 7 Days in Paradise (Coron + El Nido)

7. Colombia

My second trip to South America this year brought me to the super dangerous country of Colombia (extreme sarcasm people). Colombia is such a colourful and vibrant country and I felt completely safe traveling there solo.

My favourite part of Colombia was visiting Tayrona National Park. It’s basically a national park filled with endless gorgeous beaches. You can even rent a hammock and stay the night there if you are into the camping (and spiders) thing. My only regret is that I only spent one day here.

Other highlights included climbing El Peñol for the EPIC views from above and visiting the most colourful city I’ve ever seen in Guatape. Oh, ad you can’t miss the beautiful and lively city of Cartagena. I basically spent all my days eating ceviche and photographing the dreamy colorful balkanise of the city. Colombia quickly became my favourite country in South America!

8. Peru

Another top 5 bucket list items was checked on my trip to Peru when I visited Machu Picchu. The long wait was more than worth it and it didn’t let me down one bit! What was even more special is that I miraculously almost had the whole place to myself. What a dream!

I spend 6 days in Cusco and the Sacred Valley constantly being awed of the next site. I attempted and completed the most exhausting hike of my life at Rainbow Mountain (above 17,000 feet altitude).

And to top it off, I enjoyed one of the most scenic train rides I’ve ever taken through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.Oh, and I ate ceviche just about every day and didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. All in all, Peru was awesome!

Peru article: Peru | Sacred Valley Quick 6-Day Itinerary

9. Jordan

Another “dangerous country” I visited myself this year (sarcasm again people). I want to start by saying that the hospitality I experienced in Jordan was some of the most heart felt i have ever experienced. I felt super welcome and super safe the entire time.

most epic views of Petra

I spent 3 days in Petra and it blew my mind!!! Along with Japan, it was my favourite destination of 2017. I felt like Indiana Jones discovering the lost city of Petra and I had so much fun hiking around the city and doing some mini photo shoots.

The highlight for me was Petra by night which was pure MAGIC. If you go to Petra, definitely don’t miss it!

My biggest regret about Jordan is not staying longer and exploring more of the country. But it’s just an excuse I will use ti return! Jordan, I love you!

Jordan articles:

The Most Epic Views in Petra (+ how to reach them)

Practical Tips for Visiting Petra (aka “The Important Sh*t You Need to Know”)

10. Oman

Most people I know have never heard of Oman and/or don’t know where it is on a map. And this is exactly why I wanted to visit! For the few people I knew who have visited, I have never heard a bad thing about the country.

The main attraction for me is all the Wadis in Oman. Think a desert oasis with a bright green body of water in the middle, lined with palm trees. It was like a mirage, but in real life. Oman was amazing and I had the best time renting a car and driving around to find new places. The Omani people were very kind and I felt right at home in this beautifully untouched Middle Eastern country. I highly recommend you visit soon before it becomes super touristy.


So What’s In Store for CrazyTravelista in 2018?

Well, let’s just say that 2018 is going to be the year of GROUP TRIPS and I’m super excited about it! I have 4 trips planned so far to Lofoten Islands (Norway), Croatia, Banff, and Iceland. The Norway trip is tentatively filled, but keep a look out very soon for details on Croatia, Banff, and Iceland. So excited to meet like-minded travellers!

In terms of solo travel, I have my eye on some places that I’m hoping to get to this year. But as always, who knows if I will actually make it to all these places.

CrzayTravelista’s 2018 Travel Wishlist

  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar
  • Bhutan
  • Hong Kong
  • HaLong Bay, Vietnam
  • Patagonia
  • Iguazu Falls
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Sicily, Italy
  • Georgia (country)
  • Banff
  • Malaysia
  • Faroe Islands
  • Back to Albania

Looks like I have lots of planning to do! Cheers to 2018!

What are You Travel Wishes for 2018?

 

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland (A Cute & Cozy Spot with Your Own Private Sauna)

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland (A Cute & Cozy Spot with Your Own Private Sauna)

Can I just start by saying how much I love Finland? It honestly wasn’t somewhere that I was dying to go to before since I am not the biggest fan of cold weather. But after spending a total of 5 days in the northern region of Lapland, I fell in complete love with the country. Now I absolutely crave a winter wonderland vacation at least once a year. Finland is incredible!

Thanks Finland, I’m hooked  for life!

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

The town of Levi is located in the heart of Finnish Lapland, the northernmost region in Finland. Lapland is a great spot to view the northern lights and participate in many awesome outdoor activities unique to this region. More on that later…

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

Located in the absolute center of the sleepy ski village of Levi, Break Sokos Hotel Levi is for those wanting quality accommodation at a reasonable price. Set across 3 buildings, Break Sokos has more of a homey boutique feel than a large chain hotel. 

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

A cute little log cabin behind the hotel. I wonder who lives here?

The hotel is stylish, spacious, and cozy, and totally walkable to anywhere you needed to go in the city. PS. Levi is such an adorable little ski town.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

My favorite parts of the hotel were the onsite coffee house and the in-room sauna. Have you stayed in a hotel with a sauna in your bedroom? It’s. So. Freakin. Cool.

My Cute & Cozy Room (with my own SAUNA!)

My room was located on the 3rd floor with a view directly facing the ski slopes. The room was large for European standards with a distinct feature of a SAUNA in the bathroom. Yes, you have your own sauna! 

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

I can’t tell you how nice it was to get back from a day in the frigid Lapland air and relax my tense muscles in the soothing sauna.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

And I didn’t have to worry about bringing a swimsuit because it was my own private sauna! All nudity welcome. 🙂

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

The room was decorated with local Finnish touches reflective of the area. It had 2 single beds, soft down comforters, a flatscreen TV, mini bar, safe, toiletries, and a hot water maker with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate ready to make. Oh, and there was a bobcat on the curtain. It’s like they knew I was obsessed with cats! #meow

 

The room also had a heater, which I didn’t need because it was warm inside. Actually a bit too warm at night (I found myself sweating even with a fan I travel with (yes, I’m crazy).

When I saw black out curtains I was super thrilled because light wakes me up instantly. But then I noticed there is a gap in the right side where light seeps through so it wasn’t totally dark. 

Wide Variety of Brekkie Choices

Breakfast was served from 7-10:30am and I appreciated the later service. I hate when breakfasts end at 9am, I’m so not an early morning person. The variety was large and included the typical hotel breakfast of cured meats and cheeses, bacon, eggs, bread and butter, cereal, yogurt, granola, and a do-it-yourself waffle maker. All allergens were listed in the dishes which was great. They even had a gluten free section, which I highly appreciated.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

Overall, the food was good, but not great (which seems to be the case in a lot of hotel buffet breakfasts). The variety was a plus, and trumped other hotels in that aspect.

The only thing I was disappointed with was the service. There was one attendant clearing dishes and it was really busy in the morning. I sat at a table with a whole bunch of dirty dishes and in 40 minutes of me sitting there, they weren’t cleared. Not a huge deal, but eating breakfast with dirty dishes all around you is not what I expected.

Location

Like I mentioned above, the hotel was smack right in the center of the city of Levi with easy and quick access to everything you could need. Within a 5 minute walk, you could get to the gondola ski lift , a big market, several restaurants and shops, the tourist office, and the bus stop. You do not need a car when visiting Levi. 

I’m always hesitant to stay right in the center because it’s usually noisy and I’m the world’s lightest sleeper (seriously, I am), but this was probably the most quiet hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Noise is not a problem at all. Maybe the snow absorbs the sounds? I’m not sure but I’m going with it since I didn’t hear a peep from outside.

What to Do In Levi

Levi is a great city to explore the many unique activities Lapland, Finland has to offer. If you like skiing, this town is perfect for you! In less than a 3 minute walk from the hotel, you are at the ski slopes! Super convenient if you want to come back to rest or heat up between ski sessions.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

Just a few minutes from the hotel is the base of the ski lift

Amongst my favorite activities in Levi were a sauna + ice dip in a frozen lake (crazy fun) and a husky safari!

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

Oh, and Finnish Lapland is one of the best places to view the northern lights. In fact, I happen to see them in the city of Levi on my way to a restaurant. I had my tripod so ran behind the building to snap a couple shots. I never thought I would see the northern lights in the middle of the city! I felt like I was dreaming.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

I have a detailed post on all the amazing things to do in Lapland, Finland so if you want more elaboration, please check out my article Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Coffee House

Break Sokos Hotel Levi has an on-site coffee house, a huge plus for coffee lovers like me. I really liked the vibe of this cozy place and went there every day.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

They had a bunch of tempting pastries to choose from (and a good variety of gluten free as well!). It was a good chill out spot to take a break from the frigid outside temps. They also had a bunch of board games to play with which I thought was a fun idea. 

On-Site Restaurant

They also had an onsite restaurant called Kiisa, which serves traditional Finnish dishes, however I didn’t have time to eat here (and also because it was a bit more pricy than other restaurants in the area). But hey, most hotel restaurants are.

Fitness Center and Spa

There was a fitness center right next to the hotel, which offered free access to hotel guests. It was a small but nice gym which I definitely utilized during my time there!

There was also a day spa which I didn’t have time for unfortunately. If you didn’t get a room with a sauna, don’t fret. Break Sokos has a public sauna and jacuzzi complex in the hotel.

Where to Stay in Levi, Finland

Final Impressions of Break Sokos Hotel Levi

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at Break Sokos Hotel. The hotel was immaculately clean, stylish, located in the perfect spot, and had everything you could need for a fun and relaxing time in Levi. The staff was warm and welcoming and offered great recommendations on what so do around the area, all you have to do is ask!

 If you’ve enjoyed this post, please save it for later by Pinning it (just hover over the pic)♥

*I was hosted by Break Sokos Hotel Levi during my stay. My opinions however remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I wouldn’t sell out like that! ♥

 

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Honestly, I never had any desire to go to Finland before, let alone to the very north in Lapland. But as usual, I was enticed by some awesome snowy pics of this beautiful country and I knew I had to experience it for myself. Plus, I really wanted to see Santa! Can you blame me?

I had no idea there were so many awesome and unique things to do in Lapland, Finland. I was overwhelmed by all the choices as I was deciding which ones to choose! My wish list included seeing the northern lights, doing an animal safari (aka sleigh rides), and something super traditional and completely out of my comfort zone (you’ll see).

So if you’re heading that way and need help deciding, let me highlight all the kick-ass things to do in Lapland, Finland below:


Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland


Go On a Photo Expedition

Take an all day photo expedition that includes some trekking through the nature and photographing some epic views over the land. This is a must do for photography lovers. No professional experience is needed! They basically take you to all the best photo spots in a winter wonderland and help you take some awesome photos. It was really better than I expected. 

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

I wrote a separate post on this so I won’t get into too much detail here. But honestly, this was one of my favorite things I did in Finland! You can read about my tour in more detail here.

Santa Claus Village

If you’re in Rovaniemi you kinda have to go see Santa! Ok honestly, the village won’t wow you or anything but it’s one of those things that’s cool to say you did. Where else can you visit the city Santa is from?

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

In Santa’s Village, you can send a postcard postmarked from Santa’s Village and get an official stamp on your passport. They also offer shorter reindeer and husky rides. Although it’s more commercial here, it’s still an option of you don’t want to fork out a huge lump of cash for the longer animal safaris.

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Cross the Arctic Circle

While at Santa’s Village you can actually cross the arctic circle! How cool is that? This is one of the few places in the world where you can actually stand with one foot on each sides of the arctic circle. If you want, you can even get an official certificate proving you actually did it!

Reindeer Safari

I couldn’t go to Lapland and NOT ride a reindeer! I mean, how many other places can you do that? Not many. The ride was very slow and kinda “kiddie” so definitely something for small children to enjoy, but still kinda cool to do as an adult. 

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

The ride itself is about 25-30 minutes through the snowy forest. It’s a great opportunity for photos. We then visited the reindeer farm and got to see all the cared for reindeer, even some cute baby ones! To get warm, we huddled by the fire and roasted sausages and sipped on berry juice.

It was a nice and quick tour and the company was great, but honestly for the price I don’t think it was worth it. I say this because they off reindeer rides at Santa’s Village for a small fraction of the price. Unless you really love reindeers and want to spend a little extra time with them, I would do the ride at Santa’s Village instead!

(Disclaimer: I received a small media discount for this tour. While I greatly appreciate this, I need to be completely honest with my readers and tell it like it is). 

Snowmobile to the Northern Lights

I’ts always a smart idea to book a northern lights tour that also combines another activity, just in case you don’t get to see them. Seeing the northern lights is never guaranteed and they are very unpredictable.

The perfect example of this is the Snowmobile Safari/Northern lights tour I did with Wild Nordic. The snowmobiling really got my adrenaline pumping riding out to a frozen lake to chase the lights. The ride was a bit bumpy with all the ice, so you probably shouldn’t do this is you have any spine issues or recent injuries.

 

After about 45 minutes of zipping through the snow, we ended up on a frozen lake far from the city lights. Our awesome guide Raivis made a small fire and cooked us Finnish sausages and poured us the most amazing hot berry juice.

Unfortunately the conditions didn’t allow us to see the lights; however, bonding with the fellow travelers around the open fire is something I’ll never forget!

The snowmobiling experience was so fun we didn’t even care about seeing the lights (I had seen them a few days earlier in Tromsø so I was content). It was an awesome tour and something you shouldn’t miss!

Sauna/Ice Dip

This might have been the most crazy thing I did in Finland. However, it’s something very popular with the locals, mostly for the health benefits. Going from extreme hot to cold is good for your circulation and makes you feel refreshed (although caution is advised in those with a history of heart issues).

The setting at Immelkartano was absolutely perfect. It’s a small family run company (which you know I love) which operates 2 sauna houses set on a beautiful snowy frozen lake.

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Set up my tripod and caught the Northern Lights faintly in the distance. This was not visible with the naked eye so an added bonus!

I was told by the attendant that going in the frozen lake up to your next cleanses you of your sins from the neck down. All sinners welcome 🙂

The ice dip was super invigorating to say the least! You start by heating up in a traditional Finnish smoke sauna in a private setting and then jump into an ice hole. You end the dip by drinking a shot of straight up Finnish vodka (trust me, you’ll need it!).

View the Northern Lights from Levi

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Levi is an adorable little ski town that I had the pleasure of staying in for 2 days while in Lapland. Although I didn’t get to see the northern lights on my snowmobile safari, I was fortunate enough to catch them in the back of a restaurant I was walking to in Levi. I happened to have my tripod on me from before, so I ran behind the restaurant to catch this incredible display of Mother Nature. There is something special about seeing them when you’re least expecting them. It’s pure magic.

Visit a Snow Hotel

The Snow Village is located about a 30-40 minute drive from Levi but is worth the trip. I learned so much about ice hotels and the design and details blew me away. I didn’t know that they rebuild the ice hotel every year, and it never looks the same twice! I really wish I would have stayed one night. The place was amazing! We were able to go inside all the rooms and see what they were like. Every room has a different design with intricate carvings. The artwork is really incredible. There is also an ice bar, ice restaurant, and ice slide! It’s only for children, but I saw some adults breaking the rules (ahem, including me). 

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Every year, the hotel has a contest for the best designed room. Applicants submit their design online and the winner will have their room brought to life with their design! They even get to come stay in the hotel in their room! How cool?! If only I could draw past stick figures…

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Husky Safari

One of the most popular activists in Lapland is to go on a husky ride safari. This activity is a lot faster and more exciting than a reindeer ride. The adrenaline kick plus the frigid air smacking you in the face will really wake you up!

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

You will also have time to meet all the huskies and play with them afterwards. I’m a cat person honestly, but these cuddly creatures are so hyper and loveable that I fell in love with them. I’m not going to lie though, in the beginning when they get them all hyped up to ride, they were a bit scary and aggressive!

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Look at those gorgeous blue eyes!

It wouldn’t be a true Finish activity without ending the day inside a hut roasting sausages over an open fire. God I love Finland!

Dancing with wolves 🐺🐺 #lapland #ourfinland #tundrahuskies #visitlevi #gopro #goplayoutside

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The company was called Tundra Huskies and it costs €75 for the tour. You get to visit husky farm and pet the dogs and then do a 25-30 minute ride. You can also visit some reindeer on the farm. The whole tour takes about 2-3 hours. 

Other Awesome Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland

  • Get a panorama view from a fell (a fell is basically an epic lookout point over the land).
  • Stay in a hotel with your own sauna (I’ll get to that in the next post).

Other cool things to do in Lapland that I didn’t get a chance to try:

  • Scenic flight to chase the northern lights
  • Iceberg float
  • Ice fishing
  • Stay in a glass igloo hotel (my dream)

*This post was in collaboration with Visit Levi & Wild Nordic; however, my opinions are my own and I had a kick-ass time in Lapland, as you can see!♥

If you enjoyed this post, please PIN it for later!

Have I Convinced You To Want to Visit Lapland? What Activities Would You Like to Do?

 

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

In the famous words of Ned Stark: WINTER IS COMING! So I thought this would be the perfect time to highlight some winter destinations, specifically Lapland, Finland. During my time in Lapland I was able to partake in my 1st photo expedition, and it was a blast!

What is a Photography Expedition?

As someone who loves photography, I have always wanted to do a photo expedition. But honestly, I didn’t really even know what that meant. Is it like an on-site photography class? Well, yes and no.

This was my first (and hopefully first of many) photo expeditions, and from my experience it was more like a fun venture out to a photography lover’s dream landscape, and they help you with taking the photos when it comes to settings, technique, position, etc.

You have to have a basic knowledge of photography I think. I consider myself super amateur, and when people start talking about aperture and shutter speed I get a little anxiety. But this trip was perfect and because of the small group size, we got personalized attention, which was key!

Most the photos I featured in this article were shot with my Sony Alpha6000 with my 10-18mm wide angle lens that I’m obsessed with. I  also used my GoPro Hero 5 and iPhone 6 for a few shots.

Note: battery life is severely decreased in freezing weather so make sure to bring some extra batteries along!

Beyond Arctic Photography Expeditions

Beyond Arctic is a tiny Finnish company ran by 2 awesome guys, both named Juho! They personally lead all the expeditions themselves and work their butts off!

With Beyond Arctic, no 2 expeditions are the same! That’s because they have several different areas around which they can visit and tailor make the tour based on the groups wishes (& also based on weather).

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

Juho photographing me photographing him 🙂

Their expeditions have a max of 8 people, so the group always stays small and intimate. I had 2 others on my tour and we really got to know each other and it was really nice not having to be herded around in a large group.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland; Beyond Arctic

Beyond Arctic also offer Northern Lights photography tours, ice fishing, skiing, and wilderness snowshoe adventures. They also offer summer and autumn expeditions, where you can experience and photograph the midnight sun!

What Kind of Clothes/Equipment Do You Need to Go on this Expedition?

Honestly, you can basically show up naked and they will dress you from head to toe. But please, if you do, wear underwear! But really, even if you don’t have the proper winter gear, it’s no problem at all, they will provide everything you need. They gave us hats, ski gloves, overall ski suit, waterproof boots, and a backpack to store all our stuff.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland: Where We Visited

We drove for about 2 hours to Riisitunturi National Park. We began our trek through the park up hill for about 1 hour, through the snowy forest, stopping frequently to take pictures and take in the views. The trek is 4.5 km and requires a moderate level of physical fitness.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland; crazy travelista

The views from the top of the fell were incredible. You get a stunning 360-degree view of the national park and the nearby lake which was frozen, adding to the dramatic arctic landscape.

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

GoPro shot of me fighting the arctic wind

If you’re dreaming of a winter wonderland (which I was) this will for sure satisfy your needs!

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

We stopped at this cute little cabin base camp where we started a small fire and began to grill some lunch. We were provided with some yummy sausages and a grilled cheese sandwich.


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I alerted them ahead of time of my allergy and they even made mine with gluten free bread. Oh, and they even had a gluten free apple cake made for me for dessert! I’m so not used to getting such goodies (with my past luck, the tour “forgets” about my allergy and I end up starving half the time).

Photographing the Stunning Arctic Landscapes of Lapland, Finland

The trek back down was a lot easier and quicker and the lighting was a bit better. The sun was starting to fall so there wasn’t any more glare or brightness blinding you.

Sunset caught on my iPhone 6

It was very cold, but I felt bundled up enough. Overall, the trek wasn’t as bad as I thought, mainly because we kept stopping for photo ops.

After the tour, Beyond Arctic sent us some photos they took during the expedition, which was cool to see some candid shots. Here are a few Jugo took below:


There’s me trying to get some good iPhone pics.

The view from the top of the fell where you can see the frozen lake.

Me looking satisfied (and bundled up) at the end of the tour. Can we do that again?♥

Camera Gear I Used on this Expedition (and all my travels really):

 

Tips: The one thing I will recommend if you do this tour is to bring sunglasses (wait, what, on a winter tour?). It’s actually really sunny and the wind at the top is no joke. My eyes were watering for like 30 minutes straight and I could barely see. Also, staring at the bleach white snow for hours on end can put a little strain on the eyes. Oh, and bring tissues. Your nose will be running.

If you enjoyed this, click photo to PIN for later♥

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Beyond Arctic; however, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This small company was awesome and I would highly recommend them to my family, friends, and fellow travellers. ♥

*this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you.  I wouldn’t recommend anything I didn’t already use and love! ♥