To end the year with a bang, we’re off again — this time heading into the coldest reaches of Europe on an epic train journey. Perhaps it’s because Antarctica got me hooked to the cold, or perhaps a white Christmas sounds all too tempting, the sub-zero temperatures are calling! We’ve teamed up with Eurail.com to explore Northern Europe on train and we’ll be going crazy with winter activities like snow-shoeing, ice-climbing, catching the Northern Lights and dog sledding. This journey – which we’ve aptly named the Ice Run – is all about the ice, the powdery snow, and the chilly cold.
So why the Ice Run?
Inspired by the Adventurists’ 2500-km race across the Arctic Circle, this journey is aimed at challenging ourselves to the extreme cold and seeing remote parts of Europe. While we’re not going to be racing across Siberia on an old-school Ural motorbike like the hardcore Adventurist challengers, we are going to be zipping all over the region on train, swooshing through the icy countryside and snow-covered cities. Temperatures in the area drop to around –30 degrees Celsius (-22 deg Fahrenheit) this time of the year, but don’t fret, we’re fully prepared with topnotch winter gear and plenty of hot gluhwein.
We will begin the Ice Run today in the Finnish Lapland, specifically Rovaniemi, the modern capital of the region. Located on the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is just a hop and skip away from Santa Claus’ hometown, reindeer farms and Northern Lights station. Visit Finland has lined up a bunch of activities for us from dogsledding to snowmobile safaris, but most of all, we’re really looking forward to the Northern Lights safari. I’ve only seen the Aurora Borealis briefly in Alaska and Alberto hasn’t seen it before, so we’re really psyched to see the sky light up in colors. This year is also said to be one of the best times in history to see the Aurora — fingers crossed.
Next, we’ll head to Abisko in the Swedish Lapland by train and explore the area with The Aurora Zone. This trip includes several Aurora workshops, a snowmobile safari, Aurora hunts as well as a stay in the original ICEHOTEL® (as seen in the latest WildJunket Magazine issue). It’s definitely going to be very special, as Abisko is one of the driest places in the world, and therefore the best place to see the Northern Lights.
To complete our Lapland journey, we will continue onto Narvik in Norway on the Arctic circle train, which is the northernmost train route in the world. From killer whale safaris to ice-climbing, plenty of outdoor activities await.
Flickr Photo by Visit Finland
Our train journey then brings us back to Sweden, down to Boden where we’ll be staying at one of the most unique hotels I’ve seen: Treehotel. The folks at Treehotel have kindly offered to put us up at their UFO room – which as the name implies, is a tree house built to resemble a space shuttle that seemingly hangs mid-air in the Harads forest. Alberto is jumping around in excitement and we can’t wait to experience it for ourselves. We’ll continue down south in the direction to Sundsvall, towards Östersund, and we hope to catch a glimpse of the Swedish backcountry on this route.
With our Eurail passes, we go westwards to Trondheim, Norway to explore the Kristiansen Fortress, get lost in the old town Bakklandet and even visit the home of Trondheim’s Director of Tourism for some traditional Norwegian fare. It’ll be Christmas eve by then, and we’re hoping to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. Our Christmas will be spent in Oslo, a city we’re very familiar with, having been there three times for Alberto’s previous business trips. It’s the most expensive place we’ve both ever been – so this might just be the most expensive Christmas ever for us!
The next leg is one part I’m especially looking forward to since we didn’t get to do it on our previous trips to Norway. We’ll be doing the Norway in a Nutshell tour that brings us all the way from Oslo to Bergen via a fjord cruise, scenic bus rides and the famous Flam railway. We’re looking forward to getting some good images of this area, especially since it’ll be all white, covered in snow this time round. The kind folks at Visit Norway have given us plenty of tips and advice and we’re really thankful for their help in organizing this for us.
Flickr photo by Erik Østlie
From there, we’ll head back into Sweden – this time exploring the capital of Stockholm and visiting a few old friends there. Then it’s onwards to Germany, with stops in Hamburg and Cologne to see friends and unwind over beer and gluhwein. We’ve been in Germany over five times on short city breaks, but we’ve never taken the time to slowly explore the country. The two scenic train routes that have caught our eye are the Rhine Valley Line, which will take us through Koblenz and Mainz, passing alongside the river Rhine; as well as the Black Forest route from Offenburg to Konstanz which is one of the oldest mountain lines in the world, linking the upper Rhine valley with Lake Constance.
Flickr photo by hrs51
The last leg of the trip brings us into Switzerland, a country that neither of us have been and we’ve only heard our parents rave about. Our first port of call is Zurich where we’ll take a break and relax for a few days in the city. One of the main goals of this trip is to catch the Glacier Express, dubbed one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, that goes from Davos to Zermatt, through untouched mountain landscapes, deep gorges, winding valleys, 91 tunnels and across 291 impressive bridges.
Heading north, we then hop back onto the train up to Brig and eventually Bern, known as the most attractive city in Switzerland. A few days should be enough for us to adapt to the altitude and get some work done before we continue down to Lausanne where our friends live. The final stop of our trip is Geneva, where we’ll pop some champagne to celebrate and fly back home to Spain.
We are interested to hear your thoughts! What should we not miss? What can we expect? How cold will it get?
Follow our journey through these blog posts or on Twitter with the hashtag #WJicerun. Meanwhile, here’s a map of our journey. We’ll be adding photos and checking in along the way, click ‘follow’ and you’ll receive real-time updates from us!
Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Eurail.com and several other sponsors mentioned above, but all opinions expressed are our own.