We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Emily, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Emily lives in South Africa and submitted the following report about Muonio. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Finnish, English
Reasons to Visit Muonio
A friend in Finland suggested I visit the country because I was looking for something to do before starting a new job. He warned me that people in Finland tended to not be as outgoing as I would be used to, so I should just be prepared. In November, I crossed the Arctic Circle, into the cute village of Muonio in Lapland (Finland). After my arrival, not once did I feel like the people there, including the airport staff and the flight crew on Finnair, were anything but friendly and helpful. Beautiful and friendly people all round.
Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) once said that Finnish drivers were the best in the world. I must say, I totally agree. From the Finnair pilots taking-off and landing those airplanes on those icy, snow-covered landing strips, to the drivers speeding along on those snow covered roads… skills!
I spent most of my time at the Hotel Jeris, perfectly located by Lake Jeris, which was frozen over with only a patch un-iced so people could swim in the lake. The staff at the hotel were amazing and made every effort to make sure I enjoyed my time while there. They even organised with the local guides to take me around while they did their daily chores. So I got to hang out on the back of a snowmobile while ski-trails were marked. I must say, it was freezing cold, but they gave me heavy-duty snow gear (overalls, boots, balaclava, gloves) that kept me fairly warm. It took me a while to learn to walk with everything on, though! By the time a tour group arrived from England, I knew enough about the town and resort that they thought I worked there – though they were curious about how an Indian girl ended up in Finland as a tour guide.
I am happy to say that I walked across the lake one day… woohoo, I walked on water! I was hesitant to do this at first but the guides assured me it was safe and even took us out one night and drilled holes into the ice to show how thick it was – 20cm! It started icing over again within minutes of being opened up.
I helped start the fire and set up picnics in the kota for the hotel guests. A kota is a huge wooden teepee-like building, where there's a fireplace in the centre and benches all around. People can just hang out there and cook food on a grill over the fire.
I visited Santa and gave him some letters from friends and myself, and I fed his reindeer. I learned that reindeer have a suede-like covering on their antlers which they shed every year. They are such gorgeous animals.
I also visited a husky farm outside the village of Muonio. We were given a short demonstration of the sledding tours they offer and met some of the puppies. I made friends with a dog named Gucci. What can I say? I have expensive taste.
The hotel has spa facilities, including saunas, which are apparently found everywhere in Finland. While checking out the lake and contemplating doing a polar plunge, I met some ladies running out into the snow in their bathers. My initial thought was, “Are these people nuts?” Later, the process was explained to me and I was invited to join them the next day. It goes like this:
- start off with time in the sauna room
- run outside, through the snow, onto the bridge near the lake
- jump into the thawed out area of the lake
- swim across
- climb out and make your way to the smoke-sauna room for a few minutes
- then into the main pool building and take a quick shower to clean off any dirt
- take a dip in the Jacuzzi and/or heated pool
- relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery through the big glass windows facing the lake!
I didn't have the nerve to join them on the full run, but did enjoy time in the pool and the sauna rooms. The smoke-sauna room was dark and all I could see were two orange glowing lights. I didn’t last more than 5 minutes in there before running out in terror.
During the day, we did some snowshoe walking through the National Park behind the hotel and saw wild reindeer roaming about. They said there were wolves, but thankfully, I didn’t come across any. I attempted some cross-country skiing, but I didn’t make it very far.
Another highlight for me in Finland was the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. Every night I parked outside in the cold waiting to spot them. Unfortunately, the weather was not on my side until my last night there. You can see pictures of these dancing lights across the skies and hear the legends about them but until you see them firsthand, you will never understand the wonder that they are. I literally dropped onto the lake and just lay there looking up at the night skies, where it looked like some giant being was running its hands behind a massive green curtain. Absolutely stunning. It took my breath away. This was at 3:30am, and I was almost frozen stiff coming back to my room, but it was so worth it. Just a warning to all wanting to photograph the Northern Lights: keep your camera batteries warm, and carry extras. Nothing kills a battery faster than freezing cold weather, as I learned the hard way.
The village of Muonio doesn’t have much in terms of stores but if you cross the bridge just outside town, you’ll be in Sweden! The days were short while I was there, but I was okay with that because I was able to sleep in late and then had time to prepare to see some stunning sunsets over the lake later in the day.
This place was everything out of a story book winter wonderland! Snow-covered trees and pathways where you almost expect a snow queen on her chariot pulled by Arctic foxes to come whizzing past you. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy some peace and get some well-needed rest. I would definitely love to visit again!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)