Dog sledding in Finland – options and logistics

So you want to take a Husky tour in Finland? After our excellent dog sledding trip in Lapland (blogged here), we’re now maybe (a little) qualified to give some advise to others who’d be interested in a similar trip. There are quite a few companies running dog tours in Finland, so you have some options to consider (links listed at the bottom of this post). If you’ve already decided on your trip, you may want to scroll down to see our tips on what yo take and how to prepare for the sledding…

Sledding along the side of big marsh

Sledding along the side of big marsh

  • First, you may want to decide where you’d like to go sledding – somewhere close to Helsinki or in northern Lapland? If you just want a half-day trip, then there are options near Helsinki and Tampere… But for a longer trip and a real wilderness experience you’ll probably have to head much further north. Within Lapland the companies operating close to Kittilä, Ivalo, Kuusamo and (particularly) Rovaniemi are a good option if you are on a tight budget as you can fly to those airports relatively cheaply (check out Norwegian and Finnair airlines). Conversely, if you’re  heading towards Karelia you’ll probably be travelling by train and/or bus – which can often be an expensive thing in Finland (see VR for rail and Matkahuolto for buses).

 

  • Second, when is the best time to go? Probably March, as there likely to be lots of snow, there’s many hours of light, and the coldest temperatures are probably already past. The weather is likely to be better in April, but you risk having slushy conditions if you have a warm spell. February is typically the coldest month in Finland – but with the right gear that shouldn’t be a problem (and remember temperatures can drop below -20 °C in all winter months). January and December is the darkest time of the year – I imagine that doing a tour during kaamos must be quite special, with just headlamps and the aurora’s lighting your way through the landscape…
On the trail

On the trail

 

  • Third, how many days do you want to spend sledding? As mentioned above, if you have very limited time (or don’t want to commit to a multi-day tour just yet), there are two companies running half-day tours in near Helsinki and Tampere. We found our three day tour (= 2 half days + 1 full day) to be a good length – it was long enough that we were comfortable with our dogs and gear by the end of the trip, but not so long that we were completely exhausted. Unless you are really enthusiastic, I imagine that a 3 or 4 day trip would be a good bet… But for those who are experienced and  crazy about sledding, there are trips lasting up to 2 weeks! On this same note, since you’ll probably be travelling a fair distance to reach your tour, you might want to schedule in a day or two for some of other winter experiences, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The longer your stay, the greater your chance of spotting the northern lights too…

 

  • Fourth, you’ll want to think about your level of involvement in the tour – if you just want to sit on the sled and be pulled around, then you’d better check that’s what’s being offered. I think all of the multi-day tours require participants to care for (and clean up after) their own dogs, and to assist with cooking, cleaning, preparing the sauna, collecting water and carrying firewood. It is not particularly difficult work, but you’ll not be waited on and will probably have to do your fair share of the chores.
Lunch for the dogs

Lunch for the dogs

 

What to bring and how to prepare

OK – so once you’ve decided on your sledding tour, the company running the tour will undoubtedly let you know what will be provided for you. But from our experience, there are a few extra things worth packing in:

  • a pair of thin inner gloves (so that you can take off your big gloves when you need some manual dexterity)
  • sunglasses (since it can be bright when the sun is out; and also to shield your eyes from wind-blown snow and ice)
  • extra thermals, a good fleece jacket and a warm beanie (just in case you get really cold weather)
  • some chocolates; but only the sort that can be easily unwrapped while on the sled
  • extra batteries for your camera (since cold temperatures drain rechargable batteries very quickly)
  • a torch or (preferably) a headlamp

It is worth remembering that when sledding you’ll probably be standing the whole day – my legs got pretty tired by the end of the first day, and if I was to do this again I would try to spend a bit more time standing (e.g. while at the office) in the preceding weeks in preparation. I would also consider bringing along knee-pads, since I spent a lot of time kneeling while working with the dogs… although maybe that’s an unnecessary addition to the packing list.

And finally, what not to bring – I’d suggest leaving anything moderately fragile at home, since the sleds bounce and jolt a lot of the time. If you’re taking along a fancy camera you’d maybe want to make sure that it’s packed in a shock-absorbing case? Also, if your tour is anything like ours, you’re unlikely to have much spare time for other activities – so don’t bother to haul along any extra gear.

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Husky tour companies

Near Helsinki:

  • Arctic Expedition – operating near Nuuksio National Park; 1 hour’s travel from Helsinki by public transport.
  • Gegwen Getaways – located outside of Tampere; approximately 150 km north of Helsinki.

Near Kittilä:

  • Äkäskero – this is the company we used, and we highly recommend them. For the record, Ylläs Adventures made the booking for us, and also organized our transfers and hotel accomodation. Their 12-day Panorama tour sounds amazing…
  • Pallas Husky – only multi-day tours offered.
  • Hetta Huskies – single and multi-day options.

Near Rovaniemi:

  • Korvala (link broken when last checked… by just Google it; www.­korvala.­fi/­In_English/­Frontpage.­iw3)
  • Bearhill Husky – offering multi-day tours; they also operate in Northern Karelia.

Near Kuusamo:

  • Kota-Husky – seems to specialize in short trips.
  • Polar Lights Tours – offering both half-day and multi-day trips.

Northern Lapland:

  • Syberiada Adventure – near Inari
  • Kamisak – near Ivalo

 

Please feel free to let us know if we’ve missed a company – we’ll happily update this post.

Many thanks again to Melissa and Marjan for letting us share their photos in this blog post.

 

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