Stacey’s Raidu Reindeer Experience
Of all the excursions we enjoyed during our stay at The Icehotel, the one that stood out for me was the Raidu Reindeer Experience.
We were met by our Sami guide Johanne and got onto the big snowmobile-pulled sleds for the 15-20 minute trip through Jukkasjarvi and across the river to his reindeer farm. Each sled can take up to about 6 people, which is quite cosy since you have to sit between eachother’s legs!
When we arrived he told us all about his life working with his herd and a brief history of the Sami and their culture. We were then allowed to go into the pen that held the youngest (and cutest!) members of his herd. They only have the small antlers and are quite timid at this stage – until you get the bags of food out and then they are VERY friendly. It was fantastic being able to get so close to the reindeer calves, and to be able to feed them.
After this we went into the pen with the older reindeer – the ones that they keep for pulling the sleds and breeding. Johanne’s reindeer are part wild and mostly untrained, but they know exactly why you’re there and will come very close to get fed.
The next part of the trip is a go on a reindeer drawn sled, and to get the reindeer harnessed Johanne has to lasso them. The funny thing was, however silly we though the reindeer were, they had actually worked out how not to be caught. Each time Johanne threw the lasso they would either stop running so that the rope would fall to the ground or just duck out the way! This was much to the amusement of our group, but frustrating for Johanne.
Once they were (finally!) caught, we had the chance to go on a sled ride around a special track. You basically had to kneel on the wooden sled while Johanne put the reins on; he held the reindeer back until you’re ready, then let go of the rope and you have to catch them while on the move! They let two go at a time and sometimes they race a bit, however we mainly saw them just plod round the track – it depends on which reindeer you get to how fast you go.
After those who wanted to have a go had their turn we went onto the lavvu – a kind of Sami tepee. It has a welcome open fire roaring away in the middle, and the floor is covered in willow and then reindeer skins. It’s very warm and cosy after being out in the cold and, although it can get a bit smoky, you really get a feel for traditional Sami life.
We sat around drinking hot drinks (there was the choice of coffee or hot lingonberry juice) while Johanne cooked lunch (reindeer in a pita-bread) for us over the fire, and took questions from anybody who had them. It was soon time to take the snowmobile pulled sled back to the Icehotel once again taking in all of the stunning scenery.
There are so many highlights to choose from on this holiday that it is hard to choose a favourite, but the reindeer experience is a trip for any age and one that should definitely be on your list; I found the whole thing truly breathtaking.