Written by Lynne Embling
February 5, 2015
The Destination, Swedish Lapland, Skellefteå
Skellefteå is a relatively new destination to the MICE market which is being promoted by the Skellefteå Convention Bureau who work and recommend local suppliers, like Vida Nord, who were our excellent hosts during this educational visit.
Being in the northern area of Sweden, Skellefteå has a lot to offer year round, but this time our trip this time was to experience winter season (be prepared temperatures can get low, we experienced -22 deg C when in the Wilderness!)
It is a relatively small city surrounded by forest, famous for its gold mines which are still operational, and its ice hockey team. The Skellefte River flows through the centre of Skellefteå and provides a lot of activities year round. It is totally frozen over during the winter but in early February the ice is cut away for a 25 Metre long area to host the extreme sport of Winter Swimming which attracts many international enthusiasts.
Everywhere is clean with a lovely mixture of colourful old and new properties, including an original street of old houses which were built in the 16th century and a great attraction. Extra picturesque of course when covered in snow!
Getting to Skellefteå is relatively easy from the UK. The low cost carrier, Ryanair fly direct to Skellefteå from Stansted with some very competitive fares. This is a great option if budget is an issue and although Ryanair now offer group fares, they do have tighter terms and conditions which will need to be taken into consideration. This route will take just under 3 hours. Alternatively a flight to Stockholm offers excellent connections to Skellefteå and you can still arrive around lunch time – in good time to start your experience on the first day.
We began to get a good feel of the destination as we flew in – beautiful landscapes scattered with coloured houses, twinkling lights, snowy rooftops and frozen rivers – it was a magical sight.
It’s a small airport and our aircraft pulled up almost to the entrance to the airport. We stepped out onto a snowy/icy Tarmac so be prepared and make sure you wear substantial footwear for grip. Passport control could have been a little quicker, but hopefully this will improve with time but of course the beauty of this is that you don’t have a long wait for your suitcase – ours appeared as we walked through passport control!
If you want to arrange a special welcome for your group, they can be met at the airport by dog sled and get their very first experience of this wonderful mode of transport.
Our host, Vida Nord were waiting for us and we were immediately transferred to Nordanagarden for lunch – a small cosy family restaurant for our first taste of Swedish food. This was a buffet style menu with a wonderful selection of local fish and meat which included smoked salmon, prawns, herrings, reindeer, elk and local bread which is baked over open fires until very crisp.
The restaurant is small with old fashioned decor and very welcoming.
Currently there are no 5 star properties in Skellefteå. Our hotel for the duration was the Stadshotel which is situated in the centre of the town and, therefore within easy walking distance of local shops and restaurants. The Stadshotel is an excellent 4 star modern hotel. The rooms are spacious, very comfortable and a lot of the rooms have their own saunas which is an added attraction for a group stay. The public areas are bright and airy and it also has a spa and some great meeting facilities.
Another, more traditional hotel is The Stiftsgarden Hotel, beautifully situated on the outskirts of Skellefteå . The Stiftsgarden (originally a vicarage) is made up of different unconnected wings. Bedrooms are beautifully decorated in traditional Swedish style, a Miss Huss spa with outside hot tubs (great way for groups to relax after a day in the snow). In the summer of 1809 the vicarage was occupied by Russian soldiers but as Miss Huss made everyone welcome, even when most of Skellefteå was being burned down – Stiftsgarden was spared and still stands today, very grand, still very welcoming.
Our first afternoon was very exciting. A 50 minute transfer took us to Svansele (which means Swan lake) and the base for our Wilderness experience. We were greeted by the Moose Man (as he is lovingly known) the owner of this amazing venue. We were served coffee and cinnamon buns on arrival and his welcome was fun and very animated. After a tour of his Museum (displaying all of the animals found in the Wilderness through the seasons) we were fitted with our Arctic suits and helmets for our Wilderness safari. If you want a team meeting with a difference – try their conference facilities where you are surrounded by the Wilderness displays and seated on reindeer skins – along with the WiFi of course.
This project was his dream and now he has built an amazing facility which is the base for moose safaris, snowmobiling and Polaris car driving. Our snowmobile safari took us to the wooden tepees deep into the Wilderness where you can sleep overnight. Beds covered in reindeer skins are all placed around a magnificent central campfire which is kept burning all night. No electricity or running water but silence, peace, tranquility, saunas and outdoor hotubs. (Chemical toilet facilities are local in the woods!)
After a good night’s sleep, on day 2 we visited the Rascal Huskies which were very excited to provide our dog sledging experience. On our arrival we were introduced to the dogs in their kennels, large and warm (even in the snow). They are obviously well cared for, loved and very welcoming. We were encouraged to go into their kennels to meet them. Once they were in their harnesses and knew they were going to run through the snow, they were silent, providing a memorable gliding experience over the field and around the woods.
Our visit to Swedish Lapland was short but very memorable. Travel with strong boots and layers of clothes. Be prepared for snow and strong sunshine. Don’t forget your camera!
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