The best thing ever!
The first time we travelled to Northern Norway it was during Easter a few years back. During our little research of what to do up there, we came across a recommendation for staying at Engholm Husky Lodge, a husky farm 6 km outside Karasjok.
Though the internet page was, and still is, quite basic, in reality it is just an amazing place: a nice farm in the forest with a bit more than 10 small cottages, all built by Sven, the owner, with a great eye and love for the detail. Everything is made of natural materials: carved wood, rough stone, forged iron, fur etc. but with all amenities you hope to find in the winterly North.
Dog sledding in the North
There is also a wood heated sauna and hot tube outside, but not always in use, a barbecue hut with a big fire place where all can get together for a cosy evening, and of course the main attraction, the doghouses behind the main building.
You really are blown away by the atmosphere of the place, the great hospitality of Christel, Sven and their team, of course the lovely dogs and last but not least the excellent home made food prepared by Sven and his wife Christel..., well, less by Sven probably.
Out with the dogs
We never were on a dogseldge tour before so it sounded just like the perfect first adventure in our new country.
So we booked the dog-sled ride day trip in advance as well as a cosy hut for two days.
Together with two other couples we got dressed up with huge boots, two pairs of gloves and leather capes (you guessed it, made by Sven and Christel) that would hold us warm and then gathered in the dog yard.
Around 50 dogs have their home there and they are surprisingly quiet, most of the time. Not so, when they feel that soon some of them will be picked for a ride, then they get really really excited. And all want to join - of course, they have a huge desire to run.
And here we were in for a real surprise: we expected to be passengers only, comfortably sitting in the sledges, while the dogs would do the work and somebody from Engholm Husky would drive it.
But that was not the case: they assumed we liked to drive a sledge ourselves. And they were right, we are not shy, so we happily accepted that invitation / challenge, with some played confidence, feeling maybe a bit less brave on the inside
After about 30 min later everything was ready to start. We were invited to help getting the dogs ready for the ride what was really special for us and also the moment, I guess, when Kati fell in love with each one of them.
The two minutes instruction ("that means slower", "that means faster", "that is how you break" and "don´t fall off") did not help a lot to make us feel much more confident.
But whatever, we gave it a try and off we went - out of the yard, through the woods and onto the frozen river!
The ride itself is just stunning and all about the atmosphere and the sensation: being out in the wild, in a fantastic and untouched winter landscape, with soft light, riding quietly on the sledge, just hearing the dogs breathing, and farting, gliding through forest, over hills, through valleys and over frozen lakes – that was true magic!
So, is it difficult?
Not really, but a bit challenging in terms of keeping the balance when going through deep snow or doing turns. Once you found your position, got used to steering and breaking you will feel more comfortable keeping the balance. The dogs just follow the first sledge (always a member of the Engholm team), so there is not much steering to do, just occasionally breaking by stepping onto a kind of rubber mat for softer breaking or some metal hooks for hard breaking.
But be aware of trees: the dogs run very close around obstacles and under trees and they do not really take into account that you are a bit taller than them. When looking around and maybe even trying to take some pictures it could knock you off the sledge. That luckily did not happen to us.
But Kati got kicked out of her sledge when she was riding over some soft, deep snow, making the sledge tilt to one side - and off the dogs were, leaving her behind in the snow, head over heels :-). Luckily, the leader saw it, was able to grab the driverless sledge and bring it to a stop. Otherwise the dogs just keep on running ...
During the day ride the group stopped once for a nice break somewhere in the woods. Coffee was served and you could roast the sandwiches you prepared yourself in the morning over a quickly started fire while sitting comfortably and kind of warm on reindeer skin. After 20 min or so, the dogs got restless again and started to bark as they knew the group will soon start again for the tour back home.
Arriving at the lodge, we helped the dogs getting out of their harness, cuddled a bit with them, if you don't mind their small, and then bring them back to their little huts. The cuddling part was probably what my wife liked most, and as there were 46 dogs at that time, you can imagine how long it took her to say thanks & good-bye to each of them. And how she smelt at the end of that day...
The rest of the evening we just about relaxing in front of the fire place every cottage has, read a bit and enjoyed later on a good dinner prepared by the Engholm team in the main house jointly with the other guests.
What a great day!
New Year´s Eve - Reindeer herd, sauna, open air hot tube and Chinese lampions
The second time we stayed with friends at Engholm over New Year´s Eve. In addition to the dog sledding tour on the first day we also visited a reindeer flock of a Sami family, a little bit outside Karasjok. We were driven there sitting in funny looking, rather basic and quite uncomfortable trailers hooked up to snow-scooters. But to see reindeers that close, even being able to feed them out of your hand (while at the same time eating some dried reindeer meat roasted over fire by the Sami, which was a bit strange) was really something.
Christel and Sven heated up the sauna and the outside-bathtube on the special occasion of New Year´s Eve. There, all guests enjoyed some bottles of champagne together, running back and forth between the sauna, a dip in the snow and back into the hot bathtub.
At midnight, we let 20 Chinese lampoons we brought with us rise into the cold air and followed them for quite some time disappearing higher and higher into the dark sky.
It was simply a very special and memorable way to let the old year end to welcome the new one!
73 km / 1 hr from Lakselv, 270 km / 4 hrs from Kirkenes or 200 km / 3 hrs from Alta
Couple of hours by plane from Oslo to the airports listed above
Well, dogsledding, obviously, at least for one day for testing it, but they also offer several day tours
Walking in the snow or cross country skiing
Drive to Kautokeino for buying Sami products or silver at Juhls
Over Easter: Watch Sami doing some reindeer racing
North Cape is "just" 4 hours away
Overnight stay we can recommend
Engholm Husky Lodge, 6 km outside Karasjok
Survival tips for the winter
Warm clothes also for short drives; a shuffler (in case you skid of the road), studded tyres / 4 wheel drive - and mobile dont work everywhere
Click on the map for opening the right clipping in google maps in a new window