Northern lights reflected in a lake

Your guide to Finland (inc. best accommodation types for the Northern Lights)

Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

From the desolated Lapland where admiring the ruska (the fall foliage) in the fall, picking berries in the summer, or watching the northern lights in the winter are all magic experiences, to the traditional Finnish saunas all over and more specifically in the Kuusamo region close to Russia, via the stunning lakes of the Koli National Park, or the off-the-beaten path and hip Helsinki, Finland has much more to offer than simply forests and lakes!

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Jumping Svolværgeita overlooking Svolvaer, Norway

Goat climbing & stockfish tasting in Lofoten!

Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

It is only thanks to the fish! Mastering the drying of cod, fished in the winter off the coast of Lofoten, transformed this fish into a sought-after and profitable commodity exported all over the world. Without the nutritious stockfish with no expiration date, the Vikings would not have been able to survive their long journeys to Greenland or America; the Hanseatic merchants would not have established profitable businesses in Bergen; Norway would have missed out on one of its most important sources of revenue; and Lofoten would have never seen its cute and colourful fishermen’s cabins pop along its shores attracting so many today and in which it is so enjoyable to stay.

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Live a psychological thriller through transmedia

Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!

Delicious home-made dinner with locally-grown ingredients, ryokan, Hokkaido.

Pampered in a ryokan: Japanese hospitality [plus tips & etiquette]

Article updated on May 12, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns. More than a place to sleep, they convey a lifestyle and tradition that is a must to experience for any traveller to Japan. In this article, read about a typical ryokan experience and learn about the etiquette to make your stay a success!

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Stuga hopping along the Höga Kusten, Sweden

I have hiked in summer in basically all the provinces of Sweden, not having any problems finding accommodation. Thanks to the Allmansrättan, giving anyone the right to enjoy outdoor activities respectful of the environment, including camping on any land (but for a few exceptions), I have pitched my tent along hiking trails many times, occasionally staying at a local bed & breakfast, or stuga (a small wooden cabin). Keep hiking!

A citytrip to Stockholm

Peeping through the porthole of our cabin on the AF Chapman, I see a few white boats anchored to the harbour of Skeppbron on the opposite bank of Strömmen, the body of water separating us from the 5-to-8-story-historical buildings on the East shore of Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm. The seagulls are awake. It is only late April and the sun already rises very early: it is 5AM and it is daylight. Keep traveling!