The perfect trip: Lapland
Where Gammelstad served as a magnet for those drawn to civilisation, the Treehotel, an hour’s drive (and six centuries on) to the northwest, calls to those who would escape it. In this northern Swedish forest, in treehouses designed by leading Swedish architects, guests go to their rest safe in the knowledge that theirs is a room unlike any other in the world.
‘We wondered what people would most expect to see in a forest?’ says Britta Jonsson Lindvall, who owns the hotel with her husband Kent. ‘A bird’s nest. So we built one. This is the one I like when I want to hide from the world. What would people least expect? A UFO. So we built that, too. It makes me think of my grandchildren. And if I’m feeling romantic, I love the Cabin.’
The Cabin’s interior, reached via a gently sloping ramp that resembles a ski jump, bears all the hallmarks of clean-lined Scandinavian design, with light-pine furnishings and gently curved surfaces. Lying in bed surrounded by great sweeps of glass, it only takes a slight lift of the head to become one with the forest. And then there’s the Mirrorcube. From a distance, it resembles a three-dimensional hole cut into the forest. Once inside, it’s like sleeping inside a two-way mirror, albeit with a tree trunk running through the heart of the room. Suspended above the ground, accessible along easily negotiated wood-and-rope bridges, and surrounded by little more than leaves and branches, the Mirrorcube is less about drawing near to nature than inhabiting it. ‘I want guests to come away with a sense of fun and of magic,’ says Britta. ‘I also want the designs to make people think about what it means to return to nature. Fun, philosophy and trees. That’s what this is all about.’
Junosuando: Best for nature
On the long journey north, the road crosses the Arctic Circle. The distances lengthen between isolated farm buildings. When the small village of Junosuando appears on the horizon, it feels like the end of the road. And then Mikael Kangas suggests that we go a little further.
Mikael, who specialises in taking the uninitiated to the far reaches of northern Lapland, transports us by car, snowmobile and sled to a cluster of log cabins in the forest. We unload, build fires to warm the cabins, then step outside to contemplate our home for the next 24 hours. In a primordial stillness, the snow absorbs all sound save for that of our own breathing.
‘Just last week there was an elk family over there,’ says Mikael as we explore a frozen lake on wooden skis. ‘You might also see foxes and reindeer. This land belongs to these animals. We just pass through it.’
The sun disappears behind the silhouetted Arctic forest. In this elemental dusk, silence descends with the night. We retreat indoors to seek warmth by the fire, emerging from time to time to search the sky for the northern lights while reclining on reindeer skins in the snow. Close to midnight, vivid greens fringed with violet dance across the sky like genies released from bottles, great curtains of pure light. A sound (the wind in the trees? water rushing beneath the metre-thick ice?) surrounds us.
Cocooned in the cabin’s warmth, we pass a night that yields to the magic of morning sun on virgin snow, to the sense of a world made new. ‘What I want people to experience out here is the silence, the beauty and simplicity of the natural world,’ Mikael says as our breath rises in the Arctic air. He looks out across the treetops, a man sharing his dream with others. ‘Deep down, this is life as I would like to live it. Every time I come out here, I feel as if I return to the world a better person for having spent a night in the wilderness.’