Travel experiences enrich us. None more so than the chance to completely off the edge of the map and live with the Vinka family, experiencing Sámi life as it has been lived for thousands of years by the indigenous people of Northern Europe.
Geunja The Sámi Ecolodge has hosted guests, including the Swedish Royal Family, where everyone is stripped of the modern trappings, and transported to the life, nature, culture and family that make a traditional Sámi homestead so unique.
“This is a place that people settled on thousands of years ago. And if you look around, you understand why. You have game in the woods, fish in the lakes, a fresh spring Creek,” says Mikael Vinka. “Our family are preserving our heritage to share with guests. It’s a home. You join us, catch your own fish for dinner and become part of daily routines. That’s our philosophy.”
The adventure starts in the small village of Ammarnäs, in Swedish Lapland, where visitors are met by Mikael or Ann-Kristine. As there are no roads to the Sámi Ecolodge, guests take a 30-minute traditional long wooden boat ride over the mountain lake Tjulträsk to the homestead (or snowmobile when it freezes in winter), where they arrive at their home for the stay.
Made up of traditional Sámi goathie, a wooden tepee structure and Sámi log cabins, guests are welcomed as members of the family, a philosophy that remains throughout the stay. Mikael adds, “This is a very special place. A place where you feel welcome, a place to reconnect with the old people who called this home, years ago.”
As a guest of the Vinka’s, you will join in and learn about the traditional Sámi way of life firsthand, helping the family with conservation and manage the daily life necessary to live in the Arctic nature.
The experience can be booked either in summer or winter, managing the different challenges the eight Sámi seasons.
In the winter this would include using Nordic wooden skiing and snowshoeing to track wild grouse; Ice fishing using traditional techniques passed down through generations. The summer brings more tracking and nature conservation; fishing; maintaining the traditional buildings for the winter to come; not forgetting the traditional Hot Bath and experiencing and understanding significance of the Northern Lights and clear night skies.
Whatever the time of year, the experience is designed to enrich guests and pass on Sámi knowledge and culture that has been handed down the generations for thousands of years.
“I was always thinking when I grew up about working in ecotourism to save our cultural heritage,” adds Michel. “Every stay is different, but every visitor means that we can maintain and rescue historical buildings, pass on skills, teach about nature, and share our culture.”
A stay at Geunja Sámi Ecolodge can be opening from February 2021 this winter through to April for a winter stay; or from June 2021 to September 2021 for a summer stay. Every stay is completely inclusive of everything from transfers and meals at the homestead, and all your experiences and guided activities.
Geunja can be booked on a private exclusive all-inclusive basis for one to12 people, costing from £6,480 per night in the summer and £7,750 per night in the winter, with a minimum of two nights.
In addition, there are special departures with set dates for mixed groups. As an example, a three-night, four-day stay costs from £2,290 per person. Additional nights cost from £475 per night per person.
Available dates for special departures include a winter stay from the 2-4 April 2021 or 15-18 April 2022; with a Spring Summer in Sápmi stay scheduled from 17-20 June 2021 or 16-19 June 2022; and Midsummer on the 24-27 June 2021 or 23-26 June 2022.