We flew into Stockholm where we joined our tour group (around 50 people) and hopped on the bus for what would be a long trip up to Jokkmokk (just North of the Arctic Circle). After 12 plus hours and not a huge amount of sleep we arrived at Jokkmokk in the early hours of the morning. Each year in the first weekend of February Jokkmokk hosts a big market which is where the Sami (the native people of the north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) used to meet up to trade goods. This market is now more of a tourist market but still displays some great Sami traditions so we went and explored. We took part in a few activities including a strength challenge and alpine skiing simulator before checking out the Reindeer races which were amazing and hilarious with a few spills and rouge reindeers. With accommodation at a premium during the market, we spent the night in a local school hall, but with sauna and mattresses, so it wasn't too bad. The next day we drove further north and stopped into the Ice Hotel a hotel that is carved completely out of ice each year. We got a guided tour of the hotel and church (for weddings and baptising's) and then got to explore some of the rooms around. Each year there is a competition where artists from around the world get to carve their own artwork which makes up the room. Some of the artwork this year included polar bears dancing around a pole and a London tube carriage. We then travelled even further north to Kiruna where we were to spend the night. Kiruna is a large mining town with not a huge amount to do. Our tour guide took us for a short walking tour around the city before we went into a pub to have a quick (but not cheap) drink. Despite being probably as far away from New Zealand as you could be, the bar sold Epic IPA so Darin was a very happy man (luckily Ellen opted for a cheaper local beer!). The next day we had did an optional activity as part of the tour. We were very excited to be doing husky riding and snowmobiling. We did husky riding first and got pulled along at around 13-14km/hr by a group of 12 husky dogs. This was quite neat but something you probably only need to do once in your life. Next up was snowmobiling and this was much more fun! We got around 15 minutes each driving the snowmobiles which were pretty powerful (we got up to around 50km/h) and a lot of fun! It was then back on the bus for a couple of hours drive to Abisko National Park, right in the north of Sweden and thanks to their own climate is supposed to be the best place to northern light spot in Sweden. We were staying in the hostel rooms of the Abisko Turiststation which were quite nice with big kitchen facilities. We split into 3 smaller groups to go for a sauna down by the Tornetrask Lake where we took turns running out and jumping into an ice pool - basically a hole cut into the ice in the lake, kept a tropical 5deg all year round! Unfortunately the flash wasn't on so the photo didn't quite turn out and Ellen didn't really enjoy the experience enough to try again. We did learn that pouring a bit of beer onto the stones in a sauna really enhances the experience. Also on the 10minute walk down to the sauna we were gazing skyward and managed to see a bit of the dancing northern lights, mostly just a strip across the sky but still exciting. Later on that evening we all set off for a sami tent that was ours for the night to BBQ and drink mulled wine to our hearts content, unfortunately this meant it got very smoky inside. We were meant to be popping in and out until the northern lights came out to play but alas the clouds had set in for the night so the earlier sighting was to be our only one. The next morning we went off for another optional activity, this time cross-country skiing. We were given the equipment and went off to the start of the Kungsleden - one of the main walking/skiing paths in the national park. We set off and gave it a good go however our large group of varied abilities meant we didn't get to go too far. It was fun nonetheless and the sun coming out (which we then realised we hadn't seen all week) made it all that much better. After this it was time to check out, pile ourselves back on the bus for a VERY long drive back to Stockholm (around 15hours) with a short photo stop at the Arctic Circle sign and a stop for dinner.