SPEC­TAC­U­LAR SCANDINAVIA

North­ern Europe is draw­ing more Chi­nese vis­i­tors, who ex­pe­ri­ence more in the re­gion. Xu Lin re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

Yu Huayun was daz­zled as the north­ern lights flick­ered like col­or­ful sparks across the sky. The 41-year-old pho­tog­ra­pher from Bei­jing was so stunned by the pic­ture shift­ing through the heav­ens that she for­got to snap shots.

“The aurora’s magic is that it’s dif­fer­ent hues each time. And you need luck to see it at all, which is one of the rea­sons ev­ery­one loves it,” Yu says.

She spent three days in Tromso, Nor­way, in Jan­uary in hopes of view­ing the spec­ta­cle. And she wasn’t dis­ap­pointed. She’s among a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing north­ern Europe in win­ter for such ex­pe­ri­ences as dogsled­ding and snow­mo­bil­ing.

Over 380,000 overnight stays by Chi­nese were recorded in Nor­way this year as of Oc­to­ber. That’s a 36 per­cent in­crease over the same pe­riod of the pre­vi­ous year.

Swe­den logged about 380,000 stays as of Oc­to­ber 2016.

Chi­nese vis­i­tors to Fin­land to­taled 326,000 last year, a 35 per­cent in­crease over 2014.

“Peo­ple usu­ally think (Nor­way’s) north­ern lights can only be seen in win­ter. Ac­tu­ally, it can be seen from the end of Au­gust to mid-April, as long as there’s a clear, dark night,” the Scan­di­na­vian Tourist Board’s chief China rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Wang Yu, says. Tourism au­thor­i­ties in Nor­way and Den­mark founded the board.

The board typ­i­cally pro­motes four coun­tries but will fo­cus on in-depth ex­pe­ri­ences in these two na­tions next year.

Au­tumn in Nor­way of­fers fan­tas­tic views and warmer tem­per­a­tures — and cheaper travel — than the cold­est sea­son.

“Tourists search the skies for the north­ern lights and en­joy win­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in north­ern Nor­way and visit Den­mark’s Christ­mas mar­kets,” Wang says.

“You need to slow down to feel the hap­pi­ness and ease of Nor­we­gian and Dan­ish peo­ple.

“The itin­er­ary shouldn’t be hec­tic. Oth­er­wise, it’ ll be very dif­fi­cult to find these coun­tries’ true charms.”

He rec­om­mends the Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen Christ­mas Mar­ket, in Odense, Den­mark.

The at­trac­tion — set in the 19th cen­tury, when An­der­son lived — of­fers an at­mos­phere of old-fash­ioned Christ­mas festivity crafted with el­e­ments from his fairy tales.

Vis­i­tors can buy Christ­mas or­na­ments, baked goods and knitwear, and bump into “res­i­dents” dressed in tra­di­tional cloth­ing.

Visit Swe­den’s China’s coun­try man­ager Li Chun­mei agrees that more Chi­nese are seek­ing more com­pre­hen­sive ex­pe­ri­ences abroad.

“Chi­nese trav­el­ers are shift­ing from tra­di­tional sight­see­ing to deeper travel. They want to en­joy the best of the Arc­tic re­gion and aurora, and to stay in ice ho­tels,” she says.

Li says most vis­i­tors to Swe­den go for the north­ern lights. The best place to wit­ness the aurora is in Abisko Na­tional Park, Kiruna, which also hosts such ac­tiv­i­ties as snow­shoe hik­ing and rein­deer tours.

Ice­ho­tel in north­ern Swe­den’s Jukkas­jarvi vil­lage has been re­built ev­ery year from frozen hunks of the nearby Torne River since 1989. It takes more than two months to con­struct the struc­ture that stays open from De­cem­ber to April.

About 40 artists, de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects were in­vited to de­sign this year’s gue­strooms in dif­fer­ent styles.

Guests swill drinks in a bar fash­ioned from ice, and wor­ship in an ice chapel.

It re­cently un­veiled Ice­ho­tel 365 — an ice ho­tel open all year.

Swe­den be­gan pro­mot­ing “soft ad­ven­tures” last year to of­fer such lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ences as lob­ster fish­ing along the west­ern coast­line.

The coun­try opened 10 new visa cen­ters in such Chi­nese cities as Sichuan’s pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Chengdu, this year.

Fin­land’s Santa Claus Vil­lage in the serendip­i­tously named La­p­land re­gion of­fers such ac­tiv­i­ties as rein­deer-drawn sleighs.

Vis­i­tors can also send post­cards from the Santa Claus Main Post Of­fice with spe­cial Arc­tic Cir­cle stamps. The of­fice also re­ceives all let­ters sent to Santa — about 700,000 a year.

Visit Fin­land sug­gests trav­el­ers ven­ture fur­ther out­side of Helsinki to such re­gions as Lake­land in the sum­mer.

In­deed, it seems Scandinavia isn’t only at­tract­ing more Chi­nese vis­i­tors — but also those who hope to have more ex­pe­ri­ences in the re­gion, es­pe­cially in win­ter.

Con­tact the writer at xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

From left: Dogsled­ding is one of the win­ter at­trac­tions of North­ern Euro­pean coun­tries; the in­dige­nous Sami peo­ple in Swe­den; Ice­ho­tel 365 in north­ern Swe­den’s Jukkas­jarvi vil­lage.

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