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the aurora zone

We send as many of our staff as possible (not just the boss) to the destinations in this brochure. We sleep in the hotels, we explore the regions, we know the locals and, best of all, we experience the activities.

Please click on the relevant tabs to view frequently asked questions. If your question is not listed then please do not hesitate to e-mail us or give us a call on 01670 785 044 and we will be happy to help you.

General
Accomodation
Q. Do I need insurance?

 Insurance is a vital part of any booking. We recommend everyone who books with us has travel insurance which includes cover for all activities featured as part of your trip.

If you would like to obtain cover for your trip please feel free to contact specialist insurance brokers, Campbell Irvine for a quote using one of the following steps.

1) Click here to apply for travel insurance.
2) 020 7938 1734
3) Email: info@campbellirvine.com

If you do choose to take out a policy with Campbell Irvine, then any activity when booked through The White Circle is automatically insured subject to the appropriate premium having been paid to Campbell Irvine. Please note if you would like to participate in snowmobiling, downhill skiing or snowboarding you will be required to extend cover to include Section G Winter Sports which is subject to an additional charge. Dog sledding, cross country skiing and all other winter activities which are included in our holidays are automatically covered without the need to pay the Winter Sports additional charge. If you are planning to arrange any additional activities booked independently of The White Circle, please check with Campbell Irvine to confirm cover.

The Activity Travel Company Ltd trading as The White Circle is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Campbell Irvine Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Q. How fit do you have to be on a White Circle holiday?

With the activities on our trips it is not necessarily important that you are super fit. With the low temperatures the trips can be quite tiring so this should be taken into account.

The vast majority of our holidays are designed with beginners in mind and each activity is there to be enjoyed not endured.
With some of our more active trips you will be doing one or two daytime activities and then evening activities also, so the days can be quite long, particularly if you are staying up late to wait for the Northern Lights (which are generally at their most active between 10pm and 1am).

For our dedicated husky and snowmobiling trips you do need to have a good level of personal fitness due to the intensity of the activities. We would also not recommend booking some of these unless you have had previous experience of the activities. For more details please see the individual trip pages or get in touch with us. We try all of the activities and no one in this office is super fit so we will be more than happy to talk you through anything.

Q. Will I have a guide?

We always use local activity providers. They know the area better than anyone.  They have lived in the area and know the rivers, countryside and mountains - we feel this ensures your safety at all times and offers an insight into your  new environment that cannot be gained otherwise.

By employing local people we feel we are contributing to both the local economy and to employment in regions where there are often few opportunities.

We take rigorous measures to ensure our sure that our guides are fully qualified and that they comply with all safety regulations. Would you be confident about your safety if you simply turned up at a local activity provider's door?

Q. How do I book a White Circle holiday?

We do not have online booking as we love to talk to our clients, these are niche holidays and people often have questions, so to book a trip simply call us on 01670 785 044. We like to chat with our clients and ensure they are booking the most suitable trip.

To book we require the following information about the travellers:
• First name and surname as they appear on your passport
• Dates of birth for all passengers
• Address and phone numbers for the lead name in the booking
• Any dietary requirements or medical conditions that may limit participation,

The deposit for all of our holidays is £400 per person. This can be paid via debit or credit card (2% charge on credit card). When a holiday is booked less than nine weeks before departure the full balance will be required at the time of booking.

 

Q. Will I have to make a local payment?

No, we have never asked for local payments. There are no hidden costs in our holidays.  Each trip has a 'What's included' section and there will be no extra surprises.

Q. How do I pick the right holiday for me?

The large variety of trips on this site can make it hard to narrow down your options. The best advice we can really offer is to really read through the trips and see if any of them jump out at you. Ask yourself the following questions:
• How long do I want to travel for?
• How much money do I want to spend?
• Which country would I prefer to visit?
• What are the most important activities for me? (Northern Lights, husky sledding, snowshoeing, etc.)
• Do I want a busy trip or a more relaxing one?
• What type of accommodation do I want?
We would then advise you to get in touch with us via email or call us on 01670 785 044. We have visited all the locations we offer on The White Circle and are more than happy to provide you with the benefit of our firsthand experience. Usually by answering just a few questions we can help you choose the most suitable trip.

Q. Is there a minimum and maximum age?

The minimum age for most of our holidays is 18 years old. There are one or two where the minimum age is 15 years of age and in some cases, such as tailor made holidays, the activity groups may include younger people but this tends to be focussed more during the school holiday periods.

There is no maximum age as such, as it is very much about your own personal circumstances. The oldest person to travel on our trips has been 87! Providing you feel you are able to participate in the trip and have a positive mental attitude you will most likely have a fantastic time.

Importantly, if you feel there are health or age issues that may stop you from participating fully we would always advise you to consult you GP prior to booking and ensure you have the correct insurance.

Q. Is there a best time to travel?

Our trips depart between September and March. There isn’t one month that we would say is the best time to travel as it can vary on what you are looking to get from your trip.

Our trips in September tend to be focused on seeing the beautiful colours of the Scandinavian landscapes in all their autumnal colours so this is a lovely time of year to travel for this reason.
October and November are popular months for those looking to avoid the very low temperatures of deep winter and to visit locations before they are busier over the festive period.

December through to March are the ideal months for snow-based activities so if you wish to participate in snowmobiling, husky sledding, snowshoeing and the like, this is the best time to travel to the region.
The Aurora season is from September through to March so for Northern Lights seekers, any month presents an excellent opportunity. We are asked frequently if any one month is best and the answer is simply - no. Due to it being an unpredictable natural phenomenon it is very hard to say for sure when they will be at their most visible. With the Solar Maximum (the peak of the sun’s solar activity predicted for autumn 2013) the likelihood of you seeing the Northern Lights is exceptionally high throughout the season, so the only thing likely to stop you witnessing a display is cloud cover which unfortunately can’t be predicted in advance (we wish that it could!).

Q. Who provides the activities?

We always use local activity providers for two reasons.

Firstly, they are always fully qualified (we make sure so you don't have to) and have an unrivalled knowledge of the region in which you are travelling. They are wilderness experts who speak excellent English. You could not be in better hands.

Secondly, we are firm believers that using local suppliers provides both economic and social benefits in isolated, rural areas. In this way we can help to sustain, and even generate, jobs and incomes in areas where traditional employment has declined significantly.

Q. Do you provide tuition?

Yes. You will always receive full tuition and a thorough safety briefing when taking part in the activities. We are extremely proud of our safety record and believe that this is due to the expertise shown by our carefully chosen instructors and guides. They are not always the cheapest but we are not prepared to cut corners on issues of safety.

 

Q. How much daylight will there be?

In deep winter, the sun does not rise above the horizon for up to 51 days usually from mid-December onwards in northern Scandinavia.

Contrary to popular myth however, this does not mean that you will be fully immersed in darkness, as, even in deepest winter, there are a few hours of unique polar light between 10am and 2pm, casting the region in a bluish glow as the light reflects off the dazzling snowscape.

It’s worth remembering as well that the snow reflects every bit of available light so it is never as dark as you think it will be!

Q. How cold will it be?

Temperatures have been known to drop as low as -50°C but this is a very rare occurrence! The average temperatures for the winter months are as follows:

September 5°C (2°C at night)
October 2°C (-1°C at night)
November 0°C (-4°C at night)
December -10°C (-14°C at night)
January -11°C (-17°C at night)
February -10°C (-16°C at night)
March -8°C (-13°C at night)
April -3 (-6°C at night)

The weather here can change quickly, especially in winter so it is always best to be prepared with extra thermal layers. You will find though that the air in winter tends to be dry and crisp with little wind chill, making it far more pleasant than you might at first imagine.

 

Q. Do we need to buy specialist equipment?

No. On the vast majority of our winter holidays you will be provided with thermal overalls, gloves, boots and socks. On the few holidays where this equipment is not provided from start to finish you will always be properly kitted out during the activities.

We recommend a few items which will enhance the clothing provided in your destination. Before you travel we will send you a dossier listing these items but in our opinion there are a few simple rules which will keep you comfortably warm. In terms of clothing we recommend thin woollen layers rather than cotton which easily gets wet. Always keep your head, hands and feet well insulated. These are the areas where most heat is lost.

Q. Will there definitely be snow?

During winter, the average number of days with snow on the ground is between 175 and 225 generally covering the landscape from mid to late November to mid or late April. During this period, Lapland is an exquisite, pristine white wilderness just asking to be explored with snowshoes, cross-country skis, husky sleds or snowmobiles!

As with all natural occurrences we cannot guarantee that there will be snow and in past years it has been known to arrive late. Usually, though with our departures from early December it is highly likely that there will be excellent snow coverage.

 

Q. Important note on snowmobiling

 

You must hold a full UK driving licence to drive a snowmobile.

For all holidays that include snowmobile driving you are liable for any damage you may cause to the machines. For major damages (normally those over £500) you will be covered by the owner's insurance. In the unlikely event that you damage a snowmobile in a significant manner, you will only be charged the policy excess not the full cost of repair. You will be asked to agree to these conditions, either verbally or in writing before driving a snowmobile, and the excess amount will be specified.

When driving, remain alert, drive considerately and always follow the guides' instructions and safety briefing closely. Ask questions if anything is at all unclear.

 

Q. Will I see the Northern Lights?

As a naturally occurring phenomenon the Northern Lights can never be guaranteed. Generally, the further north you go, the better the chance of a spectacular light show becomes.

Q. I’m travelling on my own. Will that be a problem?

Not at all! We welcome solo travellers on all of our trips so if you are travelling on your own don’t be put off. You should be aware that some hotels will charge single supplements though and these can vary between locations.

 

Q. Can I bring my kids with me?

The White Circle offers holidays for adults, however, our sister company, Activities Abroad has a wide range of family trips which are ideal for children aged 5 to 17 and offers some fantastic locations above the Arctic Circle.

Q. Can I tailor the trip more to meet my requirements?

With our set itineraries we are able to alter a few things such as upgrading accommodation, extending your stay or adding additional activities.

However, if the tours on our site aren't quite what you are looking for then we do have a range of tailor made options available (see here for further details) at some of our locations in Finland and Sweden.

Subject to availability of accommodation and flights you can design your own trip in terms of the duration, accommodation and activities you wish to participate in. These trips are ideal if you are restricted in terms of dates or have a set budget. Please note, however, that during peak periods such as Christmas, New Year and the February half term we are not always able to offer tailor made options.

For a wider range of Northern Lights trips we would also suggest looking at our sister site, The Aurora Zone as there are even more options to choose from here.

Q. What clothing do you provide?

For a full detailed list of all the clothing we provide and what we recommend you should take please see the individual trip pages and the link on the right hand side which says ‘Finland/Sweden/Norway/Iceland – Essential packing and information.’

Basically, for the majority of our trips we provide a thermal snowsuit and snow boots, hats, gloves and socks. Specialist equipment for activities is also provide such as helmets, cross-country skis and snowshoes. For most of our trips the clothing is yours for the duration of your stay, whereas for a few the clothing is only needed for the activities. All this is made clear on the trip pages, under the ‘what’s included’.

Q. Will there be clothing to fit me?

Our suppliers have a wide range of clothing available in a huge variety of sizes. However if you feel there is something specific we should know about the equipment size you require please let us know and we will endeavour to ensure that there is clothing available.

 

Q. What sort of clothing should I bring?

For a full detailed list of all the clothing we provide and what we recommend you should take please see the individual trip pages and the link on the right hand side which says ‘Finland/Sweden/Norway/Iceland – Essential packing and information.’

We would always recommend thermal underwear as the best base layer – it may not be the most stylish of options, but it is sure to keep you warm in the low minus temperatures. It is then simply a case of layers on top of that – long sleeve tops and fleeces/wool jumpers and jogging bottoms, thin walking trousers for your legs.

Layers are important as they can be added and subtracted accordingly to stop you getting too cold or too hot inside your thermal suit.

For your feet you will have the snow boots to use but we would recommend taking a sturdy pair of walking shoes or boots with good grip.

 

Q. Who provides the activities?

We always use local activity providers for two reasons.

Firstly, they are always fully qualified (we make sure so you don't have to) and have an unrivalled knowledge of the region in which you are travelling. They are wilderness experts who speak excellent English. You could not be in better hands.

Secondly, we are firm believers that using local suppliers provides both economic and social benefits in isolated, rural areas. In this way we can help to sustain, and even generate, jobs and incomes in areas where traditional employment has declined significantly.

Q. Are the activities suitable for beginners?

With the exception of our dedicated husky and snowmobiling trips, the majority of our trips are aimed at beginners, as we assume no prior experience in the Arctic!

With the majority of our clients based, like us, in the UK we are well aware that the snow across Scandinavia is incomparable to what we get here, so we expect you to be unsure about your new surroundings and the activities on offer!

Full tuition is given for all activities and guides and hotel staff will endeavour to make sure you feel safe and knowledgeable at all times.

Q. I don’t want to do one of the activities. Will I be made to?

Activities are made to be enjoyed not endured so you would of course not be made to do an activity should you decide against it once you are on location!

It may, however, not be possible for us to refund you for an activity you opt out of unless this is something you discuss with us at the time of booking.
 

Q. Can you cater for special diets?

If you have any specific dietary requirements we would always recommend letting us know in advance so we can inform our suppliers and hotels. In the past we have had requests to cater for diets such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, no fish, etc so usually the hotel is able to cater accordingly. We can of course also cater to dietary requirements based on religion and to accommodate any food allergies or intolerances.

Due to the remote location of the accommodation options that we offer, choice can sometimes be a little limited for those who have requested special diets, so the more information we have in advance the better.

With vegetarian and vegan diets becoming increasingly common there is usually always a vegetarian alternative available, particularly in the hotel where meals are served as a buffet option. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be a little hard to come by in the deep winter months so they are sometimes a little scarce. As would be expected, seafood and fish are common in this corner of the world, but we know that this is not to everyone’s taste and we quite commonly get asked for a fish free diet.

Gluten free diets are quite common across Scandinavia as there is quite a high prevalence of coeliac disease in Scandinavia so it not uncommon to find gluten free alternatives also.

For flights, we aim to always let the airline know in advance of any dietary requirements also, but these cannot be always guaranteed, so we would suggest taking your own food as a backup and in some cases food may be ’buy on board’.

Q. What sort of food is there in Lapland?

The food in Lapland is varied and plentiful, and meals at our accommodation usually allow you to sample both local traditional dishes and international cuisine.

You will commonly find meals that you would eat in the UK such as stews, salads, pasta and potato dishes. Meat such as beef, chicken and pork is served regularly. Breakfasts are invariably buffets, offering cooked and continental cuisine whilst lunches are commonly a small meal such as sandwiches, soup or pasta. Dinner does of course vary between hotels but it is usually two or three courses.

When it comes to sampling some traditional Scandinavian food there is a rather lovely variety on offer and we would urge you to try some. In this part of the world, food makes use of the wonderful natural landscape with food often reflecting the distinct taste of the forest and lakes – berries and mushrooms from the forest floor; fish, wildfowl and reindeer hunted from the wilds.

It is common to find dishes made from a variety of dried, smoked and sautéed meat including reindeer, moose and bear, with small game such as hare, duck and grouse also being popular. With a plenitude of lakes and rivers, fish dishes are also widespread with salmon, perch, herring and whitefish used frequently.
Rye bread will be found in abundance, particular at breakfast, and comes in flatbread, sliced or crisped form.

Famous dishes to look out for include sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, as well as salmon soup with cream (lohikeitto).

When it comes to beverages, the Scandinavians are fanatical coffee drinkers - it is an absolute staple, drunk several times a day and is served everywhere!

 

Q. Do I have to eat reindeer?

Rudolph, being the iconic and much-loved festive character that he is, is not usually top of people’s lists for dinner. We understand that the thought of tucking into a plate of Father Christmas’s flying friend isn’t to everyone’s taste so you will of course not be made to eat reindeer should you prefer not to.

However, we should point out that in this part of the world, reindeer is a staple part of people’s diet and reindeers/reindeer herding is of great political, cultural and economic significance to the Sámi people. Reindeers have roamed the Scandinavian lands for centuries and their meat and fur brings income to these remote and wild areas.

For this reason, if you are a meat eater we would usually suggest trying some. The reindeer in Lapland are all free–roaming and graze from the forest floor, ensuring that their meat is lean, and in our opinion, delicious!

Here it is served in a huge variety of ways – grilled, as a fillet, in stew or sautéed with a side of mashed potatoes and berries.

 

Q. What happens if I miss my flight?

If you miss your flight our best advice is to find the information desk of the airline you are travelling with and inform them of this. They will then endeavour to put you on the next flight to your destination. You should then call us emergency contact numbers are provided (this will be listed on your final travel letter) and we can help to arrange your airport transfers if necessary (this may incur an additional cost).

As most of our trips are in remote regions sometimes the next available flight may not be until the following day so we would always advise you to allow plenty of time to get to the airport and try your best to not miss the flight as it would no doubt ruin the enjoyment of your holiday.

Q. What happens if I miss my connecting flight due to delays?

For a lot of our remote destinations, two flights are required to reach them. In very exceptional circumstances one of your flights may be delayed to the extent to which it impacts your secondary flight.

In these circumstances our best advice is to find the information desk of the airline you are travelling with and inform them of this. They will then endeavour to put you on the next flight to your destination. You should then call us on the numbers provided (this will be listed on your final travel letter) and we will help to arrange everything for you.

Sometimes when this happens (and if there are a lot of travellers who are using the connection) the second flight will be delayed to allow for the connection to be met.

 

Q. Should I tip?

 Tipping is not an expected custom in Scandinavia as it is in, say, America so you are under no obligation at all to tip hotel staff or for services in bars and restaurants. However, if you feel that the staff at the hotel you are staying at, your activity guides, or representatives of the White Circle are doing a good job then please do feel free to tip them accordingly.

We pride ourselves on our helpful and informed guides who are usually local to the area and passionate about the activities they instruct, so if you feel they are deserving of a tip, we are sure they would be exceptionally grateful to receive it. There is no strict rule on how much you should give so it’s entirely your decision. The hotel staff too, really do work exceptionally hard to provide you with an unforgettable experience, so if this is something you notice when you are visiting, then a tip would be greatly received we are sure.

In some locations we also have representatives of the White Circle who are usually from the UK and move out to the wilderness of Lapland for us for 4 months each season. Their job is of course to help you, but if you feel that they have gone above and beyond, then do not hesitate to tip them too!

Q. Are flights included?

The vast majority of our trips have flights included as part of the package price. For full details please see the ‘what’s included’ section on the individual trip pages. If flights are not included we can advise you on which flights you need to look at and can sometimes book them for you on your behalf.

If you would prefer to book your trip ‘land only’ (i.e. no flights included) this is also an option for the majority of departures and we can quote you accordingly. Please email or call us to discuss these options further.

Q. How do I pay for my trip and can I pay in instalments?

The full balance of your trip is due 9 weeks before your departure date. This can be paid via debit or credit card (2% charge on credit card), cheque or bank transfer.

If you departure is less than 9 weeks away the full balance will be due within 7 days. For departures less than 4 weeks away the full amount is payable upon booking.

Should you prefer you can pay for your trip in instalments but we would ask that you limit these to one instalment per month.

Q. How cold is it in the snow hotel accommodation?

Our snow hotels (The IceHotel, Torassieppi Winter Village, Sorisniva Igloo Hotel) all offer a unique stay in cold accommodation. The temperature in these snow rooms is usually around -5. You will sleep in thermal clothing and Arctic grade sleeping bags on reindeer skins so you will be able to stay warm – we would suggest not getting up in the middle of the night though!

For further information on our cold weather accommodation please email or call us.

Q. Can we stay at the ICEHOTEL

Yes. There are several icehotels, snowcastles and snow villages to choose from across Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Please contact one of our experts to find out more.

Q. What will the accomodation be like?

Rural areas which remain largely untouched by tourism rarely have four or five-star hotels. Consequently, we always try to find the best locally owned accommodation in the holiday destination.

You will not stay in standardised or globalised hotels but in characterful accommodation that is in keeping with the region you are visiting.  We always ensure that the accommodation featured is clean, comfortable and friendly but please do not expect the facilities you would find at a four or five-star hotel run by a global chain.

We take a similar philosophy regarding meals. Our accommodation providers serve cuisine that is in keeping with what the local community would expect. All our providers can usually cater for special diets such as vegetarian, but in some places the provision of such diets may not be as advanced as it is at home.

Q. A comment on kettles

Whilst it might seem a bit strange to us here in the UK, the vast majority of accommodation on our trips do not have tea and coffee making facilities in the room.

This is mostly as drinking coffee and tea in Scandinavia is seen as a social occasion and something which is done during meals. The hotels will usually have tea and coffee available in the bar/restaurant should you wish to have some outside of dinner times.

If having your own tea and coffee in your rooms is of particular importance to you we would suggest taking a travel kettle!