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Adventures in the Arctic

Just before Christmas, Nina Derham took a group press trip to the Arctic Circle with Exodus (www.exodustravels.com). With a fitness journalist, a comedy writer, a broken tripod and “The Rudest Man in Travel” (aka Paul Goldstein) in tow, here's how she got on...Exodus' multi-activity weeks are perfect for people who want to try new things. The idea is that you get to try a different activity every day as opposed to signing up to a week of kayaking and ending up hating it. With winter activity trips becoming more and more popular, we decided to take a group of journalists to preview Exodus' brand new Arctic Circle Adventure trip in northern Norway's Vesterålen Islands. Where? Exactly. This beautiful archipelago of snow-dusted mountains and icy fjords has a genuinely low profile with UK travellers but is just starting to emerge as a spectacular winter destination.And rightly so. Despite being plunged into darkness for 20 hours a day in winter, the unfamiliar sunless blue light that calls itself “daytime” here just adds to the otherworldliness of the landscape. It was fascinating. Every experience was something new, from hiking through frozen mountains and snowshoeing, to ice skating and ice fishing on vast frozen lakes. Eating a freshly cooked meal of stir fried moose “al fresco” round a fire took me so far away from my standard lunches at my desk I wasn't sure I could ever go back.Then there were the evenings. We had been warned the Northern Lights were not guaranteed but, due to an excellent aurora forecast, we were very lucky to have award-winning photographer Paul Goldstein with us on the trip. The first night the Northern Lights blew our socks off. The second night, as Paul urged us to hurry up and finish our dinners while battling furiously with the completely useless tripod I had lugged all the way from London, we got to see something even more incredible. In order to get the best photos with no artificial light, we stumbled through some trees and onto a frozen lake where we were lucky enough to witness the best Northern Lights our guides had seen all year. The sky danced and twirled in front of our eyes. Like an abstract painter on a roll, thick brush strokes of green light washed over the black night and gradually dripped away.In true Exodus style, it wasn't just about the activities. There were lashings of opportunities to meet local people and learn about a culture that is so very different from the UK. Starting with the brilliant guides who adapted much more quickly to a British sense of humour (there were puns aplenty) than we ever could have adapted to living in a remote log cabin with only a dog for company as they did. Then there was the imperious Sami lady who ran the reindeer farm - a far stronger person than the rest of us put together. And the hardworking family who took us dogsledding and encouraged us to get to know their beautiful dogs and help them set up the sleigh. If you ever wondered whether dogs like pulling a sleigh, I can tell you now they absolutely love it.

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