Picture this: A small, rural village above the Arctic Circle, all covered in snow, the sun hasn’t risen above the horizon for weeks, where every verge, driveway, doorway, parking lot, actually any available spot – is lit up by ice lanterns.

In the beginning of every February the habitants in the village Vuollerim, young and old, pull together to arrange The Festival of 1000 Ice Lanterns. The preparations starts weeks in advance when they scramble up every available bucket, cake mold, serving platter, satellite disc (!), fill them with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then place the lanterns all over the village and keep them lit for about four days.

In 2013 the villagers took their festival to another level when they set an Official Guiness World Record™ with “Worlds largest ice lantern display”, a total of 2651 ice lanterns lit up simultaneously. If they are about to top that number is undecided, but still – picture it! Thousands and thousands of ice lanterns. Vuollerim certainly has put itself on the map.

Everyone in the village pitches in when it's ice lantern creation time. Photo by Susy Mezzanotte.

The festival takes place regularly in conjunction with the nearby Jokkmokk Winter Market so if you’re headed that way, stop by Vuollerim. The recipe for a successful ice lantern varies depending on who you ask, but the locals offer lessons in how to make ice lanterns – so try make the most of your visit and take notes.

The ice lantern festival is not the only frugal, yet genius and close-to-nature experience available in Vuollerim. There’s a “house hopping” opportunity where you can spend an evening eating a three-course-dinner together with villagers – each course at a different home. The locals go a long way to make your experience unique and memorable, just take a seat at the dinner table and share stories while enjoying deliciously prepared local produce.

In the summer you can visit the Cloudberry Festival where you can go cloudberry picking with the locals. Every other winter they offer Blue Light travel packages, a homage to that intense blue light taking over the sky when the sun no longer reachers above the Arctic Circle.

The ice lanterns come in all shapes and sizes.

Vuollerim is a great example of how grass roots can help a small community flourish. Their commitment to rural development and growing social capital is truly commendable. In 2013 they were nominated in the category “Best for the local economy” on the World Responsible Tourism Awards. This year they are one of the top finalist in the category “Innovation Award” at Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2014.

If you are looking for down-scaled and authentic ways to experience the rural life-style of Swedish Lapland, this is the place to visit.

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