If you’re planning a paddle adventure, whether it’s a two-week Canadian canoe expedition into the wilds or a long weekend of archipelago kayaking, one of the things you’ll need to decide is when to go.
Apart of course from when you’re available to travel, this will depend on what you’re looking for:
“I want the world to myself”
Terms such as “remote” and “wilderness” will mean very different things to different people. In parts of northern Sweden for example, it wouldn’t be considered a significant trip to travel an hour or more to do some shopping, while “remote” in the English countryside might mean more than 5 minutes from the motorway. It will also depend on the area you’re visiting.
But in general, if you’re looking for the quietest times to go, then before Midsummer (up to around 20th June) and from around 20th August onwards (when the locals go back to work and school after the summer holidays) will normally be for you.
In the far north, the paddle season is fairly short, and tours may not be possible before mid-June or after mid-September, but further south, anytime from the beginning of May onwards can be suitable and up to the end of September or even early October.
Going early (at least relatively early, from late May onwards) gives you the bonus of lovely long hours of daylight, or even 24-hour light if you’re far enough north. The water will still be cold, though, possibly very cold indeed, so you’re unlikely to be doing much swimming during a tour at this time unless you’re very hardy indeed. For sea kayaking especially, it’s wise to have a greater level of experience and confidence compared to what may be necessary during the high summer when the water is warmer.
Going late means lovely autumn colours in the forests. If it’s been a warm summer, the water might remain warm enough for a short swim into September. The nights are closing in, though, so your available paddle time will be shorter. On the other hand, if you’re in the far north, it’s getting dark enough by September that you can see the Northern Lights – we bet you haven’t thought of that in connection with a canoe or kayak tour! The Aurora is not only something to experience in winter – displays can be seen anytime the skies are dark enough.
You should bear in mind that at these times, especially if you’re kayaking in the archipelago areas, services available during the high summer (such as the occasional small store) are likely to be closed, so you will need to plan accordingly.
If you’re a mozzie-phobic, while conditions vary greatly from year to year and also within a season, as a general rule you’ll encounter fewer mosquitoes and/or midges (only found further north) when canoeing in spring and autumn compared to the high summer.
“I want to swim, sunbathe and luxuriate around camp on long summer nights”
Well, you’d better go in summer then! In Sweden and Finland, this means from around 20th June to 20th August, with July being peak season. Typically the water will be at its warmest at this time, having had a few weeks to heat up, and of course this is the most popular time for a tour for both for domestic and international paddlers.
While summer will be the “busiest” time, everything is relative, and depending on the area you visit and the type of tour you choose, even at the peak of summer you may well find that you’re sharing your paddle paradise with few if any other travellers.
This may also be the best time to travel for those with more limited experience/confidence in the outdoors and for families. As the Nordic schools start back around 20th August while UK schools, for example, typically have holiday until early September, the last part of August can also be a great time to have the best of both worlds, with the weather often still summery but no-one else around!
Seasonal facilities such as the stores in Sweden’s archipelagos will be open for business at this time, while on the downside you might (might – this is very variable depending on the area and also from year to year) have more of those little flying beasties to contend with at your evening campsite.
“Will I get wet?”
We hope of course that you will have clear blue skies and calm waters during your tour, but that can’t be guaranteed, whether you’re paddling in July or late September. Dress and pack appropriately for a range of conditions whatever time of year you travel, and see a bit of rain as part of the fun. As they say in the Nordic countries, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Whenever you choose to go, the Nordic countries offer world-class paddling accessible at many levels, whether you’re a family taking the children camping for the first time or a hardened explorer. So don’t delay, get yourself some good waterproof drybags (hmm….now I wonder who might sell those?!) and start planning your adventure!
Bob from the Nature Travels team
Nature Travels is the UK specialist for outdoor and adventure holidays in the Nordic countries. If you would like more information on our range of canoe and kayak experiences, please see www.naturetravels.co.uk [link to www.naturetravels.co.uk]