Sámi culture and Icelandic horses
Northern lights, Midnight sun, Sami cooking, and yoga are some of the ingredients that may be included in your nature experience if you visit Ofelaš Islandic Horses and Guide service. All very close to Sweden's highest mountain, Kebnekaise.
Just over 20 years ago Kerstin Nilsson and Matti Blind-Berg decided to make reality of a shared dream. Surrounded by mountains and vast expanses, more Icelandic horses were acquired, and a business idea with active adventures from the horseback emerged.
– Ofelaš is a Sámi word that means a guide and is pronounced "Ofelasch," says Kerstin. Being able to show our nature and the Sámi culture in a natural and environmentally friendly way is essential to us. On our tours, we explore an ancient Sámi cultural area where, if you have a sharp eye and local knowledge, see signs of the past generations. Our mission is to share what we have with people who are interested in nature, animals, and culture, and like to experience it from the horseback.
Matti and Kerstin at Ofelaš. Photo: Anna Öhlund Photography
At the banks of Kalix river, in the village of Puoltsa (Buolža in Sámi) lies the couple's farm, which is now home to a year-round business with 25 Icelandic horses, riding school and a variety of different tours depending on the season.
–Our homeland is often called "the last wilderness," says Kerstin. For us, this area is not wilderness, it's our home, where our Sámi ancestors have lived for a very long time.
Horseback riding in the mountains with or without overnight stays has been expanded through cooperation with other organizers.
– In this way, we can offer a combination of different experiences. The Ice hotel, ice fishing and Sámi culture experiences are some examples. It is rewarding to the guests and evolving for our business.
What initiatives do you work with related to nature and culture?
- We do not work with any specific project, but we are working closely with the Sámi villages around and adjust our business for them. We are also very committed to nature conservation and Sámi issues.
What did you want to become an eco-tourism entrepreneur?
–"It is close to us, so it was a natural step. The very process that it means to be labeled Nature's Best is essential, it's an excellent way to think about what you are doing and how to do it.
What benefits do you get from being a quality labeled Nature's Best company?
"It does not give clear economic benefits, but it has never been our main purpose with the label. I think that it is a good context to be seen with other quality labeled experiences in Sweden. There is quite a lot of research on sustainable tourism, and we get a lot of questions from students about ecotourism.
Do you notice an increased demand for sustainable experiences?
- Yes and no. Some guests find their way to us because we have an outspoken sustainable focus. We have many international guests, but my gut feeling is that more Swedes are asking for sustainable experiences. I wish the demand were higher than it is.
Original text: Kicki Lind 2018-12-06