It doesn’t take much persuasion for Lars Erikkson to burst into song. Lowering his chin, until it almost reaches the curled-up tips of his reindeer-skin boots, he bellows out a gruff melody with full gusto. The closest neighbours in the village of Flakaberg may be 17km away, but he’s making a good attempt to reach them.

Given that it wasn’t until the Sixties that Sweden’s indigenous Sami people were even allowed to speak their own language, let alone sing traditional songs, it’s not surprising he’s relishing the opportunity to share his culture.

I, his audience of one, am huddled next to a coal-burning heater, surrounded by an eclectic display of porcelain dolls, miniature tea sets, and garlands of dry flowers draped over a Welsh dresser.

“Sami people had loud voices before they had mobile phones,” he says from beneath a thick, wiry beard.

"They could shout for five to six kilometres.”

Lars makes no attempt to hide the fact he dislikes technology and the inevitable change that comes with it. He nostalgically recalls a time when he would spend up to three weeks alone in the forest herding reindeer, carrying with him only a knife and a needle and thread to repair any damage to his traditional Sami costume.

“I used to make a living from 200 reindeer, but now I need a thousand,” he laments.

“My herd would roam two mountains, but now they’re spread across three.”

Lars has been looking after reindeer for 50 years, working and living on a simple estate owned by his family since the mid-19th century. But to keep up with demanding times he’s had to abandon a traditional way of life and switch to using a snowmobile to round up his animals.

“I preferred it the old way,” he frowns.

In reality, Swedish Lapland has been embracing innovation for some time. Earlier this year, when Facebook set up a 27,000sqm server farm in the region’s largest town, Lulea, the irony was noted the world over: a relatively remote coastal destination, 60km south of the Arctic Circle, would become one of the world’s most important communication hubs.

Cool temperatures, which prevent computers from overheating, and a cheap hydroelectricity supply are now incentivising other software companies to move into the area.

Although there are currently no direct flights from the UK, Lulea has been touted as an up-and-coming destination for some time. And while Lars doesn't have any plans to set up a Facebook page just yet, he too is happy to welcome tourists into his home.

The most obvious attraction in Lulea is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Gammelstad, where 400 wooden houses surround a 15th century stone church. But it’s the natural surroundings that really impress me when I first arrive.

The Baltic Sea, which normally laps the town harbour, has frozen, creating an icy parkland on which locals can ski, skate and enjoy a leisurely stroll. A wide snow road has been carved through the middle, carrying cars and trucks with loads of up to four tonnes.

Inspired by Lars, I prefer to take a more natural mode of transport: a dog sled.

Caisa Ohlsson keeps 60 Alaskan huskies at her Svedjekojan husky farm, just outside the town, near the village Tranutrask. Harnessed to a sled, the dogs are barking wildly; like eight loaded springs, they’re almost ready to explode. I make myself comfortable on a cushion of reindeer skin, while Caisa prepares to steer from the back.

Once they start to run, the dogs fall silent, their wailing replaced by a steady panting and the rhythmic sound of nimble paws digging furrows in the snow.

As we turn a corner, grinding over ice, the low-hanging winter sun dazzles like a torch light, beaming through the toothpick trunks of birch and fir trees, and making the snow shimmer as if laced with diamonds.

The dogs can run up to 90km in a day, but I suspect that unless someone stopped them they’d probably just keep going.

Back in a warm wooden teepee, where homemade lingonberry cake is served, Caisa says I should come back to try one of her moonlight dog rides.

“With a bit of luck you might see the Northern Lights,” she says.

Fortune is obviously shining on me that night when I head out on a snowmobile ride to the Brandon peninsula. As I zoom across the frozen sea, the light show has already started.

While my local guide Roger builds a bonfire, I strap tennis racket-like snowshoes to my feet and walk out to what would normally be open water, to watch the display. I imagine Gustav Holst’s Mars, from the Planets Suite, being played by a symphony orchestra, as the beams of green light begin to crescendo.

I sit down to a barbecue of smoky reindeer meat and potatoes, on a sofa carved from ice and draped with animal skin. In the summer, this would be a beach, Roger tells me, where the water can reach 21C. He inhales deeply, sniffing the night air.

“Right now, it's almost minus 10.”

But the landscape of wild beauty is enough to distract me from the cold.

Nature’s architecture may take some beating, but Kent Lindvall, owner of the Treehotel in Harads (an hour from Lulea), is doing his best to compete.

Inspired by Swedish short film The Tree Lover, the boutique hotel has attracted attention from some of the world's top architects, who are queuing up to offer their services for free. At present, there are six eco-friendly tree pods, all built without placing any stress on surrounding trees, although Kent is considering plans for more.

My room for the night is the Blue Cone, which – in keeping with the oblique Swedish sense of humour I’m beginning to grow fond of – is painted red.

The next morning, I awake to a view of snow-capped trees, resembling the silver whiskers on an old man’s beard. As I walk towards the main building, a former Thirties old people’s home now run as a retro-themed pensionat by Kent’s wife Britta, only the sound of my feet trudging through thick, fresh snow breaks the silence.

I meet a couple who have checked in for six nights. Their aim is to sleep in every tree room – from the gleaming Mirrorcube to the branch-covered Bird's Nest, and a grand finale spent in the UFO, a flying saucer filled with games consoles and duvets decorated with constellations.

I have an other-worldly experience of my own in store when I take a hovercraft ride across the Baltic Sea, exploring Lulea’s archipelago of 1,312 islands.

Riding on a cushion of air, we glide over ice so smooth I imagine someone has levelled it with a large palette knife. In the distance, a lighthouse appears stranded in the deep freeze – the only reminder we’re theoretically still at sea.

When we reach the pack ice, where floating blocks have piled up to create mountains of frozen rubble, it’s as if we’ve travelled to the moon. I climb to the top of one mound and through the hazy winter mist I can just about see open water on the horizon.

Mobile phones do work here, but I decide to switch mine off. In a place with so many communication links, I realise it’s still surprisingly easy to disconnect.

Travel facts

Sarah Marshall was a guest of Taber Holidays (01274 875 199; who offer the four-night Lulea and the Treehotel package from £1,186pp (based on two sharing). Price includes flights, transfers, accommodation at the Elite Stadshotellet in Lulea and a night at the Treehotel, with breakfast. Daily departures from January 6 to April 7, 2014.

  • Optional activities include Northern Lights Snowshoe tour (from £153pp), hovercraft tour (from £237pp) and dog sledding (from £260pp).