When you travel without plans it becomes easy to meet people and fall in line behind their prearranged itineraries (it’s called taking advantage).
Arriving in the city of Kiruna, I knew only about the infamous Ice Hotel. The Ice Hotel and the elusive aurora borealis. Okay, the Ice Hotel, the elusive aurora borealis, and the even more elusive moose. Nothing more.
After returning to the city center after almost losing my fingers to a pack of deranged reindeer, I encountered a nice couple from Singapore who was off to take a tour of Kiruna’s mine (which is essentially why the town of Kiruna exists in the first place).
We talked for a bit and they asked if I would like to tag along. Given my newfound philosophy of yes-ism, I accepted their proposal.
Ten minutes later we were aboard a bus packed with tourists, heading 500 meters underground into the depths of the iron mine (aka an old, abandoned mining shaft filled with now obsolete equipment and a makeshift museum (which could also be considered a junkyard depending on your perspective)).
Spoiler Alert: whatever you do, do NOT go on the mine tour.
What an embarrassingly epic waste of time.
Unless you LOVE mining, or you enjoy spending hours listening to pro-mining propaganda (including a thirty-minute video/commercial about LKAB, the company behind the mine), avoid this tourist trap at all costs.
The fact that the tour takes place underground means that you cannot simply bail when you ultimately realize that listening to the elderly, monotone, guide of the tour drone on about the wonders of mining is not how you would have elected to spend three hours of your life (had you known what you were getting yourself into).
I spent most of the tour imagining what would happen if the mine were to collapse on top of us. What would the escape plan be? Would this hard hat prove at all useful? Would the tour guide come to our rescue? Would it be revealed that we were not in fact underground and that the entire tour is a sham (although then a collapse would not be very probable)?
Regardless, the tour could not have been over quickly enough.
For some strange and unimaginable reason the “Kiruna Mine Tour” has a 4/5 rating on TripAdvisor (and I thought I could trust you, Internet).
Apparently, TripAdvisor user Taranaki29 from München is the only person out there who shares my sentiments, because everyone else seems to have been won over by the “complimentary” coffee, tea, and cookies you receive towards the end of the tour.
And the price of this three-hour-long bore? Adults are expected to pay 345 SEK (~$50), students are charged 245 SEK (~$35), and kids under fifteen are free (and kids will most certainly hate every minute of it). Pachinko would have been a far more entertaining (and possibly profitable) use of my currency papers.
But you get to “take home as many iron pellets as you want!!!” (Stephen H, Ireland). Oh great, just what I need to carry around with me for the rest of my trip – dirty, heavy, rocks.
Don’t believe me? Think TripAdvisor is a more reliable source of information than your good friend here at HalfwayAnywhere? Trust MikrobeHD from Heidelberg, b00mer15 from Canada, and jlh34 from the UK more than your good friend Tyler?
Fine, I never liked you anyways.
As far as I’m concerned, the only good that came out of this mine tour was my meeting a nice couple from France who ended up driving me 70km north to Abisko National Park the following day. Deeper into the Arctic.