On press trips, the schedule is often planned diverse, but also extremely tight. Yet, only a small amount of destinations and activities can be fit into the program. The positive side is that when you’re hosted by local professionals, you’ll get much more information and learn a lot even if the schedule – or in the case of my previous trip, the weather conditions – wouldn’t allow experiencing everything you wanted.
But why Swedish Lapland, especially when I live in Finland? Why travel all the way to Sweden, when we have Lapland of our own?
Even if Swedish Lapland and Finnish Lapland share some similarities, both of them have their own, unique qualities. With this extensive article, I want to introduce you to 16 specialities that are unique to Swedish Lapland. Some of them I’ve already been able to experience myself. Some of them are still on my constantly growing bucket list.
What to see in Swedish Lapland?
Ice Hotel Jukkasjärvi is now open all year round
Hotels, restaurants and even saunas built of ice are a familiar sight also in Finland. The ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi in Kiruna, however, is the first one ever built in the whole world. Since it was built for the first time in 1989, Ice Hotel Jukkasjärvi has risen to the banks of the river Torne every single winter. Since 2017, it’ll be open all year round.
This means that even during the summer season, tourists will be able to stay in the ice suites, admire the ice sculptures and sip a
glass bottle of sparkling in the ice bar. You can find more information about Ice Hotel Jukkasjärvi on icehotel.com.
LKAB Visitor Centre and the moving town
LKAB is the company mining the iron ore right in the centre of Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden. More than 100 years ago, the mine started as an open-pit mine. Today, the mine is reaching as deep as 1 000 meters. The LKAB Visitor Centre is located 540 meters underground.
You might wonder why would an iron ore mine visitor centre be interesting? I’ll tell you why: the richest source of iron ore is located right below the town centre. The mine is expanding underground causing quite an unusual dilemma – the town centre of Kiruna, with its buildings and people, is in danger of collapsing into the mine.
The threat is real. The cracks on the roads are visible and expanding. 3000 homes are located in the high-risk area. So, how will Kiruna resolve the issue?
They’re moving the town. The new town centre is currently being built. Some of the buildings will be rebuilt from scratch, some of them will be moved as they are. The new town hall is almost ready, but besides the 3000 homes, also the schools, hospital and church will need to move.
That’s something you can’t follow anywhere else in the world. And besides of the functioning of the mine, in LKAB Visitor Centre you’ll learn everything you want to know about this crazy-sounding project of moving the collapsing town. You can find more information about the guided tours on kirunalapland.se.
Kiruna – A gateway to space?
Esrange Space Center has been launching sounding rockets and stratospheric balloons in Kiruna since the 1960s. The base is located 40 km north-east from the town, and it’s the largest one in Europe. The base itself isn’t open to the public, but its small visitor centre has earned a lot of great feedback. You can find more information about the visitor centre here.
If you’re wealthy, you could book your own space flight from Kiruna to the stars. Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic was supposed to send its first space tourism from Spaceport Sweden already in 2011. The space flight still hasn’t taken off, but probably in the near future, you could be shot into space right from Kiruna. Have you got a spare 200,000 euros by any chance…?
Northern Lights and the Blue Hole of Abisko
There’s no doubt northern lights wouldn’t be one of the main reasons why Swedish Lapland attracts thousands and thousands of tourists each winter. Northern Sweden is one of the best places in Europe to spot the aurora. And for that, we can thank the scientifically proven ‘Blue Hole of Abisko’.
No matter how poor the weather is, above lake Torneträsk the cloud layer will suddenly disappear revealing the clear sky full of stars and dancing northern lights. This phenomenon is widely known as the Blue Hole of Abisko.
I have been proving this phenomenon with my own eyes. Perhaps you’ve already read my story about our unlucky winter trip to Swedish Lapland in March this year. During the 4-day adventure, heavy snow storms and avalanches cancelled the most of our planned activities. Despite otherwise such a bad weather, on our very last evening in Swedish Lapland, the Blue Hole of Abisko organised us a stunning farewell show.
In Swedish Lapland, the aurora season starts early in the autumn and lasts longer than in most places in Europe. You can spot northern lights as early as September, and the last shows are often proved as late as May. The best northern lights season in Swedish Lapland is between November and March.
Låktatjåkko – The highest located restaurant in Sweden
Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge has been mentioned on my posts several times before. In September 2015, I stayed there overnight together with a few fellow bloggers and journalists. In March, there was so much snow, no to mention the endless snow storms, that the only way to get to the lodge was a snow cat.
Låktatjåkko Mountain Lodge hosts the highest located bar and restaurant in Sweden. The lodge, located 1228 meters above the sea level and 9,5 kilometres hike away from Björkliden’s Hotel Fjället, was built in 1939. The old lodge has thousands of stories, and the friendly staff is more than delighted to share those stories with visitors.
The food in Låktatjåkko is delicious, and their waffles are said to be the best ones in the country – if not in the whole world. I’ve tasted them. They are pretty darn good.map]
Hiking trails in Swedish Lapland:
Unlike here in Finland, in Swedish Lapland, you’ll get to admire real mountains. The highest one the Swedish mountains is Kebnekaise that is alluring a lot of hikers each year. Including myself. And that’s why my travel bucket list for this summer holds…
The first part of Kungsleden Trail from Abisko to Nikkaluokta
Kungsleden a.k.a. The King’s Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails in Sweden. The whole Kungsleden from Abisko to Hermavan is 425 kilometres long. If you want to hike all of it, the experts recommend reserving at least a month for completing the trail.
Very often first-timers choose the shorter version from Abisko to Kebnekaise, finishing the hike in Nikkaluokta. The total length of this trail is approximately 100 km. That’s also what I’m planning to do at the end of the summer. In the mountains, the snow melts late and the trails remain wet, even snowy, until late summer. That’s why I’m planning to take my hike at the end of August or the beginning of September. Before the actual hike, I’ll share some experiences and pro tips how to prepare for a hike like this, so stay tuned, in case hiking Kungsleden is something you’d consider doing in the future.
Meanwhile, you can read Agata Mleczko’s story how hiking Kungsleden changed her life.
Photo: Iina / Kotona kaikkialla
Another option for taking over the peak of Kebnekaise is to choose the trail from Riksgränsen, near the Norwegian border. For more details, head over to fellow Finnish travel blogger Milja’s post Walking Kebnekaise, where she shares her experiences for a 120 km hike Riksgränsen–Unna Allakas–Alesjaure–Nallo–Kebnekaise.
Sarek National Park for true wilderness seekers
Sarek National Park in the North-West part of Sweden is the largest national park in the country. In Sarek, you won’t find any marked hiking trails, nor will you find wilderness huts, toilets or any other luxurious facilities. Instead, you’ll find a large number of glaciers, mountain tops, wild rivers and animals.
Photo: Milja / Pipo silmillä
Lapporten – The most photographed nature attraction in Sweden
The U-shaped mountain valley, Lapporten, is no doubt the most photographed nature attraction in Swedish Lapland, probably in the whole country. From both villages, Abisko and Björkliden, you’ll get a stunning view of Lapporten from the distance. If you want to admire the valley closer, it’s possible. There are well-marked hiking trails circling the area.
You can also make Lapporten the destination of your hiking trail. Here you can find one route example for a few-day hiking trip with campsite suggestions.
Other nature attractions in Swedish Lapland:
Unique nature is definitely one of the reasons why Swedish Lapland is worth travelling to. Luckily, you don’t need to be a pro hiker to reach the stunning nature attractions Northern Sweden has to offer. Many of them can be reached within a short walk. Here are a few great examples of such sites:
The canyon by river Abiskojåkka with its dramatic, rugged walls, roaring rapids and exciting tunnels is a popular destination for paddlers and climbers. Located nearby the starting point of Kungsleden trail, it’s also a beautiful day trip destination for any Tim or Tanya the traveller. Find more information and photos from the Abisko Canyon here.
Beautiful waterfalls Silverfallet and Syndafallet
Just a short walk away from Björkliden, you can find two stunning waterfalls Silverfallet and Syndafallet. When I visited these waterfalls in September 2015, they were decorated with the bright colours of the approaching autumn foliage leaving me astonished and almost speechless.
Kåppashåla limestone cave
Kåppasjokkgrottan, better known as Kåppashåla, is one of the longest cave systems in the whole of Sweden. The most spacious area inside the cave, Diamond Cave, has got its name from its sparkling stone walls and it has been a stage for weddings, even. A pretty exotic place to get married, don’t you think?
This limestone cave is accessible all year round, but you shouldn’t go there without a guide. Already accessing the cave is full of challenges to beat, and the deeper you go, the more challenges you’ll face. Read the story of my adventure inside Kåppashåla Cave in September 2015.
Photo: Teea / Curious Feet
Other activities in Swedish Lapland:
Besides nature, various outdoor activities is another fantastic reason why Swedish Lapland is worth travelling to. Fishing, kayaking, fat biking and mountain biking, snowshoeing, husky safaris and snowmobile adventures are some of the most popular ones, but also such activities you can do in many other places outside Sweden. That’s why I’ll focus on activities that are unique to Swedish Lapland.
Right after this snowshoeing photo from March this year.
Powder and off-piste skiing in Swedish Lapland
Out of all ski centres in Sweden, Åre is probably the most famous one, at least among Finns. Probably that’s also the reason it most reminds the ski centres in Finnish Lapland, including the after ski and nightlife. If you’re seeking for true adventure over the next-day hangover, there are far better options in Swedish Lapland with beautiful possibilities for powder and off-piste skiing.
While Björkliden is better for families, Riksgränsen is the heaven for pure powder and off-piste fans. To ease your decision, this article is comparing the top 5 skiing destinations in Swedish Lapland for you. If you’re most interested in the powders of Riksgränsen, this informative article is exactly what you want to read next.
Heliski – take over the mountain tops with a helicopter
As mentioned above, soft powder snow in the mountains is one of the top reasons why Swedish Lapland is a top choice for a skiing holiday. Another one is reaching them with a helicopter. That’s called heliski.
Unfortunately, as close as I got to my first ever heliski experience, the heavy snowstorms in Swedish Lapland took this exciting activity out of my reach this year. If you’re into experiencing heliski, in Swedish Lapland you can do it with the help a company called Arctic Guides.
So will I. One day. Better luck next time, hopefully.
Golf on the top of Europe – all night long!
Are you still wondering why Swedish Lapland would be worth travelling to outside the winter and skiing season? Well, if you ask golfers, the answer is really simple: In Björkliden, you can find the highest located golf course in the country. Even if you didn’t like golf, you’d definitely enjoy the views! From this golf course, you’ll be able to admire the snowy mountain tops of Norway, the beautiful figure of Lapporten as well as the sparkling water of lake Torneträsk.
As mentioned on the website of Björkliden golf course, the season here might not be the longest, but thanks to the midnight sun, it’s compensated by playing golf all night long.
Hike on a glacier – even in summer
I still consider the short hike on Kårsa mountain glacier in Swedish Lapland as one of the most impressive, adventurous and simply awesome experiences I’ve ever lived. And, I’m pretty sure I always will. In the mountains of Swedish Lapland, the glaciers will remain covered with ice and snow all year round, at least for now. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to experience a glacier hike also during the summer season. Just remember, never step a foot on a glacier without a professional mountain guide.
Climber’s Sweden – rock and ice climbing in Swedish Lapland
Rock climbing and ice climbing are still on unticked on my never-shortening bucket list of things to do before it’s too late. In Swedish Lapland, the circumstances for both sports are just perfect. There is one specific event that has been tempting me for a couple years now. Each February, Abisko Ice Climbing Festival allows an easy path for climbing sports even for beginners. With professional guides and many experienced climbers around, it would be a perfect way to get known to a completely new hobby.
Do you have more tips to share, why Swedish Lapland should be on everyone’s travel bucket list? Would you go just based on this list?
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