Swedish Lapland, the northernmost part of Sweden, is well known for an extensive amount of unique snow-related activities since its location above the arctic circle makes for a wonderful winter holiday destination. We’ve all heard of dog sledding, the aurora borealis, also known as northern lights, and the world-famous ice hotel, thus most people think of Swedish Lapland as the perfect winter break and they are absolutely right!
However, there’s more to Lapland than winter. Summer, spring, and fall are incredibly beautiful up north. The vast forests are covered in dandelion yellow, fire brick red, tawny brown, and pear green leaves and the sun doesn’t set for the night. Instead an enchanting golden glow lights up the limitless horizon during night-time. Besides all the beauty nature has to offer in summer, there’s the opportunity to take part in an enormous variety of amusing activities for both young and old, ensuring a phenomenal summer above the polar circle.
Midsommar, midsummer, or polar day is the longest day of the year and is celebrated every year between June 20th-25th. The sun never completely sets at this latitude, which gives you a great deal of time to celebrate and engage in loads of witty activities. Besides being the longest day of the year, Midsummer is also the second most important celebration of the year, after Christmas. The Swedish people celebrate the start of summer and take this tradition very seriously, thereby filling the whole day with various entertaining festivities.
Midsommar generally starts with a fabulous lunch of pickled herring, freshly caught salmon, vegetables from the garden and new potatoes, spiced with dill and chives. Quench your thirst with some Midsommar classics: savory Swedish beer, flavored schnapps, and nubbe; Swedish vodka served ice-cold in a shot glass. After lunch, it’s time to raise the beautifully decorated maypole. This piece of art represents the ancient fertility symbol and is being decorated with all sorts of leaves and colourful flowers. Usually, both the maypole and people’s hair get decorated with self-made wreaths. Later, strawberry cake is being eaten and people engage in various age-old folk games such as tug of war and horseshoe tossing. Midsommar traditionally ends with a mouth-watering barbecue and either a quiet night at the countryside or a roaring evening on the dancefloor. Legend has it that if you put seven different flowers underneath your pillow before you go to bed on this day, you will dream of the person you are going to marry.
The purest way of experiencing this holiday is by getting invited over by a local to celebrate Midsummer at a falu-red-painted summerhouse with its family. Public places to celebrate this day of ever-lasting sun and happiness are the Saltuoluokta mountain station, STF Saltoluoka Fjällstation, 98299 Gällivare; the Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum, Ájette, in Jokmokk, Kyrkogatan 3, SE-962 31 Jokkmokk, or the Hägnan outdoor recreation area near Gammelstad, Kyrktorget 1, 954 33 Gammelstad).
With a never completely setting sun during the summer months, you have a couple more hours in your day to discover this boundless, remote part of Sweden. In the end, it’s called ‘Europe’s last wilderness’ for a reason.
Wander around on your own or book an exciting hiking trip at Yellow Snow Husky Tours. Experienced guides Erik and Sanne take you on a journey past babbling brooks, roaring rapids, autumn rivers, stunning waterfalls, and mountain views so dazzling, they would make Bob Ross question his majestic mountain paintings. Choose from the six different and challenging hiking programs they have to offer, and next thing you know, you are hiking past breathtaking mountain sites and constantly green pine tree forests with their ever-friendly and well-trained pack of sled dogs.
While hiking, keep an eye out for wild berries, edible mushrooms, flavourful plants, and gorgeous flowers. At the Yellow Snow Husky Tours kennel, you even have the opportunity to join a training run with a group of Alaskan huskies spanned in front of a sturdy buggy. Don’t forget to collect some puppy cuddles from time to time! Yellow Snow Husky Tours, Kröktrask 64, 95595 Niemisel.
Try out (water)sports
With its many undiscovered and picturesque lakes, Swedish Lapland is the ideal place for practicing your watersport skills. Go for a swim, rent a kayak or a canoe, and have a blast at the nearest lake.
If you are looking for something more adventurous, book a thrilling rafting trip that takes you down the wildest navigable streams up north. Guided rafting tours can be booked at Explore the North. Scrumptious lunch, a magnificent place to stay for the night and a traditional sauna are included. Experienced guide and founder of Explore the North, Johan Väisänen, takes you on a riveting journey to Repolanto, a tiny place in the vast woodlands a couple of miles downstream. The relatively spacious red cabin, which used to be from Johan’s grandparents, is only accessible from the water and has an outside hot tub attached to a stove, a sauna, and a fireplace to cook salmon and potatoes and to brew coffee for in the morning. Explore the North, Särkimukka 27, SE-980 63 Kangos.
If you’re into roaring waterfalls, set your compass for 66° North, and pop over to the small city of Jockfall, Överkalix. This petite village is home to the Jockfallet, a modest yet stunning waterfall. The rumbling sound of the water can be heard from quite a distance and once at the banks of the river, the insistent noise is deafening. Gallons and gallons of water tumble over pointy, umber brown rocks before dropping about nine meters into a rapid, and forming typical whitewater. Besides admiring the marvelous waterfall, you can engage in fishing trips, bushcraft courses, guided hiking tours, and fat bike trips organized by Explore Jockfall (Läkarvägen 4B, 931 41 Skellefteå) and starting from Jockfall Turist & Konferens AB (Tjärvägen 956 92, Överkalix).
Set up Camp
There is nothing more gratifying than setting up your tent at a gorgeous spot. Find yourself a little hideaway surrounded by snow-capped mountains and towering green trees in the vicinity of a clear-blue lake. Start a fire at which you can warm yourself after your dip in the lake and pick berries, wild plants, and edible mushrooms for dinner. Camping in Sweden is simple due to the Allemänsrätten, the perfect example of Swedish hospitality, where locals share their astonishing homeland with anyone who wants to experience the breathtaking beauty that nature has to offer.
The Allemänsrätten or ‘the freedom to roam’ is a Swedish law that gives you permission to set up camp wherever and whenever you want for 24 hours, as long as it isn’t on someone else’s property without their permission. The only requirement is that you leave your camping spot in the same condition as originally found.
Visit the Sámi
The Sámi people are the friendly, indigenous people of Lapland and are also known as Lapps or Laplanders. Their lands are called Sápmi and they inhabit large northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and even a part of Russia.
The Sámi originally lived as wandering nomads who herded gigantic flock of reindeer. They would follow the annual route of these bulls and cows with calves in search of fresh grass to feed on. The reindeer were being used for their milk, meat, and for their skin, which makes warm, traditional coats and shoes. Besides that, reindeer were being deployed to pull sleds as a way of transporting both freight and people. You used to be able to recognize the Sámi by their eye-catching traditional clothes. These pieces of art usually come in different shades of navy blue, crimson and candy apple red, tiger orange, hickory and walnut brown, and porcelain white. Nowadays, the Sámi people only wear this traditional attire at important events.
The ideal place to learn more about these remarkable people is Márkanbáki, a meeting place, and interactive outdoor museum in Jukkasjäsjarvi. At this lodge, you learn from the Sámi themselves. These amicable locals enthusiastically explain you their traditions, culture, history, and nomadic lifestyle. Nutti Sámi Siida, Marknadsvägen 2, Jukkasjärvi.
Go wildlife spotting
At Hide&See, moose whisperer and bear guide Mikael Suorra, with Sámi roots, takes his guests on a hike to a rugged log cabin deep in the Swedish woods. Along the way, he stops at all sorts of animal tracks and explains which animal leaves these specific marks in the soil. The cottage is equipped with several photo openings, wooden shelves, and comfortable, height-adjustable chairs. Sit back and relax, because the only thing there’s left to do now is waiting for wildlife. Chances are you’ll see bears, moose, foxes, and maybe even raccoon dogs, reindeer, martens, forest birds, and breeding golden eagles. Hide&See, Nedre Svartlå 29, 961 98 Boden.
If you didn’t have any luck on your moose spotting trip, drop by at Cape wild and visit their three tame moose: Zigge, Zebbe, and Zaga. These three lordly moose adore receiving loads of pets alternated with some snacks. Cape Wild, Bälingevägen 277, 975 94 Luleå.
The Swedish lifestyle goes hand in hand with fika, an ancient tradition kept alive by the majority of the Swedes. This amiable custom requires a cup, preferably a kåsa, of strong, freshly brewed hot coffee and a homemade kannelbullar or anything sweet you can lay your hands on.
However, fika is more than just a coffee break. It is both a state of mind and the concept of making time to share a cup of coffee and something sweet with colleagues, friends, or anyone who’s willing to join. At the cozy Sörbyn lodge they serve mouth-watering snacks while freshly ground coffee is being brewed over an open fire. Sörbyn Lodge, 222 96197 Gunnarsbyn.
Get into a Bastu
Swedish people love spending time in a sauna, bastu in Swedish, probably as much as they love their fika and a traditional wooden sauna can be found in a lot of Swedish households. This convenient wooden place is made of softwoods such as spruce, pine, or cedar and is usually placed in close proximity to a lake. They are often being visited by Swedish locals to sweat all the toxins out of their bodies. Consider alternating sweaty sauna sessions with a well-deserved refreshing dip in the lake.
The most famous sauna in Swedish Lapland must be the golden Solar Egg. This extraordinary, world-famous, and reflecting egg-shaped structure can be found in either Kiruna or Gällivare and is the ideal place to visit if you’re down for a unique sauna session at a breathtaking location. Solar Egg, 981 34 Kiruna.