In the far north of Sweden, Lapland is the land of northern lights and midnight sun. An adventure between ice hotels, reindeer, Arctic Circle and the Sami culture, explore a region still largely intact, made of breathtaking landscapes.
Photography by jsandb
The north of the North is certainly a unique land. If you have seen thousands of miles away the map of Sweden and is attached to the northern end of the world, what can be imagined to the nearest point to the Arctic Circle? Ice, snow, sleds, long days in summer and shorter in winter, reindeer herding, fishing trips … invites all the adventure in a region so remote and rich in culture and natural resources.
Northern Sweden, northern Finland, Norway and Russia, is part of the vast Lapland or Lappland, the traditional home of the Sami or Lapp people. Scenarios are populated novels of eccentric by Arto Paasilinna, extreme land covered in the wonderful flight of Nils Holgersson, forests where legend has it that Santa Claus built toys for children around the world. But interestingly, for those coming from the other side of the planet, among many differences (language, the Sami people, traditions, reindeer) there are however some remnants of the southern wilderness, perhaps a brother that ends closer to the regions more remote areas of the globe.
Swedish Lapland is divided between the provinces of Norrbotten and Västerbotten, the northernmost of the country. From Stockholm, the inevitable aerial connection point for transcontinental travelers, it is best to land in Kiruna, one of the main towns Lapp, who also is enjoying some popularity literary by Asa Larsson, one of the biggest names in vogue Swedish crime novels.
Photography by bjaglin
Kiruna is the starting point for one of the icons of the region: Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, a rarity because it is built entirely from blocks of ice and snow. Naturally, every year it melts … and each year since mid-November, a team of snow sculptors, designers and architects to rebuild it again, always in a new version that makes the real “phoenix hotels, but not rising from the ashes but the water frost. Each December 10 opens the first phase, while the rest of the hotel is still under construction, for 23 December is also the church list of ice where Christmas is celebrated Nordic (and also where many couples wanting to marry a completely original setting for your wedding). By 30 December, the fleeting and fascinating ice hotel is finished until the spring sun returns again to the nature of his birth. Everything in the Ice Hotel is made to feel the experience of a lifetime: by extreme weather and the rarity of sleep between translucent ice walls, for the white and silent nature covering the land to infinity, for the days you are really long nights, barely illuminated by the fascinating northern lights emerging from the northern sky in a fairy dance light and subtle.
The native Sami people of Lapland region, and even today there are few (about 75,000, with 20,000 residents in the Swedish part) retain their traditions with the greatest possible zeal. The “Sami nation,” or “region saapmi” as they call it (avoiding the term “Lapp”, the pejorative connotation), covers the entire area above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, Norway, Finland and even the Russian peninsula Kola: all these countries have a Sami parliament and in Sweden this assembly is based precisely in Kiruna.
In part, because they also have achieved a good integration with the rest of Swedish society, the Sami nomads still some ways, especially in summer, when the reindeer herders and their families accompanying flocks moving from forests to the mountains. Of course, this particular transhumance was able to adapt to the times, and in addition to traditional skis and dogs, the Sami accompany the shipment of animals with helicopters and snowmobiles. Gradually they also agree that their customs, traditions and way of life are a tourist attraction and a source of revenue, on par with the reindeer and crafts.
On the outskirts of Kiruna, a small Sami museum offers the first approach to the culture of this town. The other place to visit is Jokkmokk, where the month of February, Sami organizes a popular market that already has 400 years of history over the centuries, what was once a sort of meeting of merchants from all over the region grew to become a week of events and concerts that offers close contact with these people warm and deeply rooted in its natural environment. Sami handicrafts also have the appeal of the exotic and colorful: slöjd called, are separated into two categories, the slöjd slöjd hard and soft. The first is that male crafts groups, mainly knives and cups carved with painstaking care in reindeer antlers. The second is more traditional for women and includes tissues, tin ornaments, traditional baskets made of birch root. For visitors it is difficult to resist the temptation to return with a hat Lapp, colorful, pointed, capable of fighting (like the reindeer-skin boots) to the cold and wind more intense of a merciless climate region. During a visit to Kiruna or Jokkmokk worth devoting a day to share with families that open Lapland tourism: in one of their farms where they raise reindeer, provide outputs sled dogs, traditional foods based on meat just reindeer soup, milk and salmon, mashed potatoes, yogurt desserts and red berries. To make matters worse there is the fishing trips in the rivers also using ancient techniques of capture.
Winter Lapp has the haunting mystery of the snow and icy polar night, but the northern end of the summer is not far behind: this is the land of the midnight sun, when in the days near the summer solstice the sun never comes to hide under the horizon line.
The long days of summer makes an ideal time to undertake ecotourism tours through national parks of Lapland, for the most experienced, those who really want a wilderness experience and adventure, the ideal is the Sarek National Park in Jokkmokk One of the oldest in Europe. Circular, with an average diameter of 50 kilometers, the park has no marked trails or shelters to take refuge. Many of the mountains, above 2000 meters, are rarely explored, because it only required a walk to get long-winded … sometimes in the rain, as the spectacular green of the region (especially in the Rapa River Delta) are directly proportional to the level of humidity. Abisko National Park in the northwest, near the Norwegian border, not far behind: 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, was created in the early twentieth century with the intention to maintain the characteristic landscapes of the Far North, but the years it became a tourist destination for adventurers environmentalists. Among the birch forests, the waterfalls of melting, the deep valleys covered with tundra vegetation and a legacy of the Sami word, you may spot elk here as well. These rare deer antlers of ostentatious, known as “kings of the forests”, are common on the roads around the north of Sweden, Norway and Finland, and on account of its size because they can exceed two meters. If no luck “natural”, you can always visit the Vittangi Elk Park, a town of a thousand people also depends on the municipality of Kiruna.
Photography by Jokkman
In Lapland Kebnekaise rises Mount, the highest mountain in Sweden: For those accustomed to the Andes might not impressed by his height, which reaches 2104 meters, but by the beauty of the landscapes and the incredible feeling of estrangement any point of the inhabited world. Also invited to reflect on the risks of global warming and the melting glaciers on the mountain top is gradually losing altitude. Mount Kebnekaise, located about 150 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, is part of a massif known as “The Scandinavian Alps” and in the midst of his gigantic promises solitude watching from the top, nearly 10 percent of the Swedish surface.
The starting point for climbing and trekking routes to follow in the Kebnekaise is another interesting town for Sami culture, Nikkaluokta, where there is a mountain lodge, a restaurant, a grocery and a chapel where weddings are celebrated in traditional style. At the heart of three valleys, Nikkaluokta opens as a region of scenic beauty, wild and seemingly inaccessible, but also generous in size and stunning unspoilt landscapes.
Photography by oskarlin
Getting there: By airplane from Stockholm, there are flights of SAS to Kiruna roundtrip from $ 400. By train, the round trip is around $ 250.
Where to stay: Hotel de Hielo (Ice Hotel) from Kiruna is the most exotic in the winter. Overnight in a double room costs $ 400, In the main cities of Lapland, a double room costs about $ 170, although there are camping options from $ 18.