Winter is here, and it is the perfect time to go on an adventure to Lapland in Sweden. The land on reindeers, of snow and beautiful, pristine wilderness, the ice hotel and an ideal place to see the northern lights. In fact Nasa has predicted that 2012 will have the brightest northern lights in the past 50 years, so now is the time to go if you want to see something spectacular. Lapland is also the region in which the native Sami people have lived for over 7,000 years, spanning across Finland, Sweden, Norway and a small part of Russia. Today some still retain a nomadic lifestyle, herding reindeers in districts which range between 1000 and 5000 km2.
Welcome to Lapland: From the moment you step off the plane, the icy wilderness awaits you. The easiest way to get to Lapland is to fly from Stockholm to Kiruna, which takes around 2 hours. You can also take the more scenic route on the Lapplandståget (the Lapland Train), in around 20 hours.
We hired a car at the airport, and first drove to the industrial town of Kiruna.
After Kiruna, we drove to our accommodation at Abisko Tourist Station. As it was quite remote from any large towns, and located in a national park, we thought our chances of seeing the northern lights without light interference would be higher. On our second night, the clouds cleared and the northern lights came out to play. The view was spectacular and over an hour or so, light in green and purple danced throughout the sky.
We didn’t bring a tripod with us, so this is the best northern lights picture we managed to take.
The next day we decided to go on a snow-shoeing tour organising by the station. You could just sign up the evening before to any of the 7 or so various activities for the next day.
Beautiful views near Abisko in Lappland as we were snowshoeing through the wilderness.
We saw some wild elks, and I fell down the bank of a frozen river and became stuck in a tree.
Next stop was the remote Låktatjåkko Fjällstation, Sweden’s highest mountain station at 1228 meters high, perched in a pass between two mountain peaks and located at Björkliden Fjällby ski resort in Lapland.
When we arrived at the ski resort itself I found a sign up stating that Låktatjåkko Mountain Station had been closed over the last 3 or 4 days due to a huge snow storm. I asked at reception if we were going to be able to stay there after all, and as luck would have it, they said that a snow cat was leaving in 5 minutes to see if the road was passable, to take up supplies and also to bring up the lovely couple who worked there, as they had to return back to the main ski resort due to the severity of the storm. They asked if we wanted to hop in, but we were warned that there was still a large chance the storm had made the road impassable and that we wouldn’t be able to stay at the station.
On the way up
It took us about an hour to make it to Låktatjåkko Mountain Station, in almost complete whiteout, with only the tops of little red poles poking out of the snow to lead the way.
But luckily we made it! Then the door had to be dug out of the few meters of snow covering it, as you can see here (the station is a couple of stories high):
The mountain station was a wonderful place to stay in the winter, with a delicious dinner in the evening of reindeer meat (the most beautifully cooked I have had so far), and other traditional Swedish dishes, the highest bar in Sweden, a cosy fireplace and of course, a sauna. If you don’t want to take the snow cat up (which only runs once a day), you can ski there, or drive a snow-mobile.
Not to mention the famous Låktatjåkko Mountain Station waffles:
The sun came out on our way back down
The next day it was off to explore the Icehotel.
Beautiful icy details:
Yes, this is very pleasant and warm!
While I definitely appreciate the beauty of and work that went into creating the Icehotel, I really can’t imagine anything worse than sleeping in an icy room. One of the ladies who worked there said that people often have to change to a normal, warm room in the middle of the night.
We managed to fit quite a lot into a short time in Lapland, but i’d love to return, to visit a Sami village, and to see the northern lights again.