Date visited: December 28, 2016 – January 6, 2017
Table of Contents
Our Perspective of Lapland
We both agree that Lapland, Sweden has much to offer in the sense of outdoor experiences, an escape from reality and incomparable natural light phenomena from sunrises and sunsets to auroras. A sunrise and sunset can both be experienced from anywhere in the world, but there is nothing quite like an always rising or always setting sun in the heart of the icy north of Sweden. Of course, considering we were in Lapland in the dead of winter, the sunlight was limited to about 4 hours per day.
We took this trip to Lapland with her parents and stayed in a house in a tiny, secluded village that is surrounded by lakes, marshlands, countless trees and never ending nothingness. Wildlife is plentiful and so is adventure in Lapland. While we only spent time in the north of Sweden, we noticed plenty of destinations along the way that we would like to visit in the future. This prompted talk of a more comprehensive trip throughout Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
We might be considered travel experts for Lapland, Sweden
In addition to our stories about our trip to Sweden, we created this list of travel tips that we collected for beautiful Lapland.
If you’d like, you can call us experts for Lapland travels, since our family has a vacation home up in the north that we regularly use to get away from all the stress that comes with our daily lives. Therefore, we collected lots of tips over the last 10+ years that are essential to spend a great and safe vacation up there.
The village we stay in is called: Tväråträsk. We highly recommend this area!
Swedish Foods to Try
- If you eat meat, then Moose and Reindeer meat are a must. You have to try those if you’re not a strict vegetarian since it truly is the most typical food you can get in Lapland. Buy the meat from a local butcher and cook it at home because of our upcoming tip.
- We do not have a specific restaurant to recommend because Swedish restaurants aren’t particularly good; which is very unfortunate. However, if you do know some good restaurants, please let us know!
- If you insist on eating out, we recommend going to the River Hotel in Sorsele (in winter, they even have an igloo including a bar built on the river!) or the Lappland Hotel in Lycksele.
- The Swedes love to eat sweets. Therefore, you’ll find awesome sweet pastries in every grocery store. They are pretty delicious, which is why we definitely recommend trying them.
Things to See and Do
- Go for a snowmobile drive! In winter, the snowmobile is the main means of transport in Lapland, Sweden. Cars can easily get stuck whereas driving a snowmobile allows you to take time-saving short cuts and you hardly ever get stuck due to the way they are constructed. If you don’t own one like us, you can rent one or ask a nice Swede if they would lend you his/hers. They probabaly will. Red X’es will lead you the right way, as they are the official signs for snowmobile trails. However, make sure you’re wearing all necessary safety equipment like a helmet. Additionally, make sure to pack everything you need in case your snowmobile breaks down (lighter, water, robes, blankets, food, cell phone, pocketknife, flashlight, etc.). If you don’t feel comfortable enough to go on your own tour, you can always book a tour and drive in a group and with a guide.
- If you want to see the northern lights, you should go in December as it is the best time of the year to spot them. They usually appear around 12am. This is something you need to have seen in your life. It is incredibly beautiful.
- If you’re not spending your vacation above the Arctic Circle anyway, you should take the time and drive up there. Yes, it is only a sign saying “welcome to the arctic circle”, but at least you can say that you’ve been there 😉 Moreover, the drive up there is beautiful. You’ll see so much nature, a beautiful tree-covered landscape and lots of reindeer and hopefully, a moose will cross your way. Watch out!
- There are many waterfalls in Lapland, Sweden. We love the Storforsen waterfalls. They are gigantic and on the way to the Arctic Circle. We recommend checking them out.
- Going for a hike is definitely something you need to do while you’re there. It is absolutely quiet in the woods. If you stand still, you can actually hear your heart beating. It’s crazy. However, make sure to stay on a trail. We always hike on snowmobile trails since they take you to the nicest spots as they are always made by the locals.
- An absolute must: Stand on a frozen lake when it’s dark. Be quiet and listen to the sudden, loud cracks meters under your feet. Hearing these sounds of water freezing under your feet will give you goosebumps! You need to experience it yourself to appreciate the feeling 🙂
- Other acitivites include: Husky tours (which are too expensive in our opinion. Therefore, we recommend hiking with huskies) and Skiing (i.e. in Malå)
General Tips for Lapland
- Go in winter. All the fun activities and must sees can be experienced in winter while there are too many mosquitoes in summer due to the high number of lakes and swamps.
- Always tell someone where you’re going. Cell phone service and internet service is basically non-existent up there. So, in case something happens to you, someone will come look for you if you don’t return after a specific amount of time.
- There are only 4 hours of daylight in winter (10am-2pm). So make sure you do everything you want to do during that time.
- Watch out for moose and reindeer at any time while on the road! They are everywhere and they love walking on the roads.
- Wear warm clothes. We’re talking actual snow boots and clothing that will even keep you warm in freezing temperatures (-33°C which should be the same in Fahrenheit). Yes it gets that cold in Lapland and it’s not unusual.
- Always have enough gas and spare gas at any time!
- If you rent a car, make sure that you can plug it into an outlet so that the freezing temperatures do not prevent your car from starting. This happened to us because we brought a “normal” car with us from Germany. One of our Swedish friends gave us this tip after we shared our story with her.
This list will most likely be constantly edited while we collect more and more tips over the years. So keep checking and let us know if you have any additional tips that you’d like to share 🙂
It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and our first 24 hour journey was finally coming to an end when, in the ever hastening darkness, I spotted three massive figures about 50 meters in front of us standing on the icy, forest enclosed road. Our eyes were weary and our minds stretched from the long car ride, but there was no mistaking the fact that there were three moose standing between us and a warm bed. Welcome to Lapland. We knew where we were going and expected to see wildlife, but this was the first we had encountered on the entire trip thus far and they were practically standing in our would be backyard. Thankfully we saw them in time to brake and they ran off almost just as quickly as we noticed their presence, but it certainly woke us up and kept us alert for the remainder of the drive; alert enough, of course, to notice the countless deer and other wildlife standing on the side of the road, which always turned out to be mailboxes or other street signs upon further inspection.
Upon arrival to the house where we would be spending the next week and a half, we quickly unpacked the car, got the wood stove burning and attempted to remain awake for the next few hours with the hopes of maintaining a normal sleep schedule. For me, this was fairly easily accomplished with a meal and busying myself with various tasks that needed to be done, such as making the bed and getting things prepared for the days ahead. However, it still was not enough to keep us from sleeping by 9 pm.
I think it’s important for me to explain the most shocking and odd fact that I experienced while there. Despite my knowing that it would be like this, the maximum of 4 hours of daylight was nevertheless a strange feeling. When it was cloudy, one can drastically minimize that number down to a perceived 2 hours. To be more specific, we counted on the sun officially rising by 10 am and setting by 2 pm each day. The almost constant darkness, the up to -38°C outside temperature at times and the warm hearth are all the necessary ingredients to put one in a week long slumber. Although, I did quite well at staying awake and being as productive as possible.
The main goal of this trip was simply to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Despite each of us getting sick and still being sick at the time of writing this, that goal was certainly achieved. Endless car rides aside, this trip was a wonderful experience for both of us, especially me, considering it was my first such adventure. Although the temperature and lack of daylight are intimidating, I would agree that we made good use of our time with various activities.
On the first full day, we were up bright and early to have breakfast before setting out on a hike through the wilderness behind the house. The temperature was not yet too cold–a comfortable -8°C—so we attempted to spend most of the daylight outdoors. However, our hike was hurried along by the chilling howls of a large wolf pack, which I suspected to be a few kilometers away. Full disclosure, it turned out to be a husky farm in the same “village” that offers dog sled tours. Slightly disappointed that it was not wolves, yet relieved that the fear of being attacked and eaten alive was unwarranted, we attempted to build snow men and a snow castle, both of which activities were foiled by dry, powdery snow. Since this didn’t work, we decided to use a bit of the little remaining sunlight to walk out onto the lake in front of the house. Although I am confident that it was frozen solid, we were still certain to not go anywhere where someone else had not already been.
Later in the evening, we returned to the lake to experience the complete silence and the clear sky with incomparable clarity of the stars. In addition to the sound of our own heartbeats, we could hear the frozen lake below us cracking and refreezing in various sections; often far away, sometimes right underneath us. It was completely safe, but an eerie feeling nonetheless.
The rest of our trip was spent with similar activities, with addition of more time spent in the car than I would have liked. The additional car rides were trips to towns with grocery stores so that we could stock up, a trip to the most adorable airport I’ve ever seen to pick up her mother who flew in to meet us and her father, as well as a trip to the Arctic Circle and a massive waterfall along the way. Although, I would have preferred less time in the car, it was these trips which afforded us the opportunity to encounter countless herds of reindeer and two more moose.
There were many astonishing things to witness on this trip and the experiences will remain with me forever. One of these things is the fact that daylight purely consists of a sunrise and a sunset with nothing in between. This makes for outstanding pictures and colorful skies of which I have only ever previously seen in paintings. I’m reminded of one particular instance where the sun was below the horizon, but there was a lone cloud high in the atmosphere, which was still capturing the sun’s light. The best way I can describe it is that it looked like someone had just finished a fresh painting and then scraped a small section away, leaving a bright smear of the various colors outlining the white canvas beneath. It is a shame that we were not able to capture a good photo of the event.
Another event of which I wish we were able to capture on camera was one that has always been on my bucket list: the Northern Lights. The first night we saw them was on New Year’s Eve and they were high up in the atmosphere and somewhat faint; not producing enough light to get a quality picture. The next time we saw them, they were canvasing the sky and moving in elegant wavelike patterns, mixing in shades of pink, blue and orange amongst the overwhelming green hue. In this instance, the -36°C outside air kept us from walking outside and attempting photography. My phone froze and died at -20°C; I can’t imagine what would have happened that night.
I will cap off this long story with a heartfelt recommendation to go and experience the cold north of Sweden. I could continue writing for days, but words can’t do justice to the majestic winter wilderness of the unforgiving landscape in the Lapland region of Sweden. If you’re thirsting for more, I would also recommend reading what she said about Lapland.
If you have ever wanted to visit a real winter wonderland and/or a place where you can absolutely relax, then the North of Sweden is the perfect destination. To be more precise, we stayed in Lapland, in a very small village called Tväråträsk which is part of Blattnicksele and in the commune of Sorsele. It consists of approximately 10-20 houses of which not all are occupied. Moreover, it is placed (like almost every village up there) right next to a beautiful lake. I’m sure most people haven’t been so far north yet, simply because it is hard to reach but definitely not impossible. Obviously, you can take the car which we did. From the West of Germany, this trip took us about 24 hours. Therefore, I recommend staying somewhere overnight instead of driving all the way through (like we did). Another way to get there is to fly. Nevertheless, in Lapland, there are only a couple of tiny but incredibly gorgeous airports, which makes it hard to find the perfect time and a good price. However, every effort is worth the trip to Lapland, Sweden. This is because of many reasons:
- Lapland has a beautiful landscape scattered with countless trees and lakes.
- There are no big cities, you’ll mostly find some houses here and there belonging to a small village or a small town where you can find everything you need.
- It is absolutely quiet. There are almost no cars, planes or trains disturbing the nature. If you don’t move, the only thing you can hear is your own heartbeat. Absolutely amazing.
- Since there is no traffic and only a few houses, air pollution is basically non-existent.
- Due to the clear air, the night sky shows its stars as well as shooting stars brighter than anywhere else.
- Wildlife is omnipresent. Usually, reindeers or even moose will cross your way wherever you go showing the importance of nature in Lapland.
- The polar circle in Lapland is an indication for the northern lights that you can observe throughout nighttime. I have never seen something prettier than these bright green lights moving their way through the sky.
- In winter, all lakes and rivers are frozen. This allows you to hike, ski or even drive on them. Make sure to listen to the cracks while standing on a frozen lake. Hearing the water freeze under your feet will give you goosebumps.
- It’s an adventure to drive a snowmobile and very common in Lapland. Something that I really enjoy doing.
- Relaxation and no stress are some of the most important reasons. The silence and the direct connection to nature lets you stop thinking and worrying about unimportant things.
After presenting this personal list of reasons for visiting Lapland, I’d like to share some notable moments with you.
During our stay in Lapland it became incredibly cold for a couple of days. It was- 36 degrees which should be about the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit. As soon as we stepped outside, my hair and my eyelashes froze. I looked like an old woman with gray and white hair. Even our phones couldn’t stand the cold weather and turned off after only a few minutes outside. It is impossible to stay outside for longer than 20 minutes because everything freezes so quickly. I really don’t understand how all the animals can survive such a cold winter (because this isn’t the lowest temperature they get). Moreover, the icy weather froze our car to a point where it took us a few hours to make it work again. After that, we were too scared to turn it off again, which is why we kept is running all night. I’m just glad that the heating and electricity didn’t break. We definitely would have died.
Furthermore, on most of our hikes in Lapland, he scared me to death whenever he heard noises or a cracking of branches (which happened too often). I wasn’t looking forward to introducing myself to any animals that I really don’t want to meet. Like wolves, for example. On our first hike, we heard extremely loud howling coming from somewhere not too far away. That really scared me and I wanted to go home as fast we could. However, he kept standing there fascinated by the possible chance of seeing a wolf (or twenty; like for real? Just run as long as you can!). Luckily, other than the howling, nothing happened. Later, we found out that it probably came from the husky farm which was only a few kilometers away. They must have fed them while we were hiking. Scary experience.
Another not so funny story occurred when we were on our way to cross a river by car. Yes by car and no, not on a bridge. However, this story doesn’t tell a tragedy of us drowning in icy water. It is about some crazy truck drivers who only seem to be interested in delivering products rather than saving lives. Admittedly, many truck drivers drive irresponsibly fast on icy and slippery roads that shouldn’t even be called roads. They even pass you, if they think you’re not driving freaky enough. One of these trucks was basically riding our ass when we stopped to let him pass us. We were scared that a reindeer would show up and we suddenly had to stop. This would have led to the truck smashing us like potato. And what happened? Right after the truck had passed us, a reindeer jumped on the road which made the driver pull to the right almost tilting over and crashing into the trees. I had to close my eyes, mostly because I didn’t want to see a reindeer dying in front of my eyes. Luckily, no one got harmed.
The last moment I’d like to share is a very short but intense one. It was the night we first got to see the northern lights ever in our lives. We were so excited and got dressed as quickly as we could in order to go outside and not miss the moment (northern lights usually don’t stay very long). Apart from the absolutely pretty and astonishing northern lights curling their way through the sky, I couldn’t help but notice the joy, excitement and contentment that were mirrored in his eyes. It was a moment which made me very happy seeing him so unworried and excited.
Finally, Lapland, Sweden is a magical place, an actual winter wonderland that everyone should visit at least once in their life.
Lapland Facts and History
The Swedish region of Lapland is the northernmost territory in the country of Sweden. In addition to abundant wildlife, including massive herds of reindeer, moose, deer and wolves, Lapland is also home to the native Sami people. An interesting fact about the Sami is that the reindeer may only be herded by members of their tribe. Because there are no fences and the animals are free to move as they please, the reindeer of Lapland are only tracked by markers placed on their ears or something similar to bandanas wrapped around their necks. A friend of ours from Arvidsjaur, about halfway between where we were staying and the Sami capital of Jokkmokk, explains that the Sami people are unfortunately falling victim to the modern world and their language, which is said to be quite beautiful, is quickly dying out.
Lapland, Sweden is also so far north, that much of it is considered to be inside the Arctic Circle. In fact, the previously mentioned city of Jokkmokk is located within these boundaries.