From Mora and Orsa, the Inlandsbanan trundles through the northern reaches of Dalarna before crossing the provincial border into Härjedalen, a sparsely populated fell region stretching north and west to the Norwegian border, and containing some of the best scenery anywhere in Sweden. Indeed, the region belonged to Norway until 1645, and the influence of the Norwegian language is still evident today in the local dialect. Härjedalen got its name from the unfortunate Härjulf Hornbreaker, a servant to the Norwegian king, who mistakenly killed two of the king’s men and was banished from the court. He fled to Uppsala, where he sought protection from King Amund, but after falling in love with Amund’s cousin, Helga, and arousing the king’s fury he was forced to make another hasty exit. It was then he came across a desolate valley in which he settled and which he named after himself: Härjulf’s dale, or Härjedalen, as it’s known today.
From the comfort of the Inlandsbanan, you’ll be treated to a succession of breathtaking vistas of vast forested hill and mountainsides (Härjedalen boasts more than thirty mountains of over 1000m) – these are some of the emptiest tracts of land in the whole country, also home to the country’s largest population of bears. Although the sleepy provincial capital, Sveg, holds little of appeal, it’s from here that buses head northwest to the remote mountain villages of Funäsdalen and Tänndalen, both with easy access to excellent and little-frequented hiking trails through austere terrain which features a handful of shaggy musk oxen that have wandered over the border from Norway. Nearby, across the lonely Flatruet plateau, with its ancient rock paintings, tiny Ljungdalen is the starting point for treks to Sweden’s southernmost glacier, Helags, on the icy slopes of Helagsfjället (1797m).Read More
The Flatruet plateau and around
The Flatruet plateau and around
From Funäsdalen, an unnumbered road, actually the highest in the country, heads north for the bumpy ascent to the hamlet of Mittådalen and beyond to the Flatruet plateau (975m), a bare stretch of desolate, rocky land, punctuated only by electricity poles and herds of grazing reindeer. The plateau is renowned for its 4000-year-old Stone Age rock paintings (hällmålningar in Swedish) at the foot of the Ruändan mountain at the eastern edge of this extensive upland area; get here by turning right in Mittådalen for another hamlet, Messlingen, where you should leave your vehicle. East of the settlement, a track off to the left leads towards Byggevallen and Ruvallen; from the latter a footpath then leads to the paintings – from the road it’s a walk of 5–6km. Fashioned from a mix of iron ochre and animal fat and etched into slabs of rock, the twenty or so figures show, in remarkable clarity, elk, reindeer and even bears. Bus #620 makes this journey once daily on weekdays; timetables are at w lanstrafiken-z.se.
Once over the plateau, the road descends steeply towards the charming village of LJUNGDALEN, hemmed in on three sides by high mountains, occupying an area of flat grassland near the head of the Ljungan River.
Though the fifty or so wooden houses are pleasant enough, it’s as a base from which to reach the Helags glacier that Ljungdalen really comes into its own. From the ICA supermarket in the centre of the village, take the road signed for “Helags/Kläppen” which leads to a car park after 6km, from where the hiking trail starts. Before the car park though, the road passes a small settlement, Kläppen, where you should take Kläppenvägen uphill, following the signs. Once at the car park it’s 12km to the STF mountain cabin at Helags.
Route 535: the road to Åsarna
From Ljungdalen, one of the most beautiful journeys anywhere in northern Sweden unfolds. Although the 110km trip to Åsarna certainly requires stamina, it offers a real taste of wild Sweden. The switchback road cuts through some of the most spectacular mountain and lakeside landscapes you’ll witness in the north, threading its way around serpentine bends and across narrow isthmuses between the extensive areas of swampland and spruce forest that characterize this forgotten corner of the country.
Curiously for such a remote route, it is served by bus: the #613 runs from Ljungdalen to Åsarna (bus times at w lanstrafiken-z.se) providing a rare insight for anyone without their own transport into life in backwoods Sweden – as the bus trundles through the tiny villages, you’ll notice how the lumberjack culture is alive and well in these parts. Indeed, the stretch of road between the Härjedalen/Jämtland border and the village of Börtnan (1hr 10min from Ljungdalen) runs through one of the region’s most important forestry areas; mountains of timber line the roadside awaiting transport to the nearest railhead.