An hour and a half by Inlandsbanan and 89km north of Sorsele, ARVIDSJAUR was for centuries where the region’s Sámi gathered to trade and debate. Their presence was of interest to Protestant missionaries, who established the first church here in 1606. The success of this Swedish settlement was secured when silver was discovered in the nearby mountains, and the town flourished as a staging point and supply depot. While these developments unfolded, the Sámi continued to assemble on market days and during religious festivals. At the end of the eighteenth century, they built their own church town of simple wooden huts. Today, out of a total population of five thousand, there are still twenty Sámi families in Arvisdjaur who make their living from reindeer husbandry, and the town is a good place to get a real hands-on experience of Sámi life.
Arvidsjaur is not one of Sweden’s more attractive towns – its streets of drab houses strung out either side of the main drag lined with a dozen or so shops make a pretty depressing impression on any first-time visitor. However, although the modern town is decidedly unappealing, it hides one of northern Sweden’s top attractions in the traditional Sámi village of Lappstaden.Read More
LappstadenA good way to find out more about the Sámi culture (which manifests itself more and more as you travel north from here) is to visit Lappstaden. Although you probably won’t meet any Sámi here, you will at least be able to see how they used to live in traditional huts, or kåtor. About eighty of these huts in the eighteenth-century Sámi church town have survived, and are clumped unceremoniously next to a yellow, modern apartment building. The design of these square wooden buildings supporting a pyramid-shaped roof is typical of the Forest Sámi who lived in the surrounding forests, constructing their homes of indigenous timber. Local Sámi schoolteacher, Karin Stenberg, made it her life’s work to preserve Lappstaden and, the huts are still used today during the last weekend in August as a venue for a special festival, Storstämningshelgen.
Around Arvidsjaur: Båtsuoj Sámi Center
Around Arvidsjaur: Båtsuoj Sámi CenterSeventy kilometres west of Arvidsjaur, in the village of GASA, the Båtsuoj Sámi Center is a good place to get to grips with the everyday life of the Sámi. Here, you’ll not only come face to face with reindeer (båtsuoj in Sámi) but also meet real reindeer herders, who’ll teach you about their religion and way of life, including the way to milk a reindeer and the tricks of baking their traditional bread; frozen reindeer meat is also available for purchase.
A short visit to Båtsuoj of around an hour or so includes a chance to taste dried reindeer meat sitting around the fire in a kåta; a longer half-day trip includes dinner of reindeer cooked over an open fire as well as information about the Sámi way of life; you can stay overnight for an extra 350kr per person. The centre also arranges all-day cloudberry-picking and medicinal herb-gathering expeditions (Aug; 700kr); the rare cloudberries grow in the most inaccessible of northern Sweden’s marshlands – hence the hefty price.