It’s not a good idea to go hiking in the national parks of northern Sweden on a whim. Even for experienced walkers, the going can be tough and uncomfortable in parts, downright treacherous in others. The best time to go hiking is from late June to September: during May and early June the ground is still very wet and boggy as a result of the rapid snow melt. Once the snow has gone, wild flowers burst into bloom, making the most of the short summer months. The weather is very changeable – one moment it can be hot and sunny, the next cold and rainy – and snow showers are not uncommon in summer.
Mosquitoes are a real problem: it’s difficult to describe the utter misery of being covered in a blanket of insects, your eyes, ears and nose full of the creatures. Yet the beautiful landscape here is one of the last wilderness areas left in Europe – it’s one vast expanse of forest and mountains, where roads and human habitation are the exception rather than the norm. Reindeer are a common sight, as the parks are their breeding grounds and summer pasture, and Sámi settlements are dotted throughout the region – notably at Ritsem and Vaisaluokta.
The hiking trails in the five national parks (w fjallen.nu) here range in difficulty from moderately challenging to a positive assault course. Four of the parks lie about 120km northwest of Gällivare in the tract of Swedish wilderness edging Norway, whereas easy Muddus national park lies between Gällivare and Jokkmokk. The low fells, large lakes and moors of Padjelanta, Stora Sjöfallet and Abisko parks act as the eyebrows to the sheer face of the mountainous and inhospitable Sarek park.