Swedish Lapland, the heartland of the indigenous Sámi people, is Europe’s last wilderness, characterized by seemingly endless forests of pine and spruce, thundering rivers that drain the snow-covered fells and peaceful lakeside villages high amongst the hills. The irresistible allure of this vast and sparsely populated region is the opportunity to experience raw nature at first hand. This unsullied corner of the country is a very long way away for many Swedes; in terms of distance, Gothenburg, for example, is closer to Venice than it is to Kiruna. The reputation of the local people for speaking their mind or, alternatively, not speaking at all, has confirmed the region’s image within Sweden: remote, austere yet still rather fascinating.

The best way to discover more about Sámi culture is to drive the 360km-long Wilderness Way (Vildmarksvägen) from Strömsund, a notable canoeing centre, over the barren Stekenjokk plateau to isolated Fatmomakke, a church town of dozens of traditional wooden kåtor (huts) beside the steely waters of Kultsjön lake. The road terminates at Vilhelmina, another tiny church town which makes an interesting diversion on the way north. Storuman and neighbouring Sorsele have handy train and bus connections that are useful access points for a small handful of charming mountain villages close to the Norwegian border, where hiking is the main draw.Back on the main Inlandsbanan train route, Arvidsjaur offers a fascinating insight into indigenous culture at its lappstad, a diverting collection of religious dwellings and storehuts.

However, it’s Jokkmokk, just north of the Arctic Circle, that is the real centre of Sámi life – not least during its Winter Market when thousands of people brave the chill to buy and sell everything from reindeer hides to wellington boots. Moving further north, the iron-ore mining centres of Gällivare (where the Inlandsbanan ends) and Kiruna share a rugged charm, though it’s undoubtedly the world-famous Icehotel in nearby Jukkasjärvi that is the real winter draw. Beyond, the rugged national parks offer a chance to hike and commune with nature like nowhere else: the Kungsleden trail runs for 500km from the tiny village of Abisko – oddly, yet reassuringly for hikers, the driest place in all of Sweden – to Hemavan, northwest of Storuman, through some of the most gorgeous stretches anywhere in the Swedish mountains.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Sweden features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Scandinavia for first-timers: 7 ideas for short breaks

Scandinavia for first-timers: 7 ideas for short breaks

On the face of it, Scandinavia isn’t a very sensible place for a holiday. For one thing, it’s almost always going to be colder than the place you’re leavi…

31 Mar 2017 • Steve Vickers insert_drive_file Article
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
You’ll soon be able to stay at the ICEHOTEL throughout the year

You’ll soon be able to stay at the ICEHOTEL throughout the year

The ICEHOTEL, constructed from snow and ice each year, has long been Swedish Lapland’s blockbuster attraction. It features in our list of the top 21 things to…

19 Apr 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right