It’s not a good idea to go hiking in the national parks of northern Sweden (w sverigesnationalparker.se) on a whim. Even for experienced walkers, the going can be tough and uncomfortable in parts, downright treacherous in others. The best time to hike 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. Hiking trails range in difficulty from moderately challenging to a positive assault course.
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.
Four of Swedish Lapland’s parks lie about 120km northwest of Gällivare in the tract of Swedish wilderness edging Norway: 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 Sarek park. Easy Muddus national park lies between Gällivare and Jokkmookk, while Pieljekaise national park lies just south of the Arctic Circle, southwest of Jokkmokk.