“Heading Northwards” or in Swedish norrut was the first post I published on this website. This reflects my love for the nordic countries, that made me choose Sweden for my exchange studies and that has even grown in the first months I could spend here. This said, it was one of the greatest experiences for me to join a group of ten amazing students from the Netherlands, India, Italy and Germany on a trip to the very north of Sweden: Lappland.
We visited the mining city Kiruna, the national park of Abisko and the Norwegian harbour city Narvik. We saw beautiful landscapes covered by snow, reindeer walking therein and the one thing we all hoped for: the night sky turning green and purple during a stunning aurora borealis. But one after the other.
Kiruna is the northernmost city of Sweden and is located more than a thousand kilometers north of Stockholm. Most of the city’s 20.000 inhabitants work for the world’s largest iron ore mine. The mine is both Kiruna’s creator and enemy as due to ground lowering the whole city has to be moved by 5 kilometers until 2040. Already today the first houses have been relocated.
Apart from the mine, Kiruna has not too many attractions for travellers, apart from some very beautiful exceptions. The city’s church is all wooden and resembles a tent of the indigenous inhabitants of Lappland, the Sami. Even though they like to propose a different image to tourists, the Sami seem to be as modern as every Swede, just some of them farm reindeer in the snowy landscapes of Lappland.
The evening in Kiruna is best spent not in a pub, but outdoors in the cold.
Moreover, the ice hotel in the small village Jukkasjärvi is another attraction. It is a hotel purely build out of snow and ice offering rooms each differently decorated by international artists. When we were there, the rooms were under construction and we could watch the artists work. On the picture one can see the ice church being built by spraying water on top of a rubber balloon which is later removed.
However, the evening in Kiruna is best spent not in a pub, but outdoors in the cold where you are most likely to experience an aurora borealis. In a previous article have covered how northern lights occur and be sure I took a lot more pictures that you will get so see in the next article.
If one place can be regarded as typical for Lappland, it is the village Abisko. A hundred kilometer north-west of Kiruna it is home to only 85 inhabitants. Nevertheless it is a very important starting point for many outdoor activities in the snow-covered Lappland.
Abisko is the end of Sweden’s most famous long-distance trail, the Kungsleden (King’s trail), which I will also cover in a separate article. Apart from that you can discover the nature on cross-country skis, snow shoes or dog sledges. The only thing that limits you is the reduced day length in the north. But despite the fact that we visited Abikso in the darkest days, we still had more than 5 hours of daylight.
Another highlight in Abisko was the wood-heated sauna at the lake Torneträsk and of course, the northern lights in the evening.
Narvik is a harbour city 80 km east of Abisko. It is located in the north of Norway at the Atlantic Ocean. And this changes its character severely. While in Sweden all coasts are rather soft and all surf is absorbed by exterior islands, the Norwegian fjords are rough and have a harsher climate.
The city of Narvik itself is not part of Lappland, but it is very important for Kiruna’s mine. All iron ore is transported to the harbour city where it is shipped to the whole world. Every two hours a several hundred meter long train commutes between the two cities.
As this was the first time for me to be in Norway, I did not really know what landscape to expect. But seeing the snow-covered fjords made me curious to come back one day to Sweden’s landscape-wise counterpart.
Not only for me, Lappland was an amazing experience of nature that I will never forget. The articles are split into several parts, so make sure to read all of them.
- From Kiruna, to Abisko and Narvik
- Aurora borealis in Kiruna
- Aurora borealis in Abisko
- The Kungsleden
But for now, enjoy the following impressions from Kiruna, Abisko and Narvik.