At the beginning of the semester, all the digital ambassadors talked about the number one things we wanted to do whilst in Sweden. Visit Lappland was on most people’s list. Not surprising since a visit to Lappland means you could meet Santa Claus and/or pretend to be Princess Elsa for the day 🙂
For those of you, who don´t know so much about Lappland: It is situated above the Arctic Circle and stretches over the North of Sweden, Norway and Finland.
Last year, I visited Jokkmokk which is probably about as North as you can go in Sweden. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Jokkmokk on Lake Talvatis. It’s a bit off the beaten track and we felt we had a really ‘authentic’ Lappish experience (that’s real word I checked). You take a look at this video to see more about Jokkmokk.
My trip to Jokkmokk was one of the reasons I decided to come to Sweden and study at KI. I was convinced that living in a winter wonderland was worth the cold (although most Swedes will tell you, we haven’t experienced real winter yet!). Studying in Sweden is the perfect excuse to explore the beautiful sceneries of the Nordic countries. Here are just some of the reasons visiting Lappland is a must do this winter:
1. Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is the outermost circle of latitude from the North Pole, where the sun does not set at summer solstice and does not rise at winter solstice. This area is more accessible from Sweden than any other country bordering the north pole and of course, I stopped for the obligatory photo at the border. There is something awesome about feeling like you are at the edge of the world plus it’s your best bet at meeting Santa Claus.
2. Northern Lights
Lappland is the home of the Aurora Borealis- the Northern Lights and the infamous physical phenomena. You can have a gander and achieve something on most people’s bucket lists (it was definitely on mine). They are one of the best things I have ever seen- the pictures don’t even do them justice. They are not guaranteed of course, but Lappland is your best shot. The best time to go in January and February, but we saw them in October. This photo was taken just a short drive from our hotel. It helps if you have as little light pollution as possible! You can also check the aurora forecast here.
Laponia was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 due to the 9,400 square kilometres of outstanding natural beauty and the unique Sami culture and heritage found there. The area is 95% national park or nature reserve so there is lots of chances to exercise ‘Allemansrätten’; the Swedish right of public access. You can explore on foot and in the winter, cross country ski or take a snow mobile. I hiked through the Muddas National Park which is extraordinarily beautiful and eerily silent- you feel like you are the only one around for miles.
4. Dog Sledging
Dog Sledging is a normal way of getting around in this neck of the woods. At first I was concerned that forcing the dogs to run was cruel, but I was assured that if the huskies don’t want to run- there is no chance! I can believe this knowing how stubborn my dogs can be. I had imagined a great picturesque image of being pulled through the arctic landscape by a pack of our feline friends. Unfortunately there was not enough snow for me to do this but next time its first on my list!
5. Sami People
The Sami people are the indigenous people of Scandinavia who inhabit the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Sami people have the right from the United Nations to preserve their distinct language, clothing and way of life. The traditional style of singing is called ‘jojka’ which I can’t really describe. But you should listen to the lovely Sofia Jannok here. I also got the chance to visit the Sami museum in Jokkmokk, well worth a visit if you’re there.
6. Reindeer Sledging
The Sami people are traditionally reindeer herders. You can see this reflected in every part of life; reindeer hides are used to make clothing or furnishings and many local dishes contain reindeer meat! You can also play Santa Claus for the afternoon with a reindeer sledging experience (although I have to admit its quite pricey). Jokkmokk is home to the annual reindeer market which celerbrated its 400th anniversary in 2005. It claims to be the oldest ‘non interrupted’ market in the world and traditionally Sami people would travel from across the Sápmi region to attend. These days, it attracts thousands of people worldwide who come to sample traditional foods and buy local clothing and artefacts. Recently featured in Hidden Wonders of Sweden (recommended by me 🙂 ). You can see more photos at the very talented Mike Nowill’s blog.
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