Swedish Lapland: everything you need to know
Riding dog sleds, sleeping on an igloo, meals at bonfire, learning how to chop wood, drive your own snowmobile, watch the beautiful Northern Lights, this and much more it's what you can expect from a trip to the Swedish Lapland.
Lapland it's the arctic area which bordes Jämtland, Ångermanland, Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Norway and Finland. Nearly a quarter of Sweden's land area is in Lapland. the top of my list of most exciting places - because the whole experience of discovering the Arctic it's very unique destination to discover. These cities: Luleå, Jukkasjärvi (Ice Hotel), Piteå, Gällivare, Jokkmokk, Abisko (National Park) and Kiruna are the ones you should check out when planing a trip to Lapland.
I wanted to do this trip for many years ago, but just now I got finally to visit Kiruna and my advice it's where your trip should start. I'm happy my traveler in crime Isabelle Wallin from ThatSwedishTraveller said yes to this crazy adventure, not many people would say yes to sleep on an igloo and embrace -30 degrees, right? So let's break down all items you should know before book your trip:
Transport: I received many messages asking if it's better to go to Kiruna by train or by plane. My answer is: depends of you, only. The prices are pretty much the same (sometimes cheaper to fly). I took a flight from Stockholm with Norwegian, it took about one hour to arrive in Kiruna, the price was around 800kr for both ways. (I actually found flights around 600kr both ways, but I ended buying the ticket two weeks before the flight, if you want good prices you should plan at least one month in advance - when you are buying flight tickets, planning it's everything).
You can take a train from Stockholm, it's around 18hours journey, and take the bed option - which would make your trip smoother. I took a train once from Stockholm to Åre, night train - around 8 hours to one of most trend Ski destinations in Sweden. And I enjoyed the train ride, so if you are environment friendly and you like adventures, take the train then.
The airport in Kiruna it's very small, we took the flight in the morning from Stockholm and arrived around 1pm. We booked a transfer with our hotel Camp Ripan, so it's was very easy, they were waiting there and the ride to the hotel took around 20/25 minutes. I don't remember if I saw taxi there, so I would recommend you to check it out with transfers, safe option and most of hotels have it.
Accommodation: In collaboration with Camp Ripan we stayed there for two nights. The hotel it's the perfect deal when in Kiruna, also very popular restaurant and SPA. It's great because they have transfers, Northern Lights view point and it's close to the city center, so if you need something you are walking distance away.
We stayed at one of their "stuga" or cabin, very cozzy and actually perfect for families, or a group of friends. It had a small kitchen, warm bathroom (with heat on the floor, just perfect for when it's suuuuper cold outside) and very comfortable beds.
Many many travellers said they saw the Northern Lights at Camp Ripan, this actually was how they ended doing a outdoor pool at the Aurora SPA, because the staff was sitting there watching the Northern Lights and they thought it would be pretty amazing to bath and watch it, so well done, they have the most amazing outdoor pool. We, unfortunately, could't see any lights - because the weather was too cloudy. What a pity, because we saw many guests writing at Trip Advisor they saw the lights while staying in Camp Ripan. But well, this is the whole thing about Northern Lights and which I will explain later on in this post: you can't control it.
Aurora SPA: one of the best SPA's I ever been to, maybe because the combo winter wonderland and warm SPA it's the best combo. You spend a day doing activities and then come to relax, warm up, have a hot tea and eat some fruits and then go to sleep like a baby, exactly the way we did and it was one of the best night sleep I ever had.
You should check out their SPA bucket, it's a special treatment products to try out while your SPA experience, I liked so much the coffee mask, I actually wanted to eat it because the smell was just so good. They have a meditation/yoga room, saunas, pools, foot treatment and bar area. I would say in two hours you can try it out and have a great time, or stay more if you want a full and complete experience.
The staff was lovely, they wanted to make sure every guest has the info they needed and we asked many times about what time Northern Lights will show up and they can help you to understand the forecast. So don't think twice before make them a lot of questions, they will reply it all.
Food: Prices are exactly the same as Stockholm, so don't expect to pay a lot because it's a touristic destination, we had dinner on our first day at a Thai restaurant just walking away from the hotel (safe choice for two very hungry girls), a Pad Thai was (110kr) exactly same price of Stockholm or any another part of Sweden. So if you are on a budget then it will be more than fine, if you are more luxury experience, then you are in paradise too - as you can try out options like: dinner at Camp Ripan, Spis Kiruna, Nutti Sami Siida and their Cafe Sapmi for some sami food( in Jukkasjärvi just outside Kiruna). They are not very luxury-fancy experience but expect to pay more than regular price.
This is why pay for activities it's actually a good deal, because most of them includes lunch. So even tho you are paying a bit more for it, you have lunch covered out. Also very good to just skip planing where to eat, and so on. You can leave this to Kiruna Husky take care of you, and you just need to be worried about enjoy.
Activities: the most important thing when planing your trip, because the activities will make your experience so unique, and because of them you would like to actually visit Kiruna. So don't worry to spend a bit of money here, because it's worth it and you will make memories for a lifetime.
In collaboration with Kiruna Husky we got to experience Dog Sled, BBQ and Snowmobile, Igloo Tour and Snowmobile. These guys are just the best people you will ever find, and when I'm writing this I can still feel my heart pumping fast, just remembering the good times I had and the adrenaline from the experiences. Seriously, they love what they do and this is why you will feel so part of it and an unique experience. I think I will miss Kiruna Husky forever, because the dogs are so cute and the owner Sebastian was so lovely. He is the type of person who thinks about every single guest as one of this best friend, everybody it's equal important and they are very worried if you are enjoying, if you had enough food and of course, if you are safe and have the write clothes, if you are warm and so on. Very important when you are in very extreme temperature.
The best thing: you don't need to worry about clothes because you can borrow it at Kiruna Husky. They have hats, gloves, socks, winter boots, head lights, like everything - so no worry at all. They will say what you say what you need for different types of tours.
Dogsled: you need to try it, seriously, it's just so amazing. Price it's around (1,200kr - you can write to Kiruna Husky and say you saw about the experience here at DiasdeLuana and Sebastian will give you a discount, but write to him before you book it). It worth it every single cent you will pay, believe me. It's a lifetime experience, you will remember it forever. The whole day it's amazing, from when you start to dress up, to when you come to say hi to the dogs, see the staff preparing them, to see how hyped they are when they are about to go out running, the feeling of control your own team of Huskies, the feeling of freedom, the feeling of being out in the nature, the feeling of the cold snow touching your skin, it's priceless.
Super tip: Do it during the day - don't even think about do it during the night. Because you can not really see anything in the dark. You will have a completely different experience if you do it during the day, plus you will have an amazing lunch after.
Super extra tip two: this activity it's not very recommendable if you use glasses. Of course you can still do it, but your lenses will freeze and it's hard to see with the glasses, I tried myself to use for a couple of hours and it's just impossible. I use contact lenses too, so if you have this opportunity, take contact lenses or if you don't really need glasses so much, then take in mind it's hard to use glasses when temperature it's so low. I saw the struggle of when people were using glasses on the tour, well, not like you can't do it, but good to know before. Just a friend tip.
It's just so fascinating the experience of drive your own sled, you have the guide with you the whole time of course, but you will drive by your own. Very easy and simple, we were scared before the tour because we thought they will push us to them front very hard and it would be extremely hard to control, but it's not. They are trained for it, of course you need to keep your feet at the break otherwise they will just run away, but it's very simple commands and very easy to understand and control (even for me, so if I did it, all other humans on earth are able to do it too).
Snowmobile and BBQ: we had the privilege to try out this tour for the first time before they launch it. The team drives you in a cozy sled behind a silent 4-stroke snowmobile. At the camp we had a good view on the night sky and eat dinner by the campfire away from the city lights. For dinner we had the traditional meal with reindeer, at least at our tour we tried something called 'Gtorpi' it's minced reindeer meat, delicious hamburguer. I even wanted to go buy it at the store to bring home, but we had no time for this. Hopefully you will get the chance to see the Northern Lights (for us, that day was too cloudy) BUT we saw it on our way back to the Kiruna Camp, it was amazing enough to make me very happy.
You can also combine this tour with driving your own snowmobile. The price is 1,200SEK, with your own snowmobile 1,600SEK. Again, worth it. You will get a exclusive by a campfire in Kiruna, I'm sure it will be a very different experience from everything you ever tried before.
Igloo Tour: the most adventure night I ever had. Me, a 24 years old from Brazil sleeping on an igloo when it's -26 degrees outside. Yes, it was a huge thing I might say. The type of experience of a lifetime. The temperature it's actually -5 degrees inside the igloo (same if you sleep in the ice room at IceHotel), but you do feel the cold wind coming from outside.
First of all, you can actually build your own igloo and sleep on it. Unfortunately the snow was too little when we were there. We could do it, but would require at least 6 hours of hard work. And luckly they had an igloo from two weeks ago. So we took it!
We first visited the igloo to see if we were keen for it, then we had an amazing snowmobile tour, driving around 1h30 around Kiruna. Soooo cool experience. Everybody must try to drive it, because it's very simple. And the freedom to drive along the dark, feeling the cold wind hitting your face it's just amazing. If you never ever tried such a thing before, don't worry they will teach you how to do it, and the guide is there and he will never leave you alone. You follow his track and he is always looking back to make sure you are fine.
I will make a full post about sleeping inside an igloo so keep turned because it will come after this one. Since there is so much details I would like to share it in a different post.
The last and most important part of your visit to Kiruna: Northern Lights.
This is why you should go there but should't be the only reason and let me explain you better - It's impossible to control the nature. Even if it would be great to, the only way to keep tracking the lights it's following the forecast. And sadly it's not so accurate because it depends of the weather, of course. I had no idea how the forecast works, but I finally got to understand it in a easy way.
The scale goes from 1 to 10, if it's 10 you will see the best and strongest lights ever, but in a average day, it's between 2 or 3. And it's not bad, you still can see the Northern Lights when it's 1 or 2 for example. The one I saw was number 2 on scale, and I could't see it too well. So my advice is, book as many activities you can, because then you will have a very great experience and if you see the lights then it's a plus.
Make sure as well to book a tour to Abisko, it's one of the best places in the world to see the lights, so it's worth to go. Also, need to be completely dark to see the lights, so you must plan to wake up in the middle of night, or spend the whole night waiting. It's impossible to know when it's coming, you can get an estimate time and wait for it, but it could last 5 minutes or five hours, hard to say.
Don't give up, they say if you book at least 3 days in Kiruna you have almost 100% of chance to see it. So try to book between 3 to 5 days. I stayed exactly 3 nights and it's was a great time but I wish I was there for at least one more. And since it's so cold weather, I guess 4 days it's time enough.
How to photograph the lights?
Hmm, this is a hard question to reply because it depends of your aspiration. And for which reason you will want the pictures. Just for you? Then maybe you can use your phone. For a blog, work, etc, then take in mind to bring your camera. Again, remember the weather is super cold and the battery can't handle for too long. For example with Iphones, they shuttle
down every five minutes (don't matter which one you have), so it's bit hard to take pictures and film. You need to do it, then get your phone close to your skin to warm up. I brought just my phone, because since the activities are quite adventurous I didn't want to carry on a heavy camera with me. For example Dog Sled it's not recommendable to bring big bags, but you still can bring your backpack or small bag if you need.
How to dress?
Make sure you have a thermal clothes with you, you will use ALL THE TIME. It's gonna be almost your skin, because you will never take it out. When I'm going to winter trips I always use three layers of clothes.
2. Fleece jacket
3. Snow clothes
I lived in Chile before and I bought all winter clothes to snow, but I also bought extra gloves, snow shoes and pants at second hand stores in Stockholm. Because it's not the type of clothes you will use everyday or forever, just in a very sometimes occasions, so I bought good quality ones at second hand. I recommend you to buy good winter shoes, because they are very important, otherwise it would be a nightmare to walk around. Again, you can borrow it at Kiruna Husky, but at least the shoes I would make sure to have good ones, for when you walk around by the hotel, etc.
Icehotel: we could't make this time but I'm looking forward to do it soon. If you have extra time, then book a tour to visit the hotel. You can sleep there or just spend the day, it's very fascinating the fact they build up the hotel every year and every season it's different. I really want to go there soon.
I think this is pretty much all most important things I have to tell you about a trip to the Arctic, if I missed anything or there is something special you would like to know, just write down here! :)