The Best Winter Holidays In Swedish Lapland

Forget the usual Santa Claus sights, the Swedish part of Lapland has all the breath-taking landscape and unique outdoor activities you need for an unforgettable winter holiday – not mention fewer crowds than its touristy Finnish counterpart. As travel restrictions to the country start to ease up, now could be a good time for husky sledding, cross-country skiing and camping under the Northern Lights. Here’s what to do and where to stay.

BEST FOR SKIING & WINTER SPORTS

Piteå 

On the north east coast of Sweden, Piteå has fantastic skiing during the winter. Cross country types will love Lindbäcksstadion resort, which has a selection of interesting routes for intermediates. Outdoor enthusiasts can also cycle and hike through the mountains during the summer, and even spot the Northern Lights on a clear evening. In Piteå, Kust Hotel and Spa is a lovely choice for a relaxing break, where guests can make use of the excellent on-site spa facilities and enjoy a beauty treatment inspired by the nature of Swedish Lapland. Restaurant Tage on the top floor of the hotel serves delicious traditional Swedish fare, while SL favourite Centrum Krog uses some of the top local produce in town.

BEST FOR CAMPING

Harads

Campers should head to Harads in Norbotten County for some of the best outdoor activities in Swedish Lapland. The small village in the province of Boden also has stunning accommodation – whether you’re after a glamping pod or luxury log cabins, there’s something for everyone. Loggers Lodge in the heart of the boreal forest is a unique timber cabin that’s sleep two. Dating back to the 40s, the cabin has been stylishly renovated with a huge wood burner and indoor sauna. Guests can enjoy meals prepared by a private chef using local organic produce, before taking in a spot of stargazing outdoors. The beautiful location is ideal for winter acuities such as wild fishing, husky sledding, and snowmobiling. 

For a truly unique experience, book a stay at the Arctic Bath in Harads. The hotel and spa have cosy cabin suites and a spectacular main building (inspired by the country's timber logging history) which floats on open water. Inside, the rooms have a distinct minimalist design with a cosy double bed, Baltic limestone flooring, and an eco-friendly wood-pellet burner. Slow-cooked reindeer and moose heart are some of the Swedish delicacies on offer – the kitchen headed up by Kristoffer Åström only uses the finest local ingredients. Guests can also relax in the impressive on-site spa and enjoy a unique wellness treatment such as an open-air cold bath or a traditional Swedish massage.

Gällivare

For a rustic camping experience, head to Gällivare in Norbotten County. It’s one of the best places to experience the ‘Midnight Sun’ (a 24-hour period of sunlight inside the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland) during the summer. Gällivare has beautiful countryside and vast mountainous areas, too – perfect for outdoor activities year-round. During the winter, the award-winning Sápmi Nature Camp is the ultimate camping experience. Here, you can spot rare deer, go husky sledding, and try your hand at the Swedish art of snow shoeing (hiking over snow). The camp itself offers trips during autumn and winter where you can learn about the arctic indigenous Sápmi people and their Laponian traditions. For groups of up to six, guests can meet a reindeer herding family and learn about the local wildlife, before settling down in one of the luxury tepees.

ANNA OHLUND; VISIT SWEDEN.COM

BEST FOR MOUNTIAN CLIMBING

Norbotten County

Norbotten County is home to several national parks – all of which contain fantastic routes for hikers and climbers. Located in Jokkmokk, Sarek National Park is the largest of the four. The area is famed for its stunning mountains and excellent climbing routes. There are many areas to explore off the beaten track, but for a great camping trip, go to Sarek. Hikers and mountaineers can explore the vast mountainous areas and take in the beautiful views atop the peaks. Beginners are advised to take a tour guide as there are no marked trails in the park, but those with some climbing experience will relish the challenge. Rapa River also runs through Sarek – explorers can swim in the river during summer and hike the glacial valley in winter. 

Further to the north, Padjelanta National Park is the largest in Sweden. As part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Laponia, it has two large lakes Vastenjávrre and Virihávrre – the latter of which is known as ‘the most beautiful lake in Sweden’. Climbers can spot artic foxes, reindeer and wolverine, although the wildlife is sparse as the remote province has extremely cold temperatures during winter. Here, the best route to follow is the Padjelanta Trail, which can be hiked in a few days, and includes stunning views of the national park where you can see parts of Norway in the distance. Stora Sjöfallet is also a must-see in Norbotten. Visitors can hike the many trails that loop through the mountains, fish in the lakes, and collect rare minerals from the earth. For climbers, autumn is one of the best times to visit, though the true beauty of the mountains in Swedish Lapland should be seen during snowy conditions.

ASAF KLIGER; VISIT SWEDEN.COM
ASAF KLIGER; VISIT SWEDEN.COM
ASAF KILGER; VISIT SWEDEN.COM

BEST TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Gunnarsbyn

Located in the Boden province, Gunnarsbyn is a small village with unique log cabins where you can get a feel for the great outdoors. Tucked away in the boreal forests, The Arctic Retreat is a hidden gem located next to the Råne River and is ideal for spotting the Northern Lights – the cabins are all far away from any artificial light, so often have very good sightings. The spectacular light display is best seen between September and March and group tours can be booked at the Retreat. Sheltered by large trees, the timber log cabins sleep up to eight people. During winter, they can only be reached by snowmobile, dogsled or skis, but once inside, you can snuggle by the open fire and take in the beautifully remote surroundings. During summer, the valley can be used for fishing, kayaking and other outdoor activities. 

ASAF KILGER; VISIT SWEDEN.COM

Kiruna

Another great place to spot the Northern Lights is in Kiruna, the northernmost town in the Lapland province. From September to April, visitors can book guided tours to see the Northern Lights early in the evening. Thanks to its remote location and lack of artificial light, Kiruna has some of the best sightings in the whole country – book a tour well in advance to avoid disappointment as there are a limited amount of tours available throughout autumn and winter. If you’re staying in town, head to the beautiful Ice Hotel where you can make the most of the beautiful snowy landscape and book a range of winter activities, including husky tours, hiking expeditions and ice fishing. The hotel’s Nordic Chalets are ideal for families and large groups – with white-washed wooden panel walls, heated floors and simple yet chic furnishings, it’s a great place to escape to after a day of exploring.
 

*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book. Please ensure you are aware of the social distancing guidelines in place as well as rules on meeting up in groups larger than six.

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