There are few places on earth that have the power to make you feel like you are on another planet. Perhaps even in an alternate universe. A mere 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, among the mountain trails of the highest peaks of Swedish Samiland, is one such place. “When we finally crested the ridge,” Jennifer Khan wrote about her trek in Samiland, “the view opened as though we’d stepped through a celestial door. To the west, we could see all the way to Norway, where a panorama of towering mountains sprawled, pillowy with snow, above a vast flood-plain trailed through by a sinuous pale blue river.”
There are many ways to adventure in Swedish Samiland. In the summertime the sun does not set for days on end, and the terrain varies from arctic tundra to fields of green that span as far as the eye can see. The land is home to the Sami people and their reindeer herds, all of whom migrated thousands of years ago from Sweden, Norway, Russia, and Finland.
“Looking out,” Jennifer said after summiting Tjäktja Pass I felt an inexplicable urge to kneel, as though before an immense and ancient presence. For the first time, I understood why the Sami once believed their mountains to be inhabited by gods.”
One of the best ways to truly disconnect and experience the beauty of Samiland is to hike Kungsleden, or the Kings Trail. On the journey you’ll traverse glacier valleys and arctic tundra, spot reindeer, lemmings, rare orchids, and epic waterfalls.
When to go
The best time to visit Samiland is during the summer season, which runs from June to late September. Early in the season, snowmelt makes the earth rich, green, and often quite wet (before June it’s nearly impossible to hike through parts of the Kings Trail without snowshoes). By mid-August, high summer is in full swing—the days are still long, but the nights are darker, and more people (and mosquitos) show up to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful scenery. In September, the leaves start to change, the temperatures cool, and the pesky mosquitos cease to be a problem. For more on the weather in Sweden, check out Visit Abisko.
What to bring
Pack light, and pack smart. Expect a range of temperatures and weather—Samiland can get a little chilly, and rain in the summer months is not uncommon. (Bring on the waterproof pants!) Many of the mountain stations (including Abisko Mountain Station) have great supply stores—for more detailed information on what to pack, check out Visit Sweden and Visit Abisko.
How to trek
To trek Kungsleden, you have a few different options. You can pack in a tent and camp along the trail, or you can stay in mountain huts that are available for rent on a nightly basis. The huts’ accommodations vary—there’s almost never electricity or running water, but you can always expect a bed, kitchen area, and hot sauna. You can pay along the way, or for a discounted price, purchase a membership with the Swedish Tour Association before you head to out.
If you are looking for a guided trek, KE Adventure Travel leads a 7-day tour that begins at Abisko Mountain Station. The trek winds alongside the Abeskoeatnu River, over Tjäktja Pass through Tjäktjajakka and Laddjuvaggi Valley, with an optional ascent of Kebnekaise (one of the highest peaks in Samiland) before ending at Nikkaloukta. (You will then be bused back to Kiruna city). Each day averages a hike of 15-20 miles, and ends in a mountain hut with a warm meal, and more often than not, a hot sauna.
>>Next: Plan your trip with AFAR’s guide to Sweden