Things to see & do in Swedish Lapland

Vacations to Swedish Lapland launch you further north than Iceland, until you’re practically on a level with Greenland. Up here, unfathomably dark skies close over silent snow fields – until a moose pads across the track, that is. Or the Northern Lights whip-crack across the night. Everything from the snow and aurora borealis to the wildlife tracks are fleeting, changing by the hour. Your experience of Swedish Lapland will be totally yours.
Lapland teaches you what the Swedes mean by “ordning och reda”. Or: everything has its proper time and place.
Everything about Swedish Lapland is designed to make these blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em moments last as long as possible. You can stay in the Icehotel, where rooms have a winter-long shelf life. Or chow down in a glass restaurant with wraparound windows should the Northern Lights turn up. You’ll pad through fresh powder on a snowshoe hike along trails that might not exist when winter shifts up a gear.

The further north you head, the more likely these ephemeral experiences are – and the more likely you are to bump into one of the last aboriginal groups in Europe: the Sámi. There’s nothing like ringing in the New Year with a reindeer herder by the campfire. Read on to discover what you can expect from a Swedish Lapland vacation.

What do vacations to
Swedish Lapland entail?

It’s nigh impossible to explore this changeable wintry wilderness alone, and if you did, you wouldn’t get the best out of it. You need to join a vacation led by an expert guide who can match you up with Sámi hosts, trace moose through mysterious forests, put you in the hands of the best husky mushers, and find the Northern Lights in near-permanent twilight. An in-the-know guide can also adapt the itinerary in a second, so that the inevitable changeable weather doesn’t scupper your plans – it just tweaks them.

Small group or tailor made?

Most vacations to Swedish Lapland are small group tours, so you’ll join up to 16 likeminded adventurers from a whole range of ages and backgrounds – but all with the same yen for adventuring. Small group trips generally run from November to March, when the skies are darkest and snows deepest.
Swedish Lapland is in a permanent state of gloaming in midwinter – which means that the Northern Lights are but a breath away.
Tailor made vacations run all year round. Stay in a treehouse in the autumn or a log cabin at the beginning of the Northern Lights season (September to April), before the rest of the world rocks up to glimpse them. If you’re after long days and open lakes, then a summer vacation might be for you; you can join the Swedes horse riding, hiking and kayaking. Whichever trip type you choose, most last up to a week.

Treehotel, Icehotel or Sámi camp?

You’ll probably fly into Kiruna or Luleå via Stockholm, or take the night train from Stockholm. From there, most trips use one place as your base: perhaps the hamlet of Lappeasuando or the northern frontier town of Jokkmokk. You might snooze in the carved rooms of the Icehotel that melt away every summer, just to be dreamt up again every winter. Elsewhere, wilderness lodges lay on saunas and open fires, while the eco-chic Treehotel balances its rooms in the canopy.

Ali McLean, from our Lapland vacation specialists Activities Abroad & the Aurora Zone:
“There is nothing like entering a lavvu (a traditional Sámi tepee) and being welcomed by the aroma of woodsmoke. It creates an atmosphere of tradition or wilderness, and it means warmth, food and drink.”

Some of the best vacations give you the chance to meet or stay with the Sámi people indigenous to Lapland. Only 10 percent of Swedish Sámis still herd reindeer, but that sliver will be keen to give you an insight into their lives, including sharing a fire-cooked meal of Arctic char, souvas (reindeer) and gahkku (bread). If you do stay with them, you’ll realise that the Sámi are rarely nomadic these days; running cosy guesthouses and permanent camps are more their style.

Our top Lapland Vacation

Lapland adventure vacation, Northern Lights & Icehotel

Lapland adventure vacation, Northern Lights & Icehotel

A week of winter activities and arctic fun

From US $3449 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 2 Feb, 9 Feb, 14 Feb
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lapland or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Top three types of
Swedish Lapland vacations

1. Northern Lights

With its Arctic Circle locale, unpolluted skies and glass hotels, you’re more likely to see the Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland than anywhere else on the planet. It’s a bit like going on safari. You might sit by a frozen lake with a Thermos of hot chocolate and see if the lights will come to you, or chase them on snowmobiles or husky sleds. If you are lucky enough to catch it, the aurora borealis probably won’t be what you expect – the naked eye can’t see the neon greens and reds that camera lenses can. Instead, you’ll gape up at an equally awe-inspiring sky lit up with anything from milky mists to billowing lilac curtains.

2. Wildlife

Huskies aren’t the only animals you can see in Swedish Lapland. Wildlife guides get you tracking the largest moose in Europe across sheltered valleys, working with Sámi herders to spot lynx or wolf footprints, and photographing reindeer that move like tides across the Arctic tundra. Capercaillie and snow grouse are the modest finishing touches, along with bullet-quick Arctic hares.

3. Christmas & New Year

Finland might lay claim to Santa Claus, but Swedish Lapland still manages to embody one big Christmas card – snowy forests, log cabins, reindeer and all. Your kids will thank you, we promise; Christmas Day husky rides are definitely one for the family photo album. Fancy sticking around for New Year instead? You’ll swap cocktail bars for campfire celebrations with the Sámi. And instead of fireworks, you’ll have your eyes on the skies for the Northern Lights.

Swedish Lapland vacation tips

Swedish Lapland sets up shop firmly north of the Arctic Circle, so remember that winter vacations happen under short days and long nights. You might wind up snowshoeing in the dark – ideal conditions for stargazing and aurora borealis spotting. Temperatures this far north can swing from -2°C to -35°C in a single week in midwinter. You won’t need to pack like Ranulph Fiennes to tackle those temps, mind you. Tour operators will hand out Arctic outer gear more often than not; you’ll just need to bring lots of thermal base layers and decent snow boots. Northern Lights safaris are often postponed because of cloudy skies or poor weather. Ask your tour operator if you can go aurora chasing as early in the vacation as possible, to leave you plenty of room for rescheduled trips.
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tiomax80] [Intro: pxhere] [Small group or tailor made?: Greenland Travel] [Northern Lights: Greenland Travel]
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