Scandinavia wears the slow-to-burn lifestyle and simplistic pleasures like a mantle – proudly and respectfully. In part, their vast untouched surroundings allow for this kind of cozy living. Snow-packed, thickly forested and so very wide, Sweden’s Lapland is at the heart of its wilderness. It borders Norway, Finland and other northern neighbors in all its untethered glory.
Within the icy tundra burns the spirit of Europe’s only indigenous people, the Sami. Their culture and history is present in every Lapland experience, from foraging to reindeer herding to growing up alongside huskies. In this list of best things to do in Lapland, we’re offering a glimpse of what it is like to live like them – taking delight in what nature has to give and so very free.
- Hike through Arjeplog in Autumn
Winter travel is the undisputed best thing to do in Swedish Lapland, but have you ever thought about how the wilderness would look in the crisp browns of autumn? When uncovered by snow, every fir and bark is illuminated by the midnight sun; waterways trickle into chilly lakes, banks touched with mossy greens. Hike in Arjeplog to discover the soft grounds and worn bark, the hidden cabins in forests. Spot wild edibles as the summer crowds have cleared out, leaving the expansive space to you. We recommend hiking the Kungsleden Trail (Kings Trail) for some of the Lapland’s most iconic landscapes, complete with old lookout cabins for overnight stints.
Uncover the history behind Santa’s sleigh runners with a visit to Lapland’s traditional reindeer farm. You can even cross the borders into Rovaniemi for more farm options. For 3 hours, an expert walks you through the traditions of reindeer herding and how these animals became the symbol of Lapland. You can help combat the harshness of winter by feeding them deliciously prepped food while learning about life in the Arctic Circle and how reindeers helped circumvent hardships. You’ll even pick up tricks to identify between the reindeers! After, experience a short reindeer ride (biscuits and warm tea provided) and remember to commemorate your time with pictures. To seal the deal – you might even be granted a reindeer driver’s license.
- Learn to survive in the forests
Foraging is a skill born out of necessity but nowadays; we can enjoy it out of curiosity. Before winter sets in, the Lapland of August and September becomes a menagerie of wild edibles – mushrooms like chanterelles and porcini, berries, seasoning herbs and aromatic florals. Sweden legally allows people to roam and forage freely as long as you keep the environment unharmed so make use of this opportunity! Not only is foraging a crucial element of Swedish history and identity, you also pick up a host of practical knowledge. Sign up for a local tour to live life in its most natural; you find, you keep, and you create your next meal.
- Take a traditional Swedish cooking class
So you’ve foraged a basketful of ingredients… now what? Follow up your outdoor seek and keep with a lesson on cooking traditional Swedish cuisine! Understand how sustainability plays a huge part in Swedish lifestyle, especially when hunting is a cultural norm. Remember to ask whether you are required to prepare your own ingredients (usually not) and if you can incorporate your foraging finds into the meal. It’s definitely a unique experience that you can bring into your own kitchen.
The whimsical glide of the Aurora Borealis is a Lappish lure that sends everyone running into the wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s an unpredictable light show that doesn’t promise consistency.
Still, between the Swedish Lapland and its Finnish counterpart, you have plenty of grounds to cover. To maximize your chances of witnessing this magical phenomenon, sign up for a 3-hour snowmobile journey that will take you far from light pollution. The exhilarating late-night experience will bring you into untouched nature, surrounded only by lakes and mysterious forests. Settle by an open fire and nibble on warm refreshments as you wait for the Northern Lights to show. Even if they didn’t deign to appear, you’ll return from the journey with a new appreciation for rural serenity.
- Explore the beautiful Gammelstad Church Town
UNESCO World Heritage Sites pepper the globe and you bet Lapland has its own. One of the best things to do in Lapland (Sweden) is wandering the Gammelstad Church Town, once used to mark the border between Sweden and Russia. The first stone was laid down in the 15th century to become the linchpin of surrounding church cabins; these red and white rows of cabins were used as weekend stays when church attendance used to be mandatory but villages were far. While Gammelstad is no longer the sole space for social gatherings, it remains to this day an essential key to the Swedish community.
- Unveil the secret Stone Valley: Geargevággi
One of the lesser-known secrets of Swedish Lapland is the incredible Stone Valley. Walk up from Låktatjåkko Mountain station to unearth the thousands of hulking boulders and jutting outcrops, which form mysterious silhouettes amid the verdant valley. Its surreal composition, when viewed under the scattered Lappish sun, looks otherworldly. You’ll be mesmerized by the sights while your camera fills up with shot after shot.
To find even more beauty, an easy trail takes you to the transparent Troll Lake. With water sourced straight from the Vássejietnja glacier, it promises clear underwater views and an even fresher swim. This is a much better-known paradise so we highly recommend hoofing it out there.
Some experiences require sweat and toil, even if the reward is well worth it. Venture into the wild Lappish nature for portraits of fresh snow carpets. See how white-frozen trees become gangly silhouettes like giants wearing coats, or how lakes ice over in stunning fractals. With blanketed landscapes that stretch for miles and miles, it’s a freeing reminder of life beyond the borders of our work and social obligations.
Once you’ve strapped on your snowshoes and readied the poles, a professional guide will bring you into the depths of the forest where rapids and waterfalls have slowed under thick ice. Short enough for kids to keep up and long enough for varied scenery; this tour is a perfect family activity. To keep you feeling fresh, a forest campfire BBQ will be provided as well.
- Stay at the ICEHOTEL
With an abundance of snow and perfect conditions for ice sculptures, Sweden combines climate and creativity to build the world’s first ICEHOTEL. Not just one of the best things to do in Lapland (Sweden) but also the most unique, ‘overnight ice hotel stay’ belongs on every bucket list.
A group of artists hand-sculpted the rooms, renewing each design year by year. No room is the same! If you’re not looking forward to sleeping in below-freezing temperatures, don’t worry. Regular warm rooms are provided by the hotel as well. Instead, visit the ice rooms during the day as they are open to public after 10AM.
- Try the Swedish sauna
Truly one of the more unforgettable experiences in the Swedish Lapland, no tourist should leave without a stint at a sauna. Kiruna – with its mining history and indigenous impressions – offers up an easily accessible Camp Ripan, a collective of cabin accommodations and an accompanying Aurora Spa. Heated air circulates within the wooden constructs to sweat out the toxins and get your blood pumping. But just sitting in steam isn’t enough; make sure to book the Stavan Ritual and wholly cleanse your body using homemade scrubs and oils. Exfoliate and relieve aches; you’ll walk out feeling younger and fresher.
Of course, complete the experience with an outdoor soak as well. The nippy night air and steaming waters hit just the right balance of relaxing pressure. If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights.
- From Swedish Lapland to Finnish Lapland: canoe the 1000 lakes
The cold tends to linger but even the most stubborn ice layers eventually melt to reveal Lapland’s stunning 1000 lakes. Meander through the waterways (in complete safety; lifejackets are provided) and brush past low-lying shrubbery and water-leaning trees while tall pines edge up from waterline to hillier terrain. Clear and calm, the lakes present fresh air and beautiful landscapes.
Pair your canoeing exploration with a visit to the husky farm; pet the energetic and lovely husky families that pull carriages in the winter. A nearby reindeer farm is next on the itinerary, gathering around these Lappish legends as you listen to the history of reindeer herding. To round off the day out, enjoy an outdoor BBQ before getting dropped off at your accommodation.