Outdoor in the Artic – Making the most of Swedish Lapland during Winter

JUAN MARTINEZ

February 23, 2020

Outdoor in the Artic – Making the most of Swedish Lapland during Winter

Traveling to Swedish Lapland during winter is a full adventure itself. From snowmobiling to taking a dip in the freezing waters of the artic – this is the place to get an unforgettable winter experience.

Temperatures were so cold that I could barely feel my fingers. At the same time, the landscape surrounding us was completely covered by a soft white snow blanket. These first glimpses of the arctic circle felt like the winter wonderland dreams I had as a kid. Yet, it was simply the way Swedish Lapland welcomes their visitors during winter.

Swedish Lapland fascinated me. Not just because of the untouched beauty of the magical landscapes the region has, but also the fun and thrilling outdoor winter activities I was able to do. I went cruising on an ice breaker along the artic, spotted moose and elks on an outdoor safari and raced my friends on a snowmobile for first time. Swedish Lapland has something for everyone.

Moose crossing signs in Swedish Lapland
Traffic signs indicating the presence of moose in the area.

Exploring Sweden’s short winter days

With only 6 hours of sunlight and a constant sunset/sunrise light, the time for doing outdoor activities in Swedish Lapland is quite limited. Although many travelers rather consider exploring northern Sweden in warmer times, Lapland is meant to be traveled when there is ice and snow – something they definitely have in abundance during their wintertime.  

Tour companies know this as well. Most activities are scheduled right in the middle of the day and have something to do with snow and nature. Since I love being outdoors and exploring landscapes, I basically had a full itinerary of activities each single day between 9AM to 3 PM. I was also traveling with a rented car. This gave me the flexibility to move around from one place to another and avoid waiting for public transportation or a private transfer to take me wherever I needed to be.

Read more: Visiting Saimaa – Finnish lakeland

Ice cover the islands during a snowmobile tour
Islands surrounding Lulea are reachable by foot or snowmobile

More than just the northern lights

Seeing the northern lights for first is jaw-dropping. Encountering this majestic dance of green and purple tones in the sky is probably one of the most spectacular experiences there are. Although the whole region of Lapland is famously known for being one of the best spots in Europe to see the northern lights, travelers in Sweden should also know that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The northern lights are simply a magical phenomenon. Sometimes the aurora covers the sky with a light green filter of light while other nights it forms unique patterns that look like pieces of art. Even if this effect happens most of the time and all year long, it is only visible at the darkest nights, with a clear sky and in the most northern or southern parts of the planet.

Although this is one of the most beautiful spectacles on earth, visiting Lapland with only the idea of seeing the northern lights is not a good idea. Weather conditions must be perfect, and the timing must be right. The constant clouds during wintertime and snowfall keep big the northern lights away.

Swedish Lapland has also way more to offer during the winter and I felt that during my visit to this part of the world, the northern lights were rather the cherry on top of the ice cream, than the whole ice cream itself.

Read more: How to photograph the northern lights during Winter

Northern lights in Swedish Lapland
Northern lights in Swedish Lapland

NOTE: Travelers looking to increase their chances in seeing this beautiful event, should rather visit the most northern part Swedish Lapland, stay for a longer period and plan their trips between the months of November and January. Abisko Mountain is known as the place to be in order to see the northern lights.

Adventurous outdoor winter activities in Swedish Lapland

Travelers looking for explore a wild side of Swedish Lapland will not have a lack of outdoor activities to do. the region has something for everyone and to me, this was the place to try some exciting and new things I would not be able to do in Germany.

Prices in Sweden tend to be higher than in the rest of Europe. Still, by booking on a lower season, or comparing prices between the different companies, travelers are able to get sweet deals and make the most of their budget.

These were some of my favourite outdoor winter activities when I visited Swedish Lapland:

Go snowmobiling

Snowmobiles in the Svansele Wilderness Camp

Everything in Swedish Lapland goes around the snowmobile. Almost every family living outside the city has one and if you want to go easily from one place to another in Swedish Lapland, the snowmobile is by far your best choice.

Most tours offer a snowmobile as part of their package. It is a fun and adventurous experience for anyone who has not tried it before. They are very easy to drive and require no previous experience. If I didn’t cause an accident while driving around, I don’t think anyone will do.

Here in Lapland you can do two different types of tours depending what you are looking for. From the cities of Lulea and Pitea snowmobile tours go around the coastline and on the frozen lakes. Here you will discover charming little islands mostly reachable only by boat. While other tours in the heart of Lapland would rather take you through forests and wild roads and will show you the natural beauty of Lapland. Of course, in all of these tours will include some ice fishing.  

Read more: How to plan a road trip around Iceland

Vast landscapes of forest covered by snow in Swedish Lapland
Vast landscapes of forest covered by snow in Swedish Lapland

Spotting wildlife in a winter safari

Winter safaris are done either walking or using a snowmobile

Sweden’s forests are simply enchanting. They are the scenarios for some magical traditional tales, cultural traditions and at the same time hide some of the most beautiful wildlife Sweden has to offer.

I went on a winter safari during my stay in Swedish Lapland and it was possibly one of the most fun experiences I had in this trip. We drove around mountains and on frozen lakes trying to find different kind of moose, elk and reindeer.

It was a half day activity and although tracking a moose is not as easy as it sounds, we were able to spot two during our short trip. Travelers can also book a multiple day tour and spent some more time tracking animals. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to spot an artic fox or a brown bear.

These winter safari tours also offer overnight stays in a hut, where travelers can learn more about the sky, the northern lights and life in the artic.

Svansele Wilderness Camp offers several packages for travelers interested in wildlife – from half day tours to full expeditions.

Read more: The indigenous group where the reindeer is sacred

Reindeers from a reindeer farm in Swedish Lapland
A reindeer farm is another option for seeing hundreds of animals in Swedish Lapland

Navigating with an Ice Breaker and taking a swim in the icy ocean

Ice breaker boat in Pitea

Cruising through frozen ice with on an ice breaker is already an adventure of a lifetime. Yet, for the staff of Icebreaker Piteå this is not adventurous enough. They will also offer you the chance to take a leap of faith and swim in the ice water for some minutes.

I decided to take part in one of their tours and join them on a boat cruise around the coast of Piteå. It was simply fascinating to go in front of the boat and listen to the sound of gigantic blocks of ice were crushed against the boat. These ice breakers are made specially for these kinds of tasks, so I just simply enjoyed the moment. I also had to protect myself with a big scarf from the extremely cold winds while being outdoors – temperatures are as cold as -15 degrees.

After we reached a certain area for a break, we were able to step down and walk on the thick ice as long as we wanted. Not only that, the most adventurous of us were also able to get one of the dry suits they have and get into the cold water for a short swim. Curiously these dry suits were even warmer than the clothing I was wearing on that day.

Ice Breaker Pitea offers tours from the small city of Pitea starting 160 EUR

Read more: why do Finns love sauna so much?

Travelers taking a swim with a dry suit in Swedish Lapland
Travelers taking a swim with a dry suit with outdoor temperatures of -15 degrees

Swedish Lapland is a place for adventures. It has a different kind of winter experience in which adventure, thrill and fun go hand by hand in creating a very memorable experience. This is not the place to wander around and find panoramic views, but to get an adrenaline rush during the day and get in a wooden cabin waiting for the northern lights to appear at night. Swedish Lapland is pure wilderness for everyone.

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