For a long, long time I wished to visit Swedish Lapland in the heart of winter. Temperatures far below freezing, meters of snow, reindeer, hot fires, husky sledding and the occasional sauna. I imagined it would be magical.
Text: Aukje van Gerven
Photos: Jon Earle
I was finally going to visit our partners in the high north of Sweden last winter, and had the opportunity to take my family with me. I would have loved to arrive by train via Boden, but because of the distance and time restrictions, opted to fly in via the town of Luleå.
Straight away, we could see the magic of Swedish Lapland in winter: it does not get light until perhaps 10.00u in the morning, and it start to get dark again around 14.00u in the afternoon. The sun is so low at the horizon that even during daylight hours, the light is a beautiful faded pink, blue and grey.
Even though it was the end of December and there were indeed meters of snow and it was -20 degrees Celsius, renting a car is still a great option to get around to the Råne River Valley, where our partners are located.
After an easy two hour drive, during which we spotted a few reindeer at the side of the road, we are welcomed at The Outpost, a former post office in the small town of Mardsel. Straight away we got acquainted to the Swedish hospitality as we were sat down by a roaring fire, to enjoy a cup of tea and some delicious lemon cake. It felt like coming home.
We met our host Jonas and had a tour of the building. Comfortable rooms in a clean Swedish style, and a brand new sauna in the basement. Of course we had to use it, because when in Sweden… Plus, by now it was 16.00u in the afternoon and already pitch black outside, so better just relax.
We enjoyed playing a few games with the lovely family that were also staying at The Outpost that night, which then flowed into dinner. Jonas and his crew certainly know the art of hospitality, and our first evening in this winter wonder land could not have been better.
We woke up the next day with again total darkness outside. By 9.00h, we started to see some light at the horizon and soon we were greeted by the most amazing pink sunrise you can imagine. By the time we had breakfast and it was full light, we had to leave for our next destination, Aurora Safari Camp. It is one of our higher end accommodations and a very special place: Lavvu tents situated at the river bank, and a true glamping experience. We were greeted by Fredrik Broman and given a tour of the camp. We had a bit of time to try our hand at fatbiking and kicksledding on the frozen river, which was great fun. The sauna floats on the lake in summer, but in winter it is obviously frozen into the river - one day I’d love to take a sauna there and do a plunge in the ice afterwards!
After a hearty warm lunch we said goodbye to Fredrik and Jonas and kept going to visit our partners at Sörbyn Lodge: a motel style accommodation which also has a few cabins by the lake - where we would stay for the next few nights. The days are short in wintery Swedish Lapland: you have roughly four hours of daylight to enjoy an activity outside, but there are some things you can also try in the evening. That night I was picked up by Love Rynbäck from CreActive adventures, and he took me on a snowmobiling tour in the dark. If you like fast action through the snow, it’s an interesting ride.
But the next day, we were also in for a ride. We had booked a full day husky sledding with Erik&Sanne from Yellow Snow Husky Safaris. As we were travelling with a 6-year old, it would be interesting to see how she would interact with the dogs and to being outside in the cold all day.
But Sanne made sure no one needed to be cold: they have super warm overalls and boots for you to wear on the sled. After we suited up, we went to meet the dogs. They were super enthusiastic and barking, but very friendly, and incredibly excited to get going.
The sled would be shared with two people and if you were sitting inside the sled, you could enjoy the scenery and relax. If you were the musher, you got to experience the feel of having the dogs pull the sled and steering and stopping them. We took turns, as they were both great experiences. We stopped for lunch halfway and Sanne quickly built a roaring fire, put down some skins to sit on, and heated up her homemade tomato soup with toasties. What a treat, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow covered trees! When we got back to Sörbyn Lodge, we enjoyed a well-deserved sauna by the edge of the lake. It is a woodfired sauna and you can simply book it in to enjoy it with the privacy of your own family. We tried spotting the northern lights on our way back, but it did not show itself. Nevertheless, it was a day to remember.
As you are so close to the arctic circle and we had a rental car, the next day we decided to pay it a visit. It was fun to see the signs and splash around in the snow for a while. We also had another partner to visit and went to see Niklas Wede from Arctic Retreat. Another very special place by the river, which was now not completely frozen and still flowing. It made me wonder what this part of Sweden would look like in summer, and I already made my mind up to go back to see it green and filled with summer activity.
One thing we saw a lot from our cabin, were fishermen on the frozen lake just in front of us. They were of course ice fishing, so on our last day we decided to give this a try and together with Sörbyn’s guide Emanuel Swärd, we did small tour in the area, petting a few reindeer and ending up at a vast frozen lake where we were completely alone. Ice fishing turned out to consist of drilling a hole in the ice, talking some bait, and a rod, and then just... wait. I discovered I did not have the patience for it, but our guide did manage to catch a small fish which he quickly prepared, so we could eat it for lunch. Together with the potatoes he fried, on again a roaring fire, it made for a nice meal. Finishing it off with a piece of cake, we were very happy, staying warm by our fire on a frozen lake.
Since it was the 31st of December, we had one last treat planned that evening: a special dinner at Sörbyn Lodge where locals and guests could mingle. After a beautiful dinner, we topped it off with a glass of champagne at midnight - again by a big fire on the river bank, to celebrate the new year! What a great end to a wonderful week in Swedish Lapland. It was indeed filled with freezing temperatures, metres of snow, reindeer, hot fires, husky sledding and sauna visits. Every bit as magical as my expectations.
Five day winter fun
Luxury winter safari:
Many thanks to all our local partners who go out of their way to make our guests comfortable and make their experience even more special.