Swedish Lapland is a place of extremes, home to the country's highest peak and its deepest lake, not to mention 20,000 semi-nomadic indigenous Sami people and their herds of reindeer. Summertime’s crystalline rivers harden to thick sheets of ice between December and March, while verdant pine forests lie still under glittering white cloaks.
Endless frosty panoramas aside, another of Lapland's greatest draws is the Aurora Borealis; the ethereal glimmer of the northern lights. It’s the allure of this phenomenon, caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with Earth’s atmosphere, which sparks the most visits. And even if you don’t catch them, the blend of pine-fresh air, crisp silence and wild, incomparable vistas is enough to keep you warm, even in the depths of an Arctic winter.
Where to Stay
Aurora Safari Camp
What do you get when you cross a wilderness photographer with a hotelier? The perfect hide, of course. Fredrik Broman’s Aurora Safari Camp is certainly unusual, with accommodation in just four Sami style Lavvu tents with log-burners, centered on a core outdoor lounge with benches strewn with reindeer pelts surrounding a roaring fire.
Still chilly? Slip inside the main Lavvu, which features a cosy candlelit indoor dining zone fitted with a kitchen, where pans of hot salmon and flavoursome reindeer stew bubble away. This labour of love saw Fredrik build his camp by hand, with occasional help from friends. It’s a unique way to experience the wild; a cold take on the classic African safari, with fat bikes, kick sleds and snowshoes to get around the surrounding pine forest and ice cap. There’s also a tented sauna frozen into the lake and ice-sculpting for the creative among us; this is an exclusive, down to earth way to get stuck into Lapland’s finest spoils.
New for the 2016 season is Logger’s Lodge. This unique offering, dreamt up by mountain guide Eric Borg, is in a league of its own; for starters, there’s just one cabin. The single luxurious hideaway is a classic timber logging cabin with a good dose of history and sensitively refurbished, stylish interiors with all the trimmings. The lucky couple can bed down in an enormous king-size bed fronting a focal point fireplace and indulge in private excursions, delectable meals cooked by a personal chef and starlit soaks in the alfresco hot tub.
Perhaps Swedish Lapland’s most notable dwelling, Treehotel is a peculiar and architecturally fascinating collection of tree houses, among them a mirror cube, a bird’s nest and a UFO, all slung high in the pines like a childhood fantasy with a very sophisticated edge. This year, they're celebrating the season with a new abode: the seventh room is a geometric minimalist retreat rife with organic materials and sheet glass allowing the outdoors to stream in – unsurprisingly, founder Kent Lindvall confesses to regular celebrity visits and a high footfall of creative guests.
It isn’t just slick architecture and exclusive cabins that make Swedish Lapland a destination to watch; there are plenty of authentic lodges too. Brandon Lodge is a series of individual cabins uniquely situated on the Baltic Bay, where the frozen ocean reaches out to a scattering of pine-cloaked islands. Brandon’s owner Goran Widen has just refreshed the chunky wooden heart of the lodge, and opened an art gallery in a traditional Lavvu teepee in the grounds, where statuesque Sami artist Annica Waara exhibits a contemporary take on pictorial art. Don’t miss the hovercraft adventure out on the pack ice.
For comfortable stays in a remote environment, Sorbyn Lodge is a collection of wood clad cabins set on the curve of a frozen lake. There’s change afoot at Sorbyn with plans for expansion in the pipeline, but for now it remains an ideal, snug outpost. Guests are well within reach of a plethora of outdoor pursuits, and refueling takes on new meaning with talented young chef Magnus in the kitchen. Settle in for the evening as the Swedes do, by reclining in Sorbyn’s wood-fired sauna.
What to Do
Chase the Lights
The northern lights are one of those bucket list sights – elusive and ethereal all at once. Those lucky enough to catch the haze growing on the horizon as night falls will bear witness to the black sky dancing to an invisible script, ablaze with greens, yellows and sometimes a hint of fuchsia. Sami folklore attributes the Aurora Borealis to energy left behind by lost souls, and the word itself can be translated as “the fire lit by a bird”. One moment it trails lime green shapes across the horizon, the next it’s a shimmering haze of emerald and tanzanite purple fading into obscurity. Try a tailormade Aurora photography workshop with wilderness photographer Fredrik Broman.
For a healthy hit of adrenaline, hop onto a snowmobile for an action-packed view of Lapland’s snowy plains at sunrise. Venture deeper into the north with Love Rynback, an expert guide and owner of CreActive Adventure, whose multiple high-adrenaline expeditions attract climbers, fishermen and general thrill seekers year round. Start the day with a morning coursing along the Ranea River, stopping to catch your breath at the top of Bear Mountain for cinnamon buns and warm lingonberry juice harvested locally, before careering down the hillside past moose and reindeer, leaving clouds of fairy dust snow in your wake.
Go classic and head to Isdimma Husky Adventures, where founder Richard Karlsson will introduce you to his pack of 24 purebred Siberian dogs. Richard’s pack reflects the true origins of husky sledding; every husky has been hand reared by Richard himself and exhibits a perfect blend of meticulous obedience with a good dose of gentle, loving character. Hitched up on a sled, you’ll spend two hours or more skimming through the pastel-hued valley and up into the snow-capped hills in the wake of the dogs; if there's any way to travel, this has got to be it.
Plan a bespoke trip to Swedish Lapland with leading tour operator Off the Map Travel
Words by Thomas Falkenstedt
Photography by Oli Anderson & Fredrik Broman