Lapland Area

Overview

Introduction

The northern third of Sweden is Lapland, the region that begins about 500 mi/805 km north of Stockholm and is home to the indigenous Sami. The Norrbottens Regional Museum in Lulea and the Silver Museum in Arjeplog have excellent displays about the life and history of the nomadic Samis. Reindeer are of utmost importance to the Samis—they provide food, tools and clothing for their shepherds and play a prominent role in their literature and myths.

Lapland is not as barren as most people think. With its forests, winding rivers and mountains, it is an excellent vacation area. There is skiing year-round (though it's not very good in the summer), great fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, dogsledding, moose safaris, reindeer sleigh rides and river rafting.

Those traveling with children will want to visit Lycksele, which has a theme park called Lyckoland (carnival-style boat and electric-car rides) and a zoo that allows visitors to have a close encounter with such northern animals as moose and lynx. http://www.lyckseledjurpark.com.

The summer sun is up after midnight in June and early July (and so are the mosquitoes—take plenty of insect repellent). A good place to see the midnight sun is Kiruna, which is home to the world's largest mine still in use (http://www.kirunalapland.se), and Esrange, Europe's only civil rocket-launch station. Both sites can be visited with a guide, but tours must be booked in advance and will be canceled if they don't have the minimum number of 10 visitors. Cancelation can be the night before the tour.

Don't be surprised if the town isn't exactly where you left it on a former visit. Kiruna is sinking into the mine, and every building in town is gradually being relocated northwest of its current location to the base of Luossavaara mountain.

Winter, which is unrelentingly dark, cold and often damp, is occasionally brightened by the aurora borealis (northern lights). In Jukkasjarvi (a few miles/kilometers from Kiruna) is the Ice Hotel. It is built each year out of ice, and guests sleep on slabs of ice, drink Absolut vodka from ice glasses, reflect in an ice church and watch plays in a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. http://www.icehotel.com.

The best way to tour Lapland is by car, though Sweden's high gasoline prices make this expensive. Trains and buses, which connect the main towns, are more economical.

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