After arriving at Sweden’s Stockholm Arlanda Airport and meeting a connecting flight to Kiruna Airport, we quickly changed into comfortable snow gear and were transported by dogsled to the northern village of Jukkasjärvi.
Probably the world’s most unusual and exciting airport transfer, the dogsled whisked us through a winter wonderland seen only in storybooks. We checked in at the world-famous Icehotel, which was established in 1994, and is recreated each year out of the season’s fresh snow and ice, and took a guided tour of the property including the first-ever Icebar, also created anew each winter. While building an entire hotel out of ice might look easy, we learned firsthand what goes into ice sculpting in an introductory class, and worked up an appetite for a five-course ice menu dinner. We then retired to our cozy accommodations in the “warm” rooms of the hotel, set amidst a calming forest of spruce and birch trees. For more on the magic inherent to Sweden incentives, read on.
A healthy Swedish breakfast was the beginning of our journey to the wilderness region and boutique ski resort of Björkliden, best experienced via snowmobile, and the perfect way to admire the pristine and expansive alpine wilderness. Lunch at Björkliden restaurant fed our appetites with Northern Swedish delicacies such as reindeer and Arctic char.
After checking in, it was time to explore the area, with a visit to STF Abisko Mountain Station, about 125 miles above the Arctic Circle in the northernmost part of Lapland, home of the Northern lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. This natural light phenomenon is a true bucket-list experience, and Abisko Mountain Station is the world’s place to experience it, especially from August to March, and with the help of lights over Lapland’s professional guides and photographers. Following dinner at the mountain station was the spectacular Aurora Sky Station Night Visit, which began with a breathtaking chairlift ride up to the Aurora Sky Station to view the silent expanse of Abisko National Park and the vast darkness above it. With zero light pollution we could see thousands of stars. We returned to Björkliden where we spent the night at Hotel Fjället, a four-star classic Swedish mountain resort overlooking Lake Torneträsk.
The following day, it was time to experience the local customs and heritage with locally-renowned Nutti Sami Siida, which organizes eco-aware and culturally immersive experiences based on the indigenous Sámi culture. After visiting the owner Nils Torbjörn Nutti, a Sámi reindeer herder who offers cozy lodgings with a reindeer herding community in Jukkasjärvi, we enjoyed a lunch featuring the traditional dish of souvas, or salted, dry-smoked reindeer over a fire and served with tangy lingonberries and flatbread.
Our next stop was the nearby city of Kiruna, where we stayed at the classically Scandinavian Camp Ripan in rustic yet chic cabins. After checking in, we indulged in the simple spa experience of Aurora SPA, which is inspired by the surrounding natural elements and takes advantage of the invigorating contrast between heat and cold, with a mineral sauna, panoramic views and a heated pool set amidst the crystalline snow. An afternoon in the spa ensured a hearty appetite for our four-course dinner at Camp Ripan, followed by a blissful night’s sleep.
The next leg of our Arctic adventure took place at Dundret, a mountain resort located above the Arctic Circle in remote wilderness, but only minutes away from the town of Gällivare. A paradise for skiers, ski season here starts at the end of October and lasts for more than six months, until the beginning of May. Dundret is famous for well-groomed slopes, as well as the World Cup cross-country tracks at Hellnerstadion, just below the lifts. From the top of the mountain groups can take in the majestic views of Kebnekaise, and the world heritage area, Laponia. From the mountains go to the forest, and to the picturesque village of Harads for a stay at the Treehotel. Imagine falling asleep to the scent of pine and the sound of the wind whispering through the trees. The vision of a stunning collaboration between some of Scandinavia’s leading designers and architects, the Treehotel was created using ecological principles to ensure its complete harmony with nature. Seven uniquely designed, minimalist and futuristic cabins are suspended amidst the pine forest, creating a transcendental feeling of serenity.
For something completely contrasting and much more traditional, we visited Pure Lapland’s Loggers Lodge for afternoon refreshments of coffee and cake. This all-inclusive lodge is set in the middle of a northern boreal forest and is perfect as a romantic or private and stress-free getaway, in a pretty stream-side setting. Also offering the experience of stepping back in time is the heritage-listed Britta’s Pensionat, a charming guesthouse with authentic period detail from the 1930s through to the ‘50s, which also serves meals to the guests of the Treehotel. The harmony between nature and culture, and the present, past and future, is living in Sweden incentives and Swedish Lapland.
All photos by Andre Landeros Michel.