Don’t let the freezing winter temperatures give you cold feet.
The uniquely Scandinavian way of enjoying life's simple pleasures can be summed up in one word: fika.
Fika is the act of taking a break, enjoying a snack, and clearing your mind or catching up with friends right in the middle of the day. And in Sweden, it's easy to find the perfect setting to do just that, be it outside or in a cozy, candle-lit cabin.
The Swedish Lapland is a particularly special place to enjoy fika and much more — as long as you don’t let the sub-zero temperatures scare you away from a wintertime adventure.
One of the heaviest lifts when planning a vacation is researching all of the various tour operators and activities, but the tourism group Visit Lapland has made it a bit easier on your brain and created a hub for booking local guides for all kinds of regional activities.
From dogsledding and snowmobiling to feeding the local reindeer and truly getting yourself off the grid, here are a few unforgettable things to do on your next trip to the Swedish Lapland.
Take a ride on a dog sled.
If the hyped-up huskies don’t get you excited for a ride through the forests of Lapland, the thought of catching the Northern Lights on your adventure just might. During the dead of winter when the sun goes down around 3 p.m., there’s a chance you can catch the lights on the earlier side of midnight.
All aurora aside, seeing the sights from a dog-led sled is a unique Lapland experience. From suiting up in an Arctic-proof boilersuit and helping get the dogs in the correct formation to cutting through the snow and enjoying some post-sled coffee and cake, the ages-old tradition of dogsledding has been perfected. If you’re looking for a local guide, check out this Fika Dogsledding Tour near Luleå.
Learn about the Sami culture.
The indigenous people of Lapland (spanning Finland, Norway, and Sweden) are called the Sami and you would be missing out if you didn’t get to know about their traditions while visiting the Swedish Lapland.
This culture is known for its vibrant craftwork, yoiking, and important contributions to supporting local wildlife. In Sweden, a majority of the Sami people are reindeer herders (more on that shortly) and follow the migration patterns of these animals throughout the year. Many head into the remote forests to live when herding season begins at the start of winter, bringing the reindeer down to areas with more food.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a cafe run by a Sami family with traditional meals of reindeer stew being served in a yurt built around a fire. You can find just this at Café Sápmi near the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi. Not only is it a café, but there is also an exhibit behind the traditional lavvu tent depicting different scenes from Sami history.
Feed some reindeer.
Another thing the Sami are experts on is reindeer, as the local Sami have been herding them for centuries. Café Sápmi is not only a great place to recharge with some coffee and relax fireside, but you can also feed lichens, a plant that grows in the area, to the local reindeer.
Chances are, this won’t be the only time you spot reindeer. Keep an eye out for curious reindeer exploring near the highways. Fun fact: The Sami will leave plastic bags hanging from roadmarkers to alert drivers that they’re herding reindeer in the area and urging them to drive with care in these regions.
Chase the Northern Lights.
If you’re heading to the Swedish Lapland during the winter — especially between November and February — you’ll want to consider taking a Northern Lights Tour. Lights Over Lapland is a great option for those looking to learn a bit during their tour. Not only will you be taken to the best spots for viewing the aurora borealis, but you’ll also get a lesson in catching the elusive show from a camera; a feat much tougher than it sounds. The professionals at Lights Over Lapland will teach you everything, from which settings to use on your camera to the science behind the Northern Lights.
Stay at the ICEHOTEL.
If you’re looking for a truly unique hotel experience, try spending a night in below-freezing temperatures at the world’s first ICEHOTEL. No matter what month you visit, there are a series of year-round ice rooms available for booking and each one is completely one-of-a-kind. Every year, a group of artists work to rebuild a handful of seasonal rooms, hand-sculpting each element in their designed room.
For those who aren’t looking for a night in an Arctic sleeping bag, there are warm rooms also available at the hotel. The ice rooms are open to the public every day after 10 a.m. for those who want to go and see the art in person. Not to be missed: The chapel that looks straight out of Game of Thrones.
If you just want to explore the ICEHOTEL’s surrounding area, check out this snowmobile tour (for winter visitors) or this boat tour (for those visiting in the warmer months). Both tours can be combined with a stay in an ice room and will show you all of the best sights along the Torne River.
Get away from it all at a lakeside cottage.
One of the most alluring aspects of the Swedish Lapland can be experienced during any season: getting away from all of the noise. During the summer, book a lakeside cottage and take in the warmer weather by dipping your toes in the water and taking long hikes. In the wintertime, cozy up in a cabin next to a fire with a book or a podcast.
Whether you’re surrounded by snow or wildflowers, exchanging the city noise for the delightful kind of natural quiet that makes your ears lightly buzz is a true delight.
Go snowmobiling on a frozen lake.
One thing that only the winter weather can offer in the Swedish Lapland is snowmobiling across the region’s many lakes. During the summer, it can be hard to reach certain fjords and archipelagos given the lake-filled terrain, but when everything is frozen, getting around gets that much easier.
Witnessing the frozen tundra from a snowmobile while riding right up to random islands is something well worth the windburn. If you’re looking for a guide, a tour with Visit Lapland will take you through the woods and out into the sea, with a break for lunch on the ice.
Eat dinner in a roving restaurant on a frozen lake.
I promise you read that right. Guests staying at the Pine Bay Lodge can book the Aurora Hideaway Dinner — a meal that begins with a snowmobile-led sleigh and ends with dessert in a candlelit cabin in the middle of a frozen lake.
A quick snowmobile ride from the hotel will bring you onto the lake and to a small cabin surrounded in candles. With room for no more than 10 people, the cabin is overtaken by a massive communal table lined with benches and topped with bottles of wine. Your guide will cook your dinner while you warm up and bask in the glory that is eating dinner in a completely unconventional place.
Sleep in an Arctic treehouse.
The Treehotel in Harads is the perfect place to take in the Swedish landscape, winter or summer. There are a number of cabins, from a mirrored cube 144 feet above ground to a branch-covered “bird’s nest.” There’s even one that looks more like a UFO than a hotel room. No matter which one you choose, you’ll get a completely unique night of sleep and enough Instagram content to last you a year.
Cross an archipelago in a hovercraft.
If snowmobiles aren’t your thing, try a hovercraft. No, this isn’t out of some Sci-Fi film — hovercrafts are great for getting around the Lapland during the wintertime. The weather does need to be relatively mild for the hovercraft to get up and going (it runs with a padding of air between the craft and the frozen ice or water), but in the right conditions, it’s a true treat.
You can tour the Luleå Archipelago, speeding across the Bothnian Bay. You’ll also break for lunch on the two-and-a-half-hour tour, with time to explore on the ice as well. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles and seals; they’ve been known to show up.
Relax and warm up in a sauna.
If you manage to spend time in the Swedish Lapland without stepping foot in a sauna, you're not doing it right. Camp Ripan — a series of cabin accommodations near Kiruna — has a wonderful spot called the Aurora Spa. Do yourself a favor and book the Stavan Ritual, a series of steps using homemade scrubs and oils that will have you feeling like a whole new person. They have three saunas on site and an outdoor hot tub that doubles as a front-row seat to the aurora borealis, if you visit right before closing time.