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the aurora zone

Sweden is a nation characterised by its love of nature, environmental thinking and strong sense of equality. It is northern Europe’s largest country yet one of the most sparsely populated with only 23 people per square kilometre, in comparison to the Europe-wide average of 100. Head north in Sweden and the population density drops even further because Swedish Lapland is a place where space is the order of the day.

Swedes are renowned for their laid back attitude and for their ready willingness to embrace other cultures as well as their understanding of the importance of their own traditions. This is evident all the more in the spectacular wilderness that is Swedish Lapland, home to some of the oldest and most magnificent national parks in Northern Europe.

The irresistible allure of this vast and seemingly endless region is the opportunity to experience untouched nature firsthand. 15% of Sweden lies above the Arctic Circle. Here it can be -40°C in the winter and +30°C in the summer and the landscape is characterised by unending forests of pine, cascading rivers and remote lakeside villages. It is the homeland of around 20,000 indigenous Sámi – one of the oldest cultures on earth and parts of the region have been awarded prestigious UNESCO status. The winter in Swedish Lapland brings an arctic chill and mystical silence as the landscape is blanketed in snow.

Our trips will take you into the heart of this enchanting landscape, allowing you to experience the beauty of unique unspoiled wilderness. It is said that these large open spaces allow for large thoughts. The people here have a reputation for speaking their mind, or indeed, not speaking at all if it’s unnecessary, confirming the image of Swedish Lapland as secluded and austere, yet still hugely and endlessly captivating.

Climate
Swedish Lapland, in contrast to central and southern Sweden, is characterised by its subarctic climate, leading to short, mild summers and long, cold winters.

The snow comes to blanket the landscape usually from November onwards, lasting until late April, creating a vast arctic playground that Swedish Lapland embraces wholeheartedly via snowshoes, cross country skis, snowmobiles and husky sleds.

In the depths of winter the temperature has been known to drop as low as -50°C but this is reasonably uncommon! The average temperatures in the region are below:

September 4°C (1°C at night)
October -1°C (-2°C at night)
November -6°C (-8°C at night)
December -8°C (-12°C at night)
January -10°C (-16°C at night)
February -10°C (-15°C at night)
March -8°C (-13°C at night)
April -3°C (-7°C at night)

Winter in Swedish Lapland brings with it polar nights – a time when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for up to 51 days. The landscape is not pitched into complete darkness though as the days get a few hours of unique polar light between 10am and 2pm, casting the region in a bluish glow. The snow covered landscape here reflects all available light, making it a rather special time of year.

The cold at this time of year is also not quite as bracing as one might imagine. The low wind chill in combination with the dry and crisp air means that despite the sub-zero temperatures, if you are wearing enough layers then the cold is easily acceptable. The weather here has been known to change quickly so we would always recommend taking extra layers, whichever date you are travelling.

Activities
For information on all the activities available in Swedish Lapland please click on any of the following links:

Snowshoeing

Snowmobiling

Ice fishing

Husky sledding

Reindeer experiences

Cross country skiing

Food and drink
Trips to Ikea may have given you the impression that Swedish food is all meatballs and cinnamon rolls, but rest assured the foods, flavours, textures and tastes available in this wonderful country present a veritable smorgasbord to the enthusiastic traveller. (Indeed the ‘Smörgåsbord’ originates from Sweden and is a traditional buffet of hot and cold dishes, including breads, meats and cheeses!)

Much like its border country of Finland, Sweden is a culinary nation shaped by its countryside and the cuisine exudes the distinct and natural flavours of nature. As the Swedish food scene is evolving, chefs are returning to their culinary roots, rediscovering classic Swedish dishes (known as husmanskost), and local seasonal ingredients and imbuing them with a modern twist.

Husmanskost dishes regularly include ingredients such as pork, fish (commonly herring and crayfish), milk, cereals, cabbage, potato (usually boiled) and apple. Common dishes include pea soup (ärtsopa) usually served with pancakes (pannkakor), meat stew with onions (kalops) and potato dumplings with a filling of onions and pork (kroppkakor). Pickled herring is used in vast quantities, due to its abundance in the North and Baltic seas – indeed Swedes have been pickling since the middle ages.

Bread comes in seemingly endless varieties – flatbread, crisp bread and rye bread being the most popular. ‘Open’ sandwiches are very common and date back to the 15th century when thick slabs of bread were used as plates.

Summer, with its long light days and cool evenings produces a variety of fruit that grows slowly and is rich in flavour. Autumn berries picked from the forests are commonly used to complement dishes and apples are seen in abundance in pies, cakes and pastries. When it comes to desserts, cinnamon rolls, buns filled with cream and almond paste and waffles are all popular. For a sweet treat look out for salted liquorice – it is somewhat of an acquired taste but is a common favourite for adults and children alike.

Sweden is one of the top ten countries when it comes to annual coffee consumption so this is often the beverage of choice anywhere you go in Lapland to be drunk several times a day. Milk is also a very common beverage here at mealtimes.

You may also come across coffee cheese which is pretty much exactly as it sounds, cheese dropped into the obligatory cup of coffee. Again, we’re talking acquired tastes here: Many Swedes swear by the stuff but if we’re totally honest, it’s rather like having bits of a car tyre at the bottom of your favourite warm drink!!

When it comes to alcohol, Sweden is historically part of the ‘vodka belt’ so varieties of vodka are widespread here. A Swedish speciality is Brännvin, liquor distilled from fermented potatoes or grain and lager and sweet cider are also commonly served. Another interesting and pretty darn lethal favourite is Fisherman’s Friends schnapps – stay well clear of this if you are going snowmobiling the next day!!!

Destinations
The destinations for our White Circle Experiences are located just south or north of the Arctic Circle and spread through the spectacular wilderness of Swedish Lapland. Each location has been selected with care and offers its own unique selling point.

Up toward the Norwegian border, Abisko is a small village close to the beautiful National Park. It has been voted one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights due to its unique topography that helps to break up cloud cover. Its popularity is such that we offer four different trips to this idyllic location.

The world famous Icehotel® is situated in Jukkasjärvi and has been a feature here since 1990.The entire hotel is constructed annually from ice blocks from the nearby Torne River and attracts sculptors, architects and designers from all over the world. In keeping with Sweden’s reputation as a nation of recyclers, come spring, the hotel melts back into the river from whence it came.

To the east, our trip to Tarendo highlights a village steeped in Sámi culture. With only 200 inhabitants, the secluded village has minimal light pollution and is surrounded by beautiful forests, frequented often by roaming reindeer. The hotel enjoys a privileged position on a wide sweep of the Tarendo River and with unobstructed view of the northern sky, visitors regularly witness spectacular Auroras.

Our Camp Ripan trips are situated near to Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden. Kiruna is a fascinating city founded as a mining community as the ore resources here are among the richest in the whole of Europe. Interestingly, subsidence over the last decade has meant that the whole town is now being moved to a new location.

Economy and culture
Northern Sweden is dominated by heavy industry and labouring jobs with mining and forestry the main occupations. However, as these traditional industries become increasingly mechanised and modernised, tourism has developed into a vital contributor to the local economy both in populated and remote regions of Sweden. The tourism industry now provides significant employment especially given that the Aurora Borealis is attracting global attention to this unique area. Visitors from around the world are drawn too by the countries stunning nature and untouched wilderness.

Culturally, Swedish Lapland is highly influenced by the traditional Sámi culture and way of life. These indigenous people settled in the Scandinavian Peninsula around 4000 years ago as nomadic hunters and gatherers. Today they are recognised and protected under international conventions.

Their best known means of livelihood is reindeer herding, followed by farming, fishing, hunting and handicraft. For reasons both political and cultural, in certain regions, reindeer herding is reserved only for Sámi people.