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Lapland E




Inlandsbanan part 2: from Östersund to Gällivare

Posted in Jämtland E, Lapland E by
Inlandsbanan Östersund Gällivare

After an invigorating overnight stay in Clarion Grand Östersund I was ready to continue my trip on the red train. You can read the first part from Mora to Östersund here. Inlandsbanan would take me from Östersund (Jämtland) to Gällivare (Lapland) in the north.

The Inlandsbanan only runs from mid-June to the end of August. There is also a (limited) timetable in the winter period. There are several stops along the way. Sometimes the train stopped for fika, to have something to eat, to visit a museum,… and then I drove on again. Other times I chose to dismount and spend the night wild camping and continue traveling by train the next day. The train journey with Inlandsbanan between Östersund and Gällivare is slow travel at its best.

Inlandsbanan - Zweeds Lapland
Slow travel in Zweden: Inlandsbanan deel 2 van Östersund naar Gällivare

The red train of Inlandsbanan is really photogenic in the green forest landscape in Sweden. For hours on end you can see the landscape passing by through your window. Yet it never gets boring. We saw reindeer, unique birds, works of art, waterfalls, impressive bridges,…

When leaving Östersund it was immediately apparent that there were more people on the train. Half the carriage was occupied by a group of Great Rail Journeys. I also saw some familiar faces from the day before.

Slow travel in Zweden: Inlandsbanan deel 2 van Östersund naar Gällivare

The workmen of Inlandsbanan

Inlandsbanan’s train track between Kristinehamn – Mora – Östersund and Gällivare was mainly intended for freight traffic. The route is 1300 km long and is almost completely laid by hand. The wooden beam under the train tracks weighs about 70 to 100 kg! In 1936 the Inlandsbanan was complete and a year later the train track was put into use. During the Second World War, about 12,000 soldiers passed through the Inlandsbanan every week. Sweden received a lot of criticism for this.

It was a hard life for the workers. They had to work 12 hours each day. It was also no healthy work due to the use of chemicals. Moreover, they had to pay for wear and tear on their tools themselves! The working material was weighed in the morning and in the evening. Due to wear and tear, it often weighed less in the evening and the workmen had to pay for that difference in weight themselves.

Such a hard life led to a high alcohol consumption which in turn led to many fights. Local residents were therefore not very pleased with the construction of the Inlandsbanan. The government tried to intervene and ban drinking during working hours, but this resulted in protest from the workers. In the end they were allowed to keep their liqueur.

Vilhelmina

Forests and lakes alternate, for miles. The further north we go, the more lakes we pass. As I stare out the window, I wonder what it looks like here in the winter. A fellow passenger puts it this way: it is a pleasure to look around here. I can only agree with her.

Inlandsbanan - Vilhelmina Norra

Vilhelmina Norra is one of the stops of the train. Only a few 1000 inhabitants live in the village of Vilhelmina. There is plenty to do in the immediate vicinity. Something that the many tourists in the summer months can certainly appreciate. Yet at no point does it feel touristy. You can easily find a spot for wild camping without meeting other people all day long.

M. Bergmans Fisk

Bergmans Fisk Vilhelmina

One of Vilhelmina’s must-see addresses is right next to the Vilhelmina Norra train station. The Bergmans restaurant is not just a restaurant. In addition to the restaurant, it is also a fish smokehouse and there is also a shop where you can buy the dishes and ingredients. The chef has already won a prestigious competition for artisanal dishes multiple times. So be sure to try the hot smoked salmon (varmrökt pepparlax).

warmgerookte zalm (varmrökt pepparlax) bij Bergmans - Vilhemina

Not only train passengers stop here. This is also a great place for a break for those who travel by bike or car. Some picnic benches have been set up, there is a grill area and for children there’s a playground and small farm animals that have their residence there.

Vilhelmina bij Bergmans Fisk

Ulrikfors, Sweden’s first ‘hotel’

Another village along the railway is Ulrikfors. Here is an old prison where the lighter criminals (driving, theft,…) were sent to. It was not a closed prison. The prisoners worked in the local carpenter’s shop or in the forest. They were given the opportunity to receive an education, together with other citizens. Their wives and girlfriends could visit and rent a house. That is why they sometimes say that Sweden’s first hotel can be found here in Ulrikfors. Such anecdotes from the train conductors give added value to the train journey with Inlandsbanan from Östersund to Gällivare.

Zweeds Lapland - Slow travel in Zweden: Inlandsbanan deel 2 van Östersund naar Gällivare

Grillplats

Grillplats

The Swedes are champions when it comes to barbecuing. Near every picnic area you will find a public barbecue or grill. These are exceptionally well maintained. It goes without saying that you should also leave the area tidy after use.

A short stop is also on the program in Hoting. Here you can see an old locomotive. Less than a thousand people live in the village.

Storuman

The Storuman station building was built in 1923. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Storuman has a somewhat older population. 25-30% of the inhabitants are over 65. In Lapland, medical assistance is sometimes a bit further away. Storuman has a medical center. It would become a training center for medical care in remote areas for both Swedish and foreign doctors.

TV viewing tip: when I watched a new program on SVT Play a few weeks ago, the name of the village sounded familiar to me. Anyone who speaks a word of Swedish should definitely take a look at Storuman Forever. It is about 2 top athletes from the village who want to convince the rest of the village to live more environmentally friendly.

Vindelälven

Inlandsbanan - Vindelälven

A little further the train goes over Vindelälven. A lot of water flowed through the river. This was because all the ice and snow from the mountains was melting and making its way down the river. Swedish composer Evert Taube wrote a song after seeing the Vindeälven. One of the largest nature reserves in Europe is located here. The famous Kungsleden also passes here.

Tip: you have the most spectacular view if you take a seat on the left side of the train. 

Onboard Inlandsbanan

Aan boord van Inlandsbanan - bij de treindconducteur

On simple request, you can take a look in the front of the train. By the way, nothing is too much for the staff on board Inlandsbanan. We had 2 guides on board who provided us with anecdotes, bits of history and expert explanations about what we saw through our window. You can also go to them to buy drinks, fika or even souvenirs. They can also help you book accommodation or point out cool places to camp. The conductor was also very customer-oriented.

Sorsele

Inlandsbanemuseet Sorsele

In Sorsele there is a museum in the station building: the Inlandsbanemuseum. I visited that on the way back. Sorsele has 2500 inhabitants. Yet there are 29 different nationalities in this municipality. The majority are Germans and in recent years a lot of refugees have also followed an integration programme.

In my notes I read that apparently we also saw 2 cranes here. I did remember that we had to stop the train because there was a herd of reindeer on the road.

The next stop of Inlandsbanan between Östersund and Gällivare was Arvidsjaur. About 10,000 reindeer live in and around the 3 sami villages here. The train changes direction here. A little further we drive over a 90 meter long bridge over the river Piteälv. This is a fast-flowing river of about 400 km that flows into Norway. The bridge was built between 1933 and 1935 and is a combined car/train bridge.

The Arctic Circle

We approached Inlandsbanan’s most photographed spot: the Arctic Circle. To be fair, the guides do say that the real Arctic Circle is a few hundred meters away. The many tourists (including me) opt for a photo at the sign or at the stones that indicate the Arctic Circle.

The sun does not set above the Arctic Circle in summer. In the winter months it is reversed for several weeks and the sun does not rise above the horizon. Nice to know: as a passenger of Inlandsbanan, when you cross the Arctic Circle, you will receive a (free) certificate that you have to fill in yourself. A nice keepsake. For me it was already the third time that I was above the Arctic Circle. The first time was in Norway, when I went diving on the wreck of the Belgica near Harstad. After that I was in Rovaniemi for work. So this time with Inlandsbanan between Östersund and Gällivare was the first time in Sweden.

Vaikijaur

Between the Arctic Circle and Jokkmokk, the little red train runs through the railway’s only tunnel. Vajkijaur is a part of Jokkmokk. Here the train has a fairly long stop. Ideal for exploring around the lake of the same name.

There are information boards by the water about Laponia and the Sami. Some barbecue areas are provided. When we were there there was a strong wind. I had feared mosquitoes beforehand and had no fewer than 3 different anti-mosquito products with me, but I was lucky. The mosquitoes turned out to be a bit later that year and so I only got 1 mosquito bite of the whole trip and that was in Stockholm.

Laponia - Slow travel in Zweden: Inlandsbanan deel 2 van Östersund naar Gällivare

Highway 45 runs parallel to the Inlandsbanan. A few caravans were parked near the water. Mainly Swedish ones but I also spotted a Dutch number plate. Except for a few clouds, the sky had cleared up completely. It was really enjoyable!

Verlaten weg in Zweeds Lapland - Europaväg 45 Jokkmokk

From Vaikijaur it went to Gällivare, the final destination of this train. Gällivare is the place where Max Burgare had its first branch. I stayed there at a hotel and at a camping.

From Gällivare I traveled on to Kiruna. I also spent a night in the ice hotel. I also did the return trip to Mora with Inlandsbanan. Fewer people travel south with Inlandsbanan. Still, the train ride is definitely worth it. You can read more about this in part 3.

More info and booking via their website.

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Slow travel in Sweden: Inlandsbanan Östersund - Gällivare
8 August 2021
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Midnight sun in Sweden

Posted in Lapland E by
Midnightsun Sweden

Did you know that the sun in the northern part of Sweden does not set in the summer for a few weeks? From April to August it never gets completely dark at night. In the winter months you have the opposite phenomenon. During the polar night you will not see the sun above the polar circle for several weeks.

Where to see the midnight sun?

The midnight sun or polar day can only be seen above the polar circle. Like in Kiruna and near the ice hotel. The sun stays above the horizon for 24 hours a day. The further south you go, the longer the sun will disappear below the horizon during the summer months. Around the 21st of June, even as south as Stockholm it never really gets completely dark at night, but here you can’t see the midnight sun.

When can you see the midnight sun?

Of course it can’t be cloudy. As you can see from the photo above, I have not yet succeeded in capturing the true midnight sun. That one sunny day when I spent the summer in Swedish Lapland, I got into the tent at half past ten with severe migraines. I thought I would get to see the midnight sun several times in the 2 weeks that followed. I still regret not setting my alarm at midnight at the time. In the days that followed the clouds came every night. So I have to go back 😉

Between April the 20th and mid-August you have the best chance of seeing the midnight sun. The higher you are, the greater the chance that the sun won’t disappear behind the horizon at night. Furthermore, it also depends on how north you are to know in which period the midnight sun can see. This website tells you when the next equinox is.

Sleep masks and biorhythm

How nice are those long days in the summer? The Swedes spend as much time outside as possible and get the maximum out of the summer. Perhaps the only drawback is that you sometimes have to sleep and that, if it doesn’t get dark outside, is more difficult. Although the Swedes are used to the long summer evenings and the dark winters, it can quite confuse your biorhythm as a visitor.

Most bedrooms have blackout curtains and a sleeping mask is not a luxury. Certainly if you go camping or if you are a poor sleeper, it is best to put a sleep mask on your packing list.

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Midnight sun in Sweden
31 July 2019
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Staying at the ICE hotel

Posted in Lapland E by
An overnight stay at the ice hotel

When I traveled with the Inlandsbanan to Swedish Lapland this summer, I also booked a train to Kiruna and an overnight stay in the ice hotel. You are wondering what I was doing at the ICE hotel during summer? Well, since 2017 you can visit the ice hotel throughout the year.

IJshotel 365

ICEHOTEL 365

Oh deer-suite ijshotel 365

Last spring, they took large blocks of ice of 2 tonnes from the nearby river Torne. These blocks of ice were stored in giant freezers during the summer months so that they could start with the sculpting in September / October. The ice hotel then opened around December and remained until it started to thaw and the ice hotel disappeared again.

ijshotel

The ICE hotel in Jukkasjärvi (near Kiruna) is about 200 kilometers above the polar circle and was the first ice hotel in the world. Every year, dozens of snow and ice artists shape the hotel and ice bar. This temporary hotel will continue to exist in the future. And a permanent ice hotel will be added.

ijshotel na middernacht

For this permanent building, they devised a sustainable construction. The permanent ice hotel is covered with a layer of moss. Thanks to the midnight sun, they can get all the energy needed to keep the building at -5 degrees constantly from solar panels. The ICEHOTEL 365 got 18 art suites. Every year the interior will change.

ijshotel

Staying at the ICEhotel

ijshotel kwallen

Tip: book your stay at the ICE hotel here!

The entire interior, from bed to table and chair, is made of ice. On the bed is a mattress on which a reindeer skin lies. These ensure that you do not get cold at night. Next to your ice room, you also have a warm room where you can get changed and where you can leave your luggage (so that it does not freeze). There is also a heated lounge in the main building where you can sit at the fireplace in the evening. The showers + saunas and the toilets are also at the main building.

ijshotel lobby

Warm area

warme ruimte ijshotel

Changing is done in a warm room in the main building. Each room has its own enclosed space with deckchairs and even a bench. You do not need any special clothes or extra layers to sleep in the ice room: a single and thin layer of thermal underwear (merino wool) is enough! You can also buy that thermal underwear on the spot. A hat and gloves can also be handy. You will also get shoes / boots from the hotel. There’s a good reason for it: if you’d leave your shoes next to your bed, in the morning they would be cold! Once you’re back in the main building, you can switch back to your own warm shoes.

ijshotel

Sleeping bag

Tip: Do not go to bed too early. In winter you may want to spot the northern lights, in summer you can catch a glimpse of the midnight sun (if it’s not cloudy at least). So I did not go to bed until midnight. You will receive a sleeping bag and a liner at the reception. Only take them to your room if you are going to sleep. The sleeping bag would freeze otherwise.

slapen in het ijshotel - slaapzak

That sleeping bag was a serious turn off for me. My sleeping bag stank! Really, they do not wash them between the guests. You have a liner sheet but still. I exchanged my sleeping bag for one that smelled less but the idea alone ruined the experience for me. In retrospect, I’d better had taken my own anti-freeze sleeping bag or put an extra scarf around my head so that the sleeping bag was further away from me and my poor nose.

ijshotel

In addition, I have to say that, thanks to the reindeer skin and the sleeping bag, I wasn’t feeling cold at all. Yes, in the morning my toes and my nose had a little cold, but it all worked well. I can imagine that if you’re in a sleeping bag with two persons, it’s even warmer.

ijshotel

Wake up call with blåbärssoppa

After some time I found a comfortable way to lie down and I turned off the light. And then the light was out and you could not see the ice sculptures anymore. Just to say how relatively it is to sleep in an ice hotel.

blabärsoppa in het ijshotel

By eight o’clock in the morning I was awakened by the receptionist who had a cup of warm berry juice. Delicious! I took some pictures to capture the experience and hurried to the warm space. After breakfast and a sauna, I took off again.

Visiting the ice hotel

Scupturen ijshotel

Is an overnight stay in the ice paradise too adventurous for you? Then you can also just visit the hotel and the ice bar. A ticket costs about 30 euros. Not cheap but definitely worth it! Even more, I would not stay overnight in an ice hotel again but would just go for a visit.

Here you can find an overview of other hotels in Jukkasjärvi.

Ice Bar ijshotel

You can follow a workshop on the spot to make an ice sculpture yourself. You can also choose to stay in a warm room in Jukkasjärvi. Across the road is a restaurant where you can eat. Breakfast is also served there for those staying at the ICE hotel or in the warm rooms.

How do you reach the ICEHOTEL?

Most people choose the night train from Stockholm. I traveled with Inlandsbanan to Galliväre and took the regular train to Kiruna. From here you can take bus 501 or the ICEHOTEL shuttle bus. Don’t forget to check the departure times, because bus 501 only drives 2 times a day. A taxi is also a possibility but in remote areas taxis are not very common. From Kiruna to Jukkasjärvi it ​​is about 30 kilometers.

From Stockholm there are flights to Kiruna. The flight takes one and a half hours. Kiruna Airport is 15 km from the ice hotel.

ijshotel

Is an overnight stay at the ice hotel on your bucket list? Or have you slept there and you want to share your story? Don’t hesitate to comment below!

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Staying at the ICE hotel in Jukkasjärvi Sweden
15 October 2017
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