Map of events
Joe’s Diner Logo

Home » Adventures » Backpacking Europe » Sweden

One Summer in Europe: Sweden

Although I was disappointed in the lack of Muppet chefs and bikini teams, I still had a good time in Sweden.


Since I took the night train up from Stockholm to Kiruna, I rode the Inlandsbanana from within the Arctic Circle back down south. The tourist train took its time, stopping for meals and other sites, but that was the point of the train. It was not meant just to get from Point A to Point B. Almost the entire route was through luscious forest, and the unending blanket of trees was amazing. At least as seen from the train the entire northern half of Sweden was one large forest. I did not get the full experience on the Inlandsbanana, as I did not stop at many places along the line, but mostly rode it straight though.

I did detrain at Jokkmokk for the Sami culture. A museum there had interesting information on their nomadic lifestyle this far north, traditional clothing, and their reindeer herding. I thought a lot back to Mongolia, but the only thing really common between the two was the nomadic life. I had a reindeer pizza while in town (I think, the menu was Swedish), which did not have an overly strong taste, but had a texture similar to goat meat.

Myself standing at the Arctic Circle
The bridge over the Pite Alv River, which carries both trains and cars


Before hiking part of the Kungsleden, I took a tour of the LKAB mine in Kiruna, which extracts iron ore from deep below the surface. The mine was interesting, but almost everything inside could just have easily been displayed in a topside museum. That would have lacked the thrill of being underground though. The introduction movie was ⅔ propaganda, ⅓ information. The later exhibitions on the workings of the mine were at least more engaging, and seeing the large mining machines was neat.

As a consequence of removing the iron ore from underground, the surface is gradually sinking. This movement is forcing the relocation of much of Kiruna. The mine is paying for the move, and since the town would not exist without the mine, the one-sided propaganda from the mine company said the move was not very controversial.


Kungsleden route I hiked

Route I Hiked

I hiked the Kungsleden (King’s Trail) from Abisko to Nikkaluokta, about sixty miles. I undertook this trek despite having shipped all of my hiking gear home after leaving New Zealand. There were (expensive) cabins to stay in along the way so I would at least have shelter. My pack was not quite big enough either and way too heavy, since I did not have anywhere to stash my guidebooks, netbook, or other unneeded equipment. My loaded frameless pack also did not feel great on my back for extended periods of time, but I endured.

I started from Abisko, which had an impressive canyon that was cut to divert a river while the railroad was being built. When I started hiking, I found a very nice trail for the Kungsleden. It is the most popular in Sweden and had been built accordingly. The tread was decent, junctions signposted, and rivers bridged. A lot of boardwalk had been installed as well. The scenery was beautiful, with mountains, lakes, and valleys all around. It rained on me throughout my couple days of hiking, which was a problem since I did not have very good rain gear with me. It never rained very hard though, so I got lucky. The plastic bags inside my pack at least did an adequate job of keeping my gear dry.

The canyon in Abisko National Park

I also experienced the elaborate backcountry European huts. They put the ones New Zealand to shame, which at the time I thought were fancy. You pay up the nose for these accommodations, but they were basically full scale hostels in the backcountry, complete with dorm beds, a drying room, sauna, and store. They were a little rustic though, as most of the lodgings did not have restaurants. The luxury was nice, especially given the weather, although I know if I had my proper backpacking gear along I would have freedom camped.

The rain and clouds blocked many of the views along the trail, but as I crossed Tjäktjapasset Pass, the scenery of the valley and snowcapped mountains were amazing. Afterwards it was another great walk along a river and valleys. Mountains rose steeply on each side and a river powerfully cascaded down the middle.

It never got dark this time of year (it was nearly the summer solstice), and I took advantage of the midnight sun to do some “night” hiking. I started walking very early in the morning in order to catch the noon bus back from Nikkaluokta. It seemed to be midmorning already as I strolled, but my watch revealed it was only 4 a.m. Thankfully I was not up north long enough for the endless sunlight to drive me crazy.

Getting out of the cities and into nature was great, and I really enjoyed my couple days hiking this section of the Kungsleden. Seeing the famous and historical sites of Europe has been enjoyable, but cities quickly get old to me. I find much more pleasure hiking in the wilderness. I was not equipped to do lots of trekking though, and did not want to spend too much time in the backcountry anyway, since the clock on my Eurail pass was ticking.

Pictures along the Kungsleden

The cliffs along side Alesjaure
View from Tjaektjapasset


I wandered around Stockholm, visiting its City Hall, Sweden’s Parliament Building, the Royal Residence, and the quaint narrow streets of Old Town — although it mostly had cafes I was not interested in or souvenir shops that all sold the same things. The changing of the guards at the Royal Residence was big show, with a military band and all the formality of a ceremony that goes along with those types of things. A tour of the Parliament Building gave more details about Sweden’s Parliamentary system than this foreigner could ever have needed, but it at least seemed democracy was strong there.

I went to the Vasa Museum, which housed a ship that was once a national embarrassment when it tipped over upon its maiden launch. I did not go inside to see that ship due to the long lines and my own cheapness, but I found an old icebreaker and lighthouse ship nearby that I could wander all over for free. I did not even know lighthouse boats had been used, never having even heard of their existence before. It was also fun climbing around the engine room on the ice breaker, with its massive machines. The dizzying maze of valves and pipes made me feel clueless about all things mechanical, which I pretty much am.

I visited Stockholm’s Concert Hall, where the Nobel Prizes are awarded every year, but I did not have a chance to take the tour. Only the informational displays about the prizes and some of their winners were available for me.

Pictures around Stockholm

The narrow streets of Stockholm’s Old City
The Stockholm Concert Hall, where the Nobel Prizes are handed out each year