Planning an excursion to the Scandes? We have gathered restaurants, hotels, hiking trails, shops, and sightseeing spots too good to miss out on when travelling through Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Words NICK RICE
The Scandinavian Mountains, known as ”The Scandes,” are around 400 million years old, and while it is a relatively unsung mountain range on the world stage, there is no doubting that it is world-class. The mountains in the Scandes are not very high, but they are among the steepest in the world and the mountainous areas of Scandinavia are much larger than the Alps and the Pyrenees combined. The range crosses three countries, starting at the southern tip of Norway, entering Sweden at Dalarna, and then following the border past Treriksröset — ”The Cairn of the Three Kingdoms” — where Norway, Sweden and Finland meet, up into the very north where it drops off into the Arctic Ocean.
The sheer scale and pristine nature of the Scandes make it by far the greatest wilderness area of Europe. The awe-inspiring grandeur of the white-cloaked mountains in winter, melts into an overwhelming sense of wonder in the summer, as the fertility of nature returns and blankets the land with verdant grass and wildflowers.
Whatever the season, Scandinavia has a wealth of spectacular mountains and countless trails to discover and hikers may roam the land in all three countries and either camp or stay in huts, hotels, cottages or mountain stations. It’s all there waiting to be conquered. And as Dag Hammarskjöld, the Swedish economist and the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, once said, ”Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”
So, for all future conquistadores of the peaks and trails of this dramatically beautiful part of the world, we humbly offer our recommendations.
Sarek National Park Part of the World Heritage Laponia region and a stunning high alpine area populated by the great moose and other wildlife. Founded 110 years ago, this is one of the oldest national parks in Europe, and two other national parks, Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta, are neighbours, so get three for the price on one. This vast delta landscape is the ancient home of the Sami people and features mountains over 2,000 metres high and nearly 100 glaciers.
Käsivarsi Wilderness Area Pristine landscape with Fin- land’s highest mountain, Halti Fell, and a patchwork of rivers. Enjoy the tough but rewarding Nordkalottleden Trail to reach the foot of Halti Fell and then conquer the mountain. There’s an easier trail from Kilpisjärvi village which goes to the top of the iconic Saana Fell. Käsivarsi’s beautiful arctic scenery includes a range of animals and mountain plants — remember to bring mosquito repellent, there are big bloodsuckers here too. Don’t be put off though — it’s a rare and special place.
The world’s northernmost whisky distillery welcomes you! In a truly spectacular setting at mouth of a fjord in Lyngen, the founders of Aurora Spirit use products based on local herbs, berries and melted glacier water to make a variety of beverages under the brand name Bivrost. Man- ager, Tor Petter W. Christensen says, ”’Biv’ is Norse, meaning trembling, while ’rost’ is the Norse word for path. This is what the Vikings named the aurora borealis. They thought it had to be a magical bridge connecting Midgard, the home of the humans, to Asgard, the home of the gods.” Bivrost will be ready for sale on November 30th this year.
Enjoy a guided river trip or pan for old gold in the biggest national park in Finland. Covering 2,850 square km, Lemmenjoki is an un- spoiled wilderness where visitors can view the Northern Lights in winter or bask in the Midnight Sun in summer. There are three huts you can book and pay for and over 10 free huts in the park.
Ride a Cold War-era funicular railway inside a mountain. Originally a radar monitor station for NATO in the 50s, now a 15-minute train ride takes visitors through the dark depths of the mountain to the top where you can enjoy Norwegian waffles with sweeping views of the landscape
The Jämtland Triangle Classic trails for hiking in Sweden. The Jämtland Triangle links the mountain stations of Storulvån, Sylarna and Blåhammaren in the Jämtland mountains. This is a hugely popular trail thanks to the plentiful cabins, saunas and dining options along the way. Don’t miss the jaw-dropping views and eye-wateringly good food at the Swedish Tourist Association mountain station at Blåhammaren.
831 41 Storulvån Björkbackavägen 14, 831 43 Östersund, Sweden. Find out more.
One of the longest and most famous hiking trails in the world. Kungsleden extends 440 km through four national parks in Sweden — Abisko, Great Sjöfallet, Sarek and Pieljekaise — between Abisko in the north and Hemavan in the south. The Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Europe, is just one of the attractions in store. The trail is separated in four sections, each one equating to approximately one week of hiking. King’s Trail becomes a ski trail with approximately the same route during the winter months.
Entry/exit locations: Abisko, Nikkaluokta, Vakkotavare, Saltoluokta, Kvikkjokk Find out more.
Bordering Norway and Finland, Halti fell is Finland’s highest mountain. While the peak of Halti fell, Ráisduattarháldi, is in Norway, the highest point on the Finnish side stands proud at 1,324m above sea level. Camping is recommended as there are no hotels, just the occa- sional self-service cottage. Most people do this in summer as winter means extreme arctic conditions.
Follow in author Vilhelm Moberg’s footsteps in Småland, where he wrote a series of powerful novels, the most famous of which is The Emigrants. This fascinating trail takes you past and through the villages from which many citizens emigrated to America between 1850 and 1910 due to crops being difficult to grow in the rocky terrain. Various overnight accommodation is available through the villages of Ljuder, Långas- jö, Korpamoen, Moshult and Duve- måla, which all feature in the novels.
Sweden’s highest mountain offering multiple trails to the top. Standing majestically in Swedish Lapland, Kebnekaise has two main peaks, the southern glaciated one is highest at approximately 2,097 metres, with the northern peak close behind at 2,096 metres and free of ice. However, due to glacial melting and increasingly warm weather the peaks interchange “the highest” title. The easier westside trails take around 10–12 hours to climb. If you don’t want to summit there are good surrounding hiking trails such as Nikkaluokta and Tarfaladalen.
A beautiful 27km trail through Sweden’s largest national park. Padjelanta National Park is part of the Laponia World Heritage Site and means “Higher Country.” The Padjelantaleden trial links the Kvikkjokks mountain station and Ritsem. The wilderness is most rewarding along this easy walk, with rich heathland, glassy lakes and wonderful mountain scenery.
One of the world’s most spectacular viewing points. “Preikestolen” stand sentinel over the waters of the Lysefjord, some 604 metres below. It’s such a dramatic landmark that it’s easy to see why it’s the most famous tourist attraction in Ryfylke. The 25×25-metre plateau was formed around 10.000 years ago by expanding ice. It’s been a tourist spot since 1900 when a curious traveller visited the top.
A Norwegian rite of passage — the country’s most popular hike. Bessenggen is one of those things that most Norwegians feel they must do at least once — and with good reason — the undulating scenery and dramatic vistas are unreal. Every year between June and September around 60,000 people visit to hike the various trails up to the top. It’s accessible for all but some experience goes a long way — the walk will take between six and eight hours over mixed terrain and there’s an underground funicular too.
Jotunheimen National park Rv 55 over Sognefjellet, Norway. besseggen.net
Traditional rustic fare served in a warm atmosphere that conjures up grandmother’s house. Cosy and covered with embroidered cushions and old-world ornaments, this is a great option for Swedish classics. The chef was a judge on the Swedish version of Masterchef and he can deliver the goods. The Elk carpaccio with black currants, beets and mountain birch oil is highly recommended!
Freshly brewed coffee and the best shrimp sandwiches around, enjoyed with a lovely view of the Lyngen Alps. This cool café, which could easily be a hip hangout in a city centre, is in the same building as the shrimp processing company, Lyngen Reker, so the shrimp sandwiches are essential. The owner, Trude, is super friendly and she has a carefully picked selection of home gifts, spices and health products from leading brands.
Classic dishes and stunning views over the Fjord and the mountains from the ”Glasshouse.” Located in a smart hotel, this restaurant serves solid Scandinavian and European food, and is also vegetarian-friendly. Meat eaters will salivate for the ”Hunter’s Dream Stew,” comprising reindeer from Røros, seasonal vegetables, cranberry jam and herb-marinated potatoes. Nicely paired with a Valpolicella Ripasso or the Rallar Amber Ale from Ægir Brewery in Flåm.
Laegreidsvegen 7 Inside of Eidfjord Fjell & Fjord Hotel Eidfjord 5783, Norway. See more.
Good Swedish home cooking made from fine ingredients in the daytime and an a la carte experience in the evening. Valkojan serves famous crispy waffles, sandwiches made on freshly baked bread and a selection of homemade buns and cakes. The evening becomes a little more for- mal, but deftly avoids being in any way stuffy or pretentious. Expect fine fare from nature’s pantry, delicious meals created using the best things from the forest and from the sea.
“Unique ambiance, outdoor activities and attractions, food, talks. Good view, good meal, good friends.” Easy decision. This gorgeous white building hugs the water’s edge in Fjærland, an upper branch of Western Norway’s spectacular Sognefjord. The hotel is open from April until the end of September, or by prior arrangement during autumn and winter.
Wake up in a room sculpted from ice and warm up with a hot lingonberry juice and a sauna session. Found- ed in 1989 and located in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, ICEHOTEL is a unique experience. The hotel offers “warm and cold accommodation” — as unappealing as it may seem, a cold night is a must! Launched in 2016, ICEHOTEL 365 also includes luxury suites and art suites, all sculptured by selected artists.
Marknadsvägen 63, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. See more.
Sweden’s oldest mountain hotel promises pure air and dramatic wilderness. Established in 1882, the first guests 130 years ago came for the unspoilt wonder — nothing has changed. The architecture in tune with the surroundings and the rooms range from modest to lavish, but all clean and comfortable. Treat yourself to a night in The Grand Ugglebo, a separate wing on the shore of Lake Malmagen.
Malmagsvägen 33, 840 98 Tänndalen, Sweden. See more.
Radisson Blu Resort Trysil, Norway
Sat in the shadow of the mountains, Radisson Blu’s Trysil hotel is a smart option for outdoor enthusiasts. Trysil is Norway’s largest ski destination with 29 lifts, 67 slopes and 100 km of cross-country tracks. When guests are not out alpine skiing, snowboarding or dog sledding they can enjoy the four swimming pools, a glass rock-climbing wall and the surfing wave pool. The Alpine Spa also includes a hot pool, Finnish sauna, Turkish steam room and aromatic laconium.
Superb international design indoors, dramatic nature outdoors. Perched on top of Förberget and open all year round, the views from this 420-bed hotel are sensational. In winter, guests can enjoy ski-in/ski out access to the whole ski area and Åre Björnen’s scenic cross-country ski trails are also nearby. The architect, Peter Bohlin, has succeeded in his aim of creating ”a fantastic building in interaction with this scenic place”.
Copperhill Mountain Lodge Åre Björnen, 837 97 Åre, Sweden. See more.
Hanson Concept Store
Family-friendly service for a wide range of alpine equipment. Whether you need to buy some rac- ing skis, to rent a snowboard, have your boots repaired, or simply want something smart to wear for the evening’s après ski, Hanson Concept store is a reliable one-stop-shop.
Opened in 1975, this popular sports store is a reliable stockist for outdoor apparel and equipment. SportStugan has 44 years of experience and is selecting and stocking leading brands such as Peak Performance, J Lindeberg, Odd Molly, Timberland, Hestra, Fjällräven, Arc’teryx, Houdini, Elevenate, Uno de 50, Lundhags, Hanwag, Part Two, Smartwool, Devold, Skhoop, Shepherd and more.
Enjoy a trip down memory lane in this authentic 19th-century store. Dating back to 1860, Vognildsbua is a charming old-fashioned general store. The type of place that used to be a hub for daily life, where locals would not only get essentials like flour, sugar, salt, clothing, shoes and medicine, but would also socialise. Today, Vognildsbua operates as a museum, shop and cafeteria all through the summer season. The shop is seven km west of Oppdal and can easily be reached by foot or by bicycle.
A well-curated collection of designer items for either mountain retreats or urban apartments. The quaint white house on the square has a history going back over a century. The owners have a keen eye for handsome traditional handicrafts as well as timeless modern design.
High-quality second-hand sports goods. Great brands, great prices. Founded in 2001, the store was way ahead of the current embracing of the circular economy, Mountain Recycle trades good quality used clothes and equipment. Goggles, boots, helmets, gloves, hats… you could kit yourself out from head to toe in the world’s leading outdoor brands and keep the cost down, as well as promoting sustainability.