This week we are focusing on Luleå in Swedish Lapland, the ultimate winter wonderland destination.
Nestled between the mountains and a mighty archipelago in Northern Sweden, Luleå and Swedish Lapland offer exhilarating activities such as dogsledding and gliding over frozen ice by hover-craft but also the chance to spend the evenings gazing at the Northern Lights while sampling the region’s unique local produce. We caught up with Graeme Richardson who moved to Luleå, Swedish Lapland from Australia some 6 years ago. Now a swedish citizen, Graeme provides a unique combination of a visitors perspective with a now intimate knowledge of the regions attractions.
Photo by Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se
Hi Graeme, how did you end up in Luleå? It’s quite a change from Australia!
- Luleå is my wife’s home town and after spending 10 years together in the tropical paradise of north Queensland in my home land we decided to experience a new adventure near the arctic circle. It has certainly been a change of climate and culture but the values of the two countries peoples are actually similar and both countries have magnificent wilderness. Albeit minus the snakes and spiders in Sweden.
In three words, how would you describe Luleå and Swedish Lapland to someone who has never been there?
- Wilderness, Space and Contrast
What makes Luleå and Swedish Lapland so unique?
- Firstly it is the unique combination of the Sami culture and Swedish Culture that are so special. Swedish Culture is found everywhere in Sweden and Sami Culture exists across northern Scandinavia but it is only here in Swedish Lapland that the two are uniquely blended.
Secondly the contrast in the environment is very unique, even compared to other scandinavian regions. It is only here that we have a 1300 island archipelago, massive forests, 5 major river valleys and the grandure of the high mountains all within a few hours drive of each other.
Photo by Graeme Richardson
What are the top things to do and see on a trip here?
In 6 years I have still not had time to see and do everything but if I had to pick the highlights so far they would be:
- Do nothing: After the chaos and traffic of life in a large city it is liberating to stand in the remote wilderness, breathing slowly in and out with nothing but the forest to hear you and feel totally alone in the world.
- Tree Hotel. Magical is the word I keep coming back to when describing the Tree Hotel. It applies to both the feeling of the tree rooms hanging in the forest and the warmth and hospitality of your hosts Kent and Britta.
- Luleå archipelago in winter or summer. Here there are 1,300 islands with a sum total of 100 residents (not counting the Moose) where you have space for yourself. In summer it is a boating, kayaking and hiking paradise and in winter the sea freezes up to a meter thick and we take snowmobiles or even a hovercraft ride out on the frozen sea. Driving my car out across the sea on an ice road to the islands to visit the small hotel and restaurant known as Jopikgården, for Sunday waffles, was and remains and amazing sensation.
- City life only 10 minute drive from amazing wilderness adventures. The city of Luleå offers great hotels, restaurants, sporting facilities in a beautiful sea side location. It is also the base for a range of fantastic activities that occur in the forest only a few minutes from the city. In winter we have Driving on Ice, Snowmobiling, Skiing, Dogsledding, Ice fishing, to name but a few.
- Sami Culture. The indigenous peoples of the north and their traditional closeness to, and respect for, nature is something that moves me. Meeting a Sami family and learning about their traditions and way of life is fascinating and inspiring.
- Cuisine. The foods of Swedish Lapland come from nature, be it either traditional Sami or Swedish cooking. The sea gives us fresh fish including salmon and even caviar such as the exquisite Kalix Löjrom. The forest lands give us reindeer and moose, berries, mushrooms and even a wine made from the birch tree. The mountain delicacies include bird and arctic char the delicious fish of the clear water mountains streams and lakes.
Photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se
What are the differences living in Luleå compared to Australia?
- There are a lot less things that can bite you of course. Seriously, the changes in the seasons are the main differences. Tropical Australia where I lived has a very consistent weather with a just extra rain in the summer.
Swedish Lapland as at least 12 seasons. By that I mean that each month has its own unique character. And it is not just the weather differences. The light changes so dramatically from month to month, from 24 hour light in summer to extreme darkness in December.
The winter darkness though is not depressing like some suppose. As the snow falls on the ground in November and December it reflects the twilight and the mood is now light and one of traditional Christmas and positiveness. We also warmly welcome the long nights of darkness as this brings out the magnificent northern lights. Truly a must see.
Photo by Magnus Skoglöf/imagebank.sweden.se
What would be a little known fact about Luleå that perhaps not many people would know about?
- While located in one of Europe’s last wildernesses, Luleå is a thriving modern city with a strong technology focus. Facebook is currently building new server halls, the only ones outside of the USA, in Luleå. The regions environmentally friendly and economic hydro electric power, cool climate, stability politically and geologically, major airport and internationally renowned technical university being major factors in their decision.
What would be your ultimate holiday in Swedish Lapland?
- I am living it :)