Travel with Terri
Story and Photos by Terri Marshall
It’s difficult to define what makes the Swedish Lapland so special. The mountains, the swiftly flowing rivers, the dense forests and the archipelago are a part of it, but it’s more than that. The Swedish Lapland is a place of traditions, a place where people live in harmony with nature—a place you’ll want to return to time and time again.
Located above the Arctic Circle, the Swedish Lapland is home to reindeer, moose, an abundance of fish and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. In the winter, it transforms into a wonderland as the rivers freeze and the Northern Lights dance in the sky overhead. When the snow melts and summer arrives, the Midnight Sun shines on this special little piece of the planet into the wee hours of the morning.
I was first introduced to this magical world and the people who call it home last summer as I road-tripped through the region with three other writers. It gained a special place in my heart and I plan to return every chance I get. Here are a few of my favorite experiences.
Experiencing the Fishing Tradition of Kukkolaforsen
Using a technique that dates back to the middle ages, fishing in Kukkolaforsen is done with a long-handled net—and by long handled, I mean longer than I am tall. With the help of an instructor, I tried my hand at fishing for whitefish in the raging Torne River. While he made it look easy, I can assure you it wasn’t. And although I had no luck, thankfully there were freshly caught whitefish on hand for us to grill.
The fish are grilled over an open flame in smoke huts. Sitting around the crackling fire in a 500 year old timber hut watching the fish cook and listening to the tall tales of the fisherman is an experience I won’t soon forget.
The Torne River serves as a natural boundary between Finland and Sweden. As I was working that long-handled net, I looked across the river and watched as the Finnish fisherman caught the fish that were eluding me. And as the light changed (as it constantly does in this region) a rainbow appeared to frame Finland right before my eyes.
When the river freezes in winter, ice fishing takes over. Of course, if you decide you want to visit Finland in the winter months you can just walk right across the river and say hello.
For five generations, the Spolander family has been offering tourism opportunities in the Swedish Lapland at Kukkolaforsen Tourism and Conference Center providing dining, accommodations, sauna experiences and fishing in the Torne River Valley.
Going Off-Road at Guesthouse Kangos in Kangosfors
When I say the people who call the Swedish Lapland home are warm and inviting, I am most certainly talking about Johann and Eve, the owner/operators of Guesthouse Kangos who were an absolute delight. From the moment we arrived, I felt like I’d known them for years. Located on the banks of the Lainio River, the guesthouse is comprised of a collection of 100-year-old wooden cottages which have been impeccably maintained and decorated with an unmistakable Scandinavian touch. If you’re seeking a place to get away from it all, this is that place.
Amid tranquil natural beauty you can relax in the riverside sauna, soak in the hot tub under the midnight sun or you can learn something new. Johan and Eve offer courses to learn photography, painting, jewelry making, knife making and a leather workshop.
For our summer visit, Johan and his business partner, Peter, introduced us to the adventures of off-roading on a Land Rover designed course. The setting was perfect with deep blue lakes reflecting towering evergreen pines and reindeer grazing just out of sight. Our adventure began with a ride along before we each took a turn at the wheel to tackle the course. We charged up steep embankments, crawled over massive boulders and flipped off the end of a wooden platform. There were screams—lots of them—but in the end, we conquered the course, managed to stay alive and toasted our good time with wine.
In the winter, the focus turns to ice, snow and the Northern Lights. Supplying all the winter gear you’ll need, Johan leads guests on snowmobile safaris in search of the Northern Lights. You can expect reindeer encounters as you cross the frozen rivers into the wilderness.
Just Being There is Enough
Sometimes it’s not what you do in a place that makes the experience so memorable…it’s just being there. That is how I felt about my time in the Swedish Lapland. To be honest, I knew nothing about this part of the world before my visit. But as I peeked out the window of my cottage around 3:00am to see light still in the sky and bunny rabbits playing on the lawn, I knew it would be part of my soul forever. After all, there aren’t many places in the world where traffic jams are caused by wandering reindeer.