Archive for May 14th, 2012

May 14, 2012

Kungsleden – I’m trekking above the arctic circle in August

by backpackingbongos

A few months ago I wrote of my plans to hike the Arctic Circle trail in Greenland.  I have to say that I wish that I had done my research on travelling there before mentioning my intentions.  The cost of the flights are prohibitively expensive and difficult to justify for a trekking holiday.  I also have to admit that I started to get the heebie-jeebies about walking solo for 10 days across the arctic tundra.  Only around 300 people complete the trail each year and you really are on your own out there from start to finish……….

I then started to research other routes which would still take me above the arctic circle, but be cheaper and less daunting.  I finally settled on the Kungsleden in Sweden.  As much as I would love to do the full 440 kilometres, I only have a weeks holiday available this year.  I have settled for the northern section, a total of 105 to 121 kilometres in seven days.  I plan to start in Abisko and finish in Nikkaluokta, both accessible from the city of Kiruna.

I have to say that for a popular trail it has been difficult doing research on the practicalities as there is not a huge amount written in English.  The guidebook is excellent for the trail itself but gives no indication of how to get to the various trailheads.  Gathering information from various sources I worked out travel arrangements and today took the plunge and booked my tickets.

I fly to Stockholm where I will spend the night.  The following evening I have booked a sleeper train, a 17 hour journey which will drop me off right at the trail head.  I have treated myself to a private cabin, which although not cheap is better value than the sleeper to Scotland.  The journey home is much quicker with a flight from Kiruna to Stockholm, a short wait and then onwards to Manchester.

So, why Kungsleden?  For a start the scenery looks out of this world and the trail passes through one of the largest wilderness areas in Europe.  The trail is easy to follow and there is little risk of getting lost.  There is a good network of huts spaced a days walk apart, giving me options for accommodation.  If the weather is bad I can stay in a nice warm hut, dry my clothes and even have a sauna in some places!  For a small fee you can pitch outside and use the facilities, a good half way option.  The most preferable for me will be to wild camp in the middle of nowhere, perhaps detouring to a remote spot.  For example I like this description in the guidebook:

The lake in the side valley opposite the huts can be a pleasant excursion.  The stream from the lake forms attractive waterfalls, as it drops towards the main valley.  The lake itself is a hidden pearl, set in a beautiful hollow surrounded by high peaks.  If you wish to spend the night in solitude, it is worth finding a tent pitch in this unforgettable landscape.

Sold!  There are also several peaks that sound like they could make worthy side trips from the main trail if energy and enthusiasm is high.

The only downside of this section of the Kungsleden is its popularity.  Hopefully starting in mid August I should avoid the main peak season and I will be going after the school holidays.  The mosquitos may still be a problem though.

Anyway, enough waffling as the trip is still 3 months away.  A couple of questions for you.  Has anyone stayed in Stockholm?  I am looking for a cheap and half decent hotel which is within walking distance of the train station.  Less than £50 for a single room and I will be a very happy man.  Also suggestions for what to do for a day whilst I wait for the train?

Here is the best video that I could find of the Kungsleden, with the exception of the music it really makes me want to be there now.  It is also the section of the trail that I am going to do but in reverse.