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.

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28 Responses to “Kungsleden – I’m trekking above the arctic circle in August”

  1. i’ve been to Stockholm a few times. Nowhere is cheap, especially near the main station. The Nordic Sea whilst not cheap may do you a deal and ia right by the station. It’s also home to the Ice Bar. Consider using the T system to find a cheaper crash further out.

    For killing time i recommend the Vasa – Sweden’s Mary Rose, but intact and bigger and better in every way. There are plenty of English pubs in Stockholm too but beer is £8 a pint. Try the Bull and Bear.

    • Thanks for the Info Matthew, I will look up that hotel. I will be arriving very late in Stockholm so may see if there is somewhere enroute into the city as well.

      As for £8 a pint I may go without!

  2. I must admit James, that after you told me you were off to Greenland in the summer I went on-line and looked it all up. It did look fantastic but also very lonely, like you say. Anyway, I’m sure that Sweden will be equally as magnificent and that you’ll have a wonderful time. And at the same time as you’re over there, we should be above the Arctic Circle in Norway – spitting distance! In fact I’ve just bought all our mosquito repellant…for the dogs as well!
    By the way, can I suggest that you look up if vaccinations for Tick Borne Encehpalitis are recommended for ‘outdoor-type-people’ for Sweden? They are for Norway, and we’re just about to have our third jab this week.

    • I will wave across the border to you Chrissie! As for TBE I know that it is common on the east coast and the Islands around Stockholm. Can’t find any reference to above the arctic circle though. Hopefully ticks will be fewer up there?

      A mozzie head net and lots of repellant for me too!

  3. I learned about this trail a while back and really want to so it too. I’m even a tiny bit interested in the Fjallraen which dos account for a lot of that August traffic. My problem is I don’t really want to do it solo. James if you wanted a partner I might be up for it (assuming I could keep up).

    • Hi Ken, it does indeed look a cracking trail. Thanks for the offer of a hiking partner but at the moment i am pretty keen at having a solo expedition. If you do fancy a uk backpack though give me a shout as I am often tramping the hills with a tent on my back.

  4. Excellent – you’ll have a great time. It’s a lovely area. I’m not that far away on the other side in Finland. You’ll probably have quite a few mosquitos still, but it won’t be the living hell of July. As for people, the general rule is: the more mosquitoes, the less people, so the little buggers do have some benefits.

    • Cheers Mark. I am really looking forward to it. Hopefully the mosquitoes are not too bad mid August and there is a nice breeze to drive them away.

  5. We stayed at the http://www.rexpetit.se/ last year, cozy little hotel, small but comfy rooms with all necessities. A tube ride away from the railway station (or a longer walk), though that shouldn’t be a problem.

    I would recommend checking out AirBnB (http://www.airbnb.com/tell-a-friend?airef=w3kpza02eczz5) which is a site where you can rent very nice private flats for little money.

    You totally want to go visit Old Stockholm, but go there early, as otherwise it is overrun with tourists. Take a boat tour, which lets you see the city from the water. It is a beautiful city, so you’ll easily spend the time there.

    There’s plenty of information about the Kungsleden in German available, at outdoorseiten.de – which also means that you’ll meet plenty of Germans on the trail 😀

    While waiting for the train, head to the Sportsbar at the end of the main hall, the door is in a corner, which has a rather good buffet (and isn’t too expensive).

    Enjoy the Kundsleden!

  6. James, looks a fantastic trip. I remember us discussing Greenland in the pub at the Monsal meet. It is a place I would like to hike. I want to hike lots of places but things always get in the way. Anyway, the Greenland trip sounds great, but I think you have made the right decision with this one going to Sweden. I am afraid I cannot help with Stockholm, I have only been to Copenhagen 🙂 I hope you have fun doing the research and planning

    • I remember that discussion Mark. I would still like to hike Greenland one day, but as you say time (and money) is always a deciding factor.

      Half the fun is in the planning and research!

  7. I backpacked this stretch of the Kungsleden in August a few years ago. Truly magnificant scenery, but mind the mosquitoes!

    • Good to hear that the scenery is good Jon, but not so good to hear about the mosquitoes!

      • To be fair, it was exceptionally warm and still when I was there (temps in 20s). Towards the end of the trek, the weather turned cooler, the wind picked up and they were less of a problem.

      • Warm, sunny and mosquito free is what I would like!

  8. That looks stunning. The summit of Kebnekaise looks bit of a cairn-fest!

  9. Hi James. Like you I looked at Greenland, the Arctic Circle Trail sounded interesting but after further research proved to be a pretty uninspiring walk through the tundra. Walking in the mountainous parts of Greenland looked great, but horribly expensive.
    I’ve not heard of the Kungsleden before, what is the best time to go for good weather, and which the worst months for mosquitoes?

    • Hi Geoff. I have to admit that the walk through the Tundra really appealed to me as I do like things rather bleak!

      The summer season for Kungsleden is June to Mid September. June can still have lots of snow and the rivers can be very high. Mid July to mid August I think is the peak trekking season. I think that July is the worst for the mosquitoes. I fancied mid september but a risk of snow and the huts shut down. I think weather wise it is ‘changeable’!

  10. Looks like a stunning trip you have planned there James. To echo the comments above it’s not a cheap city if I remember from my past life as a business traveller so I can’t recommend anywhere straight away in Stockholm. I do have a mate who’s a bit of a hippy who was living there though if you wanted me to look him up for you? Either way you’re in for a cracking trip, it definitely looks like something I could do so I’ll be following this fairly keenly!

    • Luckily my time will be short in Stockholm Gareth as I arrive late at night. So I just need to kill time from being kicked out of my hotel in the morning until the train in the evening. I’ll do lots of posts about the trip and planning etc.

  11. I was going to add a comment when you first posted this. Then I forgot ….. and then it’s now!

    It looks absolutely great,and I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as you hope.

    I know that from time to time holiday companies advertise organised small group trips. You won’t need them as you’re already sorted yourself, but their trip dossier may have some useful info – follow the link below, click on “holiday dossier” and complete the details.

    http://www.keadventure.com/trip/skt/kungsleden-trek-the-kings-trail-of-sweden.html

    • Thanks for the link. I have completed the details and they are going to email me a dossier, it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

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