Our favourite things to do in Swedish Lapland during Autumn
Here's our comprehensive list of things to do in Swedish Lapland during Autumn, when the stunning fall colours bring the region to life.
The enchantment of winter is what Swedish Lapland is known best for; a land of snow and icy tundras, snowmobiles and the dancing green lights of the aurora borealis. But when the midnight sun arcs through the sky and the ice melts back into the waterways, the magic of Swedish Lapland doesn’t dissolve away with it. Instead, the endless forests and mirrored lakes emerge from their winter chrysalis with a new lease of life, transformed into place of lush green landscapes and calm natural beauty. And then, as an explosion of colour in the forest marks the shift into Autumn, the region evolves again, becoming a land of outdoor adventures onwater and land.
It was the latter, with its promise of an escape to nature and the cosiness that the cooling season brings, that had us full of anticipation for our visit to Swedish Lapland, and we definitely weren’t left disappointed.
Here’s our guide to the top things to do in Swedish Lapland during Autumn!
THE TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SWEDISH LAPLAND DURING AUTUMN
GO FOR A HIKE
For two London-dwellers in desperate need of some nature time, Swedish Lapland could not have been more perfect. We’re both huge fans of a decent hike, and the trails here are among the best in the world. In winter, the region is buried under thick snow and the only real way of getting into nature is via snowmobile, sled, or ski. But it’s a very different story in Autumn, when the paths are totally accessible and have burst into life with wild edibles and vibrant colour.
Because the Swedes are such an outdoorsy bunch, almost all hikes have some sort of wilderness cabin provisions. Our hike in Arjeplog took us up to an old fire lookout cabin, and when the fog and rain set in at lunch, it was the perfect spot to keep cosy and dry. This is also a great time to hike the Kungsleden Trail (Kings trail), as the crowds of summer drift away and the autumn colours glow.
EXPLORE SWEDISH LAPLAND BY FATBIKE
What’s better than getting out and into nature for the day? Heading out into the wilderness of Lapland on a fatbike. This is kind of like mountain biking on steroids; the ultra thick, grippy tyres are the key to perfect all-terrain cycling, staying afloat when other tires would sink. The fatbike has become a bit of a trend in the Arctic lately, as they allow you to cycle out into the wilderness even in the snow.
The bikes take a bit of getting used to, particularly if you haven’t really mountain biked before (I fell off 4 times before we’d left the Taiga-Adventures property!), but being able to cycle through thick mud, narrow lichen paths, over boulders and down steep mountain paths really makes for one of the best things to do in Swedish Lapland.
GO FORAGING IN THE FORESTS
Autumn is the time to come and enjoy the fruits of nature’s labour. During August and September, the forests burst to life with berries, edible wild mushrooms (chanterelles and porcini), and local plants and herbs that are just ripe for the picking. A Swedish law called Allemansrätten ("every man's right"), means that anyone is free to roam and forage this wild fare, on the conditions that only non-protected food is taken, and nature isn’t disturbed or destroyed.
Foraging has become a cherished part of Swedish identity, and joining a local tour will bring you a closer connection to nature while preparing your next delicious meal. This is slow living at it’s finest, and definitely one of our favourite things to do in Swedish Lapland.
GO LAKE FISHING
With over 30,000 lakes, 4 pristine riverways, and a huge stretch of Arctic coastline, it goes without saying that the fishing opportunities here are some of the best in the world. The waters here are biodiverse and generous too; salmon, grayling, ocean trout, pike, Arctic char can be found in thriving populations. Like hunting and foraging, fishing forms a huge part of the cultural identity in Sweden. For many in the north, it’s a vital way of life and sustenance all year-round. In winter, it’s fishing through the ice. In the warmer months, it’s about boat days and lingering views of the vibrant scenery around you - while hopefully coming home with a fresh-caught dinner!
Unfortunately, a rainy day prevented us from being able to get out on the lake as we’d hoped, but we can highly recommend fishing with Sonny from Abborrträsk Natursafari. He’s one of those real living treasure type characters, and a day out on the lakes with him is a guaranteed adventure.
PADDLE ON THE WATERWAYS
If you’re a little bit over crunching through the forests by foot or bike, there’s nothing quite like a relaxing paddle on one of the calm, picturesque lakes. By Autumn, the summer crowds have departed and the waterways are quiet again, and you have the views of the surrounding forest all to yourself.
TAKE A TRADITIONAL SWEDISH COOKING CLASS
What’s the point in foraging for your food if you don’t get to watch it transform into a delicious meal before your eyes?! To us, the perfect way to understand a culture is via its cuisine, which means that wherever we go we try to take a cooking class.
As you might have already guessed when it comes to cooking, the Swedish way is local and sustainably sourced, and traditionally good, honest food. Hunting is a part of the culture here, and Moose, game bird, and Reindeer forms a huge part of the food culture. In Gammelstad Church Town (in Lulea), we took a meatball class at Kaptensgården with head chef Johan Thingvall, making meatballs from the Elk his wife had hunted. Definitely a unique experience - and we daresay, far better than the meatballs in IKEA’s fridges!
WARM YOUR BONES IN A SAUNA
Coming from Australia, where ‘sauna’ is pretty much just a term used to describe the weather outside, we have to admit we weren’t too sure about the whole idea of sitting in a sweltering hot cabin on purpose. Having been and gone now, we’re pleased to report that our northern friends have invented heaven on earth, and we’re happily converted.
Our first Swedish sauna took place after an adventurous day out in the crisp forest, and as we sat in the steaming log cabin by the lake at Sandsjogarden, we realised there was no better way to warm our bones again. We’re not sure whether it’s the warm wood smell that makes us love it so much, or the way your aches and pains melt away with the steam and sweat, but we’re definitely thinking up ways to have one installed at home now. If you’re feeling particularly brave, jump in a nearby lake (or stand outside in the crisp Autumn air) to cool down after!
EXPLORE THE FOREST BY HORSEBACK
Horse riding brings back happy childhood memories of family holidays, where I’d beg my parents to go on a riding tour in just about every place we visited. Inevitably, my 6ft4 dad would sigh as he drew the short straw and end up folded up atop a stable old workhorse. For a while now, I’ve been joking to Mark that one day I’d make him go horse riding on holiday (he’s always been adamantly opposed) - so when we discovered that it was an activity we’d be doing in Sorsele, well, you can only imagine my glee.
Like fatbiking, horse riding gives you the ability to head out for long distances in the endless pine and birch forests, no matter the weather. What’s more, you might be surprised to discover that sitting atop a horse isn’t a simple walk in the forest, but also engages your core and key muscles (trust me, you’ll discover which ones later!). Sitting down, taking in the views, AND working out? We’ll take it.
CHASE WATERFALLS AT STORFORSEN
After seeing many a calm and glassy lake, we were a little surprised when Storforsen Waterfall rolled into view. This is one of Europe’s largest waterfalls, roaring over a distance of 5km. Every second, an average of 250 cubic metres of water tumbles rapidly down the falls, and take it from us: It. Is. Powerful. We’re also told it partially freezes in winter, creating an ice show of epic proportions.
The falls used to serve as a timber transport route, but today you can wander alongside them on the boardwalk, or explore the former course of the falls before they were re-routed for the timber route. If you’re there in summer, be sure to check out one of the local festivals or musical performances held at the rock auditorium up the top!
PLAN YOUR TRIP: 15 USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING SWEDISH LAPLAND
LIGHTS, LIGHTS BABY
As the midnight sun starts to fade and the days get shorter, an elusive guest begins to appear in the north: the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). The Northern Lights are one of nature’s most incredible spectacles, and we’re pretty sure they’re one of the main things to do in Swedish Lapland.
The bad news is that you need a perfect storm of clear skies, solar flares or winds, no light pollution, and a sprinkling of luck - and there are no guarantees at any time of year (we missed out ourselves!). The great news is that due to it’s geography and position right under the aurora oval, the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko has the best track record for light-hunters, even when the weather isn’t too great.
WANDER GAMMELSTAD CHURCH TOWN
Just a short drive from the centre of Luleå lies the Gammelstad Church Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The first church stone was laid here in the 15th century, and actually served a more administrative purpose than religious: to distinguish a land border between Sweden and Russia during a time of great European expansion.
In times when church attendance was mandatory, yet the distances between villages were vast and the population sparse, families would travel to and from their church cabin on weekends. The rows of beautifully photogenic red and white cabins were designed to be used solely for stays of no more than a few days - a tradition which still remains today. Gammelstad became a hugely important fixture in the social lives of its residents, even hosting youth nights to allow the youth to meet potential suitors from other villages. The social aspect is still very much thriving here too; as we wandered around the cabins, families met to share a fika (coffee break), and the sound of laughter drifted from open windows.
SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE WORLD FAMOUS TREEHOTEL, HARADS
It’s basically the dream of every big-kid-who-hasn’t-quite-grown-up-yet: staying in your very own, uber cool treehouse right in the middle of nature. That’s exactly what Britta and Kent, the owners of the Treehotel have brought to life in the sleepy town of Harads; 7 architecturally-unique, award-winning, sustainable eco-lodges suspended in the tall pine forest.
Each room has been designed by a different architect, and all have placed Harads, with its population of 600, firmly on the map. The Treehotel is cool. Really cool. The kind of cool that sees guests sleeping in a UFO, BirdsNest, and a mirror cabin that blends into the forest surrounds. All sustainable, luxurious, and a masterpiece of clever Scandi design.
As Kent says on our guided tour of the property, “now sometimes, the Treehotel is what actually prompts people to visit Sweden for the first time”. Make a stay here no.1 on your things to do in Swedish Lapland.
Do you want to go to Swedish Lapland yourself? Or have you been and think we've missed something? Share your stories and tips in the comments below!