Moss-green plains, crystal-clear streams, grazing reindeer: This is the Kungsleden, or King’s Trail, which seems to fulfil every cliche about Sweden. Divided between a southern and northern part, Sweden’s longest hiking trail covers some 800km.
It winds along the border with Norway, through pristine birch forests, across glistening fields of snow and the mountainous regions. The following is a five-day camping trek covering 78km.
Day 1: On the northern Kungsleden
The northern part of the Kungsleden is about 440km long, divided into five sections. This trek covers the southernmost section, from Ammarnas and proceeding in a south-westernly direction through the nature preserve of Vindelfjaellen and finishing in Hemavan, 78km away.
To get started, take one of several trains of the Swedish railways SJ running daily from Stockholm to Ostersund. From there, a rural bus takes travellers to Sorsele and then to the starting point, Ammarnas, some 500km north of Stockholm.
This journey alone takes about 14 hours, past forests and lakes and remote villages with their bright-red wooden houses and barns. One arrives late in the evening in Ammarnas. It is much cooler here than in Stockholm, and jackets and trousers are in order.
Even in August, the night temperatures can dip to as low as 3˚C, while daytime temperatures can occasionally go beyond 20˚C.
A long jacket offers some protection against the many mosquitoes in the evening while searching for a camping spot.
Day 2: Reindeer, rain – and the first sauna
Shortly after leaving Ammarnas, the trail leads upwards above the Tjulan Valley through a forest and then to the first of five managed tugans, or huts, where for RM80 to RM100 per night, a hiker can spend the night. At an elevation of 800m, the Aigerstugan hut is on the boundary to the treeless mountain tundra landscape.
Aigerstugan is only about 8km from Ammarnas, yet for families and sauna fans, the brief hike appears to be a popular destination. “The best sauna is here,” a man calls out. “There is another one 18km away, but this one here is the best.”
Soon afterwards, the Swedish national mascot appears; a herd of reindeer is grazing just a few metres away. Soon we pass the highest point of this stage, the Juovvatjahkka hut.
At around 1,200m, the alpine zone begins here, and one notices the much cooler weather. It’s windy and foggy. Then a heavy rain sets in. But even in poor visibility, the large red trail markers of the Kungsleden are easily recognisable.
Day 3: Moraine landscape and yet even more saunas
On the third day, the trail leads to the Tarnasjostugan hut located on the rock-lined Tarnasjo Lake. A few moments later, an older Swedish man with nothing but a towel over his shoulder appears.
“Very soon a great many naked people will be coming here and jumping into the lake,” he warns, pointing to a sauna next to a dock.
On the way to Syterstugan, the most interesting landscape of the trail opens up. It first leaves the lake behind and soon afterwards enters a moraine landscape of tiny lakes, islets and ponds linked with each other by seven bridges. This stretch of the northern Kungsleden is definitely more hiker-friendly when compared with some sections of the southern route, where one must reckon with getting wet feet.
After a brief upward stretch, the Syterstugan is ahead, a place framed by two small rivers. Meanwhile, the sun has come out again and the stony shoreline offers a place for a welcome nap.
Day 4: Romantic nature in Syterskalet valley
On the evening before the final stage, the tent is pitched alongside a small river in the Syterskalet, a scenic valley stretching like a long corridor through the Norra Storfjallet mountain range and leading to Viterskalsstugan, about 12km from Syterstugan. Follow the trail through the valley. In the evening, there is a warm breeze as the sun shines down on the vegetation, making the deep-violet slopes glow.
Later, the sky turns pink behind the snow-capped mountain peaks.
Day 5: Mountainous panorama of the Urstrom Valley
After Viterskalsstugan, a further highlight awaits towards the end of our trek: A magnificent view of the deep-green tundra vegetation and the broad U-shaped valley.
The descent down to Hemavan, by contrast, is less spectacular. Proceeding through birch forests and small paths, the nature museum of a small ski resort town appears.
After five days in a tent and no shower, the one overwhelming desire is this: A nice, warm sauna. – Karolin Kraemer/dpa