We have just returned to Switzerland after a short month spent in the Scandinavian countries between Swedish Lapland (Kungsleden trail) and the Lofoten Islands in Norway. In the coming weeks we will prepare a whole series of articles on this wonderful trip! Benoit had already given you his first impressions in our last article (he wrote this article during the 18-hour train ride from the Lofoten Islands to Stockholm).
Now it’s my turn to tell you a little more about our first week on the Kungsleden trail. The trek lasted 7 days (well… 6 full days of walking and a short morning) and so I thought I could change a little from our 100% practical articles. I will, this time, rather talk to you a little bit about our experience day by day. This article is the first part of our first 3 days of hiking.
If you are preparing this same trek these 2 articles can help you to get an idea of what awaits you in terms of landscapes and stages but for everything related to the organization itself we invite you to take a look at our article about how to prepare the Kungsleden trail. You will find maps, itinerary tips, our detailed budget and a complete list of our equipment and food.
Arrival in Kiruna and the day before the trek (Day 0)
You will see it in the rest of the article but our trek went wonderfully well: a beautiful weather, a nice team and of course crazy landscapes!!!! Yes, but of course, everything had not started so well… 🙂
We arrived from Switzerland by taking a succession of 3 flights. Geneva-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Stockholm then Stockholm-Kiruna… To be honest, we had planned our trip well with sufficient stopover times. But well, just to add a little dose of challenge to our adventure, our first flight was delayed by about an hour. Just as the wheels of our aircraft touched down in Frankfurt was opening the boarding for our next flight… impossible, some would say…
Believe it or not, your little Swiss have achieved a real little athletic performance! 🙂 We had a rather legendary sprint in the airport (security checkpoints like in the movies where we arrive in sweat and shout “Let us passsss!!!!!”)
We arrived at the boarding gate and everyone was already on the plane BUT the doors were not yet closed! Pfiouuuuu lucky us.
On the other hand, of course… playing Usain Bolt in an airport is pretty neat, but statistically, there’s little chance that checked luggage will have the same chance. In short, it was no surprise that we arrived in Kiruna without our backpacks… When you go on a holiday at the beach it doesn’t matter if the bag doesn’t follow, but in our case without a tent, without a sleeping bag and even without a jacket it wasn’t going to work!
We waited for the next flight at the airport because it seems it is common for them to be able to deliver the bags on the next flight. Yeah…. after 2 short hours of waiting we were staring at the carousel… Waste of time…. We left empty-handed towards our guesthouse and comforted ourselves with a good little meal, avoiding thinking too much about the disaster scenario where our bags would take several days to arrive.
First day on the Kungselden trek: Arrival in Nikkaluokta
We woke up at 7:00 sharp this morning and even before we got out of bed we made a phone call to the airport to see if our bags had arrived with the last flight the day before. Lucky for us, alignment of the stars, destiny, call it what you like but our bags had arrived!
In short, after a quick taxi ride to the airport and back, we were just in time to take our bus to Nikkkaluokta, the starting point of our trek.
This first bus ride was already an excellent way to have a taste of what was waiting for us afterwards. As soon as we left the small town of Kiruna, we were already immersed in a surreal setting with completely crazy orange colors around us. This bus ride was also the first opportunity for Benoit to be ashamed with his 3 chatty girls…
As the bus was moving on a long straight line the driver suddenly stepped on the brakes. The reason? Well, quite simply a herd of wild reindeer that crossed the road in slowmotion! In the bus there were mainly Swedish people, so it is useless to specify that when with Marine and Sabine we started to shout “Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!! Reindeer!!!!! Ohhhhhh soooo cuuuttteeee!” all the other passengers were laughing… Yep, apparently for them to see reindeer on the road it’s about as exotic as for us to see cows on the roadside in Switzerland. 🙂
After 1h30 of driving the bus dropped us off at Nikkaluokta. Nikkaluokta is marked on the maps as a small village. Well… actually it’s merely a place where the road ends and where you can find a bus stop and a restaurant/refuge.
Before we started the actual hike, we made one last stop in front of the restaurant to do the traditional small weighting of the backpacks before the start. On the Kungsleden it is a kind of ritual; there are scales at the starting and ending points of the trek.
We certainly kind of knew the weight of our bags, but this was the occasion to reweigh it one last time with the whole package (understand with the water, the gasoline bought the same morning for the stove and the last biscuits threaded in the pockets).
Result? The 3 girls were almost perfectly equal: 16kg each! Benoit’s bag displayed 19kg on the scale. But what do you want it was the only representative of the male gender so he could well carry a little more (and incidentally he weighs 10-15kg more than us).
First stage of the trek: From Nikkaluokta to Kebnekaise (Day 1)
Between the bus ride, the weighing of the bags and the last adjustments of the straps it was almost noon when we finally made it on the trek itself! We took the time to take a small souvenir photo under the starting gate located in Nikkaluokta and started our stage of the day.
Before leaving we hadn’t made a strict road plan, even if for this first day we had set ourselves the target of walking something like 19km.
The first few kilometres were very easy and pleasant; the path was well marked and above all we were walking in what Marine called the “enchanted forest”. And it’s true that this forest was quite magical… Moss everywhere, orange birches all around us and especially lots of Amanita fly killer! You know those red and white mushrooms that are often found in fairy tales?
By the way, fun fact, did you know that reindeer are ultra fond of these hallucinogenic mushrooms? They are toxic for us, but the reindeer has an enzyme in the liver that detoxifies the toxic molecule but on the other hand the psychotropic effects are there for the little Ruddolf…. In fact, these big, cute creatures like to be “high”. Is that where the myth of the flying reindeer comes from? I have no idea… but it made us laugh anyway!
After a good hour’s walk we reach the lake of “Latjojaure” and a small, totally isolated restaurant by the water. Let’s face it, it was the perfect little spot for our first picnic of this trek even if we admit that there were strangely many people there…
In fact there were people because without knowing it we had arrived just in time to take the small boat that shuttles between this end of the lake and the other end and which allows the hikers who go to the Kebnekaise refuge to save 5km of walking… Needless to say, we let the boat leave and opted for the “hiking” option and especially save the 350 crowns that the crossing costs (34€ for 20 minutes by boat it’s definitely expensive if you want our opinion).
To finish this first story article of our trek, we leave you with the little video we made after this trip…
The rest of the afternoon was just happiness! We started to take our marks on these long footbridges composed of 2 boards in the width and which allow us to pass through swampy areas without getting wet. We are really impressed by the state of the trail and infrastructure and, we admit it, also a little surprised by the people… Well it was not crowded either, but we still meet other hikers very regularly. We will understand later that this section is in fact by far the most frequented in the Kungsleden.
Indeed, this stage which joins the Kebnekaise hut is a very popular and appreciated portion by Swedes (and also school trips) to make 2-3 day excursions to see (or climb) the Kebnekaise which culminates at 2099m and is, therefore, the highest summit in Sweden.
We had read on the web that many campers come to stay overnight around the refuge and as we didn’t particularly want to be surrounded by 50 other tents we decided to finish this stage of the day about 1km before the hut and installed our tents in the middle of the moss fields a little off the path.
Length of the stage: 17,5km
More pictures of this stage (Click to enlarge):
For this trek, the itinerary is not very complicated and it is especially well marked. In short, there is no need to make a thorough study of the terrain before you start. However, we recommend you to have a map with you! To do so, you can download all our maps from this blog post (button above each map).
To download the map from AllTrails (the website and mobile application we use) you simply need to have an account (free to create) and then you can download the map in the format of your choice!
Be sure to have access to an “offline” map during this trek (Maps.Me, AllTrails+, etc.) The mobile network is almost non-existent on this route!
Note that it might be interesting to have an AllTrails+ account to be able to print the maps in full resolution (you won’t have to worry about batteries). The AllTrails+ account normally costs 29,99€ per year. If you go through this link, you will get a 30% discount.
Beautiful stage between the Kebnekaise and Singhi (well almost) (Day 2)
After an excellent first night in the tent we were awakened by the sound of rain. Hmmm… Fortunately for us the rain quickly calmed down and after having had our breakfast safely in our tent we had a little lull right when we folded our equipment (alignment of the stars I tell you) 😉
After not even 1km we reach the famous Kebnekaise hut and the least we can say is that our intuition of the day before was good. In the small woods before the refuge there were literally tents everywhere!
When we arrived at the refuge we were a little surprised… A class of teenagers was preparing in front of the shelter and how can I put this? A group of 40 teens chatting, laughing and running around was a strong contrast to the landscapes… I mean, some of the chicks there had false eyelashes and were much more made up than I was on our wedding day! In short, we didn’t hang around too much and quickly climbed to the small pass just a little further away.
Once the hut behind us we were back to absolute calm and continued our way towards the Singhi shelter.
After following a short stretch of the “Kittelbäcken” river we started a beautiful long straight stretch in the valley at the foot of the “Singitjäkko”. After about 7km in this valley the official Kungsleden path continues straight.
Not particularly keen to sleep next to a shelter and also because we didn’t need to stock up yet, we opted for a small variant. Instead of following the “official” path we took the path that climbed on our right and which turns out to be the “winter road” of the Kungsleden (for people who go on skis).
This decision proved to be an excellent one! After 2 small kilometers of climbing we reached a small lake on the edge of which was, what we will simply call, the dream bivouac spot!
length of the stage: 14km
More pictures of the stage (Click to enlarge):
From Singhi to Sälka (Day 3)
When we woke up on the 3rd day the weather was great and as usual Benoit was the first to get up on the camp. I admit it, it’s not very glorious, but personally as long as I don’t have the smell of coffee heating I usually have a hard time getting out of the warmth of my sleeping bag. #SoLazyyyy
That morning, the situation was slightly different because when Benoit came out of the tent he found himself face to face with a herd of reindeer. The first ones we saw on this trek (if we forget those seen from the bus). In the end, only Benoit will have seen them because the girls clearly took too long to get out of the tent… But just knowing that they were there helped a lot to put us in a good mood in such a early morning.
After the camp was removed, we opted for a short detour and instead of following the path along the small lake to the right we opted for a more “freestyle” route through the moss fields on the left of the lake and thus enjoy the absolutely spectacular view of the valley below.
We then went down into the valley again, this time to arrive on the “official” trail of the Kungsleden (the branch leading to Nikkaluokta being considered more like an access road). A bit like welcoming us, we all saw our first reindeer when we arrived on the trail!
Before going on the trek I must admit that I was a little worried about these big animals. I don’t know, I was wondering what would happen if one of those big hairy balls started charging us. So to those who would ask themselves the same question, I can now reassure you: reindeer are NOT aggressive at all. Accustomed to man during the winter, most of them don’t care about our presence at all! At worst they move away a little, but most of the time they just stay where they are and barely look up when we pass by.
Once we arrived at the Sälka refuge we took advantage of the small shop to stock up on rye bread and biscuits and then we continued our journey about 3km before finding a perfect bivouac spot just by the river.
length of the stage: 16km
More pictures of the stage (Click to enlarge):
Our first Northern Lights!!!!! A magical night!
This third night in a tent was one of the most beautiful of this trek! Tonight also the sky was clear, so we repeated our little wake-up call every hour. Lucky us we didn’t have to wait long! It was Sabine who got the 00:30 slice and when she got out she had a doubt… The sky was not “green” but a strange light illuminated it. A little as if the moon was full but no trace of the moon on the horizon… Hmmm… After a quick discussion with Marine they decided to come and wake us up.
Benoit got out of the tent first and although he couldn’t see any green lights in the sky, he still took a picture with a long exposure “just to see”.
While I was still in the warmth of my sleeping bag and I was just thinking that I didn’t really want to leave this warm little cocoon, I heard Benoit’s voice saying “Ohhh it’s the auroras!!!! It’s GREEN!!!!! GET OUT OF TENT!!!!!!!”
Quickly we all got out of the tent and started looking up at the sky. For this first evening the activity was not “ultra strong”, understand by this that the sky was not “green” to the naked eye but on the other hand we had our dose of emotion when the kind of white streaks began to dance in the sky! An unforgettable and simply magical moment.
Alone in the middle of this huge valley with such a spectacle; we simply couldn’t have dreamed better…
Well speaking of dreaming, after 2 hours of enjoying the show we still got back in our sleeping bags… The next day the highest pass of our trip was waiting for us and we clearly needed a few more hours of sleep!
We look forward to seeing you in the next article for the next 4 days of trekking… 😉
Video of our hike
To finish this first story article of our trek, we leave you with the little video we made after this trip…