Dreaming of a winter getaway? Take a look at Lulea, Swedish Lapland
Have you ever heard of the city of Lulea, located in Swedish Lapland, the northernmost county in Sweden, very close to the Arctic Circle?
I hadn't until I had the opportunity two years ago to visit Lulea in the winter season and it did not disappoint.
To reach Lulea I flew to Stockholm and then transferred to an internal flight to Lulea - there are daily flights - which took one hour and 20 minutes. In the air on the way to Lulea all I could see was mountains and a blanket of snow...it was magical!
On arrival, I took a car to the hotel and the snow was heaped up in piles of at least 6 feet high on either side of the roads. I stayed at the Clarion four star hotel - very nice - that had the most amazing top floor that was home to the restaurant and bar and took full advantage of the views over the frozen lake and beyond.
It is cold, so highly recommend packing lots of layers and socks as you will need them!
During the winter the lake turns into an ice track, spanning around the harbour and you can enjoy either walking, sled kicking, running, cycling or skating on the ice. It was lovely to people watch from the top of the hotel, I am not sure I could have ice skated on the lake as I personally need barriers to cling on to....
I had the most amazing evening experience. I took a Skidoo out onto the frozen lake and was driven for about 20 minutes before coming across two shall huts in the middle of nowhere. I even pinpointed on google maps to prove where I was - in the middle of the lake! My photos do not do the evening justice. I sat around a wooden table in the hut that had a small wooden burner in the corner (it was very warm I could take my coat off) and had a three course meal with wine, During the evening I kept stepping out of the hut to see if by luck the Aurora Borealis would appear. (Northern lights) Unfortunately, I only saw a very faint hue of colour in the sky as it was cloudy that evening. A truly one in a
lifetime experience, an evening I will never forget.
Just a short drive from Lulea, I visited the church town of Gammelstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has over 400 houses made of wood, a 15th century stone church and a fine dining restaurant. I walked around the town and it takes you back to the past with its beautiful low rise red-painted cottages. There is also a museum to visit that provides all the history and culture of this UNESCO site.
Lulea in the winter is all about the activities and I took part in the following:
I went on a dog sledding tour out on the lake and through the forest. It was a magical experience as I had a chance to be a "musher" and be in charge of the dogs. Travelling fast through fresh snow with a clear blue sky was an exhilarating experience - highly recommend.
I also went on a morning trip on a snowmobile out onto the lake, I tried my hand at Pimpla the Swedish word for "fishing". The tour guide cuts a hole in the ice (the ice was very thick at least a meter) and literally with a small stick that had a piece a string and bait tied to the end I tried to catch a fish.... I had no luck! It was freezing cold even with all the additional clothing I was provided but this didn't stop me enjoying the activity.
Traditional dishes in Lulea are mostly local meat (Reindeer and Elk) and fish that have international influences.
I enjoyed a meal cooked on an open fire in the centre of a teepee with low seating around the edge. This meal involved using a murrikka (griddle pan) and I had Suovas (smoked reindeer meat) and Palt (potato dumplings) - delicious. A local speciality drink is pot boiled coffee, A strong black coffee that is served in a wooden cup.
In Lulea there is a wide choice of restaurants offering international cuisine.
Sweden has sustainability at its heart and continually works to reduce negative environmental impact throughout the country. Swedish Lapland has a goal to ensure that there is a balance between increased tourism, whilst preserving the environment, nature and cultural values.
Lulea is not as commercial in the winter as other destinations in Swedish Lapland, so is certainly a hidden gem and I would highly recommend. There is the option to stay in Stockholm for a few days and make a two centre city/winter activity break..
If you would like to know more take a look: https://visitlulea.se/en/tourist-information/