The Arctic Explorer – A Train Journey Through Sweden’s Far North

The Arctic Explorer A Train Journey through Swedens Far North

Discover the polar wilderness on one of Sweden’s greatest train journeys. This adventure by sleeper train, the Arctic Circle Train, takes you along the Iron Ore Line through wild Lapland.

You will pass the stunning village of Abisko, where you can stay in the Treehotel or Ice Hotel – amazing architectural creations nestled into the forest.

Fjords & Mountains

The Scandinavian nation of Sweden may not have a Mount Everest or Niagara Falls, but it has countless other natural wonders that can help you make memories that last a lifetime. From mountains and fjords to waterfalls and endless forests, the country is packed with unique natural experiences that await you. Whether you’re skiing under the Midnight Sun or hiking with your family, these natural wonders can become your personal Scandinavian experience.

Unlike its neighbor, Norway, Sweden has very few fjords, U-shaped inlets of water carved by glaciers and that shape much of the country’s western coastline. But the country does have one remarkable fjord, a hidden gem that lies south of Gothenburg and called Askims Fjord. The fjord offers a nature experience like no other, with steep cliffs on both sides of the fjord, crystalline lakes and meadows. It also features a sea full of marine life, including lumberfish and saddle dolphins.

If you want to know more about the fjord, check out this book by historian Sheila Nickerson. In it, she tells the story of Hannah Tyson, better known as Tookoolito, an Inuit woman who became the guiding light for several Arctic expeditions led by men. Nickerson is a biographer who sought to bring the attention of scholars to the life of this fascinating woman.

As you might expect from a story of an Arctic adventurer, this book is filled with drama and suspense. Roberts draws heavily from the diaries and published writings of those who took part in the expedition. He is a masterful writer, and his lyrical work helps readers feel as though they were there.

If you’re looking for a more contemporary account of an Arctic adventure, then this is the book to read. It recounts the ill-fated British Arctic Air Route Expedition of 1930 that was lead by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. This harrowing expedition ended in catastrophe after Shackleton’s ship was trapped in ice for 14 months. The dramatic story of the expedition is told with Shackleton’s trademark sense of understatement and a brilliant narrative by Roberts.

Reindeer Country

Most polar explorers spent years in training before embarking on their own expeditions. Not John Rae Kane, who at the age of 25 became one of the most famous American explorers of all time by leading his own perilous search for Sir John Franklin in the Arctic Circle and beyond. Having traveled widely in his youth, Kane had a taste for adventure and a fascination with Arctic geology. He chartered a vessel, scraped together the money, and gathered a crew for a summer jaunt to Edgeoya, an Arctic archipelago. It was a journey that nearly ended in ruin and starvation, but one that Kane recalled with stereotypical British understatement (“very disappointing”).

Reindeer need large undisturbed areas to graze throughout the year. For this reason, the state’s agricultural policy focuses on protecting Sami pastures by limiting construction activity and allowing farmers to apply for state support in the event of a crisis. In recent years, the development of wind power, industrial scale logging and mining has challenged the Sami’s right to graze their herds. These intrusions into the Sami’s traditional territory have become a major concern among the Sami Parliament and scientists alike.

For the Sami, whose traditional way of life has for generations been based on herding reindeer, a good harvest is critical. However, there are no guarantees in a land that is as harsh and unpredictable as the Far North. Therefore, the Sami Parliament has been tasked with ensuring that the population is healthy and sustainable.

The main tool for this is a grazing law (främmande rengrdsbelag) that was introduced in 1967. This stipulates that the number of reindeer allowed to graze in Sweden is controlled by the county administrative boards. The maximum number of herds for each Sami village is determined in this context. It is also decided whether or not the village can be granted a disaster subsidy from the Sami Parliament, which covers the costs of artificial feed in years where grazing conditions have been affected.

The law also stipulates that only those with a direct link to a Sami reindeer herding family can own reindeer. This is in contrast to Norway, where reindeer herding is a legally protected livelihood with the same rights as farming or fishing.

Sami Villages

The Sami – the indigenous people of the Arctic Cap of North – have a long history that is unique and rich in tradition, religion and knowledge. Though best known for reindeer herding and their skills with a lasso, they are also strong fishermen and hunters. They live a semi-nomadic life that moves with the seasons, depending on what nature has to offer. As a result, sustainability and the care of natural resources are at the heart of their culture.

Despite having lived in this region for thousands of years, the Sami have only recently gained some level of political autonomy, thanks to a law passed in 2021 that affirms their right to greater self-determination. They can now choose to be represented by a Sami parliament (Samitinget), which serves directly under the Swedish Ministry of Cultural Affairs. The parliament is comprised of 31 members, elected every four years and open to anyone who speaks Sami and identifies as part of the Sami community.

In addition to the national government, there are regional and local Sami institutions. One example is the Sami University College, which serves the needs of students who are both Sami and non-Sami. The school specializes in Sami language, culture and society while offering degrees in the same subjects offered at other universities.

There are 51 samebyar, or Sami villages, in Sweden. A sameby is not a traditional village, but rather an economic and administrative association that organizes reindeer husbandry within a geographical area for the benefit of its members. Each sameby member has common law rights to the land they occupy, allowing them to engage in hunting and fishing as well as herding.

Many of the samebyar are home to joik – the Sami folk music that is sung in the northern dialects of Sami. Joik is about animals, nature and people; it’s one of the oldest musical traditions in Europe, and younger artists are combining it with modern music styles like rock and rap. There are even a few joik singers who have made it into the international arena.

Ice Hotel

Located just inside the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden is a hotel constructed from blocks of ice and snow each Winter. This unique hotel reincarnates itself every year with guests spending the night in either modern and comfortable ‘warm’ rooms or in the more traditional ‘ice’ suites. Once the season ends, the hotel melts back into the Torne River that gave it life in the first place.

The hotel sells out months in advance, so booking well in advance is recommended. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well worth the money.

While the train cabins are not new, they are clean and cozy. Each compartment has a sink, power sockets and wifi but only around two square metres of space (including the seat/bunk). They are comfortable for a short train ride but not ideal for an extended trip. If you want to splurge, upgrade to the premium plus cabins that have more room for a couple or family and a private toilet and shower.

As you travel through the Norwegian fjords on this Arctic Explorer train journey, you’ll see towering mountains and dramatic waterfalls unfold before your eyes. You’ll also pass UNESCO-listed Bryggen Wharf in Bergen, and spend time in the enchanting city of Trondheim and icy Narvik. This is a fantastic itinerary that places incredible emphasis on the country’s rich culture and world-famous natural landscape.

Guests will embark on a trip along Norway’s Rauma Railway from Andalsnes to Dombas, and also hop aboard the Ofotbanen Arctic Train to journey above the Arctic Circle for awe-inspiring vistas of mountainous peaks and glistening waterfalls. From here, passengers will continue north towards Trondheim and Bodo, with not a single aspect of the Norwegian culture, heritage and spectacular natural landscape being missed throughout this epic expedition.

Taking on the awe-inspiring landscape of Norway’s Far North is not for the faint hearted, and this is one of the most incredible train trips in the world to embark upon. From meeting indigenous reindeer herders to staying in a hotel made entirely of ice, you’ll get a real feel for what makes this unique part of the world so special.

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