My partner’s paternal grandfather was Swedish so we planned to go to Sweden to visit some of his second cousins. We both love hiking and while he was researching our trip he came across the Kungsleden (or King’s Trail). This is a 270 miles (440 km) hiking trail in Swedish Lappland, between Abisko in the north and Hemavan in the south. Billed as one of the world’s best hikes, it passes through one of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas.
We decided to walk the top section between Abisko and Nikkaluokta, which covers a distance of 64.5 miles (104 km). This is the most alpine but also the most walked section. Despite this, there didn’t seem to be much information about it on the internet when it came to planning our trip. Luckily, we found an itinerary for an organised tour and adapted it to suit our time frame (see below).
Day 1 Abisko Mountain Station to Abiskojaure hut (9 miles)
Day 2 Abiskojaure to Alesjaure hut (12 miles)
Day 3 Alesjaure to Salka hut (missing out Tjäkja hut – 15 miles)
Day 4 Salka to Singi hut (8 miles)
Day 5 Singi to Kebnakaise Mountain Station (8.5 miles)
Day 6 Kebnakaise to Nikkaluokta village (12 miles).
Getting there and away
The first day also included flying from Stockholm to Kiruna and then catching a bus to Abisko. We flew from Stockholm to Kiruna with Scandinavian Airlines. The plane left at 11.20am and arrived at 12.40pm. Kiruna has a tiny airport and I’ve never seen so many backpacks come off a plane! From there we caught the number 91 bus, which left the airport at 2pm and arrived in Abisko at 3.30pm. This meant we didn’t start walking until around 4pm, but it wasn’t a problem as in the summer there is plenty of daylight and the first section of the walk is fairly flat and easy walking.
On the way back, buses for Kiruna left Nikkaluokta at noon and 4.20pm. As our flight to Stockholm left at 11.55am on day 7 we had to arrive at Nikkaluokta in time for the later bus on day 6.
Mountain huts are located between 10 and 20 km apart along the trail. The huts are fairly basic with no electricity or running water. They consist of dormitories with bedding provided and a kitchen area with gas stoves, crockery, cutlery and pans. There are no showers (although some have saunas) and the toilets are drop toilets located some distance from the huts. Visitors are expected to do chores, such as fetch water from a stream or chop wood for the fire, and everyone has to clear up after themselves. No one is turned away from the huts so they can get quite crowded at times, especially in bad weather.
All but Tjäka and Singi huts on the above stretch sold food supplies. We took some food but bought breakfasts as we went, and some items to supplement our dinners. Some huts also sell beer so we had a well-earned drink on a few nights. As a guide to prices, cereal for two cost 40SEK and dried milk was 20SEK. The price of beer seemed to vary widely, at one hostel we paid 50SEK a can and at another we got two cans for 40SEK!
Staying in the huts is not cheap, the larger ones, with saunas and shops, cost 495SEK (£38) each – about the same amount as staying in a decent B&B in the UK! With a YHA card it is 100SEK cheaper so the savings over six days are quite substantial. We didn’t have YHA memberships but realised on the second day that it made sense, so we joined STF (Svenska Turistföreningen – the Swedish equivalent) at Alesjaure hut. This cost 450SEK (£35) for a couple’s membership.
Mountain stations are like small villages with full facilities and are also expensive. To stay in a 22 bed dormitory at Kebnakaise Mountain Station cost us 460SEK (£36) each with the discount. We also treated ourselves to dinner and dinner, which for two people cost 790SEK (£68) and 196SEK (£17) respectively. Both meals were buffet style, but I wouldn’t recommend booking in for dinner unless you love fish, as the meal consisted mainly of fish (rollmops, salmon, smoked salmon, mackerel).
When to hike
The Kungsleden has a short season – from the end of June to mid-September. We went in mid-August and I wouldn’t have liked to have gone much later as the weather could turn nasty. In fact, even in mid-August, people in tents were flocking to the huts for a reprieve from the cold outside.
What to take
Below is a list of what I took on the Kungsleden hike as a guide:
Hiking trousers (with zip off bottoms)
Long sleeved thermal top and leggings
Long sleeved shirt
2 x T-shirts
Waterproof rain jacket
3 x pairs of hiking socks
3 x pairs of pants
Beanie and gloves
Sleeping bag inner
Kettle and stove
Compass and whistle
Water bottle and bladder
Toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, chap stick, moisturiser, sun block, insect repellent, wet wipes, fixomull tape)
First aid kit
Smart phone, charger and adaptor
Book to read
Back pack to put it all in!
I hope that this post is helpful for those who are inspired by the idea of a hike in Swedish Lappland. In a later post I’ll write about my experience on the trail.