2014 was the year I first heard of the Kungsleden, or the King’s Trail. Oh my… I was immediately hooked when I read about it on National Geographic’s website. The single picture they used with the article, that unfortunately I can’t find today, was full of browns, vivid reds and yellows, with a very low and dark sky. The effect was dramatic! Add to that the fact that the path is cutting through one of Europe’s most remote region, and you have the perfect package for apprentice adventurers!
Along with two friends, we decided to reach the starting point, Abisko Turiststation, by train directly from Stockholm Arlanda Airport. This is very well organised as you just have to go one level below the airport to catch the Arctic Train! Some 20 hours later, you are in Abisko, ready to start this epic journey.
We hiked from Abisko to Kiruna in 8 days, following the recommended main path and stopping at every mountain hut. We took a day to rest in Kebnekaise Fjällstation before hiking Sweden’s highest mountain, mount Kebnekaise (2100m). Even if you’re going in summer time, take warm clothes with you, as we found the Arctic Circle rather cold for us Mediterraneans, on average 7°C during the day and 4°C at night. The path is lightly used so you can walk a few hours without meeting anyone. And this is during the touristic season.
The best thing for me was the absolute luxury of having a real, wood burning sauna at almost every mountain hut. Can you imagine that? In the middle of nowhere, the satisfaction you get from using that kind of equipment the Nordic way, that is repetitively immerse yourself in a near-freezing water before going back to the sauna, is absolutely fantastic. It really helps to cope with sore muscle and makes you feel regenerated. We camped but from we have seen, the comfort of the mountain huts is really above average. There is space in the common areas, they are well equipped, cleaned, and full of big windows. Considering the remoteness of their location, as well as the arctic weather which surely makes them hard to maintain, this is incredible.
Another great aspect is the fact that there is so little activity up there that you can drink water directly from the stream. It means no treating pills and less water bottles to carry.
I do recommend this trek. Like, a lot! Reach out if you want more info and check the article about Stockholm!
What did I used to get prepared? Well, if you are a fan of printed guides, your choice will be simple. There are only two english books, Kungsleden, The Royal Trek Through Arctic Sweden by Claes Grundsten, released in 2009, and Plan & Go – Kungsleden by Danielle and Wayne Fenton, released in 2017. Of course you can also Google it, as there are several blogs or forums where people share this exciting adventure. A particularly useful website is Swedish Tourist Association.