Visiting Sweden in Winter
Published on: October 12th, 2017
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Sweden in winter is a magical place - think forests carpeted in snow and icy lakes that twinkle in the sun.
Swedish Lapland is the very definition of a winter wonderland. Pine trees droop under the weight of snow and the sky glows soft yellow and pink in the early morning. The air is still and quiet, save for the crunch from your boots as you walk across the ground.
Temperatures can drop as low as -40°C in winter but people are prepared for these kinds of conditions. Whatever activity you choose, you'll be kitted out in the right gear and when it comes to cosy lodges, Sweden excels.
Another key reason for visiting Sweden in winter is of course the Northern Lights. Although not guaranteed, the swirl of colours dancing across the sky if you do catch them, is unforgettable.
Lakes and rivers might be covered in a thick layer of ice during winter, but that doesn't mean people pack away their rods. Ice fishing is a popular pastime, especially in the far north and it is a fun activity for both keen anglers and beginners alike. A hole is drilled into the ice, then you make yourself comfortable as you wait for passing fish to nibble at your bait. Common fish caught in winter include perch, pike, trout and Arctic Char.
Hop aboard a sled and enjoy racing across the icy plains, pulled by a small team of huskies. With the dogs able to cover between 15 and 40km a day, this is a great way to explore the landscape. You can either choose to drive the sled yourself, or just relax in the passenger seat under a warm blanket. Keep your eyes peeled for reindeer and Arctic hares along the way, but even if you don't see anything, the dogs themselves are a joy to be around.
Snowmobiling is great for those looking for an adrenaline rush. Ride across frozen lakes and through forests on vehicles that are easy to control - this is a great activity for families.
A thick layer of snow won't stand between you and Sweden's great hiking trails. Strap on special shoes that are designed to distribute your weight over a larger surface area so you don't sink into the snow. As with all outdoor activities in Sweden, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way.
The Northern Lights
A chance to see the Northern Lights and their magical display is one of the main reasons people visit Sweden in the winter. The phenomenon occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere. The results is a show of colours, from neon green to deep purple, that dance across the sky.
Seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed but visiting the far north in winter – from November to March – is your best bet. You’ll need crisp, clear nights and to be far away from city lights. One of the best places to view them is at the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park. There is a ‘blue hole’ here – a patch of sky over a lake – that usually remains clear even if it is overcast elsewhere.
The land of the Sami people is known as Sápmi and it stretches across Arctic Sweden, Norway and Finland and out across Russia’s Kola Peninsula. The Sami culture is one of the world’s oldest and it is thought there are up to 40,000 Sami people living in Sweden today, the majority of which live in the north.
The Sami were originally nomadic, and would move their reindeer herds to new grazing land by foot. Reindeer husbandry is still an important part of Sami culture and if you visit a Sami family, you’re sure to come across these friendly four-legged creatures.
While the hotels and lodges in Sweden offer a great night’s sleep all year round, there are some that really come into their own in winter. The Icehotel uses water from the River Torne to create their building blocks and each year a team of skilled artists and builders set about creating it from scratch. Although the addition of Icehotel 365 means you can stay in the hotel all year round, there is something so magical about staying in winter when it is cold and crisp outside.
When you’re staying up in the Treehotel, it’s all about the views. One of the joys of staying here is looking out the window first thing in the morning and being greeted by a pristine snowy landscape. You’re nestled in the forest and there’s nothing cosier than being so close to nature but tucked up inside.
If you’re looking for an exclusive winter escape, then Fjellborg Arctic Lodge, laying 200km north of the Arctic Circle, is perfect. You’ll have exclusive use of the lodge, and there are a range of privately guided tours and excursions to keep you busy while you’re there. The joy of staying somewhere like this is the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere and getting to experience your own little piece of Arctic heaven.
This Swedish timber cabin is the epitome of the perfect romantic getaway. Nestled in the heart of a boreal forest, you’ll enjoy exclusive use of the cabin which has an outdoor Jacuzzi and a wonderfully cosy fireplace in the centre of the bedroom. The silence and beautiful scenery make this a truly special place to stay.