advertisement

Abisko National Park (tel. 0980/402-00), established in 1903, is situated around the Abiskojokk River, which flows into Lake Torneträsk. The name Abisko is a Lapp word meaning "ocean forest": There is a typical alpine valley here with a rich variety of flora and fauna, but the park's proximity to the Atlantic gives it a maritime character, with milder winters and cooler summers than the more continentally influenced areas east of the Scandes or Caledonian mountains. The highest mountain in the park is Slåttatjåkka, 1,170m (3,839 ft.) above sea level. Slightly shorter Njulla, which rises 1,140m (3,740 ft.), has a cable car.

Abisko is more easily accessible than Vadvetjåkka National Park, the other, smaller park in the area. Three sides of Vadvetjåkka Park are bounded by water that is difficult to wade through, and the fourth side is rough terrain with treacherously slippery bogs and steep precipices fraught with rock slides. Established in 1920, it lies northwest of Lake Torneträsk, with its northern limits at the Norwegian border. It's composed of mountain precipices and large tracts of bog and delta. It also has rich flora, along with impressive brook ravines. Its highest mountain is Vadvetjåkka, with a southern peak at 1,095m (3,593 ft.) above sea level.

Abisko is one of the best centers for watching the midnight sun, which can be seen from June 13 to July 4. It's also the start of the longest marked trail in the world, the Kungsleden (Royal Trail), which may just prove to be the hike of a lifetime. This approximately 338km (210-mile) track runs through Abisko National Park to Riksgränsen on the Norwegian frontier, cutting through Sweden's highest mountain (Kebnekaise) on the way. If you're properly fortified and have adequate camping equipment, including a sleeping bag and food, you can walk these trails. They tend to be well maintained and clearly marked; all the streams en route are traversed by bridges; and in places where the ground is marshy, it has been overlaid with wooden planks. Cabins and rest stops (local guides refer to them as "fell stations") are spaced a day's hike (13-21km/8-13 miles) apart, so you'll have adequate areas to rest between bouts of trekking and hill climbing. Just be warned that these huts provide barely adequate shelter from the wind, rain, snow, and hail in case the weather turns turbulent, as it so often does in this part of the world. At most of the stops, you cook your own food and clean up before leaving. Most lack running water, although there are some summer-only toilets. At certain points, the trail crosses lakes and rivers; boats are provided to help you get across. The trail actually follows the old nomadic paths of the Lapps. Those with less time or energy will find the trail easily broken up into several smaller segments.

During the summer, the trail is not as isolated as you may think. It is, in fact, the busiest hiking trail in Sweden, and adventurers from all over the world traverse it. The trail is most crowded in July, when the weather is most reliable. Locals even operate boat services on some of the lakes you'll pass. Often they'll rent you a rowboat or canoe from a makeshift kiosk that's dismantled and hauled away after the first frost.

For maps and more information about this adventure, contact the local tourist office or the Svenska Turistförening, the Swedish Touring Club, P.O. Box 25, S101 20 Stockholm (tel. 08/463-21-00).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.