I spent 3 months working as a dogsledding guide just outside of Kiruna. Lapland life is like none other and it truly is a once in a lifetime destination. Here are the 14 best things to do in Kiruna and Swedish lapland to make the most of this amazing place.
How to get to Kiruna
There is an airport in Kiruna that has daily flights from Stockholm with either SAS or Norwegian airlines. As well as this, there is an airport transfer bus to the centre of town for each flight or taxis are available, but I recommend to book in advance.
There is also an overnight train that goes to Kiruna and Narvik from Stockholm. If you have the time, this is a lovely way to see some of the countryside.
When to visit Kiruna
The big decision is summer or winter. In winter (when I visited), you have the magical snow, Northern Lights and true winter wonderland environment. In summer, you have 24 hour sun perfect for hiking or summer activities such as kayaking.
The peak winter season is over Christmas and New Year, around this time activities and accommodation tend to be booked up well in advance. If you are visiting in winter, make sure you keep warm with my advice for what to pack for Lapland.
How to Book activities in Kiruna
Most Hotels have an activity centre which means that you can book all the activities through them and normally the pickups are from the accommodation if required. There is a tourist office in Kiruna which offers maps of this city as well as all of the activities on offer. If you are travelling in peak season I highly recommend you book activities in advance to avoid disappointment.
How to get around Kiruna
Lapland (as you can imagine) is pretty remote, there are not lots of public transport options. There are public busses to take you to the ice hotel and the airport. Most places within Kiruna are accessible on foot. If you have reserved an activity they will often offer a transfer to and from. There is 1 taxi company in Kiruna and make sure to book in advance as there are not many.
14 Best things to do in Kiruna and Swedish Lapland
Below you will find (in no particular order!) the 14 best things to do in Kiruna and Swedish Lapland:
1) Kiruna Church
Kiruna Church is the most beautiful building in Kiruna. It is a fully wooden church built in 1909-1912. Visit inside and out to really appreciate the beauty and history of this building.
2) Learn about Sami Culture
Sami people are the native population in the Lapland region known for nomadic reindeer herding. To learn about the local Sami Culture, there is a cultural museum in Kiruna as well as an outside experience near the Ice-Hotel. Here you can learn about the culture and possibly meet some reindeer.
3) Fika Time
Fika time is the Swedish culture of having a coffee and cake break. Take a rest from all of your exploring and activities to have a coffee by the fire in one of Kiruna’s cafes.
4) Snow Sculptures and Ice Slides
Kiruna snow festival happens every year in January so if you are visiting at the same time it is definitely a must see. Artists from all over the world create sculptures from snow and ice. These sculptures last for months afterwards and are very beautiful. The year I was there, they also created ice slides which were very fun!
15 minutes’ drive outside the city of Kiruna, one of the region’s most popular attraction is the Icehotel. Icehotel has hotel rooms carved out of ice that are an artwork in themselves. You can choose to stay in the Ice Rooms at a balmy -5°C, there is a seasonal winter installation as well as all year round ice rooms called ‘Icehotel 365’.
If sleeping in the cold is not your thing, you can choose to visit the rooms to appreciate the art. As well as this there is an ice bar in which all drinks are served in ice glasses. Not one to miss!
6) Cross Country or Downhill Skiing
In central Kiruna there is a downhill ski slope with 2.5km of slopes. The location is lovely but if you have been skiing in the alps, it might not be up to expectations. If you are new to the slopes this is a great spot to start! There are also many cross-country ski tracks around the town and the outskirts if you would like to have an active day out.
7) Snowmobile trip
If you love some adrenaline and have a bit of a need for speed, snowmobiling is for you. Many companies run trips in which you can drive yourself, this is a really fun way to see more of the Lapland landscapes.
8) Northern Lights
No trip to the arctic circle would be the same without seeing the magnificent northern lights. The best way to find the northern lights is to leave all source of light pollution. Northern lights are hard to predict but if there is a clear sky then you never know, you could be lucky!
Search for some of the local sami products in one of the local shops in Kiruna. You can find reindeer skins (best for outside seating), some traditional Sami Knives or even some really cosy socks or gloves to keep you nice and warm. As well as gifts, you can find outdoor gear shops that just in case the cold is getting to you.
10) Dog Sledding
The highlight of your trip to Kiruna! I am slightlyyyy impartial as a spent 3 months working as a dog sled guide but many of my guests told me that dog sledding was the highlight of their trip. I worked at Husky Tours Lapland. You should definitely choose them as they are the only company in the region that uses private trails so you have the true wilderness experience. As well as this, because I have worked there I know for certain their dogs are treated really well. You can choose to drive your own sled or have guides drive your sled so you can relax and enjoy the view.
11) Visit the Kiruna Mine
Kiruna is home to the largest Iron Ore mine in the world. LKAB (the mining company that owns the mine) offers guided tour around the mine displaying the techniques used by the mine to extract the Iron. The depth and size of the mine is also why the centre of Kiruna is being moved by 2 miles! The whole city is on the move is one of the most interesting facts about Kiruna.
12) (Ice) Fishing
Surrounded by lakes and rivers, fishing is a great way to get your dinner in Lapland. In the winter, you can drill down into the ice and try your luck with the water below. The true ice fishing way is to lay on a reindeer skin as you watch your catch below.
13) Animal ‘Safaris’
It’s not the Serengeti, but you can go on animal watching safaris. Home to moose, reindeer and a wide range of birds, escape into the forest to see if you spot some animals. If you choose to hire a car in the area, make sure to keep an eye out for animals as they don’t always seem to care that they’re on a road.
14) Arctic Circle Train Trip
There are 2 daily trains to Narvik, the journey is approximately 3 hours. This is a really scenic route that you can do to see more of the countryside in a leisurely way.
Next stop, the Arctic Circle!
Now you know the 14 best things to do in Kiruna and Swedish Lapland, you are good to go. Enjoy this truly incredible part of the world!