I recently have had the experience to visit the stunning nature of Västerbotten in the Lapland of Sweden. Thanks to the relative proximity to the Arctic Circle, June offers 20 hours of daylight. As a photographer, I think this is perfect place to capture the brightness of the midnight sun and watch the perfect magic light shining over the many scenic landscapes Västerbotten has to offer. Did I mention Fika yet? Let me take you on a journey through this beautiful part of Sweden.
It only takes 2 and a half hours to fly from Amsterdam to Skellefteå. Small Planet airlines provide a comfortable flight which is operated by GoTONordics. We had clear skies all the way, to arrive in skies with hailstorms. What a stunning sight from above! On arrival, you can straight away feel the fresh air filling your lungs. I also noticed being really tired the first day, probably due to the amount of oxygen in the air.
A thing you must definitely check out first, is what the weather will be like. Even though it is now almost summer, it can be quite harsh and rapidly changing, with possible temperatures between +5C – +20C at this time of year. Therefore, you need to make sure you wear the proper clothing. Haglöfs -a Swedish make- knows exactly what you need. They provide the coolest outdoor clothing, from some of the most sustainable materials around the world. It is important to wear many layers, such as warm sweater or fleece, and wind/water proof jacket, since you can take them on and off whenever the weather changes. A pair of sturdy, comfortable, waterproof shoes for walking would be advisable as well. And don’t forget your sunglasses and your watch, since you will completely loose track of time due to the bright light. :)
The landscape in this part of Sweden obviously is filled with trees and feels a bit like Canada. While travelling long distances, you might just end up with seeing a reindeer or moose between the trees or even on the road. The reindeers are quite tame and will not run off straight away. A moose in contrast will, since it is much more afraid.
We spend our first day together with Mikael Vinka, who is an experienced Sámi guide and storyteller. He spends most of his time in the outdoors and has incomparable knowledge about the natural landscape and Sámi culture. He has been walking along the paths of Sámi history, collecting stories, lore and knowledge. While listening to the stories and hiking on the beautiful peninsula of Bjuroklubb, this is quite a unique experience which brings you even closer to nature. Find out more about the Sámi culture here.
Another unique place is the tiny island of Pite-Rönnskär, just north of Renholmen outside Byske. Leaving with a small motorised boat from Kinnbäck, it only takes around twenty minutes to the island. Historically, it is a great fishing location, pilot station and lighthouse station. Today, it is still an idyllic scenery with the horizon as neighbour. A perfect place to relax and watch the time go by. The island’s skyline is dominated by the lighthouse surrounded by small red cottages, which used to be the homes of the fishermen. Today they are mostly used as summer cottages. It is worth to climb up in the lighthouse, since it provides a great scenic view over the island.
While you are here, it is nice to visit the little fishermen’s chapel. Built in 1771, it used to be a meeting-place for the harbour team. No fisherman was allowed to leave for the herring banks until the chapel bell had sounded. The bell was also used to guide the fishing teams in darkness and fog.
capturing the Midnight sun
When the day ends here, the sun slowly sets to disappear for only three hours. Therefore it doesn't get completely dark, which for me as photographer, is a great opportunity to chase the perfect light all day long! When in Skellefteå, you should definitely go up to Vitberget to enjoy and capture the stunning views, or relax at the campfire near at a lake nearby to hopefully enjoy a beautiful sunset!
If you like nature, Sweden is the right place to be for you. With many outdoor activities, even during summer there is enough to experience. Cycling, hiking, rafting, to actually experience the wilderness! In Svansele, we visited The Wilderness Exhibition, which was really unique and educational. It is where they show Sweden’s five largest predators, also know as the Big Five: Lynx, Wolf, Bear, Wolverine and our two big eagle species, the Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle. I would also recommend to take their bicycle tour through the silent nature. There is so much beauty here to see!
Next to their many outdoor activities in this beautiful area, they also offer great wilderness camps where you can spend the night in the middle of the pine tree forests. The food is prepared over open fire and consists mainly off of locally produced meat and vegetables, ranging from Swedish meatballs to reindeer, and moose, served on wooden plates with wooden cutlery. They strive to give an experience as close to nature as possible, which is so nice!
Silence is golden...
Another great thing Sweden has to offer is the many Spa and health traditions. They have been around for some 300 years. As most people are nature lovers, you can understand why they are located in beautiful seclusion in the Swedish countryside and forests. This Hotel is build on a mountain in the shape of an eagle, with a marvellous view over the forests of Västerbotten.
To even relax more after a nice spa treatment, retreat to one of the many lakes nearby to witness some incredible midnight sunsets. Here you can find true silence… apart from the continuous shutter sound of my camera that is. I feel another Silence series coming up...:)
Being one with nature
The one thing I like is how all the people are so close to nature here. Something we are not aware of most of the time. Using the elements earth has given us in such a positive way, I think many people could learn from that. This wild river is called the Vindel and is perfect for filling your bottle with water. It was also used for transporting timber and it is great for rafting, fishing and even swimming. Most of all, it is a fantastic hideaway to just watch the forces of nature as the melting icewater from the mountain rages downhill in a tremendous speed.
Sleeping in style
If you like tree houses, you should definitely visit the Granö Lodges. This local company is inspired by the area’s heritage and a local bird watchers devotion to birdlife. Situated at the banks of the river Umeälven, you’ll have spectaculair views from the tree houses in where you sleep and feel like a bird! With many activities such as Sami tours, timber rafting, biking, moose safari’s, herbal walks and bread baking, I don’t think you will ever get bored here, as I love sleeping in style!
We drove towards our last stop; the lovely city of Umea, where I watched my last sunset from the hotelroom before returning home in the morning. It is a shame this adventure has come to an end. It was such an amazing experience to be so close to nature and to experience and benefit the long midnight sun with it’s fantastic light. One thing is for sure, the friendly people here are living the good life. It made me realise that all the essentials we need are just around you to be found in nature. Something we could truly learn from.