In our quest to see the most far-out, diverse regions of Europe, we decided to drive our rolling home north of the Arctic Circle in pursuit of “THE KING OF ALL TRAILS,” Sweden’s KUNGSLEDEN = Scandinavia’s longest, most famous through hike, running for a total of 270 miles!
Divided into various, more manageable sections, we decided to do the most prominent leg of the Kungsleden from Absiko to Nikkaluokta (70 miles). But we didn’t just want to hike it… we wanted to experience it and all of its Lapland glory in THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE, by the light of the midnight sun (see the path of endless sun below):
With the days of the midnight sun quickly coming to an end, we made our way to Denmark and crossed on the ferry into Sweden. The moment we made it North of the Arctic Circle, or “PolCirkeln,” until the moment we crossed back out (4 weeks later), we knew only nights void of darkness, saw no stars and woke up to pee by the light of the forever setting and rising sun.
Today we will cross the Arctic Circle in pursuit of the sunniest place in Sweden, Abisko National Park! 🌞 ••• Planning to hike and relax here for a couple of days before crossing the Norwegian border to our Nothern-most destination, the wildly dramatic Lofoten Islands ✨ We can't wait to share all the magic of these far away lands with you! ••• PS- The sunsets at 11pm and rises at 2:30am up here!! #midnightsun here we come
SIDE NOTE: We actually found the first days after the midnight sun ended to be the most magnificent. The sky still doesn’t get dark because the sun dips below the horizon for just a moment’s time and rises shortly after, allowing you to see the full spectrum of colors. It was the weirdest, most phenomenal experience. Hours upon hours of sunset and sunrise, shades of pink, orange, purple, blue and gold painting the sky for literal DAYS.
Back to the hike. We weren’t sure how the weather was going to cooperate with our Kungsleden plans, but as we arrived to Abisko, the Northernmost trailhead, the weather decided to be AMAZING.
From sun up till… no sun down, it was SUN all day, everyday, all night, every night – BUT ONLY FOR THE NEXT 4 DAYS. So, in order to make the most of it, we decided to hike the famous 70-mile stretch IN JUST 4 DAYS!
With very little time to prepare, we somehow managed to stuff everything we needed into our packs in time to hit the trail first thing the next morning, sort of exactly like how we prepped for our 6-day Tour du Mont Blanc hike! There’s nearly nothing we won’t do for a solid adventure, especially one that’s named by NatGeo as one of the top 15 best hikes in the world!! Without further hesitation, THIS IS WHAT WE LEARNED + HOW WE HIKED THE KUNGSLEDEN IN 4 DAYS:
OOH! And you can experience the journey by watching our documentary below!:
PARKING + PREP + SHOWERS!: We parked our van at the Abisko Turist Station, located right next to the train station + trailhead, for the duration of the hike (FREE PARKING + electric hook ups!). Inside there was a supply shop (open till 8pm) where we bought our absolutely essential trail map + easy to cook and carry hiking food + made note of the laundry room + sauna/shower facilities that we could use upon our return! Always an exciting discovery.
FOOD: Above you can see all of the food we carried at the start of our hike. We decided to carry half the lunch and dinner food we would need + oatmeal for each morning + ClifBars for each day (Abisko was the only shop that sold them) + tea for the entire trip (2 per person per day – so nice to have at night) + apples and a cucumber (we found NO fresh produce at any hut) + we restocked dehydrated meals and lunch supplies at the various mountain huts as needed.
NOTE: We found dehydrated meals (even gluten free ones) at nearly every mountain hut and they were actually delicious and perfectly filling (Drew would add crackers to his meals). Also, food was extremely expensive, one dehydrated meal = $11, one ClifBar = $4, and a tiny cup of self-serve coffee at the mountain huts (in a styrofoam cup with powdered milk) was $5. We ate very simply on the trail (Drew had ramen + crackers for lunch and I would have canned beans + nuts), but we were always well fueled and quite satisfied.
GEAR: My pack ended up weighing 30lbs and Drew’s weighed 35lbs. Check out this helpful link for a full packing list, and if you hike during the summer be sure to bring eye covers (for the midnight sun) + mosquito repellant!!! + down jacket. This is what 11pm looked like in our tent because of midnight sun magic:
This is what 3am looked like (no need for headlamps here):
And this is what trying to cook outside our tent (at about 8:30pm) looked like every night… WE were the buffet! (PS- I tried using all natural skeeter repellant but they seemed to lick it off my skin before eating me alive. 100% deet was the only hope… and it still only seemed to mildly deter the beasts.)
Drew was brave enough to boil our water outside and once it was ready, he would scurry inside the tent and we would wait for our dehydrated meals to come to life as the skeeters stared with their glutinous eyes, waiting for the moment one of us had to emerge!
I had to resort to tent yoga:WATER: You can drink the water straight from the glacial lakes! Some people carried no water, they simple drank from the cup they carabinered onto their packs every time they passed a water source. We had our CamelBaks + an easily accessible pot, which worked great for us:
The glacial lakes were also where we bathed each night! They were as freezing as they were stunning:
THE TERRAIN: Overall this hike was easy. Had we not been trying to hike nearly 20 miles per day it would have been absolutely luxuriously CHILL.
Extremely well marked and well maintained, the Kungsleden is a smooth dirt trail lined with plank walkways covering any swampy or rocky ground + steel bridges over waterfalls + a few sections where we needed to take off our boots and cross some pretty freezing rivers!:
The section from Abisko to Nikkaluokta follows a series of long valleys and as we headed south, the trail slowly gained elevation until we reached the Tjäktja pass, after which it slowly descended down to Singi, followed by another small climb to Kebnekaise Fjällstation. The final leg to Nikkaluokta was completely flat.
OUR ITINERARY: As we said, we averaged nearly 20 miles per day over the course of 4 days, which made it quite the hike! 6 days would have been IDEAL for enjoyment’s sake. We wild camped all 4 nights which allowed us to hike for as long as our legs could carry us + we always had all the daylight we needed (and more) + the terrain was extremely flat, which helped us keep up the pace.
DAY 1 (9:15am – 7pm) Abisko to Radunjarga – 16 miles total. Flat, LOTS of mosquitos, amazing camping spot next to lake:
DAY 2 (9:15am – 8pm) Radunjarga to Tjaktjapasset – 16 miles total. Slept on top of the highest point of the entire 270 mile Kungsleden trail and it was EPIC.
DAY 3 (9:30am – 8:30pm) Tjaktjapasset to somewhere beyond Salka – 18 miles total. This day was endlessly EXHAUSTING. We even took a shortcut that the lady at the Salka hut told us to take, it wasn’t marked on the trail map, but it prevented us from having to go down to Singi = less elevation gain up to Kebnekaise for the next day.
DAY 4 (9:40am – 7:30pm) somewhere beyond Salka to Nikkaluokta – 18 miles total. A lot more ups and downs than we anticipated + a nice long break at the Kebnekaise mountain hut where they had amazing food and legit hot coffee. We slept under the trees next to the river just before the Nikkaluokta hut.
DAY 5 = THE END: Our bodies were sore but our spirits were soaring, it was Drew’s 30th Birthday! It was also raining and we had just a few more steps before arriving to the Nikkaloukta mountain hut, marking the end of our endlessly sunny Kungsleden adventure! We did it, we really did it.
THE RETURN JOURNEY: From the Nikkaluokta hut, we caught the 11:30am bus from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna (be there early!!), and then rode the free 1pm shuttle to the train station in time to catch our 1:30 train ride (cheaper than the bus) from Kiruna back to Abisko (be sure to ask for the train and bus schedule when at the Abisko and/or Nikkaluokta huts). The train stopped in the same lot where we parked our van, talk about a welcomed convenience! After that it was sauna, showers and Swedish meatballs for dinner!
Important Things To Know:
You can stay in the mountain huts (scroll to the bottom of this post for helpful links + pricing) but we chose to wild camp for the sake of freedom and sweet, sweet solitude. Plus the ONLY hut where they serve any meals is Kebnekaise, so we would have to carry all our own food anyway.
Sweden is EXPENSIVE because everything that is brought into the small towns and villages has to travel a long way. Buy whatever hiking gear (mini propane tanks especially) + meals before you arrive.
Again, MOSQUITOES. They are hungry and they are everywhere. Some people even had mosquito net hats and we wished we did too.
Even if it’s sunny, you need to bring a down jacket + rain gear + long johns. We experienced nearly every temperature while on the trail and we had beautiful weather.
The people at the mountain huts spoke enough English to get by, and we saw very few people on the trail which was lovely.
If you have any additional questions about how to enjoy this incredible hike (or if you’ve done it too!), please leave us a comment below! It’s definitely one for the bucket list.