We hoard our supplies of food and walk somewhat nervously towards the bus that will take us away from civilization. With our brand new hiking outfits, we take a seat in one of the front rows of the bus. While the engine is roaring, it takes another fifteen minutes before the last passengers have installed themselves in their seats. Plenty of time for us to change our minds, but we’ll stay put. This is what we came all the way up north for: the Koningspad in Sweden!
Admittedly, our preparation for a week-long hike didn’t go much further than buying some tough outdoor gear. Our plan was mainly a good excuse to buy a pair of sturdy hiking boots and treat ourselves to such a beautiful Scandinavian hiking outfit. We have not trained. Unless you count that one summer day where we fell tired on the couch after walking 13 kilometers and ordered sushi.
King’s Toad of Sweden
Our goal is to hike part of the Koningspad in Sweden. Also known as Kungsleden, this trail is well known among many hikers and was established at the end of the 19th century to show people the beauty of the Lapland landscape. The starting point starts in the north at the old Sami village of Abisko and runs south to the village of Hemavan. In all, the entire Kungsleden route is about 425 kilometers. Much too ambitious for us, fortunately we realized that right away, but the Kungsleden can also be walked in parts. We choose the most popular route and plan a 105 kilometer hike from Nikkaluokta to Abisko. Google explains to us that this route can be done in a week’s time.
That Koningspad in Sweden sounds like something to us. A bit of camping in a tent, getting water from the river, digging a hole in the ground for the big message and actively walking. Images a la Expedition Robinson flashed past in my head. I secretly thought the idea of survival in nature was cool. Months go by and apart from some stuff there is no preparation involved. A week of walking should not be a problem for these young enterprising travelers. And so we gathered our Fjällräven trousers, filled our backpacks with brand new camping gear and set off in our dark blue ’98 Volvo S90 towards Lapland. It hardly gets more Swedish!
What a letdown!
When we are dropped by the bus at the starting point in Nikkaluokta, we no longer see the Kungsleden because of the Fjällräven traditional costume. I look around in surprise at the crowd, but most of them are ready to board the bus that just dropped us off. They went the other way around. I secretly try to read from their faces whether the hike went well. They chat a bit, laugh with each other and drink the last cans of beer they brought with them. So that’s fine. Further on I spot a narrow path between the bushes, a few from our bus also walk in that direction. There it will be. We put on our backpacks and check before the telephone coverage lets us down and let the latest weather report. Cloudy, dry and about 14 degrees. Great walking weather.
We start the walk on the Kungsleden together with a number of others. Enthusiastic teenagers with their father. Elderly ANWB couples. And everything in between. At the beginning everyone walks together and it looks like the evening four days, but soon differences in tempo arise and things spread out a bit. We are sent through the undergrowth to an open plain with a wooden plank path and a view of one of the first mountains in the area. Funny how after only a few kilometers we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Still, those first kilometers are very difficult. My shoulders hurt terribly and I have to stop regularly to adjust the straps of my backpack. So often that everyone who would start this walk today has passed us by now.
Stop and continue. Stop and continue. I can’t get the backpack adjusted properly and it now feels like someone has put a pile of bricks in it. This way I can do this walking stage for a month. After a few hours of slogging, crying is closer to me than laughing. We decide to camp near the next river. After the open plain we are sent back into the dense bushes that are interrupted by a flowing river a little further on. A wobbly steel bridge helps us across. On the bank near the river we find a great place to set up our army green dome tent. While I then get water from the river to prepare our nasi meal, Niels walks further into the green in search of loose branches to make a campfire.
With a bottle of water from the river and our warm fried rice from our pocket, we sit quietly next to each other on a tree trunk. I think back to the Expedition Robinson adventure as I envisioned it before. It doesn’t look like that at all. I dropped out of episode one. What a letdown! Still, I enjoy the moment. From the tranquility of nature, from the sound of the flowing river ahead, from the warmth of the campfire that I feel flowing past my hands and from the ready-made nasi meal that unexpectedly tastes damn good. But what now? After a day of wandering through the Swedish wilderness, the backpack still doesn’t fit. Apparently I bought that thing a little too impulsively during our day of shopping at the outdoor store a few months ago. Own fault. Walking further seems like a bad plan, even though I have huge doubts out of guilt. The further we walk, the more complicated it becomes to stop when we can’t anymore and so our Swedish King’s Path adventure ends here…
Well, what a letdown! I’m not proud of it either, but I can save you from making the same mistake I did. So equip yourself with the right material, try everything out and train
a little. The level of the Kungsleden in Sweden is average and also good for the less experienced hiker. The sometimes harsh weather conditions (it can freeze or thaw), walking quite a few kilometers for a week and possibly a pile of bricks on your back does not make such a trip any easier. So prepare yourself.
How do you get to the Kungsleden in Sweden?
The Kungsleden is located in the far north of Sweden in the Lapland landscape. The location is easily accessible by plane, public transport and private transport. By car you can immediately add a tour through Sweden, but if that all takes too much time you can also just take the plane to the capital Stockholm. From there a domestic flight goes to Kiruna where you can take the bus to the starting point Abisko or Nikkaluokta. It is also possible to travel directly from Stockholm to Abisko by night train (so sustainable). Reserve a seat, because the train fills up quickly in high season. You can book tickets online via ACP Rail International.
Good to know
In Sweden, everyone’s right applies and you can camp freely anywhere as long as you leave everything as you found it (or cleaner). However, camping is not allowed in the national parks, so pay attention to this before you decide to set up your tent. There is also a mountain hut every 10 to 20 km where you can spend the night, stock up on food and where you can freshen up. These cabins are open from the end of June to mid-September and are best booked in advance due to crowds, especially if you don’t plan to bring a tent at all. Reservations can be made via Swedish Tourist Association< /a>.
At most mountain huts it is possible to take a small supply of food with you. Very smart if you don’t feel like lugging food for a week and the extra kilos that come with it. But of course you can also bring your own food. At the various outdoor stores they have very good energy-rich ready-made meals (adventure food) for that. Just like our fried rice, recommended! You can also get water from the river. As long as it is a flowing river, the water is clean enough to drink without a filter. Are you still in doubt? Then take this water filter bottle that removes bacteria, parasites and microplastics from the water.
The best time for your hike is between June and September, but beware of the intermediate months of July and August. In that first month family mosquito is very active and in the month of August the Fjällräven Classic place. This is an event with 2000 walkers and I’m guessing it’s a lot less fun and adventurous to walk in this area. In winter it is possible to ski the Kungsleden in Sweden, but keep in mind the harsh winter conditions and the level involved (read: not for inexperienced adventurers). The best period in winter is in February and March, when the snow is firm enough and the days get longer again. Then you can not only enjoy the northern lights, but you can also see which way the skis should go during the day. Very handy.
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