Kungsleden

  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • kungsleden trail.

Key information: Kungsleden

    • Sweden's best known walk, a superb wilderness trek in Lapland, well inside the Arctic Circle.
      • Mountains, huge glaciated valleys, winding rivers, lakes; arctic tundra, dwarf forests, lemmings, reindeer and other northern wildlife. You may meet the indigenous Sami people herding their reindeer or in their remote settlements.
        • 440km route, easily done in stages. The northern section is the best, but also the most popular, so huts can be crowded in high summer. Add on a days ascent of Kebnekaise, Swedens highest mountain.
          • The northern sections have good huts, although you can camp almost anywhere.
            • Unpredictable Arctic mountain weather: time your visit carefully, come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest6
  • Charisma33
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating87
  • Note: Neg: need to carry heavy packs

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 6 days
  • 1 month
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,140m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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© William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The Kungsleden (the king of trails), winds for some 440km (275 miles) along the spine of Scandinavia in wild, remote Swedish Lapland. The trail runs through an enormous area, said to be Western Europe's last major wilderness, passing through a World Heritage Site, four national parks and a nature reserve.

 

The walking season is short: if you want to avoid the horrors of the mosquitoes, it is just August to mid September. In mid summer, you can see the midnight sun.

 

Life here is adapted to the extreme weather. In the lower valleys you pass through pretty, forests of stunted birch and rowan with patches of dwarf willow, fern and willow herb. Higher up, the plant life is still remarkably vigorous and beautiful: ground-hugging shrubs, bilberries to match the best of the Scottish hillsides, vivid patches of reed, a wide range of bog plants and pretty, delicate alpine flowers. Intermittent patches of grass sustain large herds of reindeer.

 

As well as reindeer, you may also see majestic elk, the famous (but normally unremarkable) lemmings and a wide variety of birds. Wolverines and brown bear are also to be found.

 

The indigenous Sami people, sometimes called Lapps, are nomadic herders in these high hills. You will come across their villages of red-painted cabins and traditional tepees and turf-covered huts by lakes and rivers, winter pounds for their semi-domesticated reindeer nearby.

 

The Kungledens most popular section, passing through possibly the finest scenery, is its northernmost one, starting at Abisko on the vast Lake Tornetrsk. This section takes around seven days, to a roadhead at Nikkaluokta, the last two days being technically off the Kungsleden. It climbs up two beautiful valleys for three days, then spends two days in the vast, wild, beautiful Tjkjavagge valley, which bisects the highest mountain area in Sweden. These are huge U-shaped valleys lined with sheer cliffs, waterfalls roaring out of higher, hanging valleys along their sides. Lakes fill every scrape-hole and powerful rivers, some milky from their glacial sources, wind, often in multiple channels, along the boggy valley bottoms.

 

Other sections of the Kungsleden also make superb trekking, and are emptier of walkers, one section not having huts so requiring full backcountry procedures. Some lakes have to be crossed by rowing boat.

 

Section 3, going south (Saltoluokta to Kvikkjokk) is particularly fine, at the edge of the wild Sarek National Park. There are good side trips here, and the Padjelantaleden trail links up at both ends. The final stage, in the Vindellvens Reserve, is also very beautiful, with lusher scenery than in the far north.
 

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

The Kungsleden (the king of trails), Sweden’s most famous long-distance path, winds for some 440km (275 miles) along the spine of Scandinavia in wild, remote Lapland. The trail runs through an enormous area, said to be Western Europe’s last major wilderness, passing through a World Heritage Site, four national parks and a nature reserve.

The Kungsleden is well inside the Arctic Circle, so is under deep snow for eight dark months. The walking season is short: if you want to avoid the horrors of the mosquitoes, it.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

 

Guidebooks

Lonely Planet: Sweden – includes useful Kungsleden information.

Other books

Chapters in: Classic Hikes of the World (Peter Potterfield); Trekking Atlas of the World (Ed. Jack Jackson); and Classic Treks of the World (Ed. Bill Birkitt).

Maps

Good, detailed maps can be bought in Abisko and in most huts.

 

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk.  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Mid-June to mid-September, to find the huts open. The busiest time is mid-July to mid-August, so avoid this if you can: you can also avoid the worst of the (horrendous) mosquitoes after mid-August.

 

Weather

The Kungsleden is in mountains inside the Arctic Circle, so, while the weather can often be mild - even warm - in summer, come prepared for rapid and extreme variations.

 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

 

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Most people fly to Kirura from Stockholm, then take a bus or train to Abisko, or arrive at Abisko by train or bus from Narvik in Norway or elsewhere in Sweden. They leave from one of the fairly regular exit points by bus, linking up to the train or air networks. These buses are not over-frequent, so leave some slack in your schedule

 

Route(s)

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The Kungsleden is some 440km long. To walk the whole route takes around a month, and most people tackle the northern section(s), starting at Abisko, as this has the most spectacular scenery, walking southward. Allow time for side-trips (including a day walk up Kebnakaise, Sweden’s highest mountain) or delays. There are exit roads (served by infrequent buses) every few days, which allows a lot of flexibility. Most people walk to Nikkaluokta, which is 1-2 days’ walk off the main trail (105km, approx. 7 days), some adding a day ascent of Kebnekaise; Saltoluokta (approx. 8 days); or Kvikkijokk (approx. 11 days).

 

The route is well marked and not inherently difficult, and there are huts at the end of each section. The demands of carrying a heavy pack over rough terrain should, however, be taken into account when planning timings: doing double stages may turn out to be less practical on the ground than from your armchair.

 

There are lakes to cross at several points: boats are left for walkers to use, and they must always be careful to leave a boat on each shore – this can require towing a boat back – ie, 3 crossings.

 

Maps and route information can be found as described above.

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • This walk is inside the Arctic Circle. While the summer weather is generally good, extreme weather is possible: snow, rain, severe cold are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

Guided or independent?

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Independent, usually

Most people hike the Kungsleden independently. Guides and some support are, however, available. For instance:

 

 

Accommodation

Excellent huts at the end of each stage of the trail. No bookings can be made (and you are never turned away), but they can get very full in high season.

The huts are warm (so you do not need a thick sleeping bag – we used a silk liner and the blanket that is provided) and provide cooking stoves and utensils and the majority sell basic provisions. You can therefore travel relatively light, and doing double stages can be an option for strong walkers.

Camping is a great option – and generally subject to few restrictions – but involves carrying more weight.

If you are using the Kebnekaise Fjälstation in high season, book a room ahead (Tel: +46 980 550 00; Fax: +46 980 550 48).

The Abisko Mountain Station has a wide range of accommodation and is understandably popular. It has a shop selling food, maps and other walking needs.

Hotels, hostels and camping at Abisko (and at the towns near the exit points - check) and each end. Camping is a great option – and subject to few restrictions – but involves carrying a lot more weight.

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Other information and tips

This is not, fundamentally, a difficult walk, and any reasonably fit person can do it. Do not, however, underestimate the demands of carrying a heavy pack in planning your likely timings.

 

If you can start and finish your expedition in Kiruna or Abisko, you can arrange to leave non-essentials there, thus lightening your trekking weight. Otherwise, plan what you carry with great care!

 

If you are running short of time, you can take a helicopter from Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Nikkoluokta, saving a day’s hiking.

 

Sweden is not cheap!!

 

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

An array of superb treks and day walks in the area. Longer treks include the Padjelandtaledan around the edge of the beautiful Sarek National Park and other trails into Sarek.

 

The Rallerveien walk, parallel to the railway into Norway (the best section descends from the border to the sea at the head of the Rombaksfjord).

 

Outstanding (Top 100) walking on the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Other great walks accessible from Narvik.

Other activities

You can follow the trail by ski or dog-sled in late winter.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: tomasetta
Posted on: 13/11/2011
I hiked it twice, in 2006 and 2010, From Abisko to Kvikkjokk. It's trekking inside endless beautiful, wild land, without civilization untill Skierfe Creep: where I see a valley enchanted by primeval forces. Fabio, from Italy.

Name: Administrator
Posted on: 27/08/2012

The following is Fabio Tomasetta’s piece on walking here, which was an entry we much enjoyed for our 2011 Travel Writing Competition.

 

Kungsleden - my trekking in the primeval heaven.

From July 14, 2010.

 

Wednesday 14th 22.00 o’clock:

What is this beauty that I'm going through? What is this forest enchanting to me? It is an infinite emerald that shines green, eternal lights … the clouds, coloured pink by hidden sun, threaten the green painting the lakes. I have neither hunger nor thirst, my desires and ambitions are drugged, numb. All my chakras are satisfied. I travel towards the dream asleep in a forbidden limbo. Nature, my mother, is satisfied. One of his small essences is back. And it lulls me in a myriad of spells.

 

In Stockholm I risk losing the train but I had to complete logistics for the 15-day of trekking. In the afternoon my train starts running towards the north.

 

Thursday 15th 13.09 o’clock:

I pass the wood portal of the Kungsleden. The knapsack is perfectly balanced and weighs about 21 kg. I hike with the Abiskojokk river that, wonderful and powerful, is coloured by primeval blue and green and white foam. I arrive to the feet of Alps; low and alien, majestic and solemn, they roar of the song of different waterfalls carved in dark cracks like quiescent photos.

 

After the valley and after 17 km I camped at the foot of the mountains cloaked by primordial charm. I camped just 50 meters from the beginning of the first ascent.  40 meters from my camp there is a group of Belgian scout guided by a Swede. The guide, the Swede, is a nice man and then he tells me something that I already knew:

 

"It's a shame, we have only 200 wolves because Sami shepherds kill them for reindeer!"

 

Of course, poor Sami shepherds that travel by helicopter, must kill the wolves lest instead of running the Mercedes they should drive just BMWs! And those sweet of their wives, instead of 25 jewels could buy only 23! Poor Sami shepherds… thrive while the wolves run for hours in frost to take what Mother Earth has allocated them. My maxim is: wolves free to be wolves, and who knows not live in the forest with the rules of nature that will have to go in Via Montenapoleone in Milan, the place for him.

 

Friday 16th

What is this beauty that surrounds me? What is this silence that whispers me? 33 Km inside the wild lands. What can I say of the three valleys that I have crossed? It is an eden. I am blessed in the eden. It is a succession of indescribable beauty. After the brief initial climb the curtain of Scandinavian Alps opens and I enter in the marvel most wonderful of Europe. Seeing the river scroll so, lead so, without the ugly human embankments is a delirium of the soul. Lying at the base of the alps, the lakes are a delirium of the eyes. The Scandinavian Alps, beautiful are one after the other in the endless tundra.

 

They are beautiful and ancient but I to every step, I came nearer and nearer and reached, blinded by their green, I bow to a muse that cannot be narrating with any poetry or any song.

 

Saturday 17th

What is this dream that surrounds me? 46 km into wild lands. I awake in a dream. I walk with Aleusjokk, the river enchanted by the wild wizard called nature. I must to stop every 200 meters to admire it from a new perspective. The dark clouds surround the pass, 4 km to southern. The rain is strong and wind is powerful. I walk toward the south. The wind blows from there. It rejects me and my quads have to pump surplus of power animal. Reached 1150 meters of the pass I am immersed in the fog. I cross and descend into the valley of Tjaktja. After seeing Tjaktja one man can die in peace. My soul will not regret because satisfied to have seen the mother earth as it was when the world was born. After seeing Tjaktja the soul does not aspire to anything. Tjaktja is the wild paradise, is a rushing and large river flowing eternally free from the levees wetting the tundra around. Tjaktja is an endless valley where distant mountains overlook shining a green abstract charm. Tjaktja is a prairie of tundra that glides sweet and concave from majestic mountains to the wonderful river. Tjaktja is the roar of the river. Countless waterfalls erupt from the west side of the mountains and flow into the river which runs into endless unknown.

 

Sunday 25th

13 km to the most fascinating heaven of the world – 24 hours at the place most enchanted of the planet. 130 km into the wild lands. A lake, a slope and a plateau separate me by the Sarek. From the world's most fascinating valley. The mountain most magic of the Earth. My dream. My dream that calls me since always, when I observe the northern horizon from fields behind my house. My dream that tomorrow I’ll bounce back. Camped on the banks of the third lake I have for company gulls that remind me of the sea.

 

Monday 26th 18.46 o'clock:

I face the spike of Skierfe; beyond, 500 metres below, there is a huge and special ravine. The delta of the Rapadalen, the world's most beautiful river, meanders blue intense between the green marshes. To west, the branches of Rapadalen prowl primordial gate of Mount Nammasj and spread below me, among the marshes, in an unforgettable marvel. The Nammasj is one of the lower mountains I've ever seen. The planet Earth erupts it from his bowels and leaves him there, isolated, between the valley of the world's most fascinating and most beautiful swamp. Around, the Scandinavian Alps shine of ice and snow.

 

The Nammasj is the primordial bastion that separates wild havens of this land blessed by the beauty from the world's most fascinating place. The Nammasj is magical and the aura of an ancient spell hangs on his rock and watch it is a continuous enjoy. The Nammasj is archaic, remote as the earth itself and probably was one of his firstborn sons. Beyond the gate of Nammasj, Rapadalen flows into the taiga between the Alps, inside most beautiful valley of the planet. Every tree, every blade of grass, every moss, every drop of water, every rock gives off a primordial and magical charm that pops up in the air and this magic hood fails to fly away. It remains suspended a few metres above the valley but the air and the wind can't move it. The magic is there, all over the valley, the magic has a thickness and shape but we humans cannot define it or see it. We can only look at it and hear it. There is enjoyment in the enjoying watching the wide valley of Rapadalen. All the world around is silent as if the world were silent for watching the Sarek. I have conquered my dream.

     

Name: Administrator
Posted on: 24/02/2017
Walkopedia member, odd man out, says: "For the Kungsleden, you list the need to carry a heavy pack as a negative. I find that odd that this would be considered a negative for site dedicated to hiking. In this regard, many parts of the the Kungsleden are in fact relatively easy as you do not need to carry much gear. There are fully equipped mountain lodges along the trail so there is no need to pack food or shelter, unless it is your choice to do so."

Name: Bimbleabout
Posted on: 25/02/2019

I first heard about Kungsleden in 2000, when I visited Abisko as part of a longer trip round Scandinavia. I wasn't kitted out for long distance hiking then, but wandered along the boardwalks close to Abisko, saw elk, marvelled at the 24 hour daylight, and decided that one day I'd come back and walk the whole route.

As it is, I have since done three sections: 1)Abisko- Kebnekaise/ Nikkaluokta (early July 2011), which is by far the most popular and easy to access section, and written about here and in other places, and so I won't write more, except to say that although it was a scenically impressive walk (think Scottish Highlands on steroids) I had more mosquito bites than normal skin by the end of it, and found that I walked further each day than expected, as it wasn't fun to lounge about enjoying the scenery whilst these insects sucked every last drop of blood out of me! Take home message: avoid walking in late June/ early July

2)Kebnekaise- Vakkotavare (3rd week of July 2015), a short trip, it took me three days, camping the first night at Kebnekaise fjallstation (very crowded), the second shortly before the huts at Kaitum, and a night in the friendly cabin at Vakkotavare- with an invigorating outdoor bucket-shower! It had been a very cold spring and summer, and even at this time I was walking across some extensive snow patches, particularly on the plateau between Teusajaure & Vakkotavare. Because of this the ground was also quite wet underfoot in places. The terrain was very easy going with not too much elevation each day, and as with the rest of the trail, if you're used to walking up Munros in Scotland, or alpine passes, this walk will be relaxing rather than challenging, with plenty of time took look around at the scenery & wildlife: the path is clear and well marked. That said, the decent down to Teusajaure huts is uncharacteristally steep, bouldery and stony, a real knee-jerker. Logistics: There are buses to Nikkaluokta from Kiruna (airport, train station), and you can get a boat part of the way to Kebnekaise, nice as the walk in is a lengthy plod through birch trees. From Vakkotavare you can get a bus to the town of Gällivare which is on the main north-south trainline and has a small airport. You can buy a map for this section at the Kebnekaise fjallstation shop (it sells camping gas/ food supplies too but the prices are extraordinary, so stock up in Kiruna). When I walked it one of the hut wardens would take you across Teusajaure lake on a boat with an outboard motor for a small fee, just waiting for a few folk to gather before he made the trip- pay at the hut.

3) Ammarnäs- Hemavan (early September 2018). This was my favourite of the three sections I've done: A variety of scenery, wonderful autumn colours, no mosquitos, warm daytime temperatures (upwards of 20 degrees centigrade) with crisp frosty nights. The night sky is incredible so far from any light pollution- more star than black! Not a strong year for auroras though I did see them one night. This section took me 3.5 days- I tend to chomp up the kilometres as the ground is very easy going- camping just beyond Aigert huts on night 1, at a beautiful lake between Serve & Tärnasjö on night 2, and finally by the huts at Syter, where I could use the hut facilities for a small fee. The huts are cosy and sociable, with friendly informative wardens, but rather expensive; camping by the hut is a good way to keep costs down and still enjoy the sociable side of the walk. The lake, Tärnasjö, is crossed by several bridges which hop between islands, and there are ample opportunities for a refreshing swim :) Logistics: A bit trickier to access than the northern sections, I took the overnight train from Stockholm to Umeå, then two buses, which finally got me to Ammarnäs. From Hemavan, you can get the bus directly back to Umeå. You can buy a map for the section in the shop at Ammarnäs, which also has a decent selection of groceries

Walko says THANK YOU for this precious info. We MUST get back to do the further  stages you describe!



Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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© William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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