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Driven by the sun: Swedish Lapland's midnight sun

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24 May 2017 by Simon Langley

Each year, after enduring the bite of winter and its long nights, Swedish Lapland is rewarded with something truly special – the Midnight Sun. Often described as a sunrise and sunset all rolled into one, it’s when the sun never fully sets below the horizon, thanks to the Earth’s axial tilt.

This natural phenomenon blesses the skies above the Arctic Circle from mid May to early August, bathing already-sublime landscapes in its ethereal glow. And, with the sun, Swedish Lapland comes alive with festivities, activities and summer relaxation.

Midsummer celebrations

So invigorated are they by the summer cheer, Midsummer merriment is an integral part of the Swedish social calendar. Swedes leave the cities in their droves, heading into the countryside for large gatherings around the maypole. Songs are sung, dances danced and flowers knitted into wreaths. It’s all arranged around magnificent feasts of pickled herrings, grilled salmon and the summer’s first strawberries, served with cream of course. For your chance to celebrate the Swedish love of nature and community, head to Luleå and the islands of Swedish Lapland. Here, you can stay on an island farmhouse and join in the festivities. 

Traditional Swedish dress for Midsummer

Traditional Swedish dress for Midsummer

Summer activities outdoors

To follow in a long line of Swedish explorers, Lapland offers a stunning variety of outdoors fun. But, given the Midnight Sun’s ever-presence, its Arctic wildernesses thaw into a veritable playground each summer. Although the Kungsleden – a 270-mile trail that leads adventurers into the depths of the Arctic Circle – grabs the headlines, there’s plenty of more accessible fun. Hike stunning mountain trails, try your hand at fly fishing, kayak on rushing rivers and spot reindeers and countless birds in nature reserves.

The new ICEHOTEL 365

For something truly ‘driven by the sun’, the ICEHOTEL is now open all year round with the new ICEHOTEL 365. Thanks to the season’s never-ending solar power, the world’s original ice hotel is now open year round – testament to the country’s very Scandinavian obsession with innovation. A curated selection of artists has once more hewn great blocks of ice into everything from entirely frozen bars and ethereal hallways to pretty sculptures and whole suites. It’s your chance to sleep on beds of ice among sublimely lit works of art. There’s even a restaurant headed by a Michelin-trained chef. You’ll also have all of Swedish Lapland’s summer delights on your doorstep. The hotel’s author – the River Torne where its ice is harvested from – is a particular highlight, ideal for fishing, canoeing and rafting.

Relaxation in nature

Summer is a time for holidays as well as adventure. And, no one knows this better than the Swedes, with many escaping to their country cottages for the warmer months. Join this idyllic tradition with your very own log cabin in the mountains or lakeside chalet, whiling your days away on the shore with dips in the waters – a true Swedish ritual. Or, for something of the unique, look to a stay at the Treehotel. This world-famous art-installation comprises a collection of boutique treehouses, ranging from a UFO to a bird’s nest. But, wherever you are, at day’s end you’ll return to that favourite Swedish pastime – a sauna soak. The perfect end to a lazy forest walk.

A very stylish dog, wearing a traditional Swedish Midsummer crown

A very stylish dog, wearing a traditional Swedish Midsummer crown

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