Travels with V
Mountains, rapids, and wild walks
Part one, Kukkola
Top 5 in Lapland
- See: Everything! The blue mountains of Kebnekaise, the hikes in the mountain forests, the raging rapids, the colourful landscapes and not least, the unspoiled silence.
- Food and lodging: Each place has its own setup. Resorts like Björkliden and Abisko have cabins, hotels and B&B with restaurants. On longer trails like Kungsleden you’ll find cabins for overnight stays.
- Do: Hiking trails of various difficulty are found in many places, check Björkliden, Abisko and Nikkaluokta. Kungsleden between the last two is the most famous .
- Swim: You can swim in Torneträsk, by the outlet of Rakkasjokk. But the mountain lakes are very cold. Sauna bath is common especially in the Torne river area.
- Other: The best restaurants on our journey were Abisko Mountain Lodge, Enoks by Laddjujauvre and in its own league Arctic Gourmet Cabin in Kaalasjärvi, not far from the city of Kiruna.
The mountains of Swedish Lapland are increasingly popularized and footpaths and shelters are filling up with people with a fresh interest in the majestic nature of these parts. And that goes for us too. V was born up here but I had never been this far north. So this journey is a way for her to show me her roots. It’s a long way to drive from our home in the south but there are a few points of interest along the route…
Our first goal is Kukkola by the Torne älv river, we reach it after two days of driving. There’s a stretch of rapids here and the place was in old times a smal village with fishermen and farmers. But now it’s a fairly big tourist facility with camping, huts and a small hotel. There’s a good restaurant too and a small museum where the village history is on display
THE KUKKOLA RAPIDS FROM ABOVE
We are looking forward to take part in some advertised activities here, but in reality they don’t happen. For instance – sauna baths, a huge and important part of life up here. But the tiny saunas available seem very unattractive in present pandemic times. There’s a society called “Sauna Academy” that have a couple of differently heated saunas, but they are closed during our stay. Then there’s the traditional fish catching with a hoop on a long stalk, but this is a particular whitefish fishing and the whitefish isn’t here yet, it will swim up from the Baltic Sea in a couple of weeks.
Last opportunity – rafting? But no, minimum eight people are needed for this, and the visitors here are mostly families or old people, and rafting is obviously not on their wishlist…But look! On the other side of the river, in Finland they go for it!
As you can see, Finland is really close, just some 40 meters across the rapids. But there’s no border crossing here, you have to drive down to Haparanda to make it to the other side. Which we do to visit Rovaniemi, the largest Finnish city in the region. It was once famous for its market that attracted people from all over Lapland. These days however it’s just a severely renovated modern town with far too many shopping centers. But there’s also a great beach by the Kemi river, and on the outskirts, by the Arctic Circle lies Santa Village. The Finns have decided that this is Santa Claus’ home, so here you can meet him every day all year round.
We drive down to the Port of Haparanda, a place that strangely is not even close to the border town of Haparanda, but 15 kilometers to the west, in a small village called Nikkala. But there’s a small harbour and we jump onto a tour boat that takes us on a cruise in a beautiful archipelago. We’re accompanied by a family with a bored-looking girl who is, we learn, a famous pop star. Eventually we arrive at a small mostly uninhabited island where we leave the company. We walk through a perfectly quiet little forest and reach a perfect beach where we are blissfully alone.
We’re back in Kukkola and plan a walk in the nearby forest. The floral splendour is stunning, everything blooms simultaneously in the short northern summer. But there’s also a touch of melancholy to it all, the uncut fields and the empty houses remind us that this was of old a meager land where lots of people hade to move south to find jobs and a better life. We walk across an abandoned railway but then we have to turn and head back again. We’re suddenly attacked by hundreds of hungry mosquitoes. At least I get to try on my new hat with a sewed-on mosquito net.
Our last dinner in Kukkola is served exclusively for us right on the old fishing bridge with the rapids rushing all around us (and actually shaking the bridge a bit). It’s just perfect, a warm night, a slow sunset, smoked whitefish and a bottle of chilled white wine. The best last night one could imagine.
Some more pictures from Kukkola: