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The Padjelanta Trail, Sweden

Martin Chambers, Perth, WA

Those who enjoy multi-day walking on the Bibbulmun Track might enjoy walking in northern Sweden, where I spent twelve days on the Padjelanta Trail, north of the Arctic Circle.

The Padjelanta trail runs for approximately 150km to the west of, and parallel to, a section of the more famous Kungsleden, or King’s Trail and forms part of the 800km long Nordkalottru Trail, which runs from Finland through Sweden and into Norway. In winter these are Nordic ski routes and huts are left unlocked for skiers, but in the summer they are popular and accessible walking trails. 

This walk is entirely different from the Bibbulmun Track—views across alpine heath to the mountains of Norway and the fact that you don’t have to carry water, for example. But there are the similarities. Everyone you meet is friendly and like minded. Walkers share stories of the trail, never knowing if they will meet again or if they are about to become lifelong friends.

The area is a national park and also the traditional alpine pasture of the Sami peoples, who bring their reindeer herds up for the summer following a century-old seasonal migration. Huts are provided for walkers in the villages along the way. Unlike the shelters on the Bibbulmun Track, these are substantial buildings, more like hostels, some with a sauna perched on the edge of a glacially cold lake. Charges are around $50 per night and sometimes you can purchase Sami bread and smoked reindeer meat.

Some of the huts are owned by the Swedish Youth Hostel Association and managed by a warden who lives on site. As with the Bibbulmun Track, it is wise to carry a tent in case the huts are full. You can book ahead, but this restricts you to a fixed itinerary.  

We camped along the trail each night and ate blueberries with our morning porridge. Often we would stop on a sunny hillside and snack on wild fruit; strawberries, rare wonderful things called jusberries, and blackberries. We had vivid dreams one night, and read later that eating too many uncooked blackberries causes hallucinations!

The trail is well marked and easy to follow. Major streams are crossed on footbridges, boardwalks cover boggy ground. There are steep climbs, wooded valleys and exposed ridges, but none more challenging than on our own Bibbulmun Track. We walked late in the season (August) and had everything from beautiful sunny days to cold blizzards, leading to mornings of snow dusted mountains. Something for everyone and a great escape from the WA winter.

This area, despite being half a world away, is easily accessible. Fly to Stockholm; catch the overnight train to Gallivare, stock up, catch a bus and a ferry, and you are on the Trail – three days from Perth.