Multi-day Hikes in Northern Europe
March 3, 2016 9:50 AM   Subscribe

If I wanted to spend 6-8 days hiking in Sweden/Norway/Finland where should I go/where should I look/what are my resources?

Here's the story: I have a ridiculous flight voucher from SAS, and have 2 round trip tickets to any of the major hub cities (NYC to Copenhagen/Stockholm/Oslo/Helsinki). I need to use them up by the end of June. I would love to go on a ridiculous multi-day hike somewhere gorgeous. Basically, Google has too much information and I have no way of filtering/sorting out what is actually useful to us.

We’re 2 pretty solid hikers/outdoorsy people with multi-day hikes under our belts with decent mileage over tricky terrain. (ie we loved the Enchantments in the Northern Cascades).

We found that Norway seems to have the best connected network/trail set up with the most varied terrain, but Norway is EXPENSIVE. Lovely, but very, very expensive. Even hiking/camping we think it might stretch the budget a bit. (at least in my prior experience with Norway it was brutal no matter how budget you tried to go). Additionally any serviced huts (which is an awesome concept) don’t open until late June, and that’s past our timeframe to use the tickets.

Besides Norway, where else can we go that we could stay in a place in Sweden/Denmark/finland for a few days with access to fantastic hiking. (ie Zermatt in Switzerland style) or do a loop either truly on foot or car camping. We’ve also heard horror stories about the summer mosquitoes/flies/mud. True? False?

We haven’t had much luck finding more trekking/outdoorsy/true backpacking/hiking stuff on line- we are very much not looking for a “party hostel” experience... We have no problem with getting a private room in a hostel or guesthouse, but firmly expect to be staying in nice/decent hotels at either end of the trip.

We could always go to Iceland, but I’ve been 3x already, and was looking forward to exploring a new country. Doing just a city trip is our backup, but getting some really good hiking in would be fantastic.

Also General Northern Europe Summer Hiking/outdoorsy tips very much appreciated... should we go kayaking instead? sailing? what else is out there?

(budget is a constraint, but I want to hear the weird/outlandish ideas too! if awesome enough, I will make them work)
posted by larthegreat to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Denmark is pretty flat, it rolls a bit in places but basically pretty flat, so no Zermatt style walking for you there.
posted by biffa at 10:13 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can do some cool hiking in northern Sweden and it's way cheaper than Norway. I did the Kungsleden (King's Trail) some years ago and I enjoyed it.

If you have time you could even throw in some mountaineering and climb the Kebnekaise (if you don't want to carry all the gear you can rent ice axes and crampons at the refuge).
posted by lost_lettuce at 12:09 PM on March 3, 2016

Karhunkierros trail is 80km in northern Finland. Never done that, but it has a good reputation and it will be very different to Norway or Iceland. Forests, mossy crags, rivers, forests. Search for better images. Early June there shouldn't be much mosquitoes yet.
posted by Free word order! at 12:09 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by mareli at 12:27 PM on March 3, 2016

Could you clarify when your prior experience in Norway was? The Norwegian Krone took a bit of a beating against the main international currencies in 2014 (low oil prices) and the new rate has been pretty stable. You can see on the long term historical rate that its still around 8.5NOK to the USD, whereas it was about 6NOK to the USD for a long time. We were planning a trip in 2013 but then abandoned after it became apparent how pricey even basic accommodation was. We noticed the swing in rates last summer and went and it was a lot more reasonable, check out the rates for accommodation before you kick out the idea of a Norwegian trip. It aint cheap obviously, but its about as reasonable as its been for quite a while. Of course the Swedish Krone is also good value and USD to euro is also more favourable than it was 2-3 years ago.
posted by biffa at 1:46 PM on March 3, 2016

Response by poster: I spent a week split across Oslo and Bergen in April 2012 (and asked a question about it!). I had found a ridiculously good deal on airfare, we stayed in Airbnb's, cooked our vegetarian meals 3x a day and myself and all of my friends still came out of that trip in debt. It was awesome, but every. time. we turned around money disappeared. ($13 "cheap" beers. oh god that was hard to stomach.)

I'd noticed the cheaper ccy, and am not discounting Norway out of hand, but I felt the pain from that trip for months afterwards and it's colored my expectations a bit.
posted by larthegreat at 2:03 PM on March 3, 2016

What do you mean by ridiculous, exactly? You use the term three times. Beautiful? Very difficult?

With the drop in oil prices, Norway is not as expensive as it once was. My recommendation would be to take the Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes (6 days) and then fly back to Bergen, take the trail across the Norwegian alps to Oslo, with a stop in Flåm to take the train down to the bottom of the fjord.

As for hiking, there are beautiful trails near Bødo or you could go on a cycling journey in the Lofoten Islands. Don't discount Norway just yet.

As for hiking in Sweden, the Kungsleden recommended by lost_lettuce is a treat - just bring bug juice in June, the area might still be melting out at that time.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:05 PM on March 3, 2016

Best answer: The Karhunkierros is excellent. Pine forest and rivers. Free huts along the trail, with enough room when we went at the beginning of September. In June you want to bring a tent to be safe. Getting there without a car seems difficult. I would suggest driving to Ruka, taking the bus to the other end of the trail, and walking back to the car. Driving in Finland is fun, and you could go to other places as well. The Kungsleden is much more accessible by public transport. Trains from Stockholm, Lulea, Kiruna to Narvik that stop in Abisko at the northern terminus and in other places with bus access to the trail. Also buses from Kiruna, which has an airport. Thin birch forest in the north, I haven't been to the rest. There's also another trail, the Nordkalottleden, that continues from Abisko to Finland. Prices for food and accommodation: Norway>>Sweden>Finland. Number of people: Sweden>>Finland.
posted by fmnr at 2:00 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Finnish Lapland has no mountains; it's hills covered by taiga forest, and then treeless tundra moors and fells above the Arctic circle. Both of which I personally love, but I've heard of tourists who arrive there and go "wait, where are the mountains and fjords?"

If mountainous terrain is a must, you should stick to Norway or some areas of Sweden. And the spectacular fjords you'll only find in Norway. Denmark is mostly pretty flat and, uh, agricultured?* (That can't be a word.)
*but it gets bonus points for the nicest people.

The insect season, räkkä (yeah, we have even a word for it), usually gets bad only around the end of June, but who knows with the way the climate is these days.

The website has a lot of practical information about nature destinations and hiking trails in Finland. Many have free huts along the way, some require booking befoerhand to get the key against a fee. (And apparently in some places in Sweden, there may even be an attendant to collect a fee.) Some are very popular and may get fully booked.

I've heard good things about the Hetta-Pallas trail (55 km) in Muonio, but what I'm currently dreaming of doing myself is some part of the Nordkalotleden trail which looks gorgeous, probably starting from Kilpisjärvi (and possibly also returning there, for convenience's sake).

Getting to the trails is the trickiest part in Finnish Lapland; I think the most realistic option is to fly from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and continue either by rental car or long distance bus (I think they run daily during tourist season to places like Muonio, Enontekiö and Kilpisjärvi).

Another option could be to take a domestic flight to Ivalo, to reach Lemmenjoki, Saariselkä, the UKK trail in Tuntsa, or Kevo (where I've been during the worst bug season and once I got up on the fells, there were almost none). And as fmnr said, you can reach Abisko in Sweden (along the Nordkalotleden and Kungsleden trails) by nighttrain from Stockholm, so that might make it the most convenient option.

And since you asked about alternative ideas, look into the Archipelago trail (tot. 250 km) outside Turku. It's really unique, and some of my foreign friends consider it the most interesting nature destination in Finland. It's basically islandhopping by ferry & hiking/bicycling. Or sailing, if that's an option.
posted by sively at 6:59 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

This "map" of transport options along Kungsleden and Nordkalottleden looks surprisingly helpful.
posted by fmnr at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mountains aren't necessary, but I really do like having something that takes my breath away at some part of the hike; like walking for hours along a path, coming upon a clearing and realizing you can see for miles across fields and mountains, or camping near an overlook so your morning tea is drunk as the fog burns off, slowly revealing the landscape or hiking in a forest along a burbling stream, and hearing the rush increase and seeing a lovely waterfall.

I used ridiculous as a qualifier for many things- jaw dropping beauty, hikes that make you feel proud of the terrain you've navigated and also for cheap flights :)

It is not necessary that the trail be technical, or long; we're happy doing shorter hikes too, and the suggestions I've gotten have been super useful so far!

I think I'd mostly want to avoid obvious tourist traps and bugs, so knowing Finland has a season for it is useful!
posted by larthegreat at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2016

Response by poster: I think most importantly when are the bugs most problematic? We could move the trip up to may if it made things easier, but were probably aiming for the first week of June.
posted by larthegreat at 2:01 PM on March 5, 2016

The tradeoff between snow and bugs seems difficult to predict. Beginning of June: no bugs, possibly too much snow to get anywhere without snow shoes or skis (at least on the Kungsleden). End of June: possibly lots of bugs.
posted by fmnr at 2:29 PM on March 5, 2016

Best answer: In May, some trails may be flooded (due to melting snow). To me, early June sounds like a better bet at least for many of the Finnish destinations, and it typically isn't bad bug-wise. But as fmnr said, at higher altitudes there may still be quite a lot of snow.

Another suggestion I've heard of (but haven't been to myself) is Grövelsjön area in Sweden, close to the Norwegian border (and some trails seem to cross it). It's their most southernmost hill station, not as far from Stockholm by train as Lapland. I think there are huts along the trails, but I also found this guy's blog who seems to have rented a cabin and gone for day hikes.

Also, here's the Swedish Tourist Association website, they seem to have plenty of useful information.

AFAIK, none of the suggestions here are super tourist-y, certainly not in early June. You'll probably occasionally come across some other hikers and nature enthousiasts, that's all.
posted by sively at 6:51 AM on March 6, 2016

Response by poster: I've spent the past few days going through suggestions, and we've definitely come across the warning that trails may be either too snowed in OR flooded out multiple times; the Kundsleden looks awesome, but it's probably more of a july/august hike than the first week of June.

At this point, we've run many sets of numbers, and it looks like we can afford to fly to Tromso, and road trip it around there, hiking mostly in the Lofoten Islands; so if the price of oil doesn't skyrocket in the next few weeks, we'll be headed up to the artic! we'd probably split our trip between hostels and huts and mostly do dayhikes so we don't get trapped in unfamiliar backcountry by any late wintery weather.

Thank you so much!
posted by larthegreat at 5:51 AM on March 9, 2016

Response by poster: Spent a long weekend in Stockholm, and then popped up to Narvik to hike 6 days in the Lofotens. I had found this awesome resource on hikes. Although we did find that his "rating" of difficulty was better suited to someone doing dayhikes, not hiking with gear for overnights. I'm in decent shape, but some of the more "exposed" hikes were seriously intimidating with how much scrambling/wind there was involved.

Had 4 gorgeous perfect days, and two days of very stormy weather. Slept on snow, took ferries to trail heads, saw ridiculously gorgeous mountains... it was lovely.
posted by larthegreat at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2016

« Older Weekly/Monthly Planner Needed--must be...   |   Best non-iTunes Podcast Experience? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.