Sweden in January: the Ultimate Winter Wonderland
Back at the start of 2018, my family and I headed to Sweden to visit my little sister. At the time, she was studying abroad there and I had a long winter break, so we decided to spend 7 days exploring Stockholm & Kiruna. Even though this was over a year ago, I just recently started this blog and don't want to skip out on dedicating a post to one of my favorite trips yet!
Once we landed in Stockholm, we had 2 days to explore. We went to the old town (Gamla Stan) and had cider and reindeer sandwiches with my sister's host father, Roger. The minute I arrived I fell in love with the country. I've been wanting to visit Scandinavia since I was a little girl, and Sweden was my first country in the region. It was exactly what I expected and more. Stockholm is great to do some shopping, grab a bit and get your first taste of what Sweden is like. I don't really have any tips on where to stay in the city since we stayed with my sister's host family in Bålsta, but I can imagine anywhere downtown would be convenient. The city is super walkable and even in January it wasn't too cold to be outside, given the proper attire.
I think what really made the stay in Stockholm so great was that every night my family and my sister's host family gathered around the dining room table and ate a meal, drank glögg, and talked till we could barely stay awake.
Other than shopping and eating in Stockholm, if you're into history, I recommend spending some time at the Stockholm Viking Museum. It's especially unique to someone not from the region, who didn't grow up learning all that much about Viking culture.
After Stockholm, we packed up and took a plane to Kiruna, Sweden. Kiruna is in the arctic circle so it's a great spot to see the northern lights and see how the native Samis live. If you're going to Sweden during the winter, definitely think about Kiruna. It's the perfect place to visit if you're looking to immerse yourself in winter's beauty... if you're brave enough.
In Kiruna, my family and I stayed at Camp Ripan, and I'd stay their again. The hotel was very clean and comfortable, they have a nice spa, their food is good, and the front desk was very helpful with booking excursions. The reindeer picture above was taken during our Sami tour. We were picked up from the hotel and taken to the Sami village in Kiruna where they take you on a sleigh ride with reindeers. One drawback though is, you can't prepare for how cold it's going to be. Keep in mind, I'm a Florida girl, but after standing outside for 45 minutes, my family and I were so cold it was like our bones hurt. After having an amazing (and freezing) time, we headed into one of the Sami's tents to gather around the fire and eat reindeer soup and pepparkakor. Everyone you come across during this excursion is a Sami and is native to Kiruna so it's nice to know your money is going to support the locals!
Another amazing excursion we went on was the Northern Lights Photography tour. It was pricey, and the northern lights aren't guaranteed to be visible, but we lucked out! Before your tour, you get a traditional Swedish meal at Abisko Mountain Lodge, so keep that in mind when you're looking at tour pricing! Our guide drove around to find the best spots for the light's visibility and we ended up getting some pretty cool shots. You can tell how cold I am in the photo...so worth it though! Oh and be sure to take a nap before this excursion, we saw the lights around 11pm. You don't want to be tired for this.
The next must do is the Ice Hotel. It's a 20 minute ride from Kiruna, and if you're on a budget, this was the cheapest option of our daily activities. A pass to see the hotel is $33 / adult and $13 / kids. You can see every unique room (they're all different), the ice church, and of course, grab a drink at the Ice Hotel bar. This is not like other "ice" bars I've heard of where you throw on a parka cause they make it super cold and serve your drink in ice. The bar is apart of the ice hotel which is...100% ice. Including your cup. It really is a once in a lifetime thing so of course we all got a drink.
After our day at the Ice Hotel, it was time to head back to Stockholm, and then home. I am hoping to visit Sweden again this year just because the country really blew me away. This was one of those trips where you're pretty sad to leave. A lot of Americans don't think of Sweden when they're brainstorming their next trip...but they should!
Until next time, see y'all!