In the far north of Sweden, there’s a story to be told.
Just an hour from the arctic circle, on coastal land that’s rising out of the sea despite global warming, is the city of Luleå. Traditionally known for it’s steelworks and being the home of Max, Swedens answer to mcDonalds, the area has been quietly building a reputation for tourism too. Just not your ordinary one.
In winter Luleå is a magical land of snow and ice drawing in those seeking the breath-taking aurora borealis. However, in the summer months when the ice melts back into the ocean the magic of the destination doesn’t disappear, it evolves. Luleå morphs into a place of adventures on land and sea.
In Swedish Lapland there’s this thing called the Luleå Way. It’s being able to have an arctic adventure one month, and a summer excursion the next. It’s in having everything you want here, a truly local experience, and excluding no possibilities. It’s the way the people carry themselves with a sense of relaxed quiet pride. The Luleå way makes this place truly unique.
We’ve all been to the “must see” places that have shouted and touted themselves as the best. In Luleå they’re not in your face trying to convince you how fascinating it is, it’s simply just there for you to see for yourself and in the adventures you can have. It’s so refreshing to travel to a place that isn’t forcing itself down your throat round every corner, but has everything to offer.
Over three days that barely ended with the sun only just dipping below the horizon for an hour every night, I felt very lucky to have had a taste of the Luleå Way. I brought back just a few stories of my adventures and I’ve been bursting to let you in on the secret of this hidden gem. Maybe they’ll convince you to venture to Luleå too.
Cycling the Luleå Way
In only March 2016 three friends from Luleå teamed up to bring fat biking to the Luleå archipelago. Fat bikes are basically mountain bikes with huge tires that originated in snowy Alaskan conditions where they could easily travel in places normal bikes would simply sink. Since then the craze has been spreading, and it’s evolving. Fat bike enthusiasts who missed their wheels in the summer realised they could take the bikes on sand, across forest floors, and even through water.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that golden sandy beaches and lush green forests alike couldn’t exist in Swedish Lapland. Luckily for those that visit in the summer, they do and they’re the perfect setting for experiencing new adventures like Fat biking.
The guys of Fatbike Adventures in Luleå realised this, so in the true “can do anything” style of the Luleå Way they’ve launched their venture to do just that.
They invited our group on an epic day of cycling adventures from Klubbviken, a resort on one of the islands in the Luleå archipelago. I loved riding over sand dunes and along tiny trails in the lush forest, some only as thick as a fat bike’s tire. By far the best part though was riding along the beach in the sun then into the water, literally riding around in the sea! In a test of the Fatbikes limits we rode as deep as possible and managed up to our knees before the bikes started to float out from under us. A bizarre and amazing experience but so much fun!
During the day it was evident to me how proud the guys of Fatbike Adventures are of where they live, and how much they want to show it off. They made a small fire on the beach and heated salmon for a tasty lunch that had been caught from the sea in front of us and smoked on an island just across the way.
They challenged us just enough that at the end of the day I felt so proud of myself for taking on steep downhills and riding deep into the water. The guys let us go at our own pace, encouraging but never judging and had a four wheeler following along for any stragglers. If you’re looking for an awesome experience in Luleå, you couldn’t go wrong with Fatbike Adventures.
Kayaking the Luleå waters
In the summer with the ice and snow gone the archipelago becomes a water sport lovers dream. Swimming, boating, fishing and kayaking are all hugely popular. We set out to kayak around the city harbour of Luleå with Creactive Adventure and explored more of the islands on a longer excursion. The scenery was beautiful and, although I’ve kayaked before, the experience was one I’ll treasure.
We even got to take our Fika, a coffee and cake break, while kayaking. Our guide roasted rich coffee over an open fire on the shore of a rocky island and served us cake. After the days efforts it tasted amazing out in the open air and anyone who knows me knows, I can never turn down coffee and cake!
Kayaking isn’t a sport people rave about, but there’s something infinitely peaceful and relaxing about moving across the sea under your own power. I didn’t realise it before, but kayaking gives you time to think and take in the breathtaking beauty you may otherwise have missed and makes a perfect way to explore the Luleå archipelago.
Gastric adventures in Luleå
No one’s ever raved to me about Swedish food before, other than Ikea meatballs which I have yet to try. A few days of eating the food in Luleå and I’m certain they’re not quite on the same level. Fish, caught fresh from the ocean you spent the day kayaking through, mixed with herbs and edible moss (yes, moss) brought to you from the chefs own garden. This is the Luleå way, local, unassuming, and simple.
We ate dinner one night at Restaurant CG in the city centre. They only do three sittings for set meals everyday except Sunday and everyone gets the same dishes. Every sitting is a sell out and knowing that the anticipation for our meal was high.
The meal started as all meals should, and often do in Sweden, with snaps (which you probably know as schnapps). Before each course the chef would come and tell us about the food, where it had come from and how it was cooked. Pickled herring curled on slices of boiled potato, arctic char fish cooked in a pizza oven with a side of edible dried moss, and culminating in a dessert made with cloudberry, a fruit I never even knew existed.
Cloudberry grows in the wild in Sweden and is extremely hard to cultivate. They can be rather sour, but we had them in a delicious dessert of muesli. I’ll be honest, as a lover of chocolate desserts I wasn’t that excited to be eating what looked like breakfast at the end of my meal. Next time I have to choose between cloudberry and chocolate though, you can be sure I’ll be choosing the cloudberry!
Luleå wasn’t on my radar of places to visit until this year, and now I can’t wait to go back again, maybe for a winter visit this time. If you make it to Sweden, don’t just visit Stockholm. There’s even more things to do here, rafting, relaxing in seaside cabins on beautiful islands and all sorts of other adventures.
Luleå has a story to tell, it may not shout about it but it’s there, quietly confident in all it has to offer, just waiting for you to listen.
Have you thought about visiting Swedish Lapland?
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Thanks to Visit Luleå, Swedish Lapland, and all the awesome crew up in Luleå (especially Fredrick!) who provided me with this epic venture! As always, all opinions are entirely my own.