The Kungsleden: A guide to the trek
Walking guides - see all our background pages
For 2023 we are thrilled to introduce our first trek in Sweden. After Norway, this is the second Scandinavian country that we bring to our clients. For now, we offer the first, most Northerly, week of the Kungsleden trail and hope to add the remaining stretches of the full trail in the coming years.
Length 6 walking days, 7 nights
Total distance 103km or 64 miles
Typical day 13km, 330m ascent
Highest altitude 1,141m
The hightest point of our Kungsleden week also marks the spot for the best views: Looking down from the Tjäktja pass, you'll get a feeling of remoteness that's hard to find these days. Think wild, rocky and wonderful, and you've got it!
As mentioned above, the full Kungsleden is 3 or 4 weeks of walking, of which (for 2023) we offer the first week. This includes the short detour from the Singi hut to the East, past the substantial Kebnekaise hut, to the end of this side-trail at Nikkaluokta. Here we take the bus to Kiruna with its hotels. On the continuing Kungsleden, therefore, there could be further highlights, and indeed the trail carries on into the Sarek region which is note-worthy.
Alpine Exploratory offers the following holidays based on our Kungsleden research:
Alpine Exploratory's 2023 research on the Kungsleden will be led by:
Steph in July
The lie of the landThe Kungsleden is the month-long trail from Abikso in the North, on the train line from Stockholm to the Norwegian coast at Narvik, heading South through substantial wilderness to Hemavan in the, well, still very far North of Sweden! It’s 440km long. Our week starts in Abisko, following the main trail then turning off East at the Singi hut, to reach a roadhead at Nikkaluokta and thus jump off after 6 or 7 stages. There are about 4.5 days on the main trail and then 1.5 days on this side trail via the big and fully catered Kebnekaise hut, on our 6-stage trip. It’s a taste of the wilds of Northern Sweden and a relatively straightforward way to enjoy the Kungsleden, without settling in for a month and needing considerations of camping, as occur where huts thin out further South! This Northern week with the exit to Kiruna is much the most popular week of the trail.
Where to stay?Swedish self-catering huts are a characteristic feature of the Kungsleden. These are similar to the Norwegian self-catering huts. The key distinction is self-catering versus catered, and in fact our Kungsleden week (our Northern week via the Kebnekaise hut) stays in 2 catered huts (Abisko and Kebnekaise), 1 hotel (Kiruna) and a few, typically 4, self-catering huts. What are these like? Run by the Swedish hiking and travel organisation the STF, life follows a pattern. Guests have a bunk or a mattress on the floor, the chance to cook their own dinner in the self-catering kitchen, and in some places the chance of a sauna (bastu). Typically, but not universally, the self-catering hut runs a tiny shop selling the basics of a meal, for when guests haven’t carried in their own food. On our Kungsleden week at least, there are wardens at these self-catering huts, there to ensure people are checked-in and happy; to maintain the good running of the place. They might run a small bar, which means alcohol sales at the hut reception! (By contrast the self-catering huts in Norway are often unmanned with the shop runs on an honesty basis.)
The STF, the Svenska Turistföreningen, is the Swedish trekking and travel association. Like the DNT in Norway, it’s the body that is responsible for Sweden's national parks, the network of 350 huts and hostels, and promoting outdoor life and the preservation of the Swedish natural world. Our Kungsleden hikers become bona fide STF members, like so many Swedish trekkers. Card-carrying! (Photo: The STF carpet at Abisko.)
The STF's website
Is it for me?The Kungsleden will be a challenge in distance terms, more so than in terrain. Still, we note that the path underfoot is not all the boardwalk (planks laid end-on) that stretches into the distance, as per the typical Kungleden photo. The path can be quite rocky and progress can be limited by this in terms of daily mileage.
In a day we might walk 16km or more, and it will take a ‘medium’ amount of time with chance to rest and explore the area at the next hut; we do not see our Kungsleden week as one of particularly long days, just those that fit the spacing of huts.
Kungsleden hikers should prepare for quite a range of terrain. Marshy sections have been fitted, in some places and not all, with generously long but quite narrow (hard to pass!) planks. Other paths underfoot can be rocky, firm, or muddy, perhaps grassy.
Some path sections are harder to follow where the path splits into various braids, in popular areas such as on the pass East of Singi and around the Kebnekaise hut. Generally what we see is one clear path through one valley, not a network of paths from which to choose. Hikers should keep alert to path options at all times, and not assume that there is just one path to follow. The key, as with almost all walking, is to gauge your progress according to progress in the valley, and indeed the shape and size of the valley you're in. From the Swedish maps we supply, we look at the contours!
This is quite a dramatic and wild series of hills and valleys and there can be heavy rain, which if sustained through the day can cause streams to fill up and overflow onto the path beside. Wet feet are a feature, if this is the weather. Overall, Sweden like Norway enjoys a Continental-Maritime climate where the wet weather is tempered by the more reliable warm air. There can be sustained periods of stable, warm sun. Come hiking here with full waterproofs, as you would almost everywhere, but also with the ability to trek lightly.
Kiruna has an outpost of the Swedish chain The Bishop's Arms which is an English pub, mildly Swedish-style, but mostly just an English pub. Beer and food! Kiruna is the main place to eat in this area, there and Narvik which has Fiskehalle, Fish hall, with its associated popular restaurant. At breakfast time it's a lovely self-service style, and self-clearing plates as well, with as much as you wish in between. Wrestle with the waffle-maker! It's a chance to pick from vegetables as well as toasts, porridges. (Photo: The view over the forests from Abisko.)
On the Kungsleden itself, we include dinner at Abikso and at Kebnekaise hostels, and this gives you imaginitive and filling food in the simple Swedish style. In those huts that are self-catered, bring your own things to eat from home, buy them at Kiruna (small shop) or elsewhere in Sweden, or buy them as you go along.
For hikers on our typical North-to-South route, Abikso to Kiruna, there will be a build-up of hunger as you walk through the substantial wilderness areas, until finally you reach Kebnekaise and then, after Nikkaluokta and the bus, Kiruna. Life will go to a pattern in the midst and you will not find anywhere for a feast! (Photo: Typical Swedish porridge, berries and yoghurt.)
Cities and TravelTo Abikso via Stockholm
For a full experience we recommend the sleeper train from Stockholm all the way to Abisko. The train calls at Stockholm's Arlanda airport on the way North, and also at Uppsala, or take a train or bus into Stockholm city centre before the 7pm train departure. Buy some food at the central station, where there is a bustle of shops and passengers readying themselves for the sleeper. There is also a buffet car on the train which fills up nicely later on. Find your berth, which can be in private cabins or shared (3 or 6 bunks) and chat to any cabin mates you find. See a large portion of Sweden and the extent of the forests, as you drift between awakeness and sleep. In the morning, the train calls at Kiruna with its extensive mining spoils, before Abisko Turiststation later in the morning. Lots of people get off here. Or, forego the sleeper train to fly direct to Kiruna (Sweden) or Narvik (Norway), possibly spending a night, and take the day train to Abisko. Overall then, our recommendation is the night train to Abisko and then a flight home from Kiruna.
To Abisko via Oslo
It’s best to travel via Stockholm if you can, as above. However, there are Oslo-Kiruna and Oslo-Narvik flights, from where it's a day train in either direction to Abisko.
Departing from Kiruna
Kiruna, a mining town with a curious and spartan air, is furnished with an airport and train station, with train links to Northern Norway and the rest of Sweden. Take a flight to Stockholm or Oslo, or the night train to Stockholm. You might even get away that night if you wish to save time. Heading North, take the morning train to Narvik in Norway for onward buses to Bodo, the Lofoten islands or Tromso. Please ask us for more details.
City breaks after trekking
Our Kungleden holidays come with notes on the following cities, in your info pack:
Stockholm in Sweden
City breaks after trekking
Our experiences in Sweden(Simon writes:) My first time in Sweden was in 2007. I was visiting a friend in Lund, the small university city near Malmo in the South. I had come in from Copenhagen in Denmark. We explored Swedish coastline walking, and I came to know the calm of Swedish trains, buses and towns. Later, on another visit, we went to a concert in Gothenburg.
My first time in Stockholm came a few years later in 2014. We saw Melodifestivalen, which is the Swedish show that decides its Eurovision entry. It was March, and Swedish cars still had Winter tyres with metal studs, as they drove about the grid-pattern apartment blocks of the new town. Skiers were coming into town from the sleeper trains. I padded the streets and imgined the scale of Sweden, that up to that point I had not seen, the woods, the small towns, and where people came from who were today in Stockholm.
On a later trip I found myself cruising out of Stockholm, the islands amassing to the sides, on the top deck with music playing and the sun setting, bound for Finland.
It has been a distinct pleasure to travel more widely in Sweden since those times, and part of that has been to see the Kungsleden and its relation to Norway.
Traveling in Sweden
Read about our wider Scandinavian travel; contemplate which towns to visit:
City breaks after trekking
Hike the Kungsleden with Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory offers self-guided options as well as private guided trips. We're also pleased to book shorter or longer sub-sections of the route according to your available dates. Please contact us to discuss options.
Our self-guided holidays give you what you need to complete the route under your own steam. We book your accommodation in a mix of huts and hotels and we give you our detailed routecards, the local maps, and lots of notes. Importantly we will advise on the ideal schedule and accommodation to suit your approach to the Kungsleden.
Our guided trip is similar but gives you the benefit of an Alpine Exploratory leader to show the way.
Keep up with us on Facebook, Instagram, and our Blog for photos and updates from our own travels and clients' trips.
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