We’ve been spoiled for choice in finding the best 10 treks in Scandinavia.
Sweden for instance has a well established right to roam and a cultural tradition, shared with the Finns, of getting out in the wilderness and relaxing through cross-country skiing in winter and trekking in summer.
The Scandinavians are spoiled for the sheer beauty of their world too – whether the fire and ice of Iceland or the fjords of Norway, to the thousands of square miles of fells in Finland and the unspoiled forests, lakes and alpine peaks of Sweden.
Before we get going on these adventures, a word on midges.
They will love you like no other animal as you have bare, exposed skin and no fur to burrow through. That means you will be eaten alive!
Have a hat-net available or just get used to it.
Let’s get to it shall we?
The first four treks we show here will take you anything from 25 days to a full Arctic summer to do.
That said you don’t have to be Bear Grylls to do all of them.
As ever you don’t need to do the whole thing in one hit – you could do tracts over a few summers and appreciate some of these journeys over a decade to see the world change as you do.
In the land where the sun never sets, this is Europe’s most northerly hiking route and as such can only be done on a fairly tight schedule during the short Arctic summer.
It is also one of the least populated routes in Europe and you could find yourself seeing no one else for days on end.
Compared to Snowdon this sounds like paradise!
It is a tough route and you will have to survive for yourself in some of the most inhospitable wilderness in the world.
Do you know your arctic herbs and wild vegetables?
Better get reading up! What about protein?
We’ll leave that to your imagination as you won’t be able to pitstop at a supermarket every few days to keep your rations in good supply.
That said the Suomi reindeer herders are friendly enough – they may keep you in meat for a few days at a time, though don’t rely on finding them!
That ‘protein’ comes in every form from elk to rabbits and hares, though an elk carcass may be a bit much to carry for the next few weeks.
Appreciate them and their cousins the reindeer as you go as well as every other stripe of wild animal and plant that ekes out their lives here.
That said, you will be assaulted every day with some of the most pristine wilderness on this planet that we can safely say will probably never be densely inhabited.
There are tracts of highland where trees can’t grow.
In a storm that could be problematic as there’s no shelter except that which is on your back.
Lakes so pure you could pollute them by dipping your bottle in.
The route takes in a leg of another trail we cover in this article – the Kungsleden – that in itself has been ranked as one of the top hikes in the world.
If you have the time and can wander for weeks with just a bloody great knife to keep you in food and shelter, this is the trek for you!
From a trek that would make a seasoned old National Geographic wilderness expert wince, here is something almost suburban!
In English we pronounce Sjællands ‘Zealand’ so someone familiar with imagery of lowland New Zealand is going to have some sort of a clue as to what this is like.
You can hotel/hostel hop this walk, that in many sections is frequented by families through the warmer months.
That said, Denmark is a renowned seafaring nation thanks to its geography so you’re in for a treat as seascapes go.
And yes, Copenhagen is on Zealand.
That is on the east coast of the island but the Sjællandsleden is on the south and west coasts of the island.
A new branch has been added recently that takes you to the Danish capital’s suburbs but the 311 mile main walk is an easy bus ride from the city.
As indicated in the section about the Nordkalottleden at the beginning of this article, you would hit this path if you were on that wild northern hike.
The Kungsleden is no bimble in the woods even so!
It was only done by the trekking elite for many years and has been listed among the top treks on the planet by the likes of National Geographic.
Though extremely challenging by virtue of its remoteness – and summiting the highest mountain in Sweden (the Kebnekaise, 2,097 metres) – you will find lots of time appreciating the awesome scenery as you trek the Land of the Midnight Sun.
There are huts and lodges along the route so while the arctic monster we cover at the top may require survival skills you should be able to resupply as you go on the Kungsleden.
In many cases you can stay the night here, getting out of your tent for a few nights and the faff of setting it up when knackered.
The Swedes ski this in winter so it is well used, and they do say that as soon as the snow has melted much of the land is festooned with the purple mountain saxifrage that adds colour to a land emerging from cold slumber.
Like the Sjællandsleden above some of this could be described as ‘suburban’, with stretches of the hike passing through towns and cities like Goteborg.
As such this is a culture as well as wilderness hike where you can see the human and wild nature of the country as you go.
There are big climbs – this is Scandinavia – but you won’t find yourself completely isolated for more than a few hours as you explore.
The Bohusleden is a popular route for younger people and yes, you will see families on stretches (OK you do on Snowdon but it’s a little less busy than that!).
You will encounter highland cliffs of vast height and lowland marshes as you go and the full gamut of wildlife.
If you like fishing, bring a rod and tackle as some of the lakes have some lovely fish for eating – not a bad way to enjoy an evening by the campfire with something on the spit that was wriggling until just an hour before!
If the South Downs is more your kettle of fish than the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, this is definitely worth a look.
Less epic walks
The next few treks are a step down in length than the four above.
These are more the sort someone with a week to spare can do – in other words, most people on a middle income who can afford a decent holiday.
Do remember that alcohol is deliberately expensive in many of these countries thanks to the punitive tax on it, so when we mean ‘affordable’ we don’t mean for those who enjoy trashing their liver on holiday!
The UKK Hiking Trail
Across bogland, permafrost and high peaks this is one of those walks that will stay strong in memory for a lifetime.
For someone who wants to go the Kungsleden or even the Nordkalottleden above one day the UKK would be a good introduction.
You may not have to do much with your big knife, though here in Finland they have a love of guns that is almost as maniacal as Americans – if you like eating fluffy, otherwise happy things this could be a trek you could enjoy…
If shooting with a camera is more your bag this will be very rewarding anyway!
This is a mixed walk as Scandinavian walks go, from long stretches in birch forests to sparser spruce filled landscape as well as fell and moorland with vast horizons.
One highlight is a ridge walk along Värriötunturi Fell.
One thing to remember before taking this on is that there are deep bogs.
The national park authorities have marked routes through these with ‘duckboards’ on them to walk on without ending up to your neck in mud.
Even keeping to these marked and paved routes you should wear waterproof footwear and be ready to get soggy.
The Hornstrandir nature reserve is one of those places that humanity once tried to settle but it proved too tough.
Fisherman used to use this as a base and built some beautiful seagoing fishing boats to do it but these were put out of business by the large commercial cod fishing trawlers that export the fish to your local chippy.
You will see their abandoned homes and workshops as you go.
Some of the most astounding wilderness you will ever get to experience.
Iceland is the ‘land of fire and ice’ and where the volcanoes and glaciers aren’t, all sorts of brave flora and fauna cling onto life here.
Sea birds, whales offshore (when the locals aren’t chasing them).
Sea cliffs of dizzying height challenge the fjords, glaciers and mountains for beauty and magnificence.
That said, there are no food caches on the route so you will be carrying literally everything you need to survive on your back – this is another Scandinavian walk where the only people you will see are your companions.
A final note?
You need a guide and a tour operator on this one.
It’s not one of those you can just pack your bags and go on, but that said a bit of local knowledge never hurt anyone!
The Old Track to Luirojärvi Lake – Urho Kekkonen National Park
Here’s another completely off-grid Scandinavian walk – this time an unmarked trek down to Luirojärvi Lake in Finland’s second largest nature reserve.
You will need excellent navigational skills and a fair bit of pre hike research to do this.
You will also need to carry all your supplies on your back.
That said, every few miles you will find a hut with cooking facilities and this means you won’t have to pitch a tent every night.
Much of it is woodland though not boring for that.
There are lakes, streams and open stretches where you will get to see these ancient lands in all their finery during the brief summer months.
Yes, much of the year this is buried in snow so when life does gets to emerge it does with a bang!
There is a fair bit of humanity in the area – reindeer herding is one of the biggest local industries, just above trekking tourism.
If you are privileged to get talking to a Suomi herder then take that opportunity with both hands to see how they live and taste their food (which will most likely be unsuitable for vegetarians and very fresh).
What do you imagine when you think of Iceland?
This has it.
This has them too.
Hot mud pools?
High waterfalls, mountain lakes, deep gorges and wooded valleys make this the stuff of dreams, especially if you read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings before you saw Hollywood place Mordor in New Zealand.
You can imagine the greatest of dark forces in those belching volcanoes and arid wastelands as you trek through what is all that people imagine of Iceland short of salt cod.
The BBC’s Julia Bradbury has made this trek famous, with the presenter doing the trek for a TV series a few years back.
After cod and haddock, the route is one of Iceland’s greatest sources of foreign currency is tourism.
You can take all sorts of guided tours in this epic country, but most tourists will balk at the idea of putting five days of survival on their back and going far from any bus tour.
This is one of those trips, and one you’ll especially enjoy after the madness of Reykjavik!
The Jämtland Triangle
We wouldn’t call this a ‘suburban’ walk in the manner we have described two others here.
You will be walking through some extremely wild, unspoiled scenery high in the Swedish mountains.
However you can do this with a day pack only.
That’s right – just a few sets of skivvies and cosmetics/washing gear as well as water, waterproofs and snacks for a day on the hill.
While exploring this vast, wide open landscape you will be hiking between lodges and huts.
No, not like walking between ski resorts but genuine, off-grid huts and hostels that in peak season you need to book to stay in.
You will be fed well and can chill out between your ten mile legs as you wander one of Sweden’s most popular hiking trails.
You can go off-piste and carry your own camping gear if you want to be a bit hardcore as Sweden has a fantastic ‘right to roam’ where as long as you don’t leave anything behind you are welcome to stay almost anywhere you wander in the country.
The Jämtland Triangle isn’t that sort of walk though – it’s more of a B&B hop that you’d do in the Cotswolds only with scenery that is just a different league to behold.
The Trolltunga hike
Norway is only now waking up to long distance trekking, but this day hike is one of the best.
The climb on the route we detail involves a brutal 800 metres of ascent, and remember what goes up must come down so the top and the bottom of your thighs will hate you in equal measure at the end!
What you get in return is the mind-blowing views from the top of this mountain.
And yes, as you can probably work out looking at the picture, ‘Trolltunga’ means ‘troll’s tongue’ – dare you step out on it?
This used to be a popular enough climb until the enterprising local authorities thought to put a car park at P3 Mågelitopp that takes off four miles and 500 metres of ascent.
That still leaves a 12 mile hike for those with shorter legs and perhaps less powerful lungs but it does make it a little more accessible – too accessible?
What does ‘leden’ mean?
Many of the bigger routes end in the word ‘leden’.
What does this mean?
In Danish and Finnish it has no meaning according to Google (even though the only Danish route we detail here is the ‘Sjællandsleden’.)
In Swedish the term means ‘joint’ that just doesn’t have much of a meaning when it comes to a walk.
That leaves the Norwegian meaning, ‘fairway’ more likely.
Thus the Kungsleden is literally the ‘King’s fairway’.
There we go – as well as appreciating some of the most epic walks in Europe you’ve learned four words – Kung (king), Tung (tongue), Troll (troll) and of course laden (fairway).
Who said you don’t learn anything with Trek Addict??!
Saying that, don’t ask us how to pronounce ‘Guovdageaidnu’ or a thousand other Nordic words!
Scandinavia has scenery and wilderness that makes Scotland’s wildest, remotest spots as meek and gentle as Hyde Park.
The scenery is mind-blowing and the treks just epic! If the readers of National Geographic voted some of these walks the best in the world then that’s almost unarguable!