Jokkmokk Sweden: Laplands cultural capital
Jokkmokk in Sweden is a small town just north of the polar circle. Despite the increasing popularity of arctic tourism, Jokkmokk, like Lulea, is often overlooked by visitors to Swedish Lapland.
A pity, because there are many reasons to include a visit to Jokkmokk in your itinerary. The cultural capital of Lapland offers the same exciting winter activities and spectacular nature surroundings as the more popular destinations in northern Scandinavia.
I visited Swedish Lapland in October and Jokkmokk definetly was one of the highlights of my trip.
Why visit Jokkmokk Sweden
Jokkmokk in Sweden might not be the biggest town in the area, but it is one of the best places to learn more about the Sami people. The Sami are the indigenous population of Lapland. They were nomadic reindeer herders that moved around the tundra and forests of an area that stretches over Norway, Sweden, Finland and even Russia.
Jokkmokk in Sweden was a natural meeting place for the Sami. Every year they gathered at the annual winter market. It was a time when people came to trade, negotiate and share the latest gossip among celebrations that included traditional games, folk tales and reindeer races. The winter market is still a unique experience and attracts thousands of visitors.
But even without the winter market, Jokkmokk in Sweden is the cultural capital of Lapland. It is the only place in Sweden that has a college teaching reindeer husbandry and craft making using the Sami language. As a result it is in Jokkmokk that you will find some of the best Sami handicrafts in the area. Furthermore, the town has one of the best museums about Sami culture and history.
If that is not enough reason to visit Jokkmokk in Sweden, it is also surrounded by spectacular nature. Jokkmokk is the gateway to four national parks that are part of the Laponia World Heritage area, the largest unmodified natural area in the world that is still used by the Sami people for reindeer herding.
Jokkmokk offers a range of outdoor activities year round. Nature is never far away and it’s a paradise for those that love winter activities in the snow such as dog sledding or snow mobiling as well as hiking. Whether you are looking for easy treks or the more challenging long distance trails such as the Kungsleden or the Padjelantaleden.
Things to do in Jokkmokk Sweden
One of the best things to do in Jokkmokk Sweden is the Ajtte museum. Ajtte means storage shed in the Sami language and that is also how the museum describes itself. A large storage shed with numerous items of cultural and historical value that tell the story of Sapmi.
Sapmi is the Sami word for the land of the Sami people where they have lived as hunter gatherers and nomadic reindeer herders for centuries. The museum not only shows how the Sami people survived in this extreme climate and landscape, but also explores its rich culture.
The Sami handicrafts on display include Sami silver, traditional clothes and everyday items that helped the Sami adapt to their environment.
The botanical garden behind the Ajtte museum is included in the museum ticket. It gives a good overview of the arctic plants and flowers in Swedish Lapland. It also has a scenic location next to the Kvarnbacken river.
Lake Talvatis is a beautiful and peaceful spot in Jokkmokk that is perfect for an easygoing stroll. A walk around lake Talvatis offers wonderful views and will take around 1 hour. During the Jokkmokk winter market it is the place for reindeer races.
For a somewhat longer hike that takes in Lake Talvatis you can hike the Kvarnbacksleden. The 8 kilometer trail runs along the Kvarnbacken river from Skabram camping through Jokkmokk to Notudden. It is well marked with 20 information points along the way.
One of my favourite places in Jokkmokk was the Getbergstigen viewpoint. Here you will have one of the best views over Jokkmokk and the forests and lakes that surround it. You can reach the Getbergstigen viewpoint by hiking from Skabram camping or Jokkmokk. There are a number of different trails that lead up to the viewpoint and a roundtrip could be between 8 to 15 kilometers.
Skabram lake is about 3 kilometers from Jokkmokk and is one of the largest lakes near the city. It is one of the popular places for fishing pike, perch and roach. Paddle tours are also available or you can rent a rowing boat. The nearby Skabram camping has a small animal farm that includes goats, sheeps, chickens, rabbits and alpacas.
Jokkmokk in Sweden is a hikers paradise. I already mentioned the most popular hikes such as the Kvarnbacksleden and the hiking trails from Skabram camping, but there are more trails around Jokkmokk. At the tourist information center there is a small brochure with all the trails around the city. Some of them are also on this map.
The polar circle lies just south of Jokkmokk. There is a large sign and a cafe where you can buy a certificate that you have been at the polar circle. It’s a popular, almost mandatory stop and from the cafe you have a nice view over a lake.
Things to do near Jokkmokk Sweden
Muddus National Park
Muddus National Park is one of the easiest parks to visit from Jokkmokk. It is famous for its old growth forests and is home to the oldest pine tree in Sweden. At 750 years of age it has survived several forest fires, but is still standing strong.
Muddus National Park is part of the Laponia heritage area. The landscape you pass through is varied and there are waterfalls, canyons and wetlands as well as the primeval dense forests. Wildlife include reindeer, elk, brown bears, lynx and wolverine and lots of birds.
Muddus national park has several short hiking trails and therefore it makes for a perfect day trip from Jokkmokk. Most people hike the 14 kilometer to Muddus falls and back. I decided to take a shorter 10 kilometer trail along the Luleälven river to Maskosgarssa which was also very scenic.
It is also possible to combine the different hiking trails and stay in self-catering cabins along the way making it into a 3 to 4 day hike.
How to get there: There are three entrances to Muddus National Park. The easiest to reach is the Skajdde entrance that is a 30 minute drive from Jokkmokk following the E45.
Not far from Muddus National Park is the Harspranget ravine. This rocky canyon is the result of the Harspranget hydro power plant built in 1946 that is now the largest in Sweden. Near the plant is a parking place and a short 1 kilometer trail goes towards a viewpoint where you can see what is left of the once impressive Harspranget waterfall.
How to get there: the Harspranget Canyon is a 35 minute drive from Jokkmokk following the E45 north. There is a parking spot just before the actual hydropower plant where you can start the 1 kilometer trail to the viewpoint.
Easy Elsie plane
On 22 October 1944 an english lancaster bomber plane crashed in the marshes near Porjus, 50 kilometers north of Jokkmokk. Its remains are still there as a memorial together with a campfire place with an information board. The most incredible part of the story is that the pilots survived the crash.
How to get there: the Easy Elsie plane is a 40 minute drive from Jokkmokk following the E45 north. Just after Porjus you have to go left. There is a really small parking spot next to the road. From there it’s a short 3 kilometer hike through the marshes to where the remains of the plane are.
Dundret nature reserve
Dundret nature reserve lies just north of Muddus National Park, but the landscape couldn’t be more different. The bare mountains give you the idea you are at high altitude. The summit of Dundret mountain is only 820 meters though. Nevertheless, the panorama views over Gällivare and the forests below are wonderful.
There is a road that leads up to a ski resort and ski lift. From there you can take several hiking trails through the bare mountainous landscape.
How to get there: Dundret is 90 kilometers north of Jokkmokk and is a little more than an hours drive following the E45.
Together with Kiruna, the Malmberget mine in Gällivare, north of Jokkmokk, are the largest iron ore mines in Sweden. Through the Gällivare tourist center it is possible to book a guided underground mine tour. It’s a 3 hour tour that brings you 1250 meters underground.
How to get there: the Malmberget mine in Gällivare lies about a 100 kilometer north of Jokkmokk and is about a 1.5 hours drive following the E45.
Sarek National Park is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Europe and very popular among mountaineers. However, even for professional hikers Sarek is a challenging terrain. Weather is unpredictable and you need to be completely self-sufficient as there are no marked hiking trails and no accommodation.
The park’s landscape is dominated by majestic mountain peaks with glaciers and river valleys. There are strict laws to protect the pristine nature and rich wildlife of the park. Large carnivores include bears, wolves, lynx and fox including the rare arctic fox. Other rare animals are the snow owl, wolverine, marten and weasel.
Sarek is the original territory used by the Sami people for hunting, gathering and herding their reindeers and therefore part of the Laponia Heritage Area. As the Sami are now recognized as an indigenous community they have kept the right to farm the reindeer in the park.
How to get there: From Jokkmokk the quickest way to reach Sarek NP is to get to Kvikkjokk, 120 kilometers west of Jokkmokk and a 2 hour journey by car or bus. There is a daily bus between Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk.
From Kvikkjokk you can enter Sarek NP and connect to the Kvikkjokk to Saltoluokta stretch of the Kungsleden that runs through Sarek NP.
Padjelanta National Park, west of Sarek National Park and close to the Norwegian border, offers a less challenging, but equally beautiful, hiking environment. With several trekkers’ huts along the way and well marked trails, the Padjelantaleden is a great shorter and easier alternative for the Kungsleden through Sarek.
The Padjelanta National Park is a mountainous plateau. Therefore there are not a lot of steep climbs on the Padjelantaleden. In 4 to 5 days you can traverse the park from Kvikkjokk to Vaisaloukta near Ritsem where you connect to the road again.
How to get there: The Padjelantaleden starts or ends in Kvikkjokk. 120 kilometers west of Jokkmokk and a 2 hour journey by car or bus. There is a daily bus between Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk. The other start or end point is Ritsem.
Even if you are not planning to do multi day hikes through Sarek or Padjelanta National Park, Kvikkjokk is well worth a visit for its natural beauty. It has a spectacular location where the rivers Tarraälven and Kamajokk meet lake Saggat and you can see the mountain peaks of Sarek and Padjelanta in the distance.
There are numerous easy day hikes where you can climb mountain peaks for sweeping views or walk along river rapids to explore the rich flora and fauna in the area. It’s also possible to take paddle tours in the delta. The kvikkjokk mountain station is a great meeting place for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The town of Kvikkjokk is small and nowadays it seems to thrive mostly because of tourism, but it is one of the oldest settlements in Swedish Lapland. In the 17th century it was famous for its silver ore processing from the mine in Mount Alkavare in Sarek.
How to get there: Kvikkjokk is 120 kilometers west of Jokkmokk and a 2 hour journey by car or bus. There is a daily bus between Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk.
Stora Sjöfallet NP
Stora Sjöfallet lies north of Sarek and Padjelanta National Park and is famous for its beautiful mountain ridges. The Akka Massif is known as the queen of Lapland and also features in Nils Holgersson.
Unlike Sarek and Padjelanta you do not need multi day hikes to even enter the park. The entrance at the vistor centre is accesible by road. Therefore it is perfect for day hikes, but the Kungsleden also passes through if you prefer to venture deep into the park and its natural wonders.
How to get there: From Jokkmokk it’s a 2 hour drive to the Naturum Laponia visitor centre on the road to Ritsem. The Visitor centre is well worth a visit. The Stora Sjofallet mountain lodge is also a great source of information for great day hikes and day tours.
Shopping in Jokkmokk Sweden
With the only further education college in Sami handicrafts, Jokkmokk is the best place to buy high quality souvenirs. The Sami Duodji shop specializes in duodji, handicrafts made by Sami people according to their ancient traditional ways and natural materials. Think bags of reindeer skin leather or tools made of reindeer antler. There is a small library as well with books about Sami culture and history.
Sapmi rent och vilt
Life of the Sami people revolves around reindeer. Reindeer meat and other wild foods from the forests are an essential part of Sami cuisine. For the best quality reindeer meat, elk meat and fish head to Sapmi rent och vilt.
Where to eat in Jokkmokk Sweden
The Ajtte museum restaurant is the best place in Jokkmokk to try local specialities. If you go for the daily lunch menu it is also one of the cheapest places to eat in Jokkmokk.
I went for lunch twice and it was pretty good. I can also recommend the cloudberries with ice cream.
It’s difficult to beat Ajtte restaurant, but it’s only open for lunch. I visited Jokkmokk during the off season and for dinner there wasn’t much choice. That’s how I ended up in restaurant opera. With its green neon lights I didn’t expect much. It’s menu is mostly pizzas and fastfood kebab, but there is reindeer meat as well.
In fact, I was able to try Suovas. A local delicacy made of salted and smoked reindeer meat. Surprisingly it was one of the best reindeer meat dishes I had in Swedish Lapland.
Where to stay in Jokkmokk Sweden
I stayed at Skabram camping, 3 kilometers from the centre of Jokkmokk. The self catering cottages (called stugby) are one of the cheapest options in town and good value for money. With its scenic location at the shores of lake Skabram we had a great stay.
They now also offer a bed and breakfast option in case you like a bit more of comfort.
If you want a bit more luxury, Hotel Akerlund gets good reviews for its extensive breakfast buffet and good facilities.
Hotel Jokkmokk is another decent option. It has a scenic location on the shores of lake Talvatis, but is also within a short walking distance of the centre.
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