You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

Kungsleden

From Nikkaluokta to Abisko

Story by Northern Adventures February 10th, 2015

Introduction

(Mon Sep 9th - Tue Sep 17TH, 2013)

Kungsleden (The King‘s Trail) is a hiking trail in northern Sweden, approximately 440-kilometre (270 mi) long, between Abisko in the north and Hemavan in the south. It passes through one of Europe‘s largest remaining wilderness areas.

The trail is separated in four portions which each represent approximately one week of hiking. The most practised part is by far the northernmost, between Abisko and Kebnekaise. The season, when the huts are open and rowing boats available, usually runs between mid-June and the end of September, but the weather can be very treacherous, including late or early snow.

We opted for the northernmost part and chose beginning of September to enjoy the peak of autumn season there. Also, instead of staying purely on Kungsleden, we pursued zig-zag crossing across the area.

The 9-days itinerary was the following: Nikkaluokta -> Visttasvággi valley -> Unna Reaiddávággi pass -> Sälkastugorna -> Alisvággi valley -> Unna Allakas -> Abiskojaurestugorna -> Abisko. Except for one night in the Unna Räitastugan hut, we used our tents and enjoyed autumn landscape of the deep north quite heavily. That sense of freedom… cannot be described by words.

Kungsleden.png

Day 1: From Nikkaluokta Into Visttasvággi valley

It took us a whole day to get to Kiruna in northern Sweden. From there, a friend gave us a night car lift to the small outpost of Nikkaluokta. Around midnight, we pitched our tents on a small hill close to a nearby chapel.

The following morning we woke up into one of the most beautiful autumn days we have ever seen anywhere on the Earth. The sun was shining and autumn colours were at their best: around us in all the directions, endless fields of birches were bursting by golden, red and brown colours.
_IGP6724.JPG

After a few hundreds meters of walking on the road, we quickly turned to the left and entered a broad valley called Visttasvággi. The Visttasjohka river was running slowly and peacefully, creating numerous lakes and smaller ponds.

_IGP6779.JPG
_IGP6807.JPG
_IGP6816.JPG
_IGP6829.JPG
_IGP6823.JPG
_IGP6826.JPG
_IGP6832.JPG
_IGP6853.JPG
_IGP6856.JPG
_IGP6840.JPG
Those with shorts were really lucky. We were hiking far beyond the polar circle and in the middle of autumn, yet the sun was shining so intensively that shortly we found ourselves sunbathing shirtless in the popular “Putin style”.
_IGP6863.jpg
_IGP6869.jpg
_IGP6870.jpg
_IGP6899.jpg
_IGP6917.jpg
_IGP6952.jpg
_IGP6984.jpg

The valley was beautiful and looked spectacular in the afternoon sun. Instead of rushing, we preferred to move slowly and enjoy beauty of the arctic landscape and marvellous weather we didn’t expect at all.

_IGP6856.JPG
_IGP6883.JPG
_IGP6912.JPG
_IGP6935.JPG
_IGP6937.JPG
_IGP6945.JPG
_IGP6947.JPG
_IGP6968.jpg
_IGP6963.JPG
_IGP6980.JPG

The shadows were getting lower yet it was still very warm. We continued hiking in the north-west direction towards the magnificent peaks we saw in the west.

_IGP7030.jpg
_IGP7039.jpg
_IGP6993.JPG
_IGP7045.jpg
_IGP7059.JPG

We camped in a small camping spot we found among the birches. The night was peaceful and we felt really thankful for such a beautiful opening of our trekking adventure.

_IGP7043.JPG

DAY 2: Deep in the Visttasvággi Valley

Early morning was foggy and misty as one may expect in late autumn in a location close to the river; the sun was only hardly getting through thick clouds.

Soon, however, the fog and clouds disappear, and brilliant sunshine continued to rule.
_IGP7134.JPG
_IGP7071.JPG
_IGP7116.JPG
_IGP7121.JPG
_IGP7130.jpg

We continued hiking in the north-west direction, slowly ascending on the right sight of the valley. From time to time, we descended back to the river, and got a chance for a swim.

It was really warm - however, the water temperature was as arctic as was our location.
_IGP7156.JPG
_IGP7167.JPG
_IGP7181.JPG
_IGP7189.JPG
_IGP7207.JPG
_IGP7235.JPG
_IGP7226.JPG
_IGP7244.JPG
_IGP7198.jpg
_IGP7202.jpg
_IGP7247.jpg
_IGP7257.jpg
_IGP7292.jpg
_IGP7303.jpg
_IGP7269.JPG

It the late afternoon, the sky was still cloudless. On the right side of the valley, we got a chance to look back at those twenty five kilometres we had hiked so far. Somewhere in the east, there was Nikkaluokta settlement - the closest civilization.

So far, we had met less than five people. For unknown reason, this Visttasvággi valley was not really popular - good for us!
_IGP7274.JPG
_IGP7297.JPG
_IGP7276.JPG
_IGP7309.JPG
_IGP7315.JPG
_IGP7327.jpg
_IGP7332.jpg
_IGP7337.jpg
_IGP7340.jpg

We decided to camp on a nice small plateau located on the left side of the river. With upcoming twilight, the temperature dropped significantly. Dinner, tea, and finally a shot of whisky in our sleeping bags.

The first two days on the trail couldn’t be more magical. We were looking for tomorrow - the plan was to leave the valley, and go to the mountains.
_IGP7317.JPG

Day 3: From Visttasvággi Valley to Unna Räitastugan hut

_IGP7354.JPG
Sunrise in the valley in a close proximity to majestic peaks was an awesome experience.

First sun beams were illuminating the mountains in a magical game of light. Looking out from our tents, however, did not bring much optimism. Thick clouds had gathered through the night, and it looked like rain.

Indeed, light shower started soon, and we had rather wet breakfast. We packed our things quickly, and set out on the trail again.

_IGP7356.JPG
_IGP7350.JPG
_IGP7364.jpg
_IGP7367.JPG
_IGP7389.JPG
_IGP7383.JPG
_IGP7425.JPG
_IGP7416.JPG
_IGP7444.JPG
We decided to cross the Unna Reaiddávággi pass and spent a night in a small cabin called Unna Räitastugan.

In fact, this meant more or less constant gentle ascent through the pass, following crossing of a tributary river. From time to time, rain showers were making our progress harder, but we were also rewarded by a beautiful rainbow.

_IGP7429.jpg
_IGP7454.JPG
_IGP7450.JPG
_IGP7459.JPG
_IGP7474.jpg
_IGP7505.JPG
_IGP7507.JPG
_IGP7520.JPG
The hike along the lower lake below the Unna Räitastugan hut was a rather wet endeavour; that time, it rained quite extensively.

The landscape changed dramatically - here in the pass, there was almost no life, neither birches nor bush; just tundra grass. Everything looked really rough and rugged. Last (or first?) patches of snow were lying on the slopes of surrounding peaks.

_IGP7527.JPG
_IGP7547.JPG
_IGP7538.JPG
_IGP7562.JPG
_IGP7571.jpg
_IGP7563.JPG

The path continued on the left side of the pass, climbing to a plateau with another lake - where the hut should have been located. We were quite tired and were really looking forward to a place where we could warm up a bit and enjoy the evening. There was a spectacular waterfall connecting higher and lower lakes.

_IGP7598.JPG
_IGP7601.JPG
_IGP7606.JPG
_IGP7615.jpg
_IGP7619.jpg
_IGP7625.JPG
The hut was small and not in a perfect shape. Still, it was a cosy place.

With a small fireplace, we quickly managed to warm up the cabin, and enjoyed the rest of the evening in a peaceful and comfortable atmosphere. Outside, meantime, it got really cold. The wind was blowing severely through the pass, and from time to time it was raining. We were really thankful for this small hut we stayed in - it became our true home for the night.

_IGP7633.JPG

Day 4: From Unna Räitastugan to Sälkastugorna

_IGP7659.JPG
The sunrise at the Unna Räitastugan cabin was nothing less than a phenomenal light performance in a truly exceptional setting.

The rising sun was illuminating surrounding peaks and changing their colours continuously. What an awesome experience! It was cold, most likely below zero, but we couldn’t resist staying outside to witness this natural phenomenon.

_IGP7635.JPG
_IGP7640.JPG
_IGP7651.JPG
_IGP7669.JPG
_IGP7706.JPG
_IGP7708.JPG
_IGP7709.JPG
_IGP7719.JPG
_IGP7720.JPG
We didn’t rush to move on; the comfort of the cabin was way too attractive.

We enjoyed our breakfast, warm tea, and packed our things in a slow-paced way. Brilliant weather ruled and the sun was shining, though it was quite cold outside - no wonder, we were at the elevation of at least one thousand meters.

_IGP7732.jpg
_IGP7736.jpg
_IGP7737.jpg
_IGP7741.jpg
_IGP7742.jpg
_IGP7727.JPG
_IGP7748.JPG
_IGP7752.JPG
_IGP7759.JPG
_IGP7766.JPG
_IGP7769.jpg
We set out on the trail hiking in the south-west direction. Frequently, there was hardly any path at all; we were crossing barren land of rock fields - not a pleasant way of walking.

From time to time, a few reindeer were our companions. Here, there was no one, no other trekkers - obviously this shortcut was even less frequented than the Visttasvággi valley we had explored during the first two days on the trail.

_IGP7783.JPG
_IGP7789.JPG
_IGP7796.JPG
_IGP7808.JPG
_IGP7810.JPG
_IGP7827.JPG
_IGP7839.JPG
_IGP7794.jpg
_IGP7817.jpg
_IGP7820.jpg
_IGP7822.jpg
_IGP7869.jpg
_IGP7882.jpg
_IGP7896.jpg
_IGP7897.jpg
Soon, we started to descent from the pass, and after some time we turned to the left, towards a beautiful lake called Reaiddájávri.

The journey planned for this day was one of those shorter ones; we didn’t really rush, and enjoyed beautiful autumn weather instead.

_IGP7847.JPG

After a few kilometres of hiking on the plateau with the lake, we started yet another descent - now to our final destination of the day, Sälkastugorna hut and campsite. For the first time, we were about to reach Kungsleden trail - it is crossing the area in the south-to-north direction like a trekking highway.

_IGP7909.jpg
_IGP7918.JPG
_IGP7919.jpg
_IGP7921.JPG
_IGP7923.jpg
_IGP7940.JPG
_IGP7938.JPG
_IGP7942.JPG
_IGP7945.JPG
_IGP7947.JPG
_IGP7948.JPG
_IGP7960.JPG
_IGP7967.JPG
_IGP7971.JPG
The evening was pleasant though rather cold. Of course, we did enjoy a sauna that was available, and a nearby stream - surely a must after a few days of hiking and sweating.

The night was not warm - near the river, it became really cold, and we were thankful for our good sleeping bags.

_IGP7951.jpg

Day 5: From Sälkastugorna to Alisvággi valley

_IGP7977.JPG

There were a few nice brief moments of sunrise sunshine, but quickly it became overcast and grey clouds started to rule the skies. It looked like rain. We set out on the trail, following the Kungsleden path in the northern direction. The terrain was flat in the beginning, with some gentle ascents that followed.

_IGP7987.JPG
_IGP7989.JPG
_IGP7991.JPG
_IGP8000.JPG
_IGP8004.JPG
_IGP8008.jpg
_IGP8010.JPG
_IGP8015.jpg
_IGP8016.JPG
_IGP8021.jpg
_IGP8023.jpg
_IGP8022.jpg
_IGP8042.jpg
_IGP8051.jpg
_IGP8062.jpg
We continued hiking to the Tjäktjapasset pass. It started to rain - luckily there was a small cabin in the pass where we got a chance to dry out and have a lunch.

Then, the path led us along the Tjäktja hut, and we continued hiking till twilight, aiming to find a nice camping spot in the broad valley.

_IGP8068.JPG
_IGP8077.JPG
_IGP8070.JPG
_IGP8099.JPG
_IGP8118.jpg
_IGP8135.JPG
_IGP8161.JPG
_IGP8173.JPG
_IGP8183.JPG

We pitched our tents on a small plateau in the middle of the Alisvággi valley. It was overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining.

We realized that though the valley was really nice, it was not comparable to our first hiking days in terms of natural beauty.

Also, we were meeting more people here - from time tom time, these were really funny encounters. Have you ever met a hiker on a long-distance path with an umbrella? :-) Everything seemed to be possible here…

_IGP8210.jpg

Day 6: From Alisvággi Valley to Unna Allakasstugorna

_IGP8239.JPG
The sky looked much better than yesterday. For our sixth day on the trail, we had planned rather long hike, significantly exceeding 20 kilometres.

The plan was to quickly reach the Alesjaurestugorna hut and Alisjávri lake, have a lunch there, and then continue across the plateau to the west, aiming to get to the Unna Allakasstugorna hut and campsite in the evening.

_IGP8214.JPG
_IGP8219.jpg
_IGP8235.jpg
_IGP8238.JPG
_IGP8249.JPG
_IGP8253.JPG
_IGP8257.JPG
_IGP8263.JPG
_IGP8275.JPG
Here on the trail, we met an “Umbrella man”, as we quickly nicknamed him. Umbrella, small backpack, and a sleeping bag on his shoulders… quite a unique style of wandering in the deep north!
_IGP8281.jpg
_IGP8282.jpg
_IGP8290.jpg
_IGP8306.jpg
_IGP8332.jpg
_IGP8339.jpg

The wind started to blow quite intensively and we quickly continued to the Alisjávri lake, crossing a spectacular bridge across one of the tributaries of the Aliseatnu river.

_IGP8294.JPG
_IGP8304.JPG
_IGP8315.JPG
_IGP8317.JPG
_IGP8324.JPG
_IGP8344.jpg
_IGP8355.JPG
_IGP8364.JPG

Soon, we found ourselves close to the lake and and a nearby Alesjaurestugorna hut. Slowly, the sun started to shine through the clouds and illuminate the surrounding autumn landscape with its beautiful light.

It looked like in an autumn fairy-tale paradise; everything in red, yellow and brown autumnal colours.
_IGP8394.JPG
_IGP8409.JPG
_IGP8411.JPG
_IGP8417.JPG
_IGP8421.JPG
_IGP8427.JPG
_IGP8432.JPG
_IGP8439.JPG

It was already mid afternoon when we set out on the trail again, having had a lunch at the Alesjaurestugorna hut. There were remaining thirteen kilometres ahead of us, starting with a fair climb to a nearby plateau.

_IGP8446.JPG
_IGP8475.JPG
_IGP8516.JPG
_IGP8517.JPG
_IGP8507.JPG
_IGP8525.JPG
_IGP8532.JPG
_IGP8539.JPG
Leaving Kungsleden once again meant founding more spectacular scenery, now in beautiful tones of the setting sun.

There were herds of reindeer as well, and not surprisingly, we had only met two fellow trekkers on this “shortcut”. This may have been one of the surprises of Kungsleden: these shortcuts and side trails are often much more interesting than the main trail.

_IGP8554.jpg
_IGP8613.JPG
_IGP8623.JPG
_IGP8631.JPG
_IGP8644.JPG
_IGP8637.JPG
After a few hours of hiking, we found ourselves quite close to - Norway. Indeed, the snow-covered peaks reminding Mordor landscape were actually located in Norway.

It was already during sunset when we descended from the plateau to the valley - but still, we had to cross another smaller ridge called Unna Allagas.

_IGP8657.JPG
_IGP8661.JPG
_IGP8695.JPG
_IGP8688.JPG
_IGP8700.JPG
_IGP8709.JPG

We reached the Unna Allakasstugorna hut and campsite during twilight. Having talked to the warden, we realized that this day was actually the last day the hut and campsite were operating (in the summer season).

Autumn was about to end here, and birches were already almost leafless in the area.

The warden was kind enough to give us some spare cokes that were not sold to other hikers during past weeks - after a few days of hiking in the wilderness, this was like a small miracle that happened to us.

_IGP8717.JPG
_IGP8750.JPG
It was a long day. Or, better said, the longest day. 28 kilometres with heavy backpacks is neither short nor an easy walk.

Tired, we fell asleep quickly. The night was quite peaceful, with occasional wind and rain.

_IGP8773.JPG

Day 7: From Unna Allakasstugorna to Rovvidievvá

_IGP8783.JPG
We woke up into a really mysterious morning.

Fog and mist were rolling through the valley, and it looked like rain. Still, the warden told us that the weather shall improve in the afternoon, with even some sunshine being forecast. But now, in the morning, it started to rain.

_IGP8781.JPG
_IGP8793.JPG
_IGP8800.JPG
_IGP8802.JPG
_IGP8804.JPG
_IGP8825.JPG
_IGP8828.JPG
_IGP8830.JPG
_IGP8833.JPG
The autumn tundra landscape looked completely differently in the rainy and foggy weather.

There was some melancholy in the air, and one could really feel that winter is already knocking on the door. Mid of September - autumn doesn’t last long in the deep north.

_IGP8847.JPG
_IGP8837.JPG
_IGP8838.JPG
_IGP8846.JPG
_IGP8840.JPG
_IGP8857.JPG
_IGP8852.JPG
_IGP8866.JPG
_IGP8843.JPG
We hiked in the north-east direction, aiming to get close to the Abiskojaure lake to have a camp there.

It was quite an easy walk in a broad valley, without major descents or ascents. After some time, even the light rain stopped.

_IGP8881.JPG
_IGP8885.JPG
_IGP8889.JPG
_IGP8895.JPG
_IGP8908.jpg
_IGP8928.JPG
_IGP8965.JPG
_IGP8971.JPG
_IGP8935.JPG

Around lunch time the sun finally broke through thick clouds.

We felt this could haven been the very last day of autumn here. Once again we were hiking in a fairy-tale place, without any fellow hikers, being completely alone.
_IGP8951.JPG

We continued hiking through the Rovvidievvá hamlet with a few summer houses (of course, no one was there).

There was some nice rainbow performance as well, and we decided to go a few more kilometres to find a nice camping spot.
_IGP8984.JPG
_IGP8987.JPG
_IGP8996.jpg
_IGP9013.JPG
_IGP9016.JPG
_IGP9032.JPG
We camped in a small birch forest and enjoyed a campfire.

Our journey was about to end soon; so far, we had hiked more than one hundred kilometres.

_IGP9060.jpg
_IGP9063.jpg
_IGP9057.JPG

Day 8: From Rovvidievvá to Abisko

_IGP9100.JPG
The morning was really optimistic - after a few days, there was plenty of sunshine, and the grey rainy clouds disappeared completely.

After breakfast, we set out on the trail, aiming to reach the Abiskojaurestugorna hut and campsite around lunchtime.

_IGP9087.JPG
_IGP9111.JPG
_IGP9123.JPG
_IGP9154.JPG
_IGP9134.jpg
_IGP9137.jpg
_IGP9145.jpg

The journey was pleasant, nothing really challenging. Also, after a week our backpacks became lighter and bearable.

_IGP9125.JPG

We reached the Abiskojaurestugorna hut around lunchtime, bought some snacks and a few cokes, and enjoyed the lunch. It was rather windy, but the sun was shining perfectly.

Autumn wonderland yet another time.
_IGP9162.JPG
_IGP9170.JPG
_IGP9183.JPG
_IGP9198.jpg
_IGP9199.jpg
_IGP9201.jpg
_IGP9200.jpg
The re-joined the Kungsleden path for the second time and continued hiking on the right side of the Abiskojaure lake.

Here on the trail, we were definitely not alone - herds of fellow trekkers were passing by, following the Kungsleden highway to the south.

_IGP9205.JPG
_IGP9209.JPG
_IGP9214.JPG
_IGP9216.JPG
_IGP9237.JPG
_IGP9228.JPG
_IGP9239.JPG
_IGP9248.JPG
_IGP9258.JPG
_IGP9253.JPG

We did not really rush - our aim was to camp somewhere close to the end of the trail, saving last few kilometres for tomorrow. It was really beautiful. I remember seeing summer pictures from Kungsleden, everything in green - this was far much better. More colourful, even spectacular. And without mosquitoes.

Autumn is for sure the best period for hiking in the deep north…
_IGP9269.JPG
_IGP9274.JPG
_IGP9277.jpg
_IGP9280 (2).JPG
_IGP9282 (2).JPG
_IGP9290.JPG
_IGP9322.JPG
_IGP9346.JPG
_IGP9353.JPG
_IGP9304.jpg
_IGP9327.jpg
_IGP9336.jpg
_IGP9371.JPG

From time to time, we were hiking at the shores of the Abiskojåkka river. The setting was beautiful, and we were meeting more and more daily trippers and hikers. The civilization was not far.

_IGP9394.JPG
_IGP9357.JPG
_IGP9354.JPG
_IGP9393.JPG
_IGP9361.JPG
_IGP9373.JPG
_IGP9405.JPG
_IGP9432.JPG
_IGP9436.JPG
_IGP9379.JPG

We camped quite close to Abisko train station, in a nice campsite at the river.

Last night in the wild.

The journey was about to end.

_IGP9424.JPG

Day 9: To Abisko Train Station... and Home

It took us two hours to come to the end (and beginning) of the trail. And it was it. End of a journey. End of autumn. End of the trip.

We took a train back to Kiruna and spent a night there. Of course, some good meal and a few beers were not missed.

It was a beautiful trail.

I could give tens of advices, but I give just one: don’t just stay on the main path.

Wonder around, explore, go for some adventure. It’s definitely worth it!

_IGP9455.JPG
_IGP9462.JPG
_IGP9470.JPG
Footnote: All images are exclusive property and may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, transmitted, manipulated or used in any way without permission of the photographer (tomas.zrna@gmail.com).
Sweden