Fascinating indigenous culture. World-class river fishing. Close-up encounters with brown bear, lynx, moose and wolverine. Nights out under the Northern Lights. Log cabins, saunas and warming shots of aquavit.
If you think this sounds like paradise, you should consider a vacation in Swedish Lapland.
As a formal, political entity, Lapland is the largest and northernmost region of Finland. Somewhat less officially, these traditional lands of the Sami people also stretch across substantial portions of northern Sweden and Norway.
Ringed by the Arctic Circle and bordered by Norway, Finland, and the Baltic Sea, Swedish Lapland extends across the top quarter of Sweden. Even for Swedes, this is a remote place.
Yet despite its reputation as a bountiful, unsullied wilderness, Swedish Lapland has its fair share of social, economic and environmental problems. Activities such as hunting, intensive forestry and mining have all had a negative impact on regional ecosystems, and the livelihoods of the local people.
Hakan Landstrom is managing director of Rewilding Lapland. This new non-profit is part of Rewilding Europe, a pan-European organization working to make Europe a wilder place by restoring its ecology. The rewilding process is based on both economic and environmental drivers, so ecotourism is a significant component.
Here, old-growth forests, mountains, glaciers, free-flowing rivers and extensive wetlands co-exist with the indigenous Sami community since millennia. There is no other place in continental Europe with such vast, uninhabited, road-less and original landscapes as Lapland.
The composition of fauna and flora is still largely intact and the functioning of ecosystems unaltered. Here, the large-scale reindeer migration and largely intact river systems shape the ecology and the landscape as well as people’s lives.
However, even under such pristine conditions, there are threats and needs to ensure that the uniqueness of the land remains. And some lost ecological components need to be brought back.
Photo credit: Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe