Kiruna is the northernmost urban settlement in Sweden. It lies 90 miles beyond the Arctic Circle, but its temperate climate and wide range of attractions make it a popular and enjoyable place to visit.
The evidence of human occupation in this vast region dates back more than 6000 years. This provides a fascinating historical backdrop to Kiruna, which didn't start developing as a city until 1900. Since then, it has become a centre for mining, science and tourism.
The Kiruna region is home to 20,000 Sami. The Sami people are the indigenous population and have an intriguing history and culture. To find out more about them, visit Samegården. You can view an exhibition of the Sami way of life and buy original Sami handicrafts.
Two other places where you can gain further insight into Sami culture are Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården Museum in Kiruna and Gårdi, just 18 km east of the city. At Gårdi, a Sami guide will show you around a reindeer yard and tell you about the skills required to herd these animals in the Arctic.
For many years, the economy of Kiruna has relied heavily on iron ore mining. To see just how demanding this work can be, visit the LKAB iron ore mine. Guides will take you 1770 feet underground and explain just how hard it is to bring iron ore to the surface.
The mine is open from mid-June to mid-August. Contact the Kiruna tourist office on Lars Janssonsgatan for tour details.
Kiruna is the base for a number of scientific studies. The Esrange Space Centre is 28 miles east of Kiruna. The purpose of the base is to study the Northern Lights. You can take a guided tour of Esrange during the summer months.
Another place of scientific interest you can visit is the Abisko Scientific Research Station. The station overlooks Lake Torneträsk on the border of Abisko National Park and runs experiments relating to its Arctic surroundings.
The other well known national park in the Kiruna region is Sarek. At both Abisko and Sarek, you can see bears, moose, wolverines and other Arctic animals.
Kiruna also offers activities that allow you to enjoy the local environment as much as possible. Among these pursuits are hunting, fishing, dog sledging, ice climbing and ice skating.
If you prefer hiking, you can follow trails such as Nordkalottruta, or Arctic Trail, and Kungsleden, or the King’s Trail. For skiing, head for Luossavaara Mountain near Kiruna.
For water-based activities such as canoeing and rafting, there are trips from Kiruna to Lake Torneträsk, the Vistas valley and a number of local rivers.
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