The Vildmarksvägen, or Wilderness Way, is a 500km circuit of road in the north of Sweden, running west-ish from Vilhelmina to the Norwegian border, south-ish for a bit and then east-ish from Gäddede to Strömsund. Our guide book described it as one of the most beautiful roads in Sweden and although we often take what our guide book says with a pinch of salt, we decided to give this one a go.
We got to Vilhelmina late on Friday afternoon, picked up some information from the tourist office and made a quick dash to the supermarket – at least, it would have been quick if I hadn’t got talking to two English ladies who lived in the area. They suggested a couple of things to see and do in the town, but we were keen to get on the road so headed off to find our first stop for the night.
The road travels through various different types of landscape, the first part being dedicated to rivers and rapids. We headed towards the famous set of rapids marked on our map and thought we’d found them, only to discover the next morning that, beautiful though our rapids were, they didn’t warrant a mention on the map. Nor did the next set we found just down the road.
Aha – here are the famous rapids! We were rather disappointed to find that the photo of said rapids on our map had been doctored – it shows dramatic mountains behind which, as you can see from this photo, don’t exist. Bloody graphic designers, always meddling with things….
On Saturday, we stopped for lunch at the side of a lake and were treated to an incredible rainbow – I think the first time I have seen a complete one, including both ends.
Our next stop was Fatmomakke, a Sami church town. In the mid-1700s, it became obligatory to attend church in Lapland which led to the development of church towns – accommodation was built around the church to house the nomads overnight as they often had to travel great distances. One of the lovely things about Fatmomakke is its remote location – a drive of several kilometres into the hills, followed by a walk over a footbridge to the town, sitting on the edge of the river. ‘Town’ gives the wrong impression – it is really a collection of timber cottages and Sami huts – like a timber tipi – around the church, all still in use today by the descendants of the original Sami and settlers. Three festivals are held here each year – Spring festival in June, Mid festival in July and Autumn festival in August. That gives some idea of the brief summer season here!
From Fatmomakke, the road passes through Klimpfjäll, one of a number of tiny mountain villages on the route. I love this sort of place – a handful of houses and a tiny shop with a couple of petrol pumps. The road on from Klimpfjäll closes on October 15th and doesn’t reopen until mid-June – apparently the snow drifts on Stekenjokk can be over 7 metres high so I guess keeping the road clear is too much effort, especially as there is no population for some distance.
Stekenjokk is incredible – a vast plateau above the tree line with views to distant mountains on the Sweden/Norway border. We saw a couple of other motorhomes there, but the area is so huge, it is easy to lose yourself and feel like there is no-one around for miles.
We went for a walk – the landscape looks rocky, but underfoot is actually very soft with lots of springy ground cover.
Can you see us down there?
We didn’t quite make it to the top of the hill we were heading for – we could see a weather front heading our way and didn’t fancy getting caught in the rain in 3ºC, so took advantage of the springy ground cover and bounced our way back down. The rain caught up with us as we got to the bottom and we were very grateful to reach the warmth and comfort of Hans! As the temperature dropped, we had dinner and then settled down to watch a film, tucked up in our little home in the middle of a vast expanse of nothing very much at all. Lovely.