Norrland is one of three lands of Sweden, besides Svealand and Götaland. Norrland encompasses two thirds of the country's surface, but no more than 12 per cent of its population; about 1.18 million in 2016. The region is characterized by forests, mountains, rivers and elongated lakes, a harsh winter climate, long distances, as well as university towns with young populations.
As the rest of Sweden, Norrland is divided into traditional provinces (landskap), as well as counties (län); the current political entities. As some provinces have very small population, counties are used as the basic regions of Norrland.
|Gävleborg County (Provinces: Gästrikland and Hälsingland)|
The gateway to Norrland, with open plains shifting into deep forests, with some mountains.
|Västernorrland County (Provinces: Medelpad and Ångermanland)|
The heartland of Sweden's forest industry, where the land rises from the sea by one centimetre each year.
|Jämtland County (Provinces: Jämtland and Härjedalen)|
Famous for its ski resorts: Åre, Vemdalen, Storlien and Östersund, good for hiking during summer.
|Västerbotten County (Provinces: Västerbotten and southern Lappland)|
Contains Umeå, Norrland's largest city, as well as tall mountains at the Norwegian border.
|Norrbotten County (Provinces: Norrbotten and northern Lappland)|
Contains the Torne Valley; the world's northernmost farmland. The county extends into the Arctic, with the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, and the largest wilderness within the European Union.
- 1 Gävle , a port city famous for ice hockey, coffee, and a straw goat targeted by arsonists.
- 2 Härnösand , a 17th-century city with a cathedral.
- 3 Kiruna , Sweden's northernmost city, known for the Sami Parliament, the mine, and space flight.
- 4 Luleå , a port with a steel mill, and a technical university.
- 5 Östersund , Norrland's largest inland city, at Storsjön, Norrland's largest lake.
- 6 Sandviken , a quaint industrial town.
- 7 Skellefteå , known for ice hockey, mining, and Västerbotten Cheese.
- 8 Sundsvall , known for wood industry, and Norrland's only casino.
- 9 Umeå , this university city, famous for its bridges, is the largest city in Norrland.
- 1 Abisko - a national park.
- 2 Höga Kusten (High Coast) is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. This coast line on the Gulf of Bothnia still rises at the rate of about one centimetre per year, still being affected by the last ice age.
- 3 Jukkasjärvi - a village famous for the Ice Hotel.
- 4 Kebnekaise - Sweden's highest mountain surrounded by vast wilderness areas and a popular trail to Abisko National Park.
- Kungsleden - a marked well-known hiking trail that runs through Norrland.
- 5 Laponia - four national parks, together forming Europe's largest wilderness.
- 6 Ljusdal - home to three out of seven UNESCO World Heritage site "Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland".
- 7 Vemdalen - a ski resort.
- 8 Åre - Sweden's busiest ski resort.
The Sami people have lived in inland Norrland since time immemorial. The first Swedish settlers arrived in the Middle Ages, but the land remained sparsely populated until the late 19th century, where a new wave of pioneers came for work in forestry, mining, metalworking, railroad, and military service. During the late 20th century, many small towns have been depopulated, with the coastal cities rising as local metropolises.
As elsewhere in Sweden, Swedish is the de facto official language. Old people in Swedish-speaking rural areas speak very distinct local dialects (bondska), but practically everyone speaks Standard Swedish. Northern Norrland is the homeland of two official minority languages, both from the Finno-Ugric family: Sámi and Meänkieli.
The Sami people populate most of the inland. Five Sámi languages are spoken here: Southern Sámi, Ume Sámi, Pite Sámi, Lule Sámi and Northern Sámi. Northern Sámi and Lule Sámi are the biggest with some thousand speakers, Southern Sámi has some hundred speakers, while Ume and Pite Sámi have only a handful each. They are proper languages, generally not mutually intelligible, although often referred to as one language.
In Norrbotten near the Finnish border, meänkieli ("our language"), a dialect of Finnish, is spoken.
Most people, except the oldest, speak English.
SJ runs several daily trains from Stockholm to Sundsvall, Umeå and Östersund. There are nightly sleeper trains between Göteborg and Narvik, Norway with several stops, including Stockholm, Uppsala and many along Norrland. Sleeper accommodation is available.
Most major cities in Norrland have a commercial airport, with connection from Stockholm Arlanda Airport.
Except the coastal areas, settlements in Norrland tend to be tens of kilometres between. While some sceneries are majestic, roads through forested areas can also be monotonous, challenging drivers' ability to stay awake. See Driving in Sweden, E4 through Sweden, and E45 through Europe.
By public transport
While the mountains and the coast to the Baltic Sea are famously scenic, most of the forests in inland Norrland are rather monotonous.
- The Icehotel in the village Jukkasjärvi - A hotel built from snow and ice, which melts in spring and gets re-built every winter.
- Midnight sun in Norrbotten County
- Northern Lights
- Sami culture at villages, and museums such as Ájtte in Jokkmokk
Doing or watching sport, especially winter sport, is a pastime for the locals. Many towns, though some of them rather small, boast at least one team in the national elite; mostly ice hockey, bandy or skiing.
Esrange is a rocket launch facility near Kiruna. Guided tours.
- See also: Nordic cuisine
Classical foodstuffs are reindeer meat, game, berries and fish. An almond-shaped potato cultivar called mandelpotatis is considered a delicacy. Bread is usually based on rye; tunnbröd is thin bread which can be either soft or hard.
Västerbottensost is a hard cheese, iconic for Västerbotten.
Probably the world's stinkiest fish dish is surströmming; see Nordic cuisine for details.
While the major cities, especially Umeå, are known for their vegetarian and vegan community, there is little understanding for not eating meat in the countryside, where fishing and hunting are many people's pastime.
Except regular hotels and novelty accommodation such as the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel, ski resorts have a variety of lodging options, including cabins and campsites. Outside high season (well into May for those far north), these are relatively cheap and easy to book.
Cold weather, as well as snow safety and ice safety are concerns during the long winter. Norrland is infamous for mosquitoes. While they carry no infections, they become a nuisance as soon as snow melts.
Most people in Norrland are patriotic for their own province, and might frown on the "southern" description of Norrland as a homogenous region. They would be happy if you recognize the name of the province you are in. The same goes for the Sami and Meänkeli people, who have national identities on their own.