Padjelantaleden is a hiking trail in Lappland, in northern Sweden. It is 140 km (87 mi) long and leads from Kvikkjokk northwards through Padjelanta National Park (in the Laponia park system) to Ritsem. The hike usually takes around 9–10 days (although one might want to plan for breaks, expected and unexpected). Not having much elevation gain (at maximum 300 m per day), it is suitable as a beginner's trekking tour, provided someone in the company has experience with outdoor camping, hiking and staying in remote areas.
- See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries
This trip goes into wilderness areas where assistance is unavailable and unexpected events can occur. Always use caution and make sure you know the conditions you might encounter. Do not attempt to hike on Padjelantaleden without a detailed hiking map. Off line GPS hiking maps for Padjelanta and Kvikkjokk-Jakkvik can e.g. be purchased via the app Calazo. A spare device with the electronic map, off and watertightly packed, is recommendable. Still carry at least an overview map on paper – and check it has enough detail for finding a viable route should the electronics fail.
Padjelanta national park is part of the Laponia UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is a Sámi region, where reindeer husbandry and other traditional livelihoods are still practised.
It is possible to hike Padjelantaleden in either direction. At Ritsem, the Fjäll (mountain landscape) consists of higher and steeper fells than in Kvikkjokk, where the trail leads through forest sections. This article describes the direction from Kvikkjokk to Ritsem, thus providing a climactic scenic experience for most travellers.
In this article, we concentrate on a summer hike.
There is also the possibility of going in the winter, but only with the right skills. You will need skis suitable for off-track skiing. The trail markings can be obscured by snow and there is less service; the huts are not necessarily manned, but one of the huts in any of the camps should be open. Beware of snow storms in open areas, and Arctic temperatures. The huts are manned at Easter, which is about the best time for winter hikes.
The huts in the national park itself are maintained by the local Sámi communities through
Some huts, such as at the trailheads, are maintained by the Swedish tourist association, STF.
It is essential to bring the right items (equipment, food and emergency kit) with you. This is a wilderness area, and though small huts exist on the way, the ability to buy items is very limited. Basically, besides the larger fell stations in Ritsem and Kvikkjokk, you are restricted to a small number of food items. About every two days you will reach a hut that offers bread, and every once in a while also a small selection of other items. You may also be able to buy fish and fresh bread in Sámi camps (ask at the huts or note signs by the trail). Staloluokta, placed conveniently in the middle of Padjelantaleden, has a bit more options. Here you might be able to stock up on some more food. However, food supply is not guaranteed, and huts can run out of supplies at the end of the season. It is best to bring food for the entire trip, except for maybe bread and a bit of chocolate or muesli. You should also note that food is very expensive on the trail, since everything has to be brought in by helicopter. Make sure you have enough cash with you, since you can generally not pay by credit card in the huts, on the boat or the buses.
In terms of equipment, what to bring depends on whether you wish to stay in the huts for the night, or bring a tent. Obviously, bringing a tent will allow you to travel much more flexibly and you will for the most part find good spots for your tent easily. There are stoves, kitchen utensils, tableware, duvet and pillows in the huts, but you will need at least own linen (or sleeping bags). Depending on when you are going you might have to be prepared also for emergency camping with what you carry.
See Wilderness backpacking and Hiking in the Nordic countries#Gear for a general description of what you might want to bring. Bringing waterproof, sturdy boots, a waterproof jacket, rain pants and a backpack cover is prudent, since it can pour for days.
It is essential to prepare for mosquitoes. The huge number of aggressive mosquitoes that can occur in summer makes them not merely an inconvenience, but a real challenge for the trip. Bug spray helps only so much, it is therefore essential to have clothes that protect the entire body, including a mosquito hat. Consider hiking in August–September, as mosquitoes get fewer after the first cold nights. Sometimes in September they are gone.
Plenty of water is available along the trail. Most hikers drink it without treatment where it is good-looking. Still bring a bottle or two, for drinking between good water sources, and for carrying water to your cooking place.
From Stockholm, there is a night train stopping in Murjek, from where you can take the connecting bus to Kvikkjokk. In Kvikkjokk, you have to take a small boat to get to the trailhead.
The trail ends in Anonjalme, on the south side of the lake Áhkájávrre (Akkajaure). There is a ferry going to Ritsem, from where you can take the bus to Gällivare, where you take the night train back to Stockholm.
The connection by train to Stockholm takes some time, but staying in a sleeper in the train is quite comfortable and the buses and ferries are generally set up to provide a seamless trip without having to wait too much in one place. It is recommended to buy your bus ticket combined with the train. In that case, if the train is delayed and you miss the bus you will be supported to make the final link. Although less ecological, flying to Kiruna from Stockholm might be an alternative.
Several of the huts on the trail have a connection by helicopter. Although expensive and not a very ecological solution, they do provide the possibility for quick travel in case of unexpected problems, provided one is near one of the huts with helicopter landing zones.
Huts on the way
In the start and end points, Kvikkjokk and Ritsem, there are STF fell stations, which are quite large and carry a greater range of supplies than the huts in between. Other than that, only Staloluokta is large enough to have a range of items available.
Also when the huts are unmanned there should be firewood available. If you use an unmanned hut, pay by the giro forms available at the hut, to the host at the next hut, or on the Internet.
Kvikkjokk - Ritsem
The following list is not meant as an day-to-day itinerary. For instance, most hikers will prefer to walk more than the 6 km from Njunjes to Tarrekaise on one day. Cabin listings below.
- Kvikkjok–Njunjes, 16 km
- Njunjes–Tarrekaise, 6 km
- Tarrekaise–Såmmarlappa, 13 km
- Såmmarlappa–Tarraluoppal, 13 km
- Tarraluoppal–Tuottar, 11 km
- Tuottar–Staloluokta, 18 km
- Staloluokta–Arasluokta, 12 km
- Arasluokta–Låddejåkkå, 13 km
- Låddejåkkå–Kisuris, 23 km
- Kisuris–Akka, 14 km
- Ferry from nearby Anonjalme to Ritsem
From Låddejåkkå, you can take the Nordkalottleden trail instead. This segment leads to more fell landscape and less forest, which besides a great view, provides for a more mosquito-free environment.
- Låddejåkkå–Kutjaure, 19 km
- Kutjaure–Vaisaluokta, 18 km
- (Vaisaluokta–Anonjalme, 7 km)
From Vaisaluokta, one can take either take the ferry directly to Ritsem (it leaves from Vaisaluokta less frequently) or walk to Anonjalme to get to the original end point of Padjelantaleden.
- 1 Kvikkjokk
- 1 Njunjes. Operated by STF. Cash only.
- 2 Tarrekaise (Darregájsse). Operated by STF. Shop. Cash only. Nordkalottleden forks off towards the Sulitelma massif, to rejoin at Stáloluokta (81 km instead of 55 km along Padjelantaleden).
- 3 Såmmárlahpa (Såmmarlappa). Operated by STF. Shop.
- 4 Darreluoppal (Tarraluoppal). Operated by BLT. Some food for sale.
- 5 Duottar (Tuottar). Operated by BLT. Some food for sale.
- 6 Stáloluokta. Operated by BLT. The Stáloluokta cabins are situated by a Sámi settlement and, like the other cabins in Padjelanta, maintained by the Sámi community. Sauna and Church guohti. The Parfas kiosk (+46 73-812-1649) sells food, including dried reindeer meat, fresh fish and a basic assortment of normal non-perishable food, and various daily or camping essentials. The Nordkalottleden trail joins in from the Sulitelma fells.
- 7 Árasluokta, ☏ . Operated by BLT. Sells a few edibles (including smoked or fresh fish, dried reindeer meat, gáhkko) and some Sami handicraft. Boat tours available. Church goahti at the Sámi settlement.
- 8 Låddejåhkå. Operated by BLT. Sells a few edibles.
- 9 Gisuris (Kisuris). Operated by BLT. Sells a few edibles. Near the tripoint of the national parks Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Padjelanta.
- 10 Akka (Änonjálmme). Operated by STF. Has a sauna, but no shop. View to the Áhkká fell massif.
On the Nordkalottleden variation:
- 11 Guvtjávrre (Kutjaure). Operated by STF. Only accepts cash payment. Does not have any shop. Mobil phone coverage shaky. Emergency phone. The settlements near the lake belong to the Sámi community Sirges, while the cabins are maintained by STF.
- 12 Vájsáluokta (Vaisaluokta). Operated by STF. Only accepts cash payment. The cabin does not have a shop, but you may be able to buy some food from the settlement.
- 2 Ritsem
Although the trail should be quite easy to follow, if you lose it, you are in the middle of wilderness. Know how to cope and don't panic: admit the problem before straying further from your last known position, have a good rest to calm down – would lunch now be appropriate? – and figure out how to get somewhere you cannot miss. If visibility is bad you might want to camp.
It can be cool, windy and wet also in midsummer, with a risk of hypothermia. If your gear is deficient, you might have to keep on moving until you can get to the next hut or camp safely – especially if somebody is cold and wouldn't want to. Also, somebody who is miserable might think that finding their gloves in their backpack or putting on that dry sweater is too much trouble, especially as it means taking off some clothes first. Don't give up for such reasons. If somebody is in bad condition, sharing a sleeping bag can help.
Don't rely on mobile phone connectivity. There are probably long distances without connectivity. In emergencies, getting to higher ground can help, otherwise send someone to the nearest hut.
Kvikkjokk is not only the starting point of Padjelantaleden, but also serves as an important waypoint of Kungsleden. Connecting to Kungsleden is thus possible.
On the other end of the trail, hiking part of the Nordkalottleden is possible, as described above as an alternative exit or continuing farther along it. In the Kvikkjokk end, you could take Nordkalottleden from Kvikkjokk or Stáloluokta to the Sulitelma massif and end up in Norwegian Sulitjelma (37 km from Stáloluokta, 116 km from Kvikkjokk along Nordkalottleden), with bus to Fauske and Bodø, which have connections onward. You could also fork away just before the Sulitjelma village and continue by the European long-distance route E1 towards Sicily.
From Ritsem, there are several hiking possibilities. Long hikes include the Gränsleden trail to Norway, Kungsleden, and Nordkalottleden (the latter two passing reasonably close: a day or two away). At Akka (the end of the hiking trail, just before taking the ferry over to Akkajaure), it is possible to do some more serious mountaineering in going into the Akka massif. Proper precautions should be made, since the weather may change rapidly at any time. A small trail starts near the east side of the large bridge over Vuojatädno.