A SWEDISH LAPLAND STORY

Swedish Lapland's Guide to

Pajala

On a warm Friday evening in summer, you turn into Pajala. The town by the Torne River, the main town in a municipality with five salmon rivers and a neighbourhood that’s known in books and films as Vittulajänkä. You’ve given yourself 24 hours to do something exciting. So: what to do in Pajala, now that you’re here?

Evening: You check in to Lapland Hotel at the square in the centre of Pajala. It says Bykrog (village pub) on the wall of the building and next to the reception you see that the beer tap looks promising. There’s a distinct feeling of an inn here, and you wonder if there’s a special table for the regulars, but you can’t see one. Not wishing to complicate matters, you order a Hazy Pale Ale from Sigtuna Bryggeri to wash the travel dust down.

You google a little and see that the author Mikael Niemi made this place more known through his bestseller Popular Music from Vittula. Speaking of popular music, The Magnettes are from Pajala and somewhere in your subconscious you can hear their song ‘American’ playing. You take a quick shower in your room before you return to the restaurant. That inn feeling is strengthened further over another pale ale and a well-cooked … Mikael Nilsson and his family run this hotel and another hotel – Smedjan – in Pajala. You can also stay at Pajala campsite, with a fantastic location right by the river.

Pajala, fiske, gubbar
Six thousand inhabitants live in more than 80 villages in Pajala municipality. The area of the municipality is close to 8,000 square kilometers, or 1.3 square kilometers per person. In Pajala there are five rivers. The largest and most talked about is Torne River, know for its salmon fishing. In a good year, there are more salmon in the rivers than residents in Pajala.

Morning: Before breakfast you take a walk around town. You obviously choose to walk as near the Torne River as possible, as you walk past two of the town’s more well-known landmarks. The yellow church on the ridge above the river, and the suspension bridge to the north side and the road towards Finland.

At the landmark bridge, you turn back towards breakfast. On the way, you pass Laestadius’s traditional cabin in Pajala. They call it a pörte (a small hut), but it’s been added to extensively. The priest, scientist, and sobriety advocate Lars Levi Laestadius worked here and his pörte is open to visitors during summer. The religious movement founded by Laestadius is strong in the Torne Valley. At the square, returning from your walk, you pass the sundial, one of the largest of its kind, and check that your watch is running properly.

Over breakfast you decide that this day should consist of high and low. Two excursions, to two different nature reserves. First to the mountain Jupukka and then to the wetlands that were used for haymaking back in the day: Vassikavuoma.

pajala kengis panorama fors
The manor house in Kengis is a vital piece of the area's northernmost industrial history. Kero shoes outlet and shop in Sattajärvi is also well visited. Another brand with a rich cultural history from the municipality is Lovikkavanten (Lovikka Mitten).

Daytime: Is the Earth really round? Round as in completely spherical? That’s a question that busied scientists for hundreds of years. Wilhelm Struve took on the task to find out what the globe actually looked like. His meridian arc, from Odessa on the Black Sea to Hammerfest in Norway, showed among other things that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but flatter at the poles. Struve’s arc is a World Heritage and four measuring points are located in the Swedish part of the Torne Valley, among them this one at Jupukka which gives us an idea of how laborious the project using triangulation from Odessa to Hammerfest must have been.

It’s a long way to the next height, the mountain Tynnyrilaki in Kiruna municipality. The path from the parking to the measuring point is steep, perhaps 600 metres long, and constantly uphill. But you’re rewarded with a fantastic view from the top of Jupukka once you’ve arrived. The mountain is sometimes called ‘the green peak’, as it’s still a grass-covered slope after generations having used it as pasture. There are nice barbecue areas here, too.

A fly fisherman’s best friend

When Lars Munk moved to Pajala, the Torne river salmon lived a waning existence. Today the situation is completely different. The Torne River is today considered one of the world’s most productive water systems when it comes to Atlantic salmon.

pajala Struve jupukka

Struve's meridian arc

Between the years 1816-1866, the astronomer Wilhelm Struve devoted himself to the shape of the globe and his meridian arc, from Odessa on the Black Sea to Hammerfest in Norway, showed, among other things, that the earth is not spherical but flatter at the poles. Struve's arch is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and four measuring points are located in the Swedish part of Tornedalen.

Afternoon:
In the afternoon you go to Vassikavuoma. It’s old marshland that was used for haymaking and now it’s a nature reserve. Its total size is 250 hectares. Once there were more than 200 log barns here where the hay was stored, and 82 of them remain. There’s a project in place to preserve the unique biotope created here by resuming the haymaking and renovating barns. The wetlands are flooded annually and it’s a great environment for birds.

Around 70 different bird species have been surveyed around the marsh, and the vegetation is one of a kind. Parts of the area have been adapted for those with reduced mobility and provides good footbridges that partly work for wheelchairs, but adaptations are not in place throughout.

When you return to Pajala you have a caffe latte at Älvbodan, just across the street from the hotel. The old bank premises have become both a café and an interior design shop. While enjoying your coffee, you google other things you could have done. An excursion to Kengisforsen rapids of course: one of the best fishing spots in the world for salmon fishermen. The mansion in Kengis played a big role in the area’s northernmost industrial history.

You could also have taken your car to Sattajärvi and Kero shoes outlet and shop. Another brand with a rich cultural history in this part of the world is Lovikkavanten, traditional knitted mittens. But since the summer is warm here in the square, you enjoy your coffee without mittens. You can hear people at the café talking about a sandy beach and they give you the location, down past the health centre. You gather your swimming trunks and a towel, have a latte to-go and head off for an afternoon swim.

A genuine tradition

Kero makes handmade leather products and is located in the village of Sattajärvi, two kilometers south of Pajala.

To the store >>

pajala vasikkavuoma
Vasikkavuoma is an old mowing marsh that is now a nature reserve, 250 hectares large. Once there were more than 200 timber barns here to store the hay in. Today, 82 of these remain.

Packing up: Well, your intention was to move on, but you stay another night at the hotel. You have Thai food at Dansai, next to the state off-licence. In a way it’s a blessing that not all food is reindeer, Arctic char and other animals. There’s another life in the north. The life of those who have chosen to move here.

Further up along the river valley there is experience accommodation in Kangosfors, at Lapland Guest House and Pinetree Lodge, as well as Arctic River Lodge in Tärendö. Any pike fishermen would probably have booked their stay at Camp Juno in Junosuando. Before you go to bed you tell Mikael that you’ve heard from a friend that he is “a hell of a cocktail maker”. He laughs and says that at least he can make something other than a ‘Pajala Sunrise’ (vodka with a slice of Falukorv sausage), so you order a Lynchburg Lemonade.

“Coming up right away,” says Mikael and the inn feels just like at home.

About Pajala

Pajala is a paradise for fishers. Here you can catch trout, grayling and salmon in many of the lakes and watercourses. Visit Tärendö River, the second-largest bifurcation in the world, or enjoy the freedom to roam in the beautiful nature. Pajala is also a cultural centre in the Torne Valley region, with a vibrant theatre and musical life.

Have a chat with the local tourist information for more insights heartoflapland.com

Curious about living in Pajala?

Check out hejhemby.com

Part of theme:

Pajala

  • Mentions

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In sauna veritas

Sauna, or bastu in Swedish, is something as natural to people in the north as the midnight sun and the northern lights. It used to be something of a prerequisite for life in the Arctic, and now it is a rich part of the culture itself. Sauna is the essence of life up here.

The great race of mercy

In Junosuando, a village located on the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, there's a statue of Leonhard Seppala. He's one of the world's most famous mushers. This is the story about Leonhard himself, his dog Togo, and what became known as the "Great Race of Mercy".

When to see the northern lights in Swedish Lapland

Shimmery and magical. The dance of the northern lights is a spectacular sight that we frequently enjoy in Swedish Lapland. Viewing the Aurora Borealis is both a jaw-dropping and mystical experience. But when is the best time to see the northern lights in Swedish Lapland?

The Arctic light

You might think that in the Arctic, we have darkness or daylight. In the winter, the sun never rises above the horizon, and in the summer, the sun never sets. But in fact, we have light all year round. Just different kinds of light. Some darker, some brighter, and some very colourful.

Photograph the northern lights

So you've gone to Swedish Lapland, Sweden's Arctic destination, to experience the magical northern lights. Here are seven tips on how to get some good pictures of the beautiful light phenomenon to take back home.

Shooting autumn colours

Many think autumn is the most beautiful time of year in Swedish Lapland. It's as if Earth itself grants a generous firework display of colour before the winter sleep settles over the Arctic landscape. And it's easy to capture the show with a camera on standby. These are five simple tips for capturing autumn in a photo.

Midsummer

When the sun never sets, and the kids are on summer holiday. When holidays are waiting around the corner and meadows explode with wood cranesbill. That's when long lines of cars queue up to get out of the cities. It's time to go find tranquillity with friends and family in summer houses and holidays homes, away from the hustle and bustle. It's time to celebrate the most important holiday of the summer. It's midsummer.

The midnight sun

The midnight sun. The feeling of never having to face tomorrow, just keep having fun and enjoy the never-ending day, is absolutely wonderful. But. Those who depend on their beauty sleep will face certain challenges.

The not-so-big five

Scouting out the 'Big Five' on the African savannah is the big dream of many. They include leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and African buffalo and is a group of large, majestic and fairly dangerous animals. Here in the Arctic part of Sweden, we don't have animals the size of an elephant or with the speed of a leopard, but we have a fair few animals that are pretty cool in their own way. Below we have listed five animals that are both unique and fascinating, definitely worth putting on a list of must-see animals.

Salmontrippin’

A tanked-up car, robust rod holders and a few intensely driven salmon fishers as the company is an excellent start if you're going to do some severe salmontrippin' in Swedish Lapland. This is the story of three high-pitched days in four wild salmon rivers.

The midnight light

If it's your first time visiting Swedish Lapland during the summer, you'll notice that it never gets dark. You have entered the world of the midnight sun, and if you're not used to it, it's an extraordinary experience. But beware, it might affect your sleep quality.

Durable fashion

Imagine a pair of shoes that just gets better with age. With feeling and respect for material and craftsmanship, Kero creates durable and trendy products that just look better with use.

The forest is yours

Is it really true that anyone can walk around the forests and beaches of Swedish Lapland? Pick berries and pitch a tent anywhere? Yup, that's exactly what it's like in the democratic forest.

Outdoor fika

That Swedes have their fika (coffee and a snack), and that they drink lots of coffee, are well-known facts. But what's the thing about having it outdoors? What's the deal with coffee boiled over an open fire?

Midnight salmon

As the renowned crew of fly-fishing filmmakers Hooké from Canada touched down at Luleå Airport, they didn’t really know what to expect of Swedish Lapland – but soon they got overwhelmed by the warm welcome of big Baltic salmons.

The taste of
Swedish Lapland

When you visit Swedish Lapland, you will notice that our food culture is closely intertwined with our lifestyle. There is a strong tradition that testifies to how we have lived from what nature has generously provided us with for many millennia. Join us on a guided tour of our natural resources, taking the shortest possible route to the plate.

The way we eat

When in Swedish Lapland, exploring the nature of the Arctic, chasing the northern lights or just soaking up the sun 24/7, make sure you don’t miss out on the food. Some of the food we eat might sound a bit strange, but we highly recommend you try and get a taste of Swedish Lapland.

Catch a Baltic

How to catch a Baltic salmon in Swedish Lapland? That’s the 100-dollar question for many salmon fly fishers. But there’s some good news. It’s getting easier. A lot easier. During the last years, salmon runs in the wild Swedish Baltic rivers have been heading in the right direction.

Muohta

Snow is something more than frozen water to the Sámi people. It's a way of expressing the foundation of their existence – the migration of the reindeer. To a skier, snow is also more than snow. It's the way you experience life.

The eight seasons

In Swedish Lapland, nature plays an intrinsic role in our life and work, and the people here are highly sensitive to the small details of the changing seasons. Therefore, it seems only natural that the Sámi people describe eight seasons instead of four.

At Pinetree Lodge

Five kilometres beyond the end of the public road you’ll find the village Särkimukka in the Torne Valley. In the middle of the woods, on a frozen lake, this is home to four people and around two hundred dogs. People from all over the world come here to experience winter and an Arctic adventure. Most of them go home a friendship richer: a four-legged friendship.

Christmas

It is December and the landscape is covered in a white blanket; trees are heavy with snow and the roads are white. The dense mid-winter darkness creates a blue light during a few hours, and windows are lit up by advent stars and candlesticks. Christmas is here.