Before we dive into the perfect 3 day itinerary for Kiruna, let’s orient ourselves with where Kiruna is situated and what makes it a prime winter travel destination!
Kiruna is a small mining town located in Sweden’s gorgeous, snowy Lapland region. It has around 17,000 inhabitants (most of them reindeer). The Sámi tribes have lived in this arctic area for over 3,500 years, and traveling to Kiruna is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the Sámi and their history.
You can arrive to Kiruna from Stockholm via train, but given the fact that winter train travel in Sweden can be unreliable and slow, I recommend that you opt for the quick flight from Stockholm on an airline like Norwegian or Scandinavian Airlines. The flight is a mere 1.5 hours and will give you some great views as you descend into tiny Kiruna airport (KRN).
So what makes Kiruna an ideal winter destination?
If you’re in Stockholm and are asking yourself “where is all the snow?” the answer is that it is up here in the north! When I visited, the locals told me that they were still missing a meter of snow (that’s just over 3 feet for you Americans!) and that’s with a meter+ already on the ground!
This snow bounty creates endless options for fun winter activities like husky sledding, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and exploring a hotel made entirely out of ice!
Because the options can be so overwhelming I’ve created this streamlined 3 day itinerary for Kiruna. Follow the day planner below and you’re sure to have a thrilling, memorable and snow-tastic time here!
3 Day Kiruna Itinerary Summary:
- Day 1 – Meeting Rudolph at Nutti Sámi Siida and unwinding with a sauna session
- Day 2 – Touring the original Icehotel and riding a sled into the sunset with Husky Tours Lapland
- Day 3 – Hiking through a winter wonderland, fika-ing at Bageriet i Puoltikasvaara, traversing Lappeasuando Bridge, and ending the day at Kiruna Pastorat (one of Sweden’s coolest churches)
Side Note: You should definitely set aside some time when the sun goes down and conditions are right to hunt the Northern Lights. But because they are not guaranteed, I’ve left them out of this article. There’s so much to say on this topic that it warrants its own post!
Kiruna Itinerary Day 1 – Meeting Rudolph at Nutti Sámi Siida and Unwinding with a Sauna Session
Nutti Sámi Siida
Location: Marknadsvägen 2 in SE, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi
Duration: 2-4 hours
If you’re interested in more meaningful travel, visiting Nutti Sámi Siida in neighboring Jukkasjärvi will be right up your alley!
Historically the Sámi led a nomadic existence dictated by the migrations of reindeer, and they have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to these amazing animals. You’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about reindeer, reindeer herding, and the history of the Sámi.
I particularly enjoyed learning about the ingenious ways that the Sámi survived the harsh arctic winters. As a Chicagoan, I thought that I was a hearty winter person, but they put me to shame!
At Nutti Sámi Siida you can spend quality time with the local reindeer while feeding them lichen (a type of moss and the reindeer’s primary food source in winter).
Note: when deciding whether or not to support an “animal tourism” activity I weigh the following factors – (1) whether the animal is domesticated or semi-domesticated and whether the activity benefits the animal or (2) whether the activity enables the survival of the animal.
Learning about and feeding the reindeer at Nutti Sámi Siida fulfills both of the above since they are semi-domesticated and their survival now depends on human intervention.
Due to climate change, arctic reindeer numbers have crashed, falling from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals. Warming has caused taller vegetation to grow, out-competing lichen. Less lichen = less reindeer surviving through the winter.
But all hope is not lost. The Sámi people and the tourist dollars that support places like Nutti Sámi Siida provide lichen for the reindeer under the Sámi’s care.
I did the “day visit” option which included an informative tour and time with the reindeer (200 SEK, ~$21). You can visit their website to book a time slot, but I had no issue showing up and buying an entry ticket. You can also book more extensive tours with them if you’re so inclined!
Evening Sauna Session
Location: Campingvägen 5, 981 35 Kiruna
Duration: Until you reach nirvana
After all that time outside with the reindeer, you’ll likely need a defrost. So why not do it in the most Swedish way possible – a sauna session!
My rental came with a sauna on site, HEAVEN! If you want the same experience, you can check it out and book here. This rental home was close to Kiruna but just far enough away to feel like my own slice of snowy paradise. I highly recommend it!
If you booked elsewhere and there’s no sauna on site, Camp Ripan is an excellent option. It has saunas as well as indoor and outdoor pools.
There’s also a cold room in case you’re into the Swedish brand of torture (I mean, “relaxation”) that involves freezing yourself before hopping into the sauna. Repeat the cycle 2-3 times and you’re a bona fide Swede!
Entry prices can be found here. And though a bit steeper for non-guests, they’re well worth the amount of relaxation that you’ll enjoy here!
Kiruna Itinerary Day 2 – Touring the Original Icehotel and Riding a Sled into the Sunset with Husky Tours Lapland
This day covers two of my most memorable experiences from this region – touring the Icehotel and going on a sunset husky ride with Husky Tours Lapland. The latter has an option where they pick you up straight from the Icehotel, making these two activities are the perfect pairing!
Location: Marknadsvägen 63, 981 91 Jukkasjärvi
Duration: 2-3 hours
The epitome of sustainable hotel architecture, the seasonal suites at the Icehotel are built with ice harvested from the mighty Torne River. Staying here is like staying inside a giant snow sculpture!
The property is divided into the Icehotel 365 (the ice suites that are available all year round), the seasonal suites (which are created anew each winter, and the warm rooms. Whatever experience you’re craving, the Icehotel has it.
But it’s the ice suites that make this place truly unique!
Every year, when the Torne River turns to ice, a new Icehotel is created in the small village of Jukkasjärvi in the north of Sweden. The ice of the river transforms to design and architecture – an ephemeral art project and the world’s first and largest hotel built of snow and ice.via Icehotel
Having never stayed in an ice-room, I wasn’t sold on the idea of staying the night. So I opted for the tour instead, a way to dip my toe into the icy waters so to speak.
I arrived at around 10am to explore the grounds at my own pace before the tour started at 12pm.
As an architecture lover, I was in heaven! Every year, the world’s best graphic designers, engineers, architects, and artists submit proposals to have their designs brought to life here.
Out of 120-150 proposals only 15-20 are selected!
Each seasonal suite is meticulously crafted based on the winning submissions.
Our tour guide explained how much work goes into the lighting design (which is apparently extremely important given how transparent the “building blocks” are). A team of lighting designers works on every room to showcase the icy artwork and give life to the artist’s vision.
I left feeling very happy with the tour of the Icehotel, but I’d definitely consider an overnight stay next time. It would give me more time to try some of the hotel’s “cool” activities like the ice sculpting classes, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling.
Husky Tours Lapland
Location: They can pick up from the IceHotel at 1pm!
Duration: approximately 4 hours
Just as the Icehotel tour ended around 12:45pm, my ride from Husky Tours Lapland showed up ready to take me for the ride of my life!
I had booked the Sit & Drive Combo Tour from 1pm-5pm. This tour gives you the chance to be the sled “driver” for half the time and the sled “rider” for the other half. The latter is a more relaxing experience, but I was keen to give husky mushing a go so the combo was perfect.
Husky Tours Lapland is a family run company with a phenomenal reputation. They clearly care for their huskies and treat them like family members!
Plus the sledding setting here is gorgeous and private, taking you through a true winter wonderland.
On arrival, we suited up into special thermal snowsuits to make the ride extra cozy, met our husky team (every couple gets a team of 5-6 huskies), and got instructions for operating the sled.
The instructions were fairly simple – keep a healthy distance between your sled and the next and gently apply foot pressure on the brake when you need to increase that distance. Slowly increase break pressure until you come to a complete stop. If you need to stop quickly, there is a back break that will dig into the snow for an emergency stop.
The guides were in the lead sled so all I had to do was mimic what they were doing to keep the proper distance.
Because the sun sets so early here in the wintertime, you may be treated to a gorgeous sunset as you ride through the forest. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was breathtaking!
When we got back to the start, our husky team was (deservedly) quite hungry and we got to unharness and feed them. Be careful, huskies are not dainty eaters and will slurp their stew right onto you if you don’t move back quickly!
I then got to meet and play with the most adorable sled-dogs-in-training: baby huskies! My heart just about burst from the cuteness overload!!
And as if this day hadn’t yet made it into the travel record books, the sweet guides had a roaring fire waiting for us! Tea, coffee and a cinnamon roll completed this unforgettable moment as we bonded with other travelers around the fire and exchanged stories about our homelands.
Kiruna Itinerary Day 3 – Hiking through a Winter Wonderland, Traversing Lappeasuando Bridge, and Ending the Day at Kiruna Pastorat
If you’ve been following this Kiruna itinerary, you had a snow-filled, activity-packed day yesterday. So for Day 3 I’ve set a relaxed pace, balancing time spent outdoors and with time spent getting cozy indoors. It’s a perfect way to say “until next time, Kiruna”!
Hiking Through a Winter Wonderland
Location: Coordinates 67.438608, 21.101048 (input into Google Maps)
Duration: Until you lose feeling in your toes or spot a moose, whichever comes first
Seize the day by waking up early(ish) and enjoying a beautiful, snowy trek in the woods. Drive to the coordinates above and you’ll arrive at a frozen lake. From the lake, you’ll see trails branching off into the woods.
If you’re lucky you may spot a moose (they are known to frequent these parts). I had googled “moose prints” so that I could track these giants, but alas, they were nowhere to be found.
Even moose-less this trek was gorgeous! The snow glittered in the early morning light like millions of tiny crystals. Everywhere I looked I saw fluffy white snow.
It was so lovely, I often forgot to watch my step and my foot sank into several feet of snow!
After about an hour or so I had worked up on appetite and it was time for the first fika of the day…
Fika: Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it.Anna Brones via https://www.thekitchn.com/
Bageriet i Puoltikasvaara
Location: Europaväg 45, 982 05 Gällivare
Duration: You’ll never want to leave…
I didn’t include a list of restaurants in this itinerary because there is so much deliciousness in this region that it warrants its own post!
But I had to include Bageriet i Puoltikasvaara, a place so good that I came here not once, not twice, but 4 TIMES!! I think that may be a record.
This place is what fika is all about – coffee and tea complimented by out-of-this-world pastries and cakes.
The proprietor is the nicest lady. She was super patient with me as I looked the sweets area up and down, asking questions in my broken Swedish-English. It was so hard to choose!
Once I spotted the semla though, I knew I had to try it! It’s a traditional Swedish sweet roll with whipped cream and almond paste and it was exceptional!
The tarts and blueberry rolls were nearly as good. You really can’t go wrong.
And if you can’t subsist on sweets alone, get any of delicious sandwiches. The veggie sandwich and the shrimp toast were my personal favorites!
Location: Lappeasuando 3, 982 99 Gällivare
Duration: 30 min. – 1 hour
If you can tear yourself away from Bageriet i Puoltikasvaara, I recommend that you take a quick drive 5 minutes north to Lappeasuando Bridge.
You should be able to park by Lappeasuando Lodge. From there, it’s an easy walk to the bridge.
When I was here, everything was covered in snow, which made the bridge even more magical. I walked up and down it, marveling over the frozen, snow-covered lake.
Just as I was about to leave, it started to snow and my dream of being inside a snow globe came true!
Location: Finngatan 1, 981 31 Kiruna
Duration: 30 min. – 1 hour
Since you’re already heading north, end the journey in Kiruna proper and see one of Sweden’s largest wooden buildings – Kiruna Pastorat (Kiruna church).
Completed in 1912, this gothic revival giant is one of the most unique churches I’ve ever seen. The auburn color and sharp, origami-style angles are so striking!
There is also a matching, free-standing bell tower a few feet from the entrance. If you time your visit properly, you can enjoy the bell ringing as the sun sets, a picture perfect way to end your time here!
Have you been to this part of Sweden? Let me know if I hit on some of your favorite activities or if I missed anything. I’d love to hear what you think about this itinerary!
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