Kiruna in the Summer – 5 reasons why you can’t miss it!

Everyone goes to Kiruna in the winter to experience the snow peaks, dog sledding and the famous Ice Hotel. But let me explain to you why you can’t skip it in the Summer!

Where is Kiruna?

Kiruna is a beautiful town situated in the North of Sweden.  Founded in 1900, Kiruna has been an industry town for over a century due to the city’s ore mine. The city is actually being moved, but we’ll get to that once we explain to you the importance of the mine for the city.

How do you get there?

The most scenic route is of course – by train. There are several trains leaving from Stockholm. Its a 16 hours ride! So we recommend taking the night train. You will cross the Artic Circle (the famous 66°33′46.8″) during your ride!

The 5 reasons why you can’t miss it in the summer

So our top highlights of the city! (we recommend at least two days to do them all).

In Kiruna…

1. Midnight Summer and the Midnight Summer Trail

Because you are in the Artic Circle, you can witness the midnight sun! In and around the solstice (20th June) the sun does not set! You have a kind of sunset at about 1 AM (where the sun still stays in the horizon) and a kind of a sunrise at about 3 AM. Come prepared with sun blinds, since you will need them!

The Midnight Trail (Midnattsol Stigen), is called this way in honor of this phenomenon and allows you to see Kiruna from the nearby mountain (Luossavaara).

Where does it start?

It starts at Camp Ripan and goes trough mountain trails until the summit. The views in the trail are exquisite! The lush valley behind and the surrounding mountain make up the horizon and you have some nice viewing spots and explanations of the flora and fauna on your way. To get to the top is about a 2 hours walk (easily walkable on your own, since the path is well marked) and from there you can see the whole city (the part they are moving too, but we will get to that…). And because there is always daylight, you can do it whenever you want.

Midnight sun trail Kiruna Midnight sun trail on the top

Midnight Sun Trail

2. The iron mine and the moving city

A huge drilling machine in the ore mine

What drove the growth of the city so far north and its development was the iron mine. The Kiruna mine is the largest and most modern underground iron ore mine in the world. The mine which is owned by Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB, a large Swedish mining company, has an annual production capacity of over 26 million tonnes of iron ore.

How do you go there?

You have to get a tour to get there, you can buy it online (here) or in the Tourist Office in the city centre. It costs you 360 Kr/each (about 38 euros/each) and there are two shifts, one in the morning and other in the afternoon. Careful because it gets full! Buy them online as soon as possible or go straight to the tourist office and buy it! It is worth it!

Why you shouldn’t miss it…

You start by bus in the tourist office and it takes you INSIDE the mine! Yes, the mine has about 500 Km of roads inside! Its like you are in a city down there! You have roads, traffic signs, loaded trucks coming the other way, huge tunnels… After about a 20 minutes ride underground, you get into the tourist centre that is about 500 m below ground (they are digging at 1300 meters in 2017), they explain you the safety procedures and you have to put helmets on. The temperature is about 10 degrees, so bring a coat.

Then the guide tells you the story of the mine (its not privately owned, its a public state company!) and shows you a video about the mining history of Kiruna. Then they tell you about the specificity of iron mining, how they do it, how they transform the iron in pallets and how they transport it to the ports in Narvik and in Luleå.

Why are they moving the city?

The mining is letting the ground unstable and with cracks, that would end up collapsing and burying part of it. For that, the mine company bought the houses and the endangered terrains in the city and its actually MOVING the town 3km east. See an article of the New York Times about it here.

So you can see whole houses being dug out and transported to the new city! They even transported the city hall watch tower to the new city hall, which construction is supposed to end in 2018 (when we went in 2017, you could already see the new building of the town hall in construction and whole houses being dug out to be transported to the new city).

And for your sweet tooth…

After you learned the whole process of ore mining, they offer you a coffee and a snack in the mine (the famous Swedish Fika) and if you want some pallets to take home.

3. Kiruna church

The main attraction in Kiruna, the church, is a beautiful wooden red church that belongs to the Church of Sweden (a Lutheran-Protestant Christian denomination in Sweden). The church is situated 5 minutes from the tourist office. It was inaugurated in 1912, and in 2001, Kiruna Church was voted the most popular pre-1950 building in Sweden, in a country-wide poll conducted by the Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, a government agency connected to the Ministry of Culture.

Inside, although its very sober, it has beautiful chandeliers, an altar with a beautiful landscape, golden statues and big windows, that make it impressive. Its a must see in Kiruna and an easy spot to see if you have just got to the town.

Of course, it is also going to be dismantled and rebuilt in the new city…

Kiruna Church

Red wood Kiruna Church

Around Kiruna…

4. Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel rooms

The Ice Hotel is open in the summer since 2017!

Yes, it is open in the Summer! This is actually the first year they are opening all year round. How do they do it? They built a bunker that is basically a big refrigerator camera to maintain the temperature to -5 degrees all year long. So now you can appreciate (and sleep) in the beautiful ice carved rooms all year!

Also, the beautiful lake beside the ice hotel is beautiful in the summer. In the winter they actually take huge blocks of ice from the lake to build the hotel.

It is still a bit overpriced – about 300 Kr, 30 euros/per person. And if you join with the transport they provide its 150 Kr/each to get there (the return is included). You can also take the public bus, that will cost you around 80Kr per person to go and come back, but there are few schedules to come back, so you have to stay there until 4:30 PM (you still have a lot to do there, since the Sami village is nearby, so if you can, spend the day there). If you want to come back to the city to see the mine in the afternoon, as we did, you need to pay for the Ice Hotel transport.

It opens at 10AM, and its really nice to see it the soon it opens, as you are left alone and with no tourists first thing in the morning! As you go in they give you winter coats, since its really cold inside! Even with the coat, prepare yourself for the cold (since you cannot stop taking pictures of the beautiful carvings inside).

How is it inside?

As you go in, you see the Ice Bar (a classic) and the craftsmen carving sculptures on ice. Its really cool to see how they do it all by hand!

Then you turn left into the bedrooms – each has a name! (and usually cool names as “Pillowbar”, “Wishful thinking”, “You are my type” and “Sugar Suite”). You can also see the name of the artist that contributed to the design of the room. Each one has a different theme, a different design and different light colours. It is so fun just going trough the rooms and just get a WOW each time you see the next one…

The whole rooms are made of ice (even the frame of the beds, although they have  a normal mattress covered by furs), but its the design and the sculptures that impress you – you have clowns, fitness mermaids, dears, angels, jelly fish, mazes, cool lightning, ice balls hanging from the ceiling, stairs made of ice, beautiful drawings on the ice walls… You name it! Its truly and unbelievable experience and you should definitely enjoy it, especially when its 15 degrees outside!

Check out some pictures of the rooms!

5. Sami village and the Reindeers

Reindeer in Sami Village Kiruna

Cute reindeer

Very close to the Ice Hotel, about a 15 minute walk, you get to the Sami Village. The Sami people are an indigenous tribe inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses Lapland (parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia). The Sami are the only indigenous people in Scandinavia that is recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence one of the northernmost indigenous people of Europe

Close to the entrance of the Sami camp you see a Sami Church, the oldest wooden church in Lapland. Inside there are beautiful painted images with a famous altarpiece and a beautiful organ.

To get into the Sami open air museum it costs you 150 Kr (about 15 euros) / each and they ask you if you want food to feed the reindeer for an extra 20 Kr. Inside you get explanations about the Sami culture and daily life, with storehouses from the nomadic life. They also have a shop with Sami handicraft and souvenirs – a big part of the crafts are connected to the reindeer.

The highlight of the village is the reindeer – you can enter their corral and you don’t even need to feed them, they are curious and they will come close to you (until they realise you have no food for them…) and you can take great pictures of them. Of course, they smell… And the stables are full of mud and you know what… But either way, it was our first time to see a reindeer and they are quite impressive and majestic animals.

You can have lunch there (they serve reindeer meat!) for 110 Kr as they have a nice tent restaurant just close to the entrance. Sorry, we didn’t tried it (it seemed a bit cruel after petting them…), so we can not speak about it.

In conclusion…

Kiruna is not a place to be dismissed, especially in the Summer! The Midnight Sun and its big attractions open all year round make it and its surrounding nature, makes it a wonderful stop in your journey trough Swedish Lapland!

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