It is not uncommon not to have heard about Kiruna, so let us introduce you a bit. The Lapland province of Sweden is home to the Northernmost town in Sweden – Kiruna (alongside nearby Abisko). Characterized by pastel-colored wooden houses, Kiruna has a population of 22,000 people which also includes the indigenous Sami people. Kiruna was founded in 1903 to support the exploitation of what is still today, the largest iron ore mine in the world. The rapid development of the city after the opening of the mine quickly led Kiruna to become one of the main cities of Sweden’s Arctic. And the city incidentally now hosts the siege of the Swedish Sami parliament.
But Kiruna is not only a mining town. In recent years, it has become a major touristic hub and a gateway to the Swedish Arctic region. Indeed, when you’re in Kiruna during winter, you basically have the best seats in the house to catch a glimpse of the enchanting Aurora lights, but don’t quote us on this, considering how elusive they are. Speaking of the weather, one must gear up for the frosty air in Kiruna – it can get pretty brutal if you’re not accustomed to it. However, not only in winter Kiruna is worth a visit but also in summer.
Getting to Kiruna takes about 90 minutes by plane from Stockholm but once you’re there, your Arctic experience is on! Exploring the vast snow-covered expanse on a snowmobile or dogs, or cruising on a canoe in Europe’s largest free-flowing river are some of the things you could do in Kiruna. In this article, you will read about some of the best outdoor activities to do in Kiruna and how to get access to them! We start off with three magical winter activities following by three unforgettable summer activities.
#1 Overnight Aurora Snowmobile Adventure in Kiruna
The first activity on our list of Top 5 Things to do in Kiruna, begins with a thrilling snowmobiling experience! Snowmobiles, from a local and historic perspective, were used to get from point A to point B in Arctic regions like Kiruna. Since you’re less likely to be local and more likely to be a tourist in this part of Sweden, you can ride snowmobiles for fun. And possibly under the night sky in search of the elusive Aurora Lights.
There are a variety of snowmobile tours in and around Kiruna, so you can choose which tour suits you best, with prices from €115 per person up. Most snowmobile tours start in Kiruna, with a complimentary lift to the countryside, and operate from early November to late April, depending on weather and snow.
Though the choices are plentiful for snowmobile tours in Kiruna, the tour of choice is certainly the Overnight Aurora Snowmobile Adventure. This tour gets you started at 7pm until 10am the next day. You will ride your snowmobile in the dark, looking for the northern lights, until you reach a wilderness cabin to spend the night. Worthy of mention, a sauna is included in the cabin. And the next morning, you will ride back to the pick-up location. Now, that’s a proper arctic snowmobile experience.
Irrespective of the tour you pick, your journey will take you through scenic forests, frozen swamps for an unforgettable Kiruna adventure.
Prices for snowmobile tours in Sweden start at €115 up (the overnight tour costs c. €385).
#2 Dog Sledding Tours in Kiruna
Just like the snowmobiling tours from above, dog sledding tours in Kiruna are on the must-do list when visiting the region.
And if you think snowmobiling was an unusual mode of transport wait until you try dog sledding. The mechanism of a dog sled is fairly basic with two rows of dogs, pulling a conventional sled, which may be slower than a snowmobile but has a lot more charm and a sense of rawness to it. Additionally, these dogs have a lot of energy to burn, making this activity a way to release that burden of excessive energy!
You almost feel like you’re transported to a white winter wonderland when you go dog sledding in Kiruna. As the 12 powerful Alaskan Huskies, effortlessly, pull you through the thick snow, you will get a chance to see wild Capercaillie, Siberian jay, and ptarmigan birds. You quickly start to feel like you’re part of a Disney scene as you also get a chance to catch a glimpse of wild reindeer and moose!
Choices of dog sledding tours in Kiruna allow you to pick a morning tour, or an evening one (i.e. in December/January, in pitched darkness). But you can also pick an overnight tour or even a multi-day dog sledding adventure. In any case, your excursions will create memories that will last you a lifetime, and give you a true Arctic experience like no other. And you will also enjoy a little cuddle session with your four-legged friends – always a favourite with the kids!
Prices for dog sledding tours in Kiruna range from €110 per person for half-day excursions, to more than €1700 per person for all-inclusive 5d/4n expeditions.
#3 Snowshoeing excursion to Kurravaara mountian
There is a third fantastic way of discovering Kiruna’s winter wonderland and take in the beauty of the white arctic wilderness: Snowshoeing! This time it’s not the snowmobile or the Alaskan Huskies doing all the effort but yourself.
Several thousand years ago and inspired by animals such as specific types of hares with large feet, humans started creating and using snowshoes. Thanks to a larger area this footwear allows for a person to walk on deep snow (almost) without sinking. As you can imagine, this comes in very handy in arctic places like Kiruna!
Our third activity recommendation for when you’re in Kiruna in winter is therefore a snowshoeing excursion to the Kurravaara mountain. The necessary equipment (snowshoes, poles, boots, overalls, thick gloves, as well as a warm hat) will be provided by the guides. Once geared up, it’s about a 45 minutes hike up to Kurravaara mountain near Kiruna. Just follow your experienced guide.
Once up there, your effort will be rewarded with coffee, tee, and sandwiches brought by your guide as well as with fantastic views over the Torne River valley and the Swedish arctic wildlife. If you are lucky enough you might even spot some wild animals like moose, reindeer, foxes, and hares or here and there see the traces of lynx and wolverines.
The day trek takes off at 11 AM in Kiruna, and you’ll be back by about 2 PM. There is however also an evening tour for all the Aurora hunters. While the itinerary is the same as during the day, the Northern lights trek starts at 7 PM in order to increase the chances of seeing these magical lights. You’ll be back in Kiruna by around 10 PM.
Snowshoeing in the Kiruna region is a very peaceful activity accessible to everyone who can easily walk for 2-3 hours. The day trek or Northern lights trek cost from €81 per person. Transfer from the hotel to the snowshoe rental office can be organized at an extra cost.
#4 Hiking in Kebnekaise Valley
Let’s dive into our summer activities in Kiruna with a little piece of trivia for you: The Kebnekaise Valley near Kiruna is home to Sweden’s highest mountain – Mount Kebnekaise and some of the best hiking trails in the country.
Amongst one of the most relaxing things to do in Kiruna, hiking in the Kebnekaise Valley often begins in the small village of Nikkaluokta. This village is often described as the gateway to the mountains, giving you a gorgeous sneak peek into what lies ahead! The tranquil village of Nikkaluokta is inhabited by the Swedish Samis (indigenous Finno-Ugric people), so don’t be alarmed to see reindeer in these parts.
Getting there means going for an hour drive West of Kiruna, quite a distance if you don’t travel by car. Hence, our recommendation to embark on an organized hiking tour in the Kebnekaise valley, which includes return transport from Kiruna.
On this tour, from disembarking at Nikkaluokta, your next stop on your hike trail, is Lake Ladjojaure which will take you through a lush forest and around 1.5 hours to reach from Nikkaluokta. Once you reach the beautiful lake, you will be given an ample amount of time to capture the turquoise blue lake with Mount Kebnekaise in the background, on your camera.
After exhausting your phone’s battery by taking spectacular pictures of the scenery, settle down on the soft grass for a lovely picnic by the lake! You’ll be treated to a delicious lunch as you admire the mountains and lake in front of you.
And now for some practical information: the trek begins from Kiruna at 9 in the morning and by the time you return from the hike, around 6-7 hours would have passed. Unlike dog sledding and snowmobile, this is an activity that is only accessible when days are longer and trails are free of snow and ice, so from mid-May till mid-October.
The all-inclusive experience costs around 127 euros and will see you hike around 12 km!
#5 Wilderness Quad Biking Tour in Kiruna
Quad biking is fifth on our list of top things to do in Kiruna. Though less popular than a snowmobile, quad biking is the perfect way to experience the wilderness surrounding Kiruna in the summer, when snowmobiles are gathering dust in their hangars.
The wilderness quad biking tour in Kiruna starts at around 10 in the morning, with the Kiruna Guided Tour office being the meeting point. For those of you who don’t know, a quad bike is basically a motorbike with 4 large wheels and is used for rough terrains and off-roading. Just like dog sleds and snowmobiles, we are going to ignore its practical use for a more exciting and recreational use: cruising in the wilderness. You’ll basically cut through a forest, with trees, instead of cars in your adjoining lanes! The sunlight penetrates through the green canopies formed by the tall trees, rejuvenating you for the day that lies ahead.
You don’t need to be an expert when it comes to riding the quad bike, but you definitely need a valid driver’s licence to do so. However, if you’re with someone who has a driver’s licence, you could tag along at the back of the vehicle and assume the role of a navigator, of sorts.
The guided wilderness quad biking tour in Kiruna costs around 40 euros and lasts around 15 km, a distance you will cover in 3-4 hours. Included in this timing estimate are the briefing session and lunch break of course. Quad tours are operating from mid-May till mid-October
#6 Canoe Day Tour on the Torne River from Kiruna
From snow to soil and now to water, the next and last activity on our list of Top 6 things to do in Kiruna, explores a new element! A canoe day tour in Kiruna, begins at the Kiruna Guided tour office, as the meeting point and is followed by a car journey, organized by your instructors, to the Torne River, which has several names such as Swedish Torneälven, or Torneälv, Finnish Torniojoki, and is the northernmost river of Sweden.
The Torne River goes almost completely across the border of Sweden and Finland and is also Europe’s largest free-flowing river. Along with your relaxed day canoeing excursion, you will drift past Swedish mountains and forests, giving you access to some of the most remote areas on this planet! If you’re looking for a bit of an energy booster, rest assured, for there will be a coffee break to revitalize your mind and body.
Depending on weather conditions, the excursion will last anywhere between 8-10 km and will cost you around 127 euros. Canoe excursions in Kiruna are organized from June to August only.
If you enjoyed reading about the Top 6 Things To Do In Kiruna, we think you will thoroughly enjoy our article about the Top 5 Things To Do In Abisko. Even though the two are neighbouring towns, they have unique outdoor activities to offer. Outdoor activities in Abisko include landscape photography tours, ice fishing, and chasing the northern lights as well!
The activities mentioned above are explained in further detail on our website if you’d like to check out all our outdoor activities in Kiruna.