The main reason for our visit to Kiruna was to go dog sledding (read about it here), but we also had some time to explore the town a bit and discover a whole host of other things to do in and around the city. If you find yourself in Kiruna, and are looking for things to do, the visitors center in the middle of town is a great resource. Bonus, they speak flawless English. Actually, everyone in Sweden speaks really good English (I dare say better then the Germans). I think it's because English language TV and movies aren't dubbed like they are in Germany. Rather, there are just Swedish subtitles. I supposed after watching a lifetime of TV like this, you might speak the original language pretty well.
Anyway, back to the point. In case you are doing research before a trip and can't get to, or don't want go to, the visitor center, here are some ideas for things you can do in Kiruna.
1. Go for a Dog Sled Ride
Obviously, this is one of the main things to do in Kiruna, and a reason why many people travel this far north. We highly recommend White Trail Adventures. Their prices are reasonable, they take excellent care of their dogs, pick you up right from the hotel, and offer a number of different tours. Want to get a taste of dog sledding? Do one of their coffee tours. Want to go out for a bit longer, do a day tour or overnight tour. Really want to get into the whole dog sledding thing and spend time in the Arctic wilderness? Look at their 5 day or longer tours.
2. Visit the Sami Camp
The Sami people are the indigenous people who traditionally inhabited the northern parts of Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Just outside of Kiruna is a camp for visitors to learn about their culture, try traditional food, and even drive your own reindeer drawn sleigh. Had we had more time, and a rental car, we would have definitely gone for a day visit, but they also have overnight lodging available. For more information, location and pricing, visit their website.
3. Have a Drink at the Ice Hotel
The world famous Ice Hotel is located about 10 km outside of Kiruna. There are buses and taxis that can take day visitors there (check with the visitors center for time tables and current prices). To get in to the hotel, you must either be a guest or buy a pass at the gift shop. I don't know if you need a pass to get into the bar, but the hotel staff would be glad to help you. What could be better than having a cold drink while sitting at a bar made from ice, on an ice stool covered with a reindeer skin?
We didn't spend a lot of time there, just enough to look around, but we did take a peak inside the hotel and it looked pretty cool (sorry for the pun). Although, I do have to say that Aaron and I are a little jaded with the whole snow structure thing after having spent many years building snow statues at Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival. Nevertheless, the ice carving is pretty impressive and worth a stop.
4. View the Northern Lights
Since Kiruna is in the Arctic circle, if you are there more than one night, odds are you'll see them at least once. For best viewing, get out of town and away from the light pollution. For this you have a couple of options: dog sledding or snowmobile northern lights tours, rent a car and just drive outside of the city for a bit, or stay at a hotel located outside the city. Really, they are pretty spectacular.
5. Go on a Tour of the Local Mine
Kiruna is a mining town (just like Houghton was, perhaps that's another reason Aaron and I felt so at home here), home to the world's largest iron ore mine, LKAB. On certain days, you can take a tour of the mine and see it in operation yourself. Check out their website for accurate pricing and time schedules.
6. Visit the Abisko National Park
Accessable by highway from Kiruna, the Abisko National Park has a lodge and offers a number of outside activities from dog sledding to skiing and snowshoeing. There is also a lot to do there in the summer. Booking your tours ahead of time is highly recommended as many sell out early. Visit their website for pricing, location and more information.
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As you can see, there is a TON of stuff to do in the Arctic Circle. If cold weather and snow is your idea of a vacation, Kiruna is an excellent choice :) If you have any questions about visiting Swedish Lapland, ask away! We will do our best to answer them.