When I booked Luleå for Christmas and New Year, my thoughts were focussed on the Northern Lights and wondering if I could get far enough north to see them. As it turned out I got much more from my time there.
It is possible to fly to Luleå, however the train journey is one worth considering and booking early so as not to lose out. From Stockholm, there are overnight trains or some during the day which pass through many of the cities and towns along the way so the journey is long but the amazing views will help you forget that. I’ll no doubt write more about my journey in another post as Luleå is the focus here.
When I arrived at the train station in Luleå, my nostrils froze up in the temperatures of -19ºC which I had not experienced up until this point on this trip around Scandinavia. After having spent most of my christmas breaks in hot countries, the low temperature coupled with the snow was a very welcome experience. There is something about wrapping up warm and snuggling down in the dark days which makes you feel even more festive.
Ice roads: I had read about these ice roads surrounding the islands and allowing you to walk out onto the ice to reach the archipelagos which you would have to take a boat to reach in summer months. It was amazing on Christmas day to see families out skating, skiing or simply walking the dog and I thought how amazing it would be to receive winter sport items for christmas and then to go out and use them immediately. Although, I’m not the best when it comes to anything to do with water or I guess ice, my fears were conquered and I walked out around the ice roads for my very refreshing last few walks of 2018. It was amazing to turn back and look at the harbour, the buildings and the icebreakers knowing that you were experiencing something very season based.
Gammelstad Church Town: was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in December, 1996. It is a great example of the traditional church towns of northern Scandinavia and has been preserved over the years and the houses are still occupied during the weekends. As well as walking through the church grounds and surrounding lanes in between the rows of houses, you can also see the free exhibition on the top floor of the visitors centre. I went on a day where temperatures were the 2nd lowest of my stay at -14ºC which proved a challenge especially as you explore outside. If you buy the audio guide at 40 SEK then you will be able to walk listening to the history of the Church Town and the customs in centuries gone by. One dating custom which is mentioned on the audio and also in the exhibition is an interesting one where during the church weekends and festival times, the men would go round the houses where the women were sitting at the front window. The men would sing, chat or recite poetry in the hope that they would be invited in to stay the night. They would then sleep fully clothes as ‘pairs’ without any obligation that they would stay with the same woman the next church weekend.
Northern Lights: No, I didn’t in fact get to see them but that’s ok as it just means I need to return to Scandinavia. The guy at the tourist office did say that Gammelstad was a good place to be to see them and the day I went was meant to have a high prediction for them taking place. Sadly, it was not to be, however I got so much more from Luleå than I could have hoped for so I can wait some more to see the lights.