Northern Road Trip 2020, Sweden

Creating a Travel Plan during a Pandemic- Northern Road Trip 2020

Because of the corona pandemic we were early this summer forced to consider spending summer at home. As several countries had strict travel restrictions, especially towards people from Sweden, we decided to stay within our country’s borders. As travel recommendations within Sweden were made less restrictive early in the summer, we opted for a northern road trip. Actually, in this case, it was a road trip without any pre-decided destinations. We purchased a tent and packed the car, heading north.

Planning Our Northern Road Trip

We had three options laid out for our road trip when we started to plan in early June. The first option was a road trip around Finland. According to this option, we would have started in Turku before driving to Lappeenranta in the east, continuing north to Rovaniemi, and then following the coast back to Turku. The second option was to drive north from Turku around the Bay of Bothnia and back towards Stockholm on the Swedish side. Both these options turned out to be unwise when listening to the debate in Finland. Yes, we would have been allowed in the country, we had what we needed for that. But driving a Swedish registered car in Finland sounded like a way to get in trouble with the locals.

We are really sad to hear the debate in Finland and how fast people are ready to cut ties and almost hunt down people from across the border. There needs to be a mutual understanding between the Nordic countries and my feeling is that we are close to losing over 50 years of working together. Decisions in Helsinki and Stockholm are affecting border areas such as the Åland Islands and Meänmaa, areas that are far away from the political elite. Let us just hope that the relationship is still repairable and that resentment towards each other will decline in the coming months.

That provided us with one third and last option. The plan was to drive around the northern part of Sweden, with a turning point in Gällivare. Our thought was that Gällivare would give us a great base for exploring more of northern Lapland, such as Kiruna, Jukkasjärvi, and Abisko. This option also gave us the possibility to arrange the stops along the route depending on weather and possible local outbreaks.

Planned Route for Northern Road Trip

Without deciding the number of nights, we had this original thought of where to stop along the route.

  1. Sundsvall
  2. Örnsköldsvik
  3. Skellefteå
  4. Luleå / Boden
  5. Gällivare
  6. Arvidsjaur
  7. Vilhelmina
  8. Östersund
  9. Orsa / Mora / Rättvik / Leksand

Between and around these places we had several sights and towns we wanted to visit. So no matter how far we got, we were sure that we would have a lot to explore. And as I mentioned, there were so many possible changes to this original plan, that it is hard to describe them all. With that said, in the end, we made several changes and we never booked any accommodation more than 24 hours ahead of our arrival.

Final Route of the Northern Road Trip

There will be more posts about each of our stops along the final route, but here is an overview of where we eventually ended up. The two biggest changes to the original plan were probably Gällivare, which was excluded due to a local outbreak of Corona, and the addition of the Swedish Wilderness Road.

Sundsvall – 2 Nights

Our first stop after leaving Stockholm was the town of Sundsvall. We had found a camping south of the centre and we started our trip with two nights in our tent. This gave us the possibility to explore not only Sundsvall, but also neighbouring Timrå with the old iron work at Lögdö Bruk.

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Örnsköldsvik – 2 Nights

The second stop was the town of Örnsköldsvik, at the Swedish High Coast. The drive from Sundsvall included some amazing stops with beautiful views, such as the High Coast Bridge and the fishing village of Norrfällsviken. Arriving at a camping outside of Örnsköldsvik in the evening, we made ourselves at home in a small camping cabin. We would have a day to explore Örnsköldsvik before continuing north.

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Skellefteå – 2 Nights

From Örnsköldsvik we continued north via Umeå to Skellefteå. In Skellefteå we once more used our tent for two nights. We had a day to explore Skellefteå and also had time to remove a screw from our car tires.

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Vuollerim – 2 Nights

The drive from Skellefteå turned out to be longer than we first had planned. In the morning we were looking to stop in Luleå. But once we reached Piteå we decided to head all the way to our most northern point directly. As Gällivare was at this time at its peak in the local Covid-19 outbreak, we headed to Vuollerim instead. Here we stayed for two nights in a small camping cabin to be able to explore the area around Jokkmokk. It was just too cold to stay in our tent.

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Arvidsjaur – 1 Night

It was eventually time to head south and we did so with several shorter stops in order not to have too many hours in the car. The first of these stops was Arvidsjaur where we for the first time during the trip stayed at a hotel. It was nice with some luxury after several days in the tent and in small camping cabins.

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Vilhelmina – 1 Night

It was on our way to Vilhelmina that we decided to extend our drive along the Swedish Wilderness Road. This additional drive meant one afternoon in Vilhelmina to prepare for the additional drive west instead of south.

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Klimpfjäll – 1 Night

Heading west also meant reaching the mountain range along the border with Norway. Klimpfjäll was our first nightly stop along the route, which gave us easy access to sights such as Fatmomakke and Stekenjokk.

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Gäddede – 1 Night

Beautiful mountain views took us south out of Swedish Lapland to the small village of Gäddede. The route meant several stops along waterfalls and lakes before finding a mediocre pizza in sleepy Gäddede.

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Östersund – 3 Nights

The Swedish Wilderness Road led us to Strömsund from where we continued to Östersund. We once more left the camping life in Östersund and stayed three nights at a bed and breakfast in the centre of the city. It might have been raining quite a lot, but we were able to enjoy a few days out of the car.

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Vemdalen – 1 Night

After Östersund our next planned stop was all the way south at Lake Siljan. When we realized how many hours in the car that would mean, we looked at a stop along the route. We found a place in Vemdalen, once more along the mountains.

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Mora – 5 Nights

From Vemdalen the drive south felt a lot shorter. We eventually ended up in the town of Mora and spent five nights in our tent at the local camping. Mora turned out to be a great base to explore the area. From here we had the opportunity to make day trips to Leksand, Malung, Orsa, Rättvik, and Sälen. It was a great end to our long northern road trip, and eventually there was only one thing left – to spend a day driving back to Stockholm.

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Join our story of our Northern Road Trip of 2020 here >>

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kate@VanhaTaloSuomi

    I’m curious as to how you think the virus travels from country to country?

    1. Jesper

      Hello Kate, it is a good question, but sadly not easy. There are multiple dimensions to take into account. I can recommend you to have a look at the numbers from the Åland Islands, which still have had a quite extensive exchange of people across the Swedish border.

  2. hobbycyclist19

    As someone living in Finland I have to say that I don’t really recognise your description of the Finnish debate. There have been criticism of the Swedish strategy, but I haven’t really seen any animosity towards people from Sweden. Unfortunately, the loudest voices are seldom the most reasonable ones…

    By the way; if you ever decide to go to Lappeenranta in the future I would strongly recommend that you go via Punkaharju. That place is really beautiful, especially if one goes the older road (Harjutie).

    1. Jesper

      I believe you and know that most Finns are great people. It is the few and loud that is causing concern when crossing the border. Internet trolls are an international problem, at the time of our planning a lot of trolls internationally were concentrating their rage on the Swedish approach. When reading online comments about people on the lookout for Swedish registered cars on forums (like Facebook) at the time, the discussion climate felt just wrong. Having both a long drive, a kid, and the ongoing pandemic to take into account. The risk of encountering even one person in Finland having resentment towards Swedish visitors wasn’t something we wanted to add into the mix. That person would probably only see the Swedish registered car, not that we would have stayed at least 2 weeks in self-quarantine before heading out on the road trip.

      We really hope that we will be able to explore more of Finland soon. We will see when that will be possible. There are both friends and family that we want to visit, but that will have to wait until after the pandemic. Punkaharju looks amazing when googling it, thank you for the suggestion, we will remember that place in case we are able to get to eastern Finland. 🙂

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