Squeezed between the larger lake Volgsjön and the smaller lake Baksjön is Vilhelmina. This small town with around 3.400 inhabitants is located in the southern part of Swedish Lapland and is part of Sapmi, the land of the Sami people. Vilhelmina is one of two gateways to the famous Wilderness Road to the west. The area has more pristine nature around the corner than you will ever be able to explore.
A Short History
The first settlement in what was to become Vilhelmina was Volgsjö in the 1770’s. It was established by a settler from nearby Åsele. The settler soon returned to Åsele in an exchange that saw his settlement Volgsjö becoming the new rectory manor for the chapel constructed in 1782.
In 1804, Volgsjö changed its name to Vilhelmina, after the queen Fredrica Dorothea Wilhelmina of Baden (1781-1826). She was the wife of the Swedish king Gustav IV Adolf (1778-1837). There are also the parishes of Dorotea and Fredrika in Southern Lapland.
The area was originally inhabited by the Sami people. But the new settlers in and around Vilhelmina did not only consist of natives and not all natives left their nomadic life and the reindeer herding. The other settlers came from several parts of Sweden, many arrived from the area towards the coast. Farming was important for the new settlers, but it did not provide enough food. It was therefore complemented with raising of livestock, hunting, and fishing.
Things to Do and See
Vilhelmina is able to mix nature, local history and the culture of the Sami people in an interesting way. It might be a small place, but there are a lot of things do discover here.
Vilhelmina Museum and the Church Town
Vilhelmina Museum is in an old parish house from the 1890’s. It has since been transformed into a museum displaying the history and culture of the area.
Right next to the museum is the Church Town. This is where the inhabitants of the vast parish once stayed during the mandatory church goings. The church town in Vilhelmina was established in the 1840’s. About half of the buildings were burned down in 1921, the rest has been saved by the municipality who stepped in during the 1960’s to restore many of the remaining buildings.
More information about the museum can be found here >>
Samevistet is a Sami settlement at the top of the hill Kyrkberget. That is the hill above the Church of Vilhelmina. It is today an open-air museum, showcasing the life and culture of the Sami people. This is a perfect place to see the traditional goahtis.
More information can be found here (in Swedish) >>
The Wilderness Road / Vildmarksvägen
Many explorers with start or end the Wilderness Road in Vilhelmina. It offers many natural and cultural sights along its route. There waterfalls and rapids are plenty in the many rivers and if you are lucky, you might even see meters of snow at Stekenjokk. This is where the road reaches its highest altitude, it is actually the paved road with highest altitude in Sweden. The mountain pass over Stekenjokk is closed during the winter months. However, the road does lead visitors to winter resorts such as Klimpfjäll.
Here you also find the Sami village of Fatmomakke, the small village of Gäddede that is located as close to the Norwegian border as you can get, and many other places of interest. The other end of the road is in Strömsund, once more back at the main road, the E45. The E45 also offers a possibility to complete the loop as it connects Strömsund and Vilhelmina, via Dorotea.
More information about the route can be found here >>
Vilhelmina is one of the stops along Inlandsbanan, a railway between Kristinehamn to the south and Gällivare in the north at the Arctic Circle. Next to the train station you can find an old steam locomotive.
There are several areas around the town for winter sports. Alpine skiing is possible at Granbergsbacken, ice hockey and ice skating at Sagahallen, and there are many tracks for skiing and routes for snow scooters.
With nature close by it is hard not to find activities during the summer. Hiking the many trails around Vilhelmina is one option, then there are also bike routes. The many lakes also offer the possibility of swimming and fishing.
How to get to Vilhelmina
Flights: The closest airport is Vilhelmina Airport (VHM), 11 kilometers from the town. It connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
Car: Vilhelmina is located along the E45 between Storuman and Dorotea.
Train: Inlandsbanan is the only train route stopping in Vilhelmina.
Bus: There are regional buses connecting Vilhelmina with the surrounding area.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 683 kilometers (7 h 57 min) Gothenburg – 1031 kilometers (12 h 19 min) Malmö – 1248 kilometers (14 h 14 min) Linköping – 877 kilometers (9 h 48 min) Kiruna – 588 kilometers (7 h 11 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden