Sweden - Laponian Area

In the north of Sweden (within the province of Lapland) there is a major mountainous wildlife area that extends across and incorporates the municipalities of Gällivare, Arjeplog and Jokkmokk. A large portion of this area was granted protected status since the beginning of the 20th century and in 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Laponian area has been measured as the world’s biggest unmodified natural area which still is being inhabited by natives;namely the Sami people. The Sami people are also known as Lapps and have lived in this area since prehistoric times.

They speak a Finno-Ugrian language, and have been traced to arriving to the Laponian area from the east, from about 4000-5000 years ago.

They were nomadic hunter-gatherers and hunting reindeer was a major factor in their lives. Wide reindeer domestication became in vogue in this area by the 17th and 18th century and soon the Sami became herding nomads.

A part of the area is used for pasture, as the Sami living in this area still are active reindeer herders. In previous times, the Sami people are known to have lived in goat skinned covered shelters and today reside in small cabins.

This is a truly special part of the world as the inhabitants still do a form of transhumance, which is when the Sami spend the summer in the mountains and the winters in the coniferous forests (eastern regions of the area).

Other natural wild life in the area includes over 150 species of birds, about 100 bears, a population of wolverine that is declining, and other animals.

A natural entry point into Laponian area is a viallage, the village of Porjus and it has an information centre.

The whole expanse of the 9400 km² Laponian area includes lakes, glacier streams, rivers and mountains. The highest mountain is 2089 meters tall and named Sarektjåhkkå. This is also measured as the second largest mountain in Sweden, and can be found along the eastern border of the Sarek National Park. This national park is located in the Jokkmokk Municipality and offers a great adventure for (intermediate to advanced) mountaineers and hikers. As the Sarek National Park was founded and officially set up in 1909, it is now (along with some other old Swedish national parks) the oldest national park in Europe.

The nature reserves and national parks have unique features. The national parks of Muddus, Sarek, Padjelanta and Stora Sjöfallet, and the nature reserves of Sjaunja and Stubba protect about 95% of the area.

The landscape is exposed to significant levels of summer rains, and it is during this season every year that the Sami lead their herds of reindeer towards the mountains. It can be bitterly cold here, especially with considerable winter snows, as it is within the Arctic Circle region of northern Sweden. The Laponian area is one of the last in the world with an ancestral way of life based on the seasonal movement of livestock. Every summer, the Sami lead their huge herds of reindeer towards the mountains through a natural landscape to preserve a natural old way of life.