Journey into the Heart of Sweden: Discovering the Sámi Culture
Updated: Aug 23
In the vast stretches of Sweden's northernmost regions, there exists a culture that has stood the test of time and emerged as an embodiment of sustainability, respect for nature, and distinct cultural richness. This is the world of the Sámi people, Sweden's indigenous group, which continues to play a vital role in the country's cultural tapestry.
Their sustainable lifestyle, integrated with responsible tourism, invites visitors to indulge in a myriad of experiences, from unique culinary delights to unforgettable reindeer encounters.
This article will guide you through the rich Sámi culture, experiences, museums, and restaurants that you can visit in Sweden.
1. Reindeer Encounters
One of the most authentic ways to understand the Sámi way of life is to experience their intimate relationship with reindeer. The Reindeer Lodge, situated just outside of Luleå, offers visitors a chance to participate in the daily routine of a Sámi herder. The tour begins at 10 am and lasts until around 4 pm, priced at approximately SEK 2,500 per adult and SEK 1,250 for children between 7-12 years.
2. Jokkmokk Winter Market
Another key Sámi experience is the Jokkmokk Winter Market, held every February in the town of Jokkmokk, dating back more than 400 years. This three-day market showcases traditional Sámi handicrafts, or 'duodji,' and local food. There are also reindeer races and traditional Sámi 'joik' music performances. Entry is free, but be prepared to spend on unique handicrafts and local delicacies.
1. Ájtte: Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum
Located in Jokkmokk, the Ájtte Museum provides a deep dive into Sámi culture, ecology, and history. Explore fascinating exhibitions, including Sámi art, tools, and traditional attire. The museum is open year-round, from 10 am to 5 pm, with adult admission at SEK 100, and free entry for those under 25 years.
2. Vilhelmina Norra Sameförening Museum
In Vilhelmina, this museum preserves and shares knowledge about the Sámi people and their history in the local region. The museum organizes guided tours and allows visitors to stay in traditional Sámi 'kåtor' (tents) overnight. The museum is open from June to August, with admission priced at SEK 50 per adult.
This acclaimed restaurant in Jokkmokk is renowned for its Sámi culinary delights. Try dishes like 'suovas' (smoked reindeer meat) and cloudberries for dessert. Opening hours are from 5 pm to 10 pm, and a three-course meal costs around SEK 400 per person.
Located in Kiruna, Enoks serves traditional Sámi dishes made from local ingredients. Enjoy reindeer, moose, and Arctic char. Open daily from 12 pm to 9 pm, with mains starting from SEK 200.
With the growing trend of responsible tourism, the Sámi people have taken steps to ensure that their culture and environment are protected. Visitors are expected to respect the Sámi people's way of life, their lands, and the surrounding nature. This includes not disturbing reindeer herds, picking up litter, and only buying Sámi handicrafts from authorized sellers.
As you traverse the serene landscapes of northern Sweden, it's also worth noting that the influence of Sámi culture extends far beyond its geographical heartland. Even in the bustling metropolis of Stockholm, echoes of Sámi traditions can be seen and experienced, providing an interesting contrast to the urban landscape.
While summer in Sweden offers extended daylight hours, known as the "Midnight Sun," it also provides an opportune moment to experience Sámi culture at its vibrant best. The Sami in the City festival, typically held in June, is one os the many things to do in Stockholm that celebrates Sámi culture, showcasing traditional music, handicrafts, and cuisine.
The Swedish summer, with its delightful weather and extended daylight, serves as the perfect guide to explore the richness of the Sámi way of life, from the heart of its traditional lands to the urban environment of Stockholm (camping in Stockholm is a must!).