Sarek – Europe’s last wilderness

Sarek – the name may well be unfamiliar to you, but Sarek National Park is one of the most special areas of northern Sweden, and, it might be said, unique within Europe.

Photo: Håkan Hjort/Niac-photo

The word “wilderness” is often overused these days, but in Sarek it is truly no exaggeration. Sarek is often called “Europe’s last wilderness”, and is one of the last and most important pristine wild areas to be found in Europe.
Even by Swedish standards, a country blessed with vast expanses of sparsely-populated mountains, plains and forests and dramatic and varied scenery, Sarek is something very special, and seen by many Swedish outdoor enthusiasts as something of a rite of passage.

Photo: Håkan Hjort/Niac-photo

Designated as a national park in 1909, Sarek was one of Europe’s first national parks. It covers a roughly circular area about 50km in diameter, and is home to around 100 glaciers and many mountain peaks above 2000m with six of Sweden’s thirteen highest mountains lying within the park. It also encapsulates the stunning Rapa River Delta, said to be one of the most beautiful in Europe and overlooked by the imposing peak of Skierfe. The climb up Skierfe is well worth the effort for the breathtaking view over the delta to be had from the top.


But such dramatic beauty comes at a cost, and hiking in Sarek is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. “Wilderness” means just that. To find your way, you must rely on your map reading and compass skills – there are no paths. When it’s time to sleep, you must pitch your tent and crawl inside – there is no accommodation. And when you come to a river, well, then it’s time to roll up your trousers, find a stout stick and start wading – bridges are few and far between. Weather conditions can change in a moment and you must be prepared.

Photo: Håkan Hjort/Niac-photo

In return for such hardships, you are rewarded with an unforgettable taste of what we have lost in a developed world. In and around the park live some of Sweden’s most majestic and secretive predators – the brown bear, the lynx, and the wolverine. Sarek is also particularly famous for its unusually large elk. While glimpses of bears, lynx and wolverine require a great deal of luck and patience, you have a good chance of spotting elk and an impressive range of birds of prey.
Sarek has become to a certain extent a status symbol for hikers keen to prove themselves among its glacial valleys and wild flowing rivers. At Nature Travels, we prefer to think of it as a chance to look back into a quieter past, to forge a closer connection with the natural world and discover a different side of yourself – a side that you may have imagined could never exist!

Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

Nature Travels offers two guided hiking holidays in and around Sarek. The Unknown Face of Sarek and the Rapa Valley Delta takes you on a 9 day hike into the Sarek National Park, and is the more challenging of the two. Experience is required, though you do not need to be an expert explorer. Hiking in the National Parks of Laponia, suitable for those in good condition with some experience of hiking with a backpack, takes in three of Sweden’s most well-known parks – Stora Sjöfallet, Sarek and Padjelanta, all part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Laponia.

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