Nordic hiking tips with Sofia Zetterqvist

The first time we met Sofia was when she was passing by our office last fall to try some hiking gear on. Sofia is an avid outdoor fan sharing her passion for traveling and exploring through her blog, Fantasiresor. Her blog has been picked as the best Swedish travel blog several times since she started back in 2008. After getting some serious nature cravings from reading her latest blog post, we decided to ask if she could share her best tips for everyone keen on going hiking this summer for the first time.

What's your favorite nature destination so far in the Nordics?
It’s tricky to answer that question as there are so many beautiful places in the Nordics. But if I have to choose from the places I’ve been hiking in the region, the area around Saltoluokta is probably my favorite. Last summer, my sister and I hiked from Kvikkjokk to Saltoluokta. Walking down the mountain with the scenery of the world heritage site Laponia and the national parks of Sarek and the Great Falls was magical. We brought far too many snacks for that trip so we had a fika-break at each and every rock on the way down just to enjoy the views. It sure was better than any Friday night on the couch watching even the best Netflix show ever made.

Can you name three things you’ve learned to always bring on a nature adventure?
First: A vacuum-insulated bottle in stainless steel. This way I can always bring some hot coffee in the morning and then swap it with some ice-cold water from the mountain stream.

Second: Resealable bags to throw garbage and toilet paper in. (Toilet paper is also an important item on the packing list). Once your bag is full, look for a bin at the huts you’re passing if you’re hiking. We have to protect nature and throwing our garbage in the right place is an easy way of doing that!

Third: A power bank and a charger for my phone. I know I probably should have said a fauna, a compass or something even more outdoorsy. But the fact is that everything you need nowadays can be found on your phone. It’s like a modern Swiss army knife. Just make sure you download the most necessary apps before kicking off, as the mobile coverage is lacking in many places in the mountains.

What is the best lesson you have taken from your travels in nature?
That hiking is 80% about will, and 20% about your physical form (provided that you can move around freely of course). Hiking in the mountains carrying a heavy load on the back can be physically challenging, but it’s possible as long as you're determined. It’s also something truly satisfying about making that effort. You can't even compare it with a treadmill-run at the gym or a chaotic day at work, it’s another form of movement that becomes meditative itself. There’s nothing like the rewards you get from reaching the top of a mountain or finally arrive at that beautiful viewpoint.

What is the best thing about spending time in nature, according to you?
Definitely the calm and the silence. It’s almost like wrapping your soul in cotton. In nature, we automatically go “back to basics”. It feels like that’s where we belong, where humans were created to live their lives. As Anders Hansen noted in his book “Skärmhjärnan” our brains are still largely adapted to live like hunters and collectors on the savannah. I think you notice that as soon as you step outdoors. It’s like your mind, body and soul are finally able to pause and exhale.

Do you have tips for beginners for someone who wants to go hiking this summer?
If you want to hike for several days, I would recommend you walking Kungsleden, from Abisko to Nikkaluokta (or vice versa). It was the first more extensive hike me and my sister did with carrying our packing. That hike is both very beautiful and easy to walk! Also, many people are passing along the way, which is convenient if you need help or guidance. For example, I got to borrow a knee pad from a kind man who passed us on the trail when my knee got overworked. Another bonus was that we finished the hike with a three-meal course and sauna bathing at Kebnekaise. Also, I think it’s key having a vision or goal to focus on when hiking is feeling rough.

If you’re more interested in day trips and comfortable living but still crave for that “mountain feeling”, then I would go to Saltoluokta Mountain Station. From there you can make shorter walks to the national parks during the day while sleeping in a comfy bed at night. Still surrounded by amazing panoramic views.

But, my most important tip is to make sure you actually go. We’re so privileged in the Nordics, with entire landscapes being full of hiking trails. You don't have to go very far to find nature or a nice path to walk. Don't let all the snobbery around expensive equipment stop you, just go!

Wow, we thank Sofia so much for sharing her love for nature with us, and for a truly inspiring chat about hiking in the Nordics! We’d also like to mention that she has put together a great list of “packing tips” (in Swedish) for mountain adventures on her website that you don’t wanna miss!