This tourist line crosses the wild expanses of the center of the country for nearly 1300 km. A route so extensive that one day is not enough to cover it in its entirety. Notice to lovers of the train and long time.
To connect Swedish Lapland to the capital Stockholm, those in a hurry will take the plane from Kiruna. Duration: one hour and a half. Another solution is to take the night train which runs along the sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. Duration: about 15 hours. A third option is available to travelers who have (really) a lot of time: the Inlandsbanan, the “inner line” which runs through central Sweden for 1288 km. Duration: two days!
Our journey begins at Jokkmokk, a village of 3,000 souls, a center of culture for the indigenous people of the Sami. “1250 km from Stockholm. 242 m above sea level“, can we read on the red wooden house that serves as a station. 9:15 a.m.: a railcar appears on the horizon. Leaving two hours earlier from Gällivare, the machine, with its sixty seats, looks more like a bus on rails. This will be our means of transport until noon the next day. Forget the speed: the train rarely exceeds 80 km/h. And it crosses territories that are very sparsely populated, at least by humans. Because in the surrounding nature flourish bears, wolves, reindeer, owls and many other animal species.
Between lakes, forests and mountains
The Inlandsbanan in pictures
Let’s go for a journey of a thousand kilometers. Lakes, rivers, pine or birch forests and the Scandinavian Alps in the background… The landscapes, as grandiose as they are, remain quite similar throughout the journey. As the hours go by, a certain monotony can set in, but we get along very well. In a country where the pride of taking the train has a name, the tagskryt, we revel in such a contemplative journey where any notion of speed is to be avoided. Taking this line allows you to grasp the immensity of the Swedish territory, the third largest country in the European Union behind France and Spain while being one of the least populated.
A flight attendant, also a guide, is there to punctuate our journey with explanations of the line’s points of interest. The train slows down or stops for a few minutes near places of interest, such as the geographical limit at the Arctic Circle (7 km south of Jokkmokk), the Piteälvsbron bridge or the Storstupet canyon. To enhance this long journey, you can count on a small offer of snacks and drinks. As for the catering offer, it is provided by restaurant owners from the villages crossed. All you have to do is order your meals from the chef on board and they are delivered to the platform or directly to the square a few stations further on.
A line saved by tourism
With only one passage each day in each direction, getting off the train requires a 24-hour break. Apart from Arvidsjaur and Vilhelmina, few passengers get off or get on in the thirty or so stations along the route. At Sorsele, the meeting point between trains coming from the north and those coming from the south, the 15-minute stop leaves just enough time to browse the Inlandsbanan museum. It traces the history of this railway line, opened in 1928, which never found the expected success. Competition from the car precipitated its decline and it almost disappeared in the 1970s. It owes its survival to the tourist traffic launched in 1993 at the initiative of the municipalities it serves. Every summer, she goes back and forth every day. The rest of the year, the track is used for the transport of goods.
The arrival in Östersund around 9 p.m., after half a day’s journey, marks the end of this first stage. Despite 646 km covered, we are only halfway to Stockholm. It is good to walk by the lake to enjoy the sweetness of the midnight sun. The capital of the county of Jämtland, considered the geographical center of Sweden, as well as the neighboring municipality of Åre, are ideal destinations for mountain lovers, summer and winter alike.
After a short night, it’s time to continue the journey on the second section of the Inlandsbanan. At 7:23 a.m., our railcar leaves Östersund station, direction Mora. A journey of 321 km completed in five hours. The third part of the line, between Mora and Kristinehamn (250 km east of Stockholm), is under renovation work for a few more years. Trains chartered from another company make this connection using an alternative route. We therefore limit our journey to Mora, a town in the county of Dalarna known for its crafts and its most famous cross-country ski race in the world, the Vasaloppet. From here, we return to speed. Stockholm is only four hours away thanks to the Intercity going at full speed.
- Day 1: Galliväre-Östersund (15 hour journey, €150),
- Day 2: Östersund-Mora (5 hours journey, €65), then Mora-Kristinehamn (3 hours 30 journey, €35).
For the summer season 2022, daily circulations until August 28. In winter, operation of the Snow Train (Snötaget) from December to April, only between Mora and Östersund. Connection with the national rail network and trains to/from Stockholm in Galliväre, Östersund, Mora and Kristinehamn. The Inlandsbanan Card allows unlimited travel on the line for 14 days for €208. Journeys included in the Interrail pass. In both cases, reservation of a seat (€4.75) is compulsory.
Information, timetables and reservations at res.inlandsbanan.se.