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    THE KUNGSLEDEN
    Experienced walkers agree that they have not truly hiked in Sweden until they complete the Kungsleden. Devotees return year after year as if lured by the irresistible challenge of the wilderness.

    The Kungsleden is Sweden’s most famous long-distance skiing and walking trail. About 450km long, it can be divided into several shorter sections. Stretching through Lapland, from Abisko in the north to Hamavan in the south, it is mostly well marked and punctuated by cabins. Originally, the trail was about half its current length but when the northern railway was built at the end of the 19th century, improved accessibility encouraged the STF (Swedish Touring Club) to extend the path.

    The trail’s special character
    Initially named Kungsvägen – Royal Road, implying its importance as a national treasure – the route has attracted crowds of walkers since the 1930s. Passing through several national parks and a huge nature reserve, the trail cleaves glacial valleys ranging from the narrow, rocky canyons to wide, flat plains. Valley floors may be scored with brooks, widening into rivers spanned by precarious hanging bridges.

    The mountains that tower on either side are part of the Caledonian folding system that forms the backbone of Scandinavia. Their snow-capped peaks jut into the sky, contrasting with the mottled colours of the grassy plains and mysterious forests. Huge boulders and smaller ridges of gritty moraine are evidence of an even colder time, when glaciers enveloped the land. It is a pristine wilderness that is rarely experienced even in the Alps. Few other places in Europe seem so utterly untouched by the modern world.