Skellefteå, Sweden – Northern Road Trip 2020

Our road trip in northern Sweden started with stops in Sundsvall and Örnsköldsvik. These towns, however, are nowhere near the northernmost parts of Sweden. In other words, we were still heading north. We had decided the night before to continue to the town of Skellefteå, but had decided to make one stop during the drive.

Continuing North To Skellefteå

Having stayed two nights in a camping cabin outside of Örnsköldsvik, there was no need to dismantle the tent as we were ready to continue north. Our plan was to stop in Umeå, one of the major cities in northern Sweden. There was, however, more to explore along a route that would normally take around three hours to drive.

Umeå

Umeå is the largest city in Swedish Norrland and the 13th largest in Sweden, so it was a natural stop to make. First of all we needed some additional blankets for the upcoming nights camping, as reaching further north usually means lower temperatures. We wanted to be properly prepared before arriving in Skellefteå, so we made a a first stop at IKEA outside of Umeå for some fast purchases and lunch. To our surprise, IKEA was in an Avion shopping centre. Avion is something we had earlier only seen in Bratislava. Also in Slovakia it was tightly connected with IKEA.

After a light lunch we were soon on our way towards the centre of Umeå where we enjoyed a short walk along the almost empty streets. Little A had the chance to try an ice cream at one of the squares and it was nice just to stretch our legs. The Ume River greeted us with swarms of mosquitos before we had to rush back to the car not the be drenched by the fast approaching thunder storm. This storm turned out to be the beginning of the end of the heat front that we have had during the first days of our trip.

Lövånger

We reached the end of the rain showers just a short distance north of Umeå and continued driving north. We only made a short stop for snacks at a grocery store in Sävar before we eventually reached Lövånger to stretch our legs a second time. Going on a road trip with a three-year-old requires a lot of short stops. It was not something Little A asked for, sometimes she just wanted to get back driving. The stops were more for Susann and me to be able to relax a bit and not worry about possible car sickness for Little A.

Lövånger turned out to be a cosy old church village. These kind of church villages and towns turned out to be a common sight onwards on our trip. They were built to accommodate the inhabitants of the vast parishes this far north during the church weekends. Depending on how far away from the church people lived, they were required to visit the church a specific number of times each year. These small villages are today some of the major tourist attractions and some are still used for accommodation.

Skellefteå Camping

We arrived in Skellefteå in the early afternoon, not that we were in a hurry as it barely gets dark up here during the summer. It was once more time to raise the tent for two nights at Skellefteå Camping. We had not booked our stay in advance due to a mandatory cancellation insurance on online bookings. Instead we used the possibility for drop in, which was no problem as there was only one more family with a tent. The many empty squares meant that we could park our car next to the tent instead of using the parking lot, which is usually the case. We really enjoyed these two nights, but the squares are not large and in case there are many campers with a tent you would end up really close to your neighbour.

Exploring Skellefteå

Skellefteå offers a lot to explore, but the distances can get quite vast. The sights are many, from the church town, to the Skellefte River and further to the ice hockey arena. No matter where we ended up we could enjoy some sunshine, happy faces and nice views. Skellefteå is historically an industrial city and it is also the seat of a municipality with the same name. The city has a population of about 33,000 inhabitants, while approximately 72,000 people live in the municipality.

Excursion to Brönstjärn

Our exploration of Skellefteå started with us leaving the city once the tent was raised. We were on our way out on the country side and the small village of Brönstjärn. During the last years I have been spending quite a lot of time on heritage research. While doing so I have gotten in contact with several close and remote relatives. We were now on our way to have a fika with a man I had previously met in Stockholm.

A traditional Swedish fika usually consists of coffee and something sweet like buns or a cake with someone you know. That is what we did in Brönstjärn, enjoying a fika and talking about common relatives, work, ice hockey, and especially what not to miss while in Skellefteå. Little A was delighted meet two cute kittens, merely a few weeks old.

Meeting up with locals and friends is sometimes what makes a visit to a new place more special. Travelling is not only about seeing the sights and then continuing onwards. It is about getting to know the place, creating memories and enjoying the time.

A Calm Evening at the Skellefteå Camping

On the way back to the camping we made a stop to pick up some Chinese food. It was hard to tell if we were having a later dinner or if it was actually lunch when we sat down outside the tent. The sun was still shining, not yet showing any signs of going down at the horizon. Skellefteå is actually not far enough north for any midnight sun, but that doesn’t mean that it gets dark at night.

This was also the evening when the first troubles during our road trip came to light. We had a screw in one of the tires. It kept the hole secured, saving us from a flat tire. However, we still needed to find somewhere to repair it. There were both good and bad news. On the one hand, there was a tire workshop just a hundred meters down the road from the camping. On the other hand, it was Saturday evening and they wouldn’t open again until Monday morning. We decided to leave the car at the tent until we were able to drive down to the tire shop before leaving Skellefteå.

Climbing the Hill Vitberget

The local alpine skiing slopes are right next to the camping. So while Susann and Little A made themselves ready in the morning I started the hike to the top of the hill. The hill is known as Vitberget, the white mountain. I had hopes for a nice view of the city, unofrtunately the view was limited. No matter what, it was a nice morning exercise to get to the top.

A Walk to the Centre

As we had to leave the car behind, we started our walk to the centre on foot. The camping is fairly close to town the centre, but it still takes 20-30 minutes to walk. We weren’t quick because Little A walked by herself. She was tired as we reached the centre and our main goal for the walk changed from exploring to finding an ice cream. Afterward it was a long walk back carrying Little A who was too tired to walk herself. Well, this was the first time we regretted not having a small stroller with us. We had opted out of bringing one with us due to the car’s limited space for baggage.

A Cycling Tour

While the walking tour was quite limited in extent, there was one more opportunity for exploration. While Susann and Little A rested and later went to the playground, I rented a bike. The bike was not the fastest or most reliable, but I was able to easier get back to the centre of Skellefteå. Here I continued west along the northern banks of the river.

The route took me past the Skellefteå Museum at Nordanå and through the large green park. I made a short stop at Bonnstan, the church town in Skellefteå. Bonnstan is a lot larger than the church village in Lövånger and has today 116 houses. Some of these buildings date back to the 17th century. The bike ride continued a bit further before turning back. To be exact, I made it to the church of Skellefteå Landsförsamling, the countryside parish of Skellefteå. Sometimes you need of some means of transportation to be able to see larger parts of the city. Renting a bike was one option and this also gave me the possibility to bring some Mexican food with me back for dinner.

Where Next?

I got up early the last morning. It was time to get the tire fixed before leaving the town. I wanted to be at the tire workshop prior to them opening, to make sure to get a a drop in time as early as possible. Luckily I had the screw removed and could get back to Susann and Little A while they started to wake up. All that was left to do was to pack up and dismantle the tent. We were soon on our way from Skellefteå, but to where? Our first thought was Luleå or Boden. Maybe all the way to Jokkmokk? As we waved goodbye, the question was still unanswered. We had decided to wait and see how far we wanted to drive.

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