Southern Lapland    

Västerbotten occupies fully an eighth of Sweden's land area, stretching from the beautiful beaches of Bottenviken in the east to the mountains straddling the Norwegian border in the west. Between them is a wilderness of lakes, rivers, forests and marshes.

This where Swedish Lapland begins, in a big county, land of the midnight sun and the northern lights, replete with overwhelming experiences for body and soul.

Visitors can combine memorable excursions into breathtaking countryside with lively entertainment in and around the attractive city of Umeå, "City of Birches", the largest in northern Sweden. A university town, Umeå offers good shopping, a wealth of cultural events (including the acclaimed Norrlands Opera) and a fine selection of pubs and restaurants.

In between, a quiet stroll along the quayside and the Umeälven river is pure delight. Designated European Capital of Culture 2014 – the most northerly ever – Umeå promises visitors an experience that will be "challenging and innovative".

This dynamic region is characterized by its close proximity to forests, seas and rivers: a relaxing trip to a secluded beach, a peaceful walk in one of the surrounding forests or a heartstopping whitewater rafting adventure on the Vindelälven river are just minutes away. The exciting coastline beckons: a trip to the beautiful islands of Norrbyskär, perhaps, or to the nature reserve on Holmön.

The municipality of Skellefteå, host to the Trastock summer music festival attended by tens of thousands every year, is also a seaside resort in the summer, ski resort in the winter and entertainment centre all year round. This region is known as the "Gold of Lapland" (Guldriket) – Sweden is the largest gold producer in the European Union, and Västerbotten contains one of the world's richest gold deposits – and there is ample evidence throughout the county of the nation's century-old "gold rush". Exploration and discoveries continue to this day.

Unmissable attractions here include the 90 metre deep St Anne's Underground Church at Kristineberg, created after miners came upon a larger-than-life Christ-like configuration in the rock, and the 13.6 km long cableway, originally built to transport ore between the mine at Kristineberg and the concentration plant at Boliden, now used to carry visitors on a delightful two-hour-long journey high above the unspoilt landscape. Foodies will savour the Burträsk district, dubbed the "Kingdom of Cheese" (Ostriket) in honour of the renowned Västerbotten cheese, which is there for the tasting in all its variety at every turn.

Salmon Valley
In this vast region of sky-blue lakes, rushing rivers, towering forests and looming mountains, Byske Laxdal – Salmon Valley – takes its name from the teeming waters of Byskeälven, one of the best salmon rivers in the country and a magnet for enthusiasts from all over Europe, just one of many world-class fishing opportunities in Västerbotten. And for the less energetic, and those with young families, the sundrenched sandy beaches along the coast are ideal holiday destinations.

The last true wilderness of Europe stretches right across this part of Swedish Lapland and beyond. Many visitors come simply for the pristine natural environment, to bask in the peace and quiet of it all, while others are in search of more adventure. In either case, the place is good for the soul, whether you are walking, cycling or riding through a land with no roads, or relaxing in an improbably luxurious hotel or spa in a remote location and filling up at one of the county's prize-winning restaurants.

The Sami church village of Fatmomakke is a cultural treasure, while Kungsleden ("King's Trail") is a 450 km long hiking trail which starts in Hemavan and cuts through the beautiful Vindelfjällen nature reserve. The well-attended Åsele market is held every summer, as is the popular Motor Week in Lycksele, where Sweden's northernmost zoo offers close encounters with bears and wolves.

Photo: Umeå Turistbyrå
Photo: Umeå Turistbyrå
A dip in Umeå lagoon
Photo: Umeå Turistbyrå  
Norrbyskär, an island group in the archipelago Good for the soul... Close encounter

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