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A herd of reindeer on a mountain plateau in northern Sweden.
Reindeer on the Wilderness Road, Stekenjokk
Reindeer can occasionally be seen grazing in the fields along the Wilderness Road.
Photo credit: Madeleine Aaraas/JHT

Vildmarksvägen – an epic drive on Sweden’s scenic Wilderness Road

For the ultimate road trip, drive along Sweden’s Wilderness Road, a ruggedly majestic route through some of the country’s most outstanding and remote nature. Take in breathtaking scenery, from dramatic mountains and expansive plains to pristine lakes and waterfalls, all peppered with wildlife large and small.

Sweden’s scenic Wilderness Road – also known as Vildmarksvägen in Swedish – is the country’s highest paved road, reaching 867 metres above sea level at its highest point. The 500-kilometre circular route runs from Strömsund in northern Jämtland via Gäddede to Vilhelmina in southern Lapland, joining up with the E45 through Dorotea. The most iconic part of the drive crosses Stekenjokk Plateau, a protected Sámi heritage landscape where reindeer graze and rare bird species thrive. Good to know: This particular section of the road is only open from 6 June to 15 October each year, owing to the vast amounts of snow that fall in winter.

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Clearing roads from snow, Stekenjokk

The Wilderness Road is being cleared from snow in April and May. Tractors and trucks are equipped with ploughs and snow-blowers.

Photo: David Sandström/

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A heavy vehicle with a snowblower is clearing a road from snow. The snow level is almost higher than the vehicle. Snowmobiles are in the background.

Clearing roads from snow, Stekenjokk

Photo: David Sandström/

A road winds through a mountain plateau in northern Sweden.

The Wilderness Road, Stekenjokk

Photo: Madeleine Aaraas/JHT

View of a motorway surrounded by grass and a large mountain. Four reindeer stand on and beside the road.

The Wilderness Road, Stekenjokk

Photo: Camilla Hulkki/Strömsund Turistinformation

What to do and where to stop along the Wilderness Road

With so many things to see and do along the Wilderness Road, it’s worth giving yourself a few days to explore. There are dozens of natural beauty spots and opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling and wild swimming, not to mention fishing and wildlife watching.

Here are just a few of the unmissable sights and stops along the Wilderness Road.

Waterfalls, lakes and underwater caves

The Wilderness Road boasts a plethora of lakes, waterways and easily accessible waterfalls. Take Hällingsåfallet, one of Sweden’s tallest waterfalls, about an hour and a half from Strömsund. Plunging over 40 metres into Hällingsån canyon, Sweden’s longest water-filled canyon, with an accessible footpath from the parking area, as well as a five-kilometre-long hiking trail.

Another waterfall highlight is Trappstegsforsen, by Lake Kultsjön – the tumbling cascades are popular with fishing enthusiasts and photographers alike. Also of note – there’s a little café here in summertime.

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Hällingsåfallet, Jämtland

The 40-metre-high waterfall Hällingsåfallet flows into the Hällingså Canyon below. The surronding forest is deep and mysterious - which Swedes would describe as "trollskog" (troll forest).

Photo: Gerd Sjöberg

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A waterfall rushes down a cliff in the forest. A rainbow is visible in the water vapour from the fall.

Hällingsåfallet, Jämtland

Photo: Gerd Sjöberg

View of The Stair Step Fall in autumn.

Trappstegsforsen, Saxnäs

Photo: Hanna Liljekvist

A lake is surrounded by mountains and forest. The trees have yellow and orange autumn colours.

Stora Blåsjön, Jämtland

Photo: Andreas Magnusson

A view from inside a cave out into a glade with four people walking towards a waterfall.

The Coral Cave, Jämtland

Photo: Gerd Sjöberg/Strömsund Turism

Stora Blåsjön – approaching the road to Stekenjokk

About 45 kilometres north of Gäddede lies the lake and hamlet Stora Blåsjön. Literally meaning the Big Blue Lake, Stora Blåsjön boasts 40 square kilometres of serene, mirror-glass reflection, with stunning views of the mountains, as well as excellent trout fishing. Stora Blåsjön is also a central hub for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking or riding. If you’re planning to bed down for the night, then Camp Stora Blåsjön has a selection of cabins as well as parking spots for camper vans. The best bit – you can park lakeside and enjoy a dip first thing in the morning.

There’s a huge variety of places to stay along the Wilderness Road – from hotels and self-catering cabins to youth hostels, campsites and in-the-wild accommodation. What could be better than a night under the stars in the great outdoors?

The Coral Cave – Sweden’s longest underwater cave

Drive further along from Stora Blåsjön and you’ll come across one of Sweden’s natural wonders, the Coral Cave (Korallgrottan). At six kilometres long, the Coral Cave is Sweden’s longest underwater cave, boasting 26 square kilometres of narrow passages as well as great cavernous halls – there’s even a waterfall at the entrance. The cave is only accessible with guided tours during the summer months.

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Vildmarksvägen, Stekenjokk

At the Stekenjokk plateau, the road is lined with snow banks up to 5 metres high. The snow-covered road is ploughed in the spring before the opening of The Wilderness Road.

Photo: Peter Gabrielsson

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A car is driving on a road surrounded by high snow banks.

Vildmarksvägen, Stekenjokk

Photo: Peter Gabrielsson

Five old wooden huts in the forest by a river.

Ankarede church village, Jämtland

Photo: Anne Adsten/JHT

A white chapel surrounded by autumn-coloured deciduous trees.

Ankarede chapel, Jämtland

Photo: Charlotte Falk

Stekenjokk – the legendary Sámi mountain plateau

Undoubtedly, the most famous stretch on Sweden’s Wilderness Road is the 20-kilometre-long drive through Stekenjokk Plateau (only open from 6 June ­– 15 October­). This unique and austerely beautiful landscape is subject to special regulations as it is both a bird protection area and a Sámi cultural heritage landscape. A place where the Sámi people herd and tend to their reindeer, as they have done for thousands of years. In fact, the Sámi name for Stekenjokk is ‘Stihken’, meaning “the place where reindeer stay”. Here, reindeers graze undisturbed, so visitors must take care not to approach them, especially during the calving season in spring and early summer.

Sámi church towns along the Wilderness Road

The Wilderness Road region is home to culturally important Sámi landmarks like Ankarede church town (Ankarede kyrkstad) – visit the traditional Sámi ‘goahti’ huts here and a chapel dating back to the 1800s. Towards Vilhelmina, enjoy a stopover at Lake Kultsjön and walk over the footbridge to Fatmomakke church town (Faepmi in Sámi). Dating back to the 1700s, Fatmomakke is considered to be the most prominent Sámi church town in Sweden.

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Vilhelmina museum

The museum in Vilhelmina was built in the 1890s and is located in the church town. Among the main artefacts are a 7th century grave find and a 3rd century ski.

Photo: Hanna Liljekvist

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A large red wooden house with a yellow door, surrounded by green bushes. In the foreground is a flagpole and a statue of a woman with a guitar.

Vilhelmina museum

Photo: Hanna Liljekvist

Old wooden church cabins with yellow doors.

Vilhelmina church town

Photo: Hanna Liljekvis

A plate of char and rainbow trout is placed in the smoker.

Bergmans Fisk och Vilt, Jämtland

Photo: Hannele Bång

Vilhelmina church town and Nordic delicacies

Another must-visit on the Wilderness route is Vilhelmina church town (kyrkstad in Swedish) and museum – open a few short weeks in summer, you can also pick up Sámi handicraft in the museum shop. You can even bed down in one of the picturesque cabins from the 1800s, run by Vilhelmina kyrkstad’s STF youth hostel.

Before you hit the road again, drop by the well-known farm shop and restaurant Bergmans Fisk & Vilt. Famous for their award-winning, hand-smoked fish, Bergmans also offers a selection of artisan foods including wood-smoked elk and reindeer specialties. Enjoy lunch in the timber lodge or pack a picnic for your next stopover on the Wilderness Road.

Wherever you decide to stop next, touring the Wilderness Road is a rare opportunity to explore some of Sweden’s most remote landscapes on four wheels. So, tap into your wanderlust and enjoy the drive of your life in northern Sweden!