Gränssjöarna – holidaying in the mountains

⚠️ Warning: very image-heavy post.

We didn’t have much planned for our summer holiday this year. Last autumn we bought our house so that is still fresh and new. And Europe is a mess, not only with the Russian asshat and the war but a lot of airline chaos as well, so we didn’t feel like travelling abroad. This year we just wanted to stay home and enjoy being off work. That is, until Markus’s dad, my father-in-law, suggested we take their camper van and drive it up to the mountains.

3 days of fishing, hiking, and enjoying being in the mountains sounded too good to pass up. So by the end of July me, Markus, and father-in-law (FIL from now on) drove off. 🏔🚐

Asphalt road in front of tall mountains
On the road. This is right before Kittelfjäll.

The mountain range going through the whole Scandinavian peninsula is called the Scandes or the Scandinavian Mountains. We stayed in a place called Gränssjöarna (“Border Lakes”) right by the Norwegian border.

(Sidenote: why aren’t there more words for “mountain” in English? I need at least 4 words to describe different types of mountains.)

Camper van parked on a lush campsite surrounded by trees
The campsite and the camper van.

It was a 5-hour drive from Markus’s parents’ town by the coast to Gränssjöarna. The road was surprisingly fine for most of it, but there was a long stretch of the worst dirt road. Nothing but horrendous potholes for miles! Everything inside the van rattled and shook so it sounded like it was coming apart. 😵‍💫 But we survived, and thankfully it was only that one part of the road that was bad.

The campsite in Gränssjöarna was pretty nice. A handful of other guests but far from crowded. There was a nice little service building with bathrooms, showers, and a kitchen. And the river was right next to the campsite, so it was just a short walk to the nearest fishing spot. 😊

Markus and FIL tried fishing in the river that first night but didn’t catch anything.

Man sitting on bench by the river. Small cabins can be seen in the background
Two men fly fishing in a shallow river
Can you see the rainbow?

Day 1: fishing in Nedre Vapstsjön

Husband and FIL wanted to do some fly-fishing in one of the nearby lakes. Personally, I’m not a keen fisher. I lack the patience for it. I throw the line 4 times and then I’m like… done. So while they were fishing I explored the area by myself.

The weather was all over the place. Sunny one minute and then raining the next. Had good clothes though, so it didn’t bother me. There’s a Scandinavian saying I find very true: “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” 😁

Wooden statue of a troll holding a sign saying "Sagavägen". A river and mountains in the background.
Large waterfall surrounded by forest
Cool waterfall. Too bad I couldn’t find a path leading closer to it.
Rickety boarded path through mire with forest in the background
Lucky I was wearing rubber boots.
Cloudberries on a mire
Not ripe cloudberries :(

Found a hiking trail leading through a huge mire absolutely FULL of cloudberries. Unfortunately, they weren’t ripe yet. If only we had come a few weeks later! We could’ve picked several buckets full! Oh well…

Saw some reindeer too but didn’t catch them on camera.

Path leading between small birch trees with tall mountain with snowy slopes in the background

Followed the hiking trail up a mountainside, but it was really wet and muddy. Also got progressively harder to walk on (rough terrain with big rocks). When it started going too steep uphill I turned around.

Very twisted pine tree

It’s not easy being a tree this high above sea level and so far north. Most trees can’t grow straight here. They twist and bend in the cold and under the weight of the snow in the winters.
Look at the trees in all my photos here, many of them are small and twisted in one way or another.

River with rocky shores and a large rock in the middle of the stream
Man standing on rocky shore fishing
Markus fishing. FIL is a bit behind.
Closeup of palt frying in a pan

For dinner, we fried some palt on the muurikka (big cast iron pan).
Palt is a traditional food dish from the northern end of Sweden. It is big balls, about the size of billiard balls, made from a dough consisting of raw grated potato, flour, salt, and water. The balls are stuffed with fried finely diced pork and then boiled.

It doesn’t look very pretty, it’s just grey lumps, but it tastes amazing with butter and lingonberry jam. And if you take leftover palt, dice it up and fry in a pan under the open sky after a whole day outdoors..? There is literally nothing better. 😋👌 Salty and buttery and very filling. It’s like the lembas bread from Lord of the Rings; you only need a little to fill the stomach and keep you going.

Man holding up freshly caught trout

They didn’t have much luck with the fishing. Markus got one trout within the first 5 minutes and then… nothing. For the rest of the day!

Landscape photo of a large grey lake with mountains behind
Woman smiling on a rock in front of a river and distant mountains
Large rock sitting in a lake with mountains in the background

Day 2: renting a boat and fishing on lake Virisen

FIL knew about a lake a few minutes away where you could rent boats, so that’s what we did the next day.

The weather was sunny and warm, and the lake was like a mirror. I spent most of the day laying on the prow looking out for shallows. The water was incredibly clear, you could see the bottom several meters down. I almost got scared of the height a few times when seeing how “high up” we were… 😅

Small motor boat tied up by the shore of a lake
Landscape photo of a lake with a forested shoreline and mountains in the distance
Two men making a fire on a rock by a lake

When stopping for lunch we made a little campfire and grilled some sausages. Why is food prepared outdoors always so much better than anything you can cook inside in a kitchen? Sausage isn’t special if fried in a pan, but if you spear a piece of sausage on a stick and hold it over a smouldering fire it turns into the tastiest thing in the world.

Also a good view of how clear the water was.

FIL catches a fish!

The fishing was slightly better this day. We caught a handful of trouts but only one was big enough to keep. The rest was returned to the lake.

I did try fishing a little bit

Day 3: hiking up Vardofjäll

For the last day, we decided to do some hiking instead of fishing. Maybe just as well seeing how bad the fishing luck was. 😛

There was a hiking trail passing not too far from the campsite so we headed for that. The aim was to follow it up one of the surrounding mountains.

The landscape right before the treeline (the height above which no trees grow) looks a bit alien. The last few 100 meters were this low undergrowth and short twisted birch trees.

Above the treeline

We made it almost all the way to the top! Markus has a bad heart so we didn’t want to overexert ourselves. At the point we stopped we had only walked some 6,5 km in distance, but also climbed almost 400 m in altitude. More than enough and I’m impressed he got this far! 💪😃

Everything went well until we turned back. I slipped and twisted my ankle. Not bad enough that I couldn’t make it back down to the campsite, but it wasn’t fun climbing down a mountain on a twisted ankle. Had a pretty big bruise and walked with a limp for a few days. Still worth it for that incredible view though!

Last photo on the last day

The next day we got up, had breakfast, and left. It took 6 hours to drive there from Markus’s parents’ town by the coast, so we wanted to get on the road early. Got back home without issues. 😊

It was a wonderful couple of days and I would love to do it again soon!


  1. 19 September 2022

    Wow, it really looks lovely. I especially love the shots of the water. Sorry to hear about your ankle. Hope its feeling better now.

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