For generations, people across the Arctic region have been using dog sleds to transport people and supplies over long distances. But now that snow scooters and quad bikes have done away with the need for canine companions, dog sledding is basically just for fun – and it’s grown to become one of the most popular winter activities in northern Sweden.
Not only do people who go dog sledding get to glide through beautiful scenery, crossing frozen river valleys and snowy forest paths, they get to do it all with a pack of friendly dogs. And unlike on a snow scooter tour, there’s very little noise to spoil the experience – once the dogs stop barking and start running all you’ll hear is the pitter-patter of paws moving through the soft snow.
Many package tours to Swedish Lapland include a dog-sledding trip as standard, though if you’re travelling independently there’s nothing to stop you arranging your own. You’ll likely save money, too, as most foreign tour operators take a cut on the trips they organise.
Best places to go dog sledding in Sweden
Given that dog sledding is so closely connected to the tourist industry, most of the sledding companies are concentrated around popular attractions, like ski resorts and the Icehotel. It’s possible to go dog sledding in south and central Sweden, but because snow is vital for proper winter sledding, you’ll find far more choices in the north of the country.
The area around the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi is ideal for dog-sledding, and there’s no shortage of dogs to take you on a trip. Unfortunately there’s a captive audience of tourists here, which means prices are usually very high.
Kiruna is one of the best places for a dog-sledding tour in Sweden. The tours that depart from here tend to be cheaper than those that set off from Jukkasjärvi, but explore similarly pretty surroundings. This three-hour tour takes you past pine forests, frozen lakes and ancient swamps, before giving you the perfect opportunity for seeing the northern lights.
You can join husky-led trips in and around Abisko National Park, one of the most gloriously scenic parts of Sweden, right up in the far northwest of the country.
Sarek National Park
For a longer dog-sledding experience, consider making the trip to Sarek National Park, west of Jokkmokk. It’s possible to join an epic nine-day dog-sledding trip here, camping out in tents and riding for a total of 300km.
If you’d rather not travel all the way to the north of Sweden to go dog sledding then Åre, Sweden’s biggest ski resort, is a good option. It’s around eight hours from Stockholm by train and, as you’d expect, it gets plenty of snow.
One of the cheapest places to try dog sledding in Sweden is Sälen. Smaller than Åre, this ski resort is easy to reach from Gothenburg and Stockholm.
Need a recommendation?
If you’re on a fairly tight schedule then this three-hour dog-sledding tour from Kiruna is a solid option. It lets you combine the fun experience of sledding with the excitement of seeing the northern lights. The tour is run in small groups of just four people at a time, which means you won’t be competing for space when it comes to bagging that perfect photo.
Best time of year to go dog sledding in Sweden
Winter dog-sled trips are possible whenever there’s a good amount of snow, which for northern Sweden means anytime from roughly November to April. However, you should bear in mind that taking a dog-sledding trip in the very middle of winter can be uncomfortably cold.
Temperatures in the far north of Sweden can drop below -30c in January and February. When the wind and snow combine with this kind of cold, you may end up wishing you’d stayed inside.
In March and early April the days are considerably longer, sunnier and warmer, and therefore much better suited to being on a sled, though by the end of April the snow may already be beginning to disappear. Further south in places like Åre and Sälen, the snow may melt even earlier.
Many providers also run dog sledding trips during the summer, but if you join one of those you’ll be using a sled with wheels, rather than one with runners.
How much do dog-sled tours cost in Sweden?
Dog sledding in Sweden is generally pretty expensive, but there are a few cheaper places and a few extremely overpriced ones that tap tourists for silly amounts of cash. Our advice is to avoid booking through a hotel.
At the time of writing, some of the best-known hotels in Lapland are charging an incredible 1,450 SEK per person for a 90-minute tour. To put that in perspective, a much longer, three-and-a-half-hour trip booked direct with a tour company in Kiruna will cost you around 1200 SEK per person. Further south, you may be able to join a short tour for as little as 950 SEK.
Things to consider before setting off
Do you want to have your own dog sled?
Playing the part of musher on your own stand-up dog sled is a lot of fun, but you’ll need good balance and should be prepared for the possibility of taking a fall in the snow. On larger sleds you can sit back, wrapped in a warm blanket, and let someone else drive the dogs.
What should you wear while dog sledding?
Standing or sitting still on a speeding dog sled in freezing temperatures is a fast track to frozen bones. You need to dress warm.
Start with a thermal layer that hugs the skin and lets moisture travel away from the body. Add a couple of warm fleece-like layers and cover it all up with a wind-proof outer layer or down jacket to keep the chills at bay. Snow pants and good gloves are vital, as is a warm hat.
Don’t worry too much about how you look – the dogs have a habit of jumping up to greet you with snowy paws, and occasionally they’ll even poo and wee in front of your sled whilst running. Nice.
Is dog sledding cruel?
Some people say dog sledding is cruel. According to the animal rights group PETA, huskies involved in long-distance races in Alaska have died through strangulation, heart failure and other problems.
We haven’t heard about any cases of this stuff happening in Sweden, and it’s extremely unlikely to happen on a short trip designed for tourists, but the dogs can get their legs tangled in the lines and they do look pretty uncomfortable when this happens.
Whether or not you join a dog-sledding trip is a very personal choice. If you do decide to give it a go, make sure you’re comfortable with how the dogs are being treated – not just while you’re riding with them, but also back in their kennels. If the dogs ever seem reluctant to run, don’t be the person who makes them.
That said, all of the Swedish sled dogs we’ve seen have been super-keen to get running, and don’t stop howling until they do.