Jane Labous enjoys watersports and midnight sun in the far north of Sweden
A mere 20 minutes after landing in Lulea, Lapland, I'm climbing board a sauna boat - a strange contraption chugging out into the middle of a lake. Captain Erik suggests I dip into the icy waters before warming up by the hot coals.
Lulea is on a peninsula where Lulea Bay meets the Gulf of Bothnia, high up in the Arctic north. On this stretch of glacial water float the 700 islands of Lulea archipelago, reaching all the way to Sweden's border with Finland.
It's a tranquil place, where the grass seems greener, the air is clear and the light has a piercing clarity that comes from being so near the sun, and so far from anywhere else.
Emerging invigorated from the sauna, I realize something's wrong. My watch says it's midnight and there, above the trees, is the sun. We're so high up in the Arctic Circle that now, in June, there's nowhere for the sun to go. It shines all day and night.
It's surreal to dine on the deck of a sauna boat in the Arctic at 1am on grouse soup, barbecued grouse with grilled cheese cripp (like toasties without the bread) and shots of berry vodka. Erik serves wild strawberries for dessert and we cheer on the swimmers of the annual Lulea midnight swimming race as they pass.
I go to bed at 4am, pulling the curtains to block out the light, which does its best at urging me to stay awake.
There are more boats per capita in Lulea than anywhere in Sweden, so it's no wonder most activities here are water-based. As our fishing boat draws up at the little jetty on Hinderson island, I feel like I'm in a fairytale - hidden amid the pines is Jopikgarden, our hotel, which might have sprung straight out of the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen story, with its gingham curtains, whitewashed walls and wooden shutters.
From the jetty, we start a four-hour kayaking trip. I'm taught how to navigate and roll the kayak before being launched into a landscape where sea meets sky. I paddle past miles of forest and small painted boats moored on the shore; it's surprisingly hard work. Sea birds perch and salmon spring up excitedly. After a few hours we stop at Lappo Island and light a barbecue on the beach.
The day ends around the huge crackling fire beneath the trees at Jopikgarden. We gather on wooden benches and the hotel owner - who, with her bun, rosy cheeks and cheerful smile, looks like the kindly, magical grandmother of a hundred children's stories - bustles about, warming tunnbrod flatbreads and teeny barbecued herrings skewered and burnt over the flames.
At midnight, as she serves golden-orange caviar Kalixlojrom, the sun still laughs outside, loving the summer.Double rooms at the Jopikgarden Hotel cost from £102 per weekend night jopik.nu. For kayaking information, visit creactive-adventure.se
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