A Dwelling for Reindeer Herders in the Swedish Lapland

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Photographs by Henrik Bonnevier


The Place: On the wild plains of Scandinavia’s northernmost reaches, a nomadic indigenous people with a history predating the Vikings take shelter in teepee-style homes scattered across the four nations they inhabit — Norway, Sweden, Russia, and Finland — while traveling with reindeer herds. They are the Sami. This particular shelter stands in Swedish Lapland, a sparsely populated region in the northernmost part of the country; the Swedish Sami refer to the shelters here as a kåta (they are known by different versions of this word in other parts of the North). 

The Sami rely on the natural protection from the hills when constructing these dwellings in the windy, treeless plains of Scandinavia. In this particular kåta, a hole in the roof is usually built to allow smoke to pour out, as the Sami light fires inside to stay warm. Some Kåtas have minor modern amenities, like the window fittings perched close to the ground here.

The Cost: Free — if you can find one that’s vacant, which might not be so difficult; these days the Sami don’t actually bunker down in kåtas for long, but rather take shelter briefly as they travel with herds of reindeer.

The Region: A massive expanse of wilderness in one of the northernmost parts of the globe (falling within the Arctic Circle), Swedish Lapland is a lonely yet breathtaking place, with under a hundred thousand people stretched over more than 42,000 square miles. In this pristine environment travelers can experience the aurora borealis and the midnight sun — 24-hour periods of constant brightness that occur in the summer, when nighttime is banished completely. Those seeking adventure often book long hikes led by Sami guides across the streams and mountains of Swedish Lapland, where arctic foxes, golden eagles, and reindeer herds can be observed as they roam freely in the wild.