Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, has always been a mining town. Since it was first settled in the late 1800s, it’s been a community-centred, quite literally, on top of its iron ore mine. The Kiruna mine has grown to be the largest underground iron ore mine in the world and has ultimately destabilised the ground the very town sat on.
Rather than shutter the mine, in 2018, the state-owned mining company LKAB paid 22.3 billion Swedish krona (INR 1,77,07,52,23,900), to move the entire town — homes, businesses, landmarks, and all — instead. And now, it’s ready to welcome back visitors.
In September, officials cut the ribbon on Kiruna’s temporary new town centre, located about three kilometres down the block from its former home (the town moved approximately two miles). According to High North News, the entire project will take until 2035 to complete, at which time this city centre will be dismantled, with the new, more developed centre taking its place. And by that time, some 6,000 residents will have moved into 3,000 new homes.
Entire buildings have already made or are making the journey from the old town to the new, including the Kiruna clock tower, which made the move in 2018. The Kiruna Church, which stands as a preserved prime example of Gothic Revival, and one of the largest wooden buildings in the country, is slated to be moved by 2025. In total, 20 historical or heritage buildings will be moved in the next decade.
“People are really affected, both positively and negatively,” Annika Fredriksson, the CEO of the Swedish Lapland Visitors Board, told Travel + Leisure about the move, which was voted on and approved by residents. “It’s hard to get a grip on it. But it’s a vibrant time and a vibrant moment.”
And Kiruna isn’t the only town in Swedish Lapland on the move.
The entire town of Malmberget is also merging into nearby Gällivare, three miles away (4.8 km), as it, too, stands in the path of the region’s massive mines. The shift involves relocating 3,200 residents and constructing 2,000 homes, slated for completion in 2032. The project will include several phases across a two-decade span, with Gällivare also benefiting from the addition of facilities such as a new sports centre and schools.
And, because all good things come in threes, we must mention that the town of Luleå is the Swedish destination that started this town-moving trend. Back in 1649, the maritime settlement was forced to relocate about six miles (9.6 km) closer to the shoreline, however, mining operations weren’t the culprit here. Instead, the waters of its bustling harbour became too shallow, the result of a process known as glacial rebound, so the community moved with it.
Where to stay in Kiruna
All three towns are situated amid the wonders of Swedish Lapland, a region known for endless sunlight in the summers and spectacular northern lights displays during long, cold winters. The new Scandic Kiruna shares a courtyard with the new town hall, named Kristallen, or “the crystal,” a space that’s also open to the public for performances and houses multiple floors of art and exhibition space.
The hotel has 231 rooms and features amenities like a well-stocked lobby lounge and bar, as well as a sauna with a wonderful view of the area, including the northern lights when the weather is right. Also nearby is the original Icehotel, for those who don’t mind sleeping in negative temperatures for a one-of-a-kind, modern igloo experience.
Near Luleå, visitors can book a stay at the Brändön Lodge, with 15 cabins along the northern edge of the Bothnian Bay. Days at the property are filled with activities such as forest foraging sessions and dog sledging rides. For dinner, try booking the property’s Aurora Hideaway Cabin, a cosy shack hauled out into the wilderness by snowmobile for a fireside, chef-prepared meal enjoyed (hopefully) under the northern lights in a remote, pristine locale.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Jake Emen