The Vindelfjällen mountains and nature reserve

The mountains and nature reserve of Vindelfjällen is a breathtaking part of Swedish Lapland and one of the largest protected areas in Europe – 560 000 hectares, or twice the size of Luxembourg! It is a mountain landscape sculpted by the inland ice sheets, unique for the rich and versatile flora and fauna, and the varying nature within the reserve. It is also one of the most accessible alpine areas in Sweden.

The Vindelfjällen nature reserve was founded in 1974, with the primary function to protect the reindeer husbandry and the Sami culture in the area. It also protects the diverse nature and wildlife in the area. The Vindelfjällen mountains has a long standing tradition of research – there’s been research going on in the area since the 1960’s, and there are several research projects going on in the area, among others on the endangered arctic fox.

The Vindelfjällen nature reserve spans over enormous areas of open highland heaths, vast dwarf birch forests, wetlands and primeval spruce- and pine forests. Vindelfjällen nature reserve has alpine glaciers and snowy peaks over 1700 meters above ground, as well as valleys no more than 600 metres above the ground. This is a reason the climate varies significantly, depending on the altitude – meters above ground – and distance to the sea. Different types of rocks and varying altitudes means that there are many different nature types in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve, such as those mentioned above. Those differences means that unusual and threatened plants and animals can thrive.

There are hundreds of lakes in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve, and the biggest is Överstjuktan, and several unregulated rivers and creeks.

If you go hiking in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve, you’ll acquaint yourself with several differend kinds of nature types. The reserve can be enjoyed summer as well as winter, available through hiking, running, skiing, the snowmobile trails or snowshoes. The nature reserve is an available mountain region – it’s easy to get there from Ammarnäs or the upper Juktå river valley, and there are different trails to try.

Flora and fauna

There’s a very rich fauna in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve. Here lives wild animals such as wolverine, brown bear and lynx. The nature reserve is also a habitat for the endangered arctic fox – in fact, the arctic fox is a symbol for the Vindelfjällen nature reserve! There’s the possibility to see the hunting of a gyrfalcon and spot birds such as the golden eagle or the endangered lesser white-fronted goose. In fact, there are 129 endangered species registered within the reserve! There are large animals as well as small, usual and rare alike. The birds found in the Vindelfjällen mountains makes it an area of interest for the whole of Europe. There are several primeval forests in the Vindelfjällen nature reserve, both birch forests and spruce- and pine forests. There are several unusual plants found here, mostly in the calcinous vegetation in the west.

History

The nature reserve is also unique for the verging of nature and culture. There are several remnants of the indigenous Sami people, dating back thousands of years, for example arrowheads, hearths, and bone caches. And there are small settlements dating back 100-200 years, from the Swedes who colonized the mountain regions as well as the Sami who started farming. Hiking through the nature reserve is also a hike through history, and a witness to the strenuous work done by the people settling here, such as farming of alluvial meadows. “The wilderness” is foremost a culture landscape in the middle of unspoilt nature.

The Ammarnäs mountain village is in the middle of the Vindelfjällen mountain reserve and has many important historical interests such as the Sami church town. The river delta in Ammarnäs is one of the most valuable cultural landscapes in Sweden. For example, it is the only farmed mountain pasture in Sweden and is an important area for rare and endangered mountain birds.