We discovered the Fjällträdgård, the northern most botanical garden in the world.
With busy bees, periwinkle blooms, and delicate curved branches arching over a river, the Fjällträdgård (or Mountain Botanical Garden) of Jokkmokk, in Swedish Lapland, wouldn't look out of place if it were situated thousands of miles to the south. Instead, it has the distinction of being one of the northern most (if not THE northern most) botanical gardens in the world. It's home to plants and flowers often found only in the country's far north and the tundra. And a tour here makes an already wonderful visit to Jokkmokk even more rewarding. Here's what we loved about our visit.
All the berries.
I can hear you screaming "Don't eat strange berries!" And you're absolutely right! Strange berries should not be consumed, nor should you eat any of the specimens in a botanical garden. But I promise I had permission before I munched on some Arctic blueberries.
It's tempting to think of the Arctic Circle as a barren, frozen wasteland but the Mountain Botanical Garden crushes this notion. The area around Jokkmokk is filled with delicious produce, including wild herbs and greens, as well as my beloved berries.
Be sure to ask the staff to point out the cloudberries. Also known as bakeapples in Newfoundland, Canada, these berries look like an orange, slightly anemic raspberry but they have a sweet and delicate flavor that's entirely their own.
And all the colors.
The Mountain Botanical Garden may just be the northern-most botanical garden in the world, but it has the same diversity of colors you'd find further south. Delicate blues, periwinkles, purples, pinks, greens, and whites abound. And bees, the best friend of wildflower blossoms, made their presence known (though at a respectful distance - if you're not comfortable around them you can rest assured that you won't be too close). If you're lucky, you'll also see birds like woodpeckers and other species like butterflies, although they were shy during our visit.
The garden looks like one beautiful, natural stretch of land but there's an incredible amount of work happening behind the scenes to protect and preserve the plants in an organic way. Bedrock has been exposed by hand in order to facilitate planting specimens that thrive in more bare, windy regions, while plants needing more protection find homes among the nooks and crannies. But while I fully believe the staff could coax just about any flower to flourish here, you won't find any non-alpine plants, just authentic Lapland flora and fauna.
Doesn't this small cabin look utterly at home with its surroundings? It serves as the snack and gift shop on the second floor and staff offices on the bottom. It looks so modern but somehow it just seems RIGHT for the garden.
There's plenty of other structures that enhance the gardens, including hand crafted fences, wooden arches and benches, and boardwalks to carry visitors over the river and streams.
A museum spirit.
The garden is part of Ajtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum. The main museum is just up the road from the garden - and is a great destination on its own. The spirit of education can be felt throughout the botanical garden. There are illustrated information plaques (with English translation) and plants are carefully labeled. Staff are also on hand to answer any questions you might have. But if you're planning a visit just for the purposes of seeing the garden, note that it's only open to visitors in the summer (but Jokkmokk itself is a wonderful year round destination.)
Swedish Lapland isn't a destination you stumble upon accidentally but it remarkably accessible and easy to visit from Stockholm. Spending some time at the Mountain Botanical Garden, the Fjällträdgård, highlights the area's beauty perfectly and makes your journey all the more worthwhile.
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
Boden and Beyond: The Gateway to Swedish Lapland
Sweden's Wildest Boat Ride
Exploring Uto: Sweden's Friendliest Isle
Our trip to Jokkmokk was facilitated by the local tourism board and we thank them for their support.
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