When travelling in Northern Europe, many travelers want to go up north to Narvik which is as far as you can get by train with a rail pass like InterRail or Eurail. From Narvik you can go by bus to Lofoten, Hammerfest, the Nordkapp or to Fauske, from where you can go by train again to Trondheim. The fastest connection to the north are the night trains operated by SJ which run from Stockholm to Luleå and Narvik. The direct Stockholm – Narvik train takes about 19 hours, leaving Stockholm in the early evening and arriving in Narvik in the early afternoon. The railway line to Narvik, the so called “Malmbanan” (Iron Ore Line, built to link the Swedish mines to the ice-free port of Narvik in Norway) provides a train ride through stunning scenery during the last hours of the journey.
However, there is an alternative route as well to travel to the north, the so called “Inlandsbanan” from Östersund to Gällivare on the Malmbanan. If you have an extra day to spare and want to see more of the Swedish countryside, this is the perfect alternative for your way up north. First, take the night train from Göteborg via Stockholm to Östersund. Currently, the night train arrives quite early in Östersund, but you can stay in the waiting room of the station while waiting for the departure of Inlandsbanan. There is a kiosk as well opening at around 7am where you can get coffee, pastries and so on.
The Inlandsbanan runs from Östersund 746 km north through the Swedish wilderness to its terminal station in Gällivare. The whole trip takes more than 14 hours, and although this might sound awfully long it is bearable since the train stops several times to allow for short walks at several nearby lakes or to visit small museums which can be found in some stations. Overall, all stops together last three hours so you dont have to be afraid to sit in the train the whole day. In addition the friendly conductors tell stories about the areas and villages the train passes in Swedish and English. At some stations it is possible to order breakfast, coffee or a full meal for an extra fee. These can be pre-ordered on board, just ask the conductor. Have a look at the detailed timetable including all stops here.
Two friends and I were traveling and we decided to go with Inlandsbanan. We had reservations, which cost 50 SEK and can be ordered online via mail, then collected at Östersund station, but in fact, they were not really necessary. The train was quite full only during the first few hours, the rest of the day it was half empty and in the evening in Gällivare only a handful of travelers disembarked. In fact, our group of three were the only ones who stayed on the train all the way from Östersund until Gällivare. It is definitely a really scenic railway line and a nice day away from the hectic of the big cities.
In Gällivare, you can either spend the night in a hostel or, as we did, at the campsite which is about 15 minutes away from the station. The following day, you can continue your way up to Narvik, which is about four hours away from Gällivare, or go to Luleå if you are heading for Finland. If you have questions regarding your trip on Inlandsbanan, have a look at the topic in the Raildude forum.