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Take a meditative journey on the Inlandsbanan – the summertime railway that trundles through Sweden’s wildest landscapes, striking deep into the Arctic Circle
Geunja Sami Ecolodge offers a stay well off the beaten track

THE INLANDSBANAN IS A SINGULARLY STRANGE RAILWAY. It is a single-track line that spans 800 miles across the Swedish interior. It runs from June to August, during which time a single daily service runs in each direction. And, in charge of the single-carriage northbound train at Mora station this summer afternoon is Robert Singleton, a former social worker from Gothenburg, starting his apprenticeship as a train driver.

'I decided to become a train driver because I read they are some of the most satisfied people in the world,' he says, sipping a can of lemonade in the locomotive cab. 'I hit the jackpot with Inlandsbanan. It is a railway like no other.'

To get from Mora, at the Inlandsbanan's southern end, to Gallivare, its northern terminus in the Arctic Circle, takes 19 hours 4 minutes. But even ardent anoraks couldn't deny you could just look out the window for the first five minutes and get the gist of the following 18 hours 59 minutes. Leaving Mora, we trundle through birch, pine and spruce forests, passing red cabins and lakes where swimming Swedes wave at the train. Then, more cabins, more swimming Swedes and more forests, until you suspect the train is doing laps on a circular track.

But this is to misunderstand the appeal of the Inlandsbanan. It is in some ways less like a conventional railway and more like a wellness centre on wheels. Or rehab. You are lulled into a state of perfect contentment by the slow clattering of the rails. Hypnotised by the passage of endless trees. Soothed by the scent of fresh rain on pine through the open window. It is a train where hours slip by in tranquillity, disturbed only by the minor shock that a Snickers costs £2 from the on-board trolley.

South of Östersund

Scandinavian mindfulness has been exported across the world: by self-improvement books showing you How to be Swedish, by companies selling scented candles and calming mood lighting. Boarding a northbound Inlandsbanan service is better understood in this context. It is the path to Nordic zen.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - June 2018
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