Swim the Arctic Circle is one of those crazy bucket-list events that has to be experienced once in a lifetime. I heard about it on social media last year and as soon as it opened for entries I signed up with my husband and two friends. I’ve had a lot of questions about the swim, so I’ve tried to answer everything here:
What is the Arctic Circle?
The Arctic Circle is a latitude line around the Northern part of the world at approximately 66 ° north. The line passes through eight countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Iceland. The swimming event takes place between the villages of Juoksengi in Sweden and Juoksenki in Finland.
What does the event involve?
There are two swims which both take place in the River Torne- a 2km in the afternoon and a 3km at midnight. Our group opted to do both. The afternoon swim starts and finishes on the Swedish side of the river, whilst the midnight swim starts in Finland and ends in Sweden. A bus takes the swimmers over to Finland for the 3km event, then you swim back across the river to the starting point.
Finland is one hour ahead of Sweden so during the race you cross the time-zone and can essentially ‘finish before you start’ if you complete the 3km in less than an hour.
Is it difficult to get to the Arctic Circle?
The village of Juoksengi is quite remote and not particularly straightforward to get to, but it’s totally worth the journey. There are several ways to travel and after research, we chose to fly from London Gatwick to Stockholm Arlanda then fly onto Luleå, where we picked up a hire car and drove further north to Juoksengi. It took about 15 hours door-to-door. Northern Sweden is beautiful and the roads are mostly traffic-free so it was an easy drive.
We stayed at Svanstein Lodge which is about a 15-minute drive from Juoksengi. It’s used as a ski resort in winter and is fairly basic, but had everything we needed. We found two small supermarkets- one in Övertorneå and one in Pello.
Is the water cold?
When people hear the words Arctic Circle they think of ice swimming and sub-zero temperatures. But it’s July, it’s summer and the weather in Northern Sweden is warm and sunny. The water temperature was said to be 17.4 degrees, but actually felt more like 15- a little chilly but certainly not ice swimming! Many people chose to swim without a wetsuit, although I decided to wear mine. There are no polar bears or penguins unfortunately!
Isn’t it too dark to swim at midnight?
It doesn’t actually get dark in the Arctic Circle. The sun never completely sets so there is 24-hour daylight. When we swam at midnight, both the sun and moon were visible in the sky and there was a beautiful glow over the river.
How long does it take to swim the Arctic Circle?
Both swims are downstream and the river flow is strong, which results in quick times as you are pushed along by the current. My swim times were ridiculously fast- 28:41 for the 2km and 37:51 for the 3km- I’d never be able to swim that fast without help from the current! Everyone finished the 3km comfortably within the hour.
How much does it cost to swim the Arctic Circle?
I’ve broken down the costs below:
- Entry to 2km swim: £60
- Entry to 3km swim: £93
- Accommodation: £191 (we split between 2 people)
- Flights: £264
- Car hire: £194 (we split between 4 people)
What else is there to know?
- The swim course is marked by large metal buoys and we were advised to stay as close to them as possible. I almost swam into a few buoys as the river is moving so fast- I had to put my hand up and push them out of the way- that could have been painful!
- We were told that the river is full of salmon swimming upstream, but I didn’t actually see any during the swim.
- People come from all over the world to take part in the swim- they announced there were 14 different nationalities at the 2km event.
- Interestingly, the female field was much larger than the male field- I’m used to being in the minority at triathlon events.
- Timing chips are on a wristband which you tap against the finish line to end your swim and register your time.
- There are hot tubs and wood-fired saunas at the finish line which are lovely for warming up in after getting out of the river.
- You are also given warm blueberry soup, biscuits, cake and hotdogs at the finish line.
- We were given dry-bags to keep our clothes and towel in and these were transported to the finish line ready for us. We could buy the bags afterwards for 300 SEK (£25).
- Mosquitos are everywhere in Northern Sweden during the summer, so make sure to take bug repellent.
- There were medals for both swims plus a T-shirt. I think in previous years they just gave out certificates so I was very pleased that they’d introduced medals!
- The 2km is limited to 100 entries and the 3km is capped at 120 swimmers. Entries sell out quickly when the events opens in January.
This was one of the most fun events I’ve ever taken part in. The whole experience was an adventure from beginning to end. I love travelling to a different part of the world to do something sporty. Everything was perfectly organised by volunteers from the local villages.
Find out more about Swim the Arctic Circle and sign up (I believe entries will open in January 2020): https://swimac.eu/en/