Piteå lies at the mouth of the Pite River on the Gulf of Bothnia, in the far north of Norrland.
The Quick Pitch
Piteå is best known in Sweden as a summer beach resort, even if it is in one of the most unlikely of places. The cold barren expanses of Norrland might make it ideal for winter but it hardly sounds like an attractive option for a beach holiday in summer. In an age of cheap package holidays to Greece and Spain, why would anyone go to a small town just short of the Arctic Circle? Well the truth is that long sandy beaches and nearly 24 hours of sun actually make Piteå an exceptional summer escape.
In fact Piteå is one of the post popular beach resorts in Scandinavia, with thousands of Scandinavians flocking to this “Northern Riviera” every summer to soak up the seemingly endless sunshine. Warm currents heat up the Gulf of Bothnia resulting in deceptively warm water, which is more than adequate for swimming and water sports.
Pite Havsbad, Piteå’s main beach, boasts kilometre-long stretches of pristine white sand. The area is well catered for tourists offering accommodation, swimming pools, water slides, saunas and spas. Music festivals and other summer activities bring the place to life, while local golf courses offer the surreal experience of playing nine-holes in the middle of the night.
The only problem is that summers are short and it isn’t long before sunbathers have to swap sunscreen for winter coats. But that doesn’t mean people suddenly retreat indoors. They adapt accordingly and shift their focus to various winter activities, all of which utilise Piteå’s unique geographical location and pristine natural surroundings.
For five months of the year the Gulf of Bothnia is actually frozen over making it possible to take longs walks over the surface. Tours of the gulf, as well as the local mountains and lakes, can be done either by snowmobile, dog sled, cross country skating or on an icebreaking safari. And swimming doesn’t cease just because of subzero temperatures with the hire of specially designed survival suits making it possible for a dip amongst the ice.
Piteå’s final attraction is the town itself and its history and culture. The locals have a distinct dialect and identity, and in Pitepalt (a type of potato dumpling) they have their own local delicacy. Unfortunately regular fires and an invasion from Russia in 1721 mean the town has lost many of its older buildings. But some grand Norrland-style timber buildings have survived, including the Rådhuset and Piteå Kyrka, the oldest church in Norrland. Storgatan features some fine examples of the wooden 19th century houses that used to characterise Piteå and give some idea of how the town once looked. For a better idea visit the Piteå Museum at the Rådhuset.
For anyone whose Swedish experience has been confined to Stockholm, Göteborg or Skåne, Piteå not only offers unique experience in both winter and summer, but also another facet of Swedish culture.
STF Vandrarhem Piteå – backpacker hostel housed in an old hospital, and located in a central park.
Tel: 0911-158 80
Stadshotellet – Art deco design has made this elegant hotel a local landmark.
Tel: 0911-23 40 00
Hotel Pite Havsbad – Large modern hotel right by the main beach with plenty of offer in terms of facilities and entertainment. Ideal for families.
Tel: 0911-327 00
SJ operates regular services to the Piteå area from across Sweden. Piteå is served by train stations in Luleå, Umeå and Sundsvall, with bus services connecting to Piteå.
More information here.
For a complete timetable, please see: