Wild Surprises

Europe's Last Hideaways

Aug 1, 2001
Outside Magazine
Remote File: Europe

Continent Size
3,975,200 square miles

Population Density
182 people per square mile

Claim to Fame
World's largest lake: the Caspian Sea (148,000 square miles)

Most Remote Region
Kvitoya, in Norway's Svalbard

Required Reading
Eastern Approaches, Fitzroy MacLean
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West
Killing Dragons: The Conquest of the Alps, Fergus Fleming

Delta down: views from above in Sarek National Park, Lapland, Sweden.

Luottolako Plateau, Sarek National Park
WHERE THE HELL? Northwestern Sweden, just north of the Arctic Circle. WHAT IN THE WORLD? "An extremely inaccessible wilderness with no facilities whatsoever for tourists." In Europe, that's saying something, and that's what the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency says about the lonely highland of Sarek. One of the wildest of the continent's last legitimate wilderness areas, Sarek is 746 square miles of abundant glaciers, 200 mountains over 4,000 feet, and perpetually stormy weather. The 4,406-foot Luottolako Plateau, a moonscape of lichen-covered stones and alpine lakes, offers some of the loneliest terra firma in the park, a place to get unhinged and embrace your barbaric roots. Sneak up on grouse and reindeer, crush pestering hordes of mosquitoes, and belt Abba anthems on howling plains. Trust us, there's no one there to stop you. ACCESS: From Kvikkjokk (pronounced, well, um, we have no idea), begin on the King's Trail, breaking off at Lake Unna-Tata to orienteer northwest to the Luottolako. Physics professor Ulf Mjörnmark maintains an informative route-finding site at www.quark.lu.se/~jum. RISKS: Stream crossings are a leading cause of death here, so spend time finding safe fords. ESSENTIAL: A four-season tent and anything—cards, Game Boy, the collected works of Shakespeare—to ward off storm-induced cabin fever.

The Outer Hebrides
WHERE THE HELL? Scotland, 150 miles northwest of Glasgow. WHAT IN THE WORLD? Aye, the far-flung Outer Hebrides are home to an ancient, oft-forgotten cluster of Gaelic speakers whose rustic way of life is quickly vanishing. Thanks to plague, economic irrelevance, and the cruel hand of nature—a single storm in 1897 wiped out one island's entire adult male population as they fished at sea—few inhabitants have held on south of the 1,200 residents of Barra, leaving a group of abandoned wind- and rain-battered isles ideal for yacht exploration and summer sea kayaking. A proficient paddler can spend weeks here surfing turquoise waters onto soft white-sand beaches and crimson kelp fields. Ride wild tides into jagged inlets of sea caves and rock arches, where campsites become launchpads for exploring your personal fiefdom of 400-year-old churches, prehistoric rock megaliths, and empty dwellings (where you can house your serfs). ACCESS: A five-hour ferry ride from Oban, in northwest Scotland, gets you to the island of Barra, where you can set off solo or contact Actual Reality Scotland, which leads expeditions from May through September for strong intermediate and expert paddlers ($480 and up; 011-44-1369-870-249; www.actualrealityscotland.com). RISKS: Rough Atlantic swells can arise unexpectedly, and most islands have only one or two practical landings, so sharp sea skills are required. ESSENTIAL: A three-millimeter (or thicker) neoprene wetsuit to buffer the wickedly cold waters.

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