The Nordic region known as Lapland, which actually refers to separate provinces of Sweden, Norway and Finland, is a rather cold place for every day of the year, however it has been inhabited by one of the oldest nomadic people on the planet for about ten thousand years, we’re referring of course to the Sami.
Being such an incredibly hardy folk, they reserve the absolute coldest time of the year to organize the largest indigenous Sami festival in the world the Jokkmokk Market.
The festival is held every February and despite the rather chilly temperatures it usually attracts over thirty thousand visitors who are interested in learning more about the lives and traditions of the Sami people.
We know that the region has been inhabited by nomadic people because the oldest archaeological artifacts from the region date back to about then thousand years ago.
The Sami lifestyle has revolved around reindeer husbandry, hunting and fishing and the festival takes place in Jokkmokk because this village has been a crucial trading post for many different Sami groups who herd their reindeer between Sweden in the winter and Norway in the summer.
The starting date for the festival is the first Thursday in February and it lasts for three days however those who want a more comprehensive experience should plan on getting there a few days earlier for the “Historic Market” that takes place. This is a sort of medieval market-type event where you can acquire handmade balms, medicinal salves, jams, carvings, fur clothing as well as sample all the traditional foods that have fueled this nomadic lifestyle for what appears to be millennia: reindeer and moose meat, fish, herbs, berries and roots.
Once the festival is in full swing however, there are several activities that you’ll surely not want to miss, such as the folk dancing, the jojking – which is similar to yodeling, as well as various dog sled and reindeer races. Each day at noon will feature a reindeer caravan which is led by the local Sami elder.
During the festival you can find accommodations at the Ice Hotel that is built here or similarly you could spend a night in a traditionally handmade snow igloo.
It is impossible to not get energized by the Sami people when you visit the Jokkmokk Market festival, despite the biting cold and the sheer harshness of the environment that they’ve chosen to call home, they are a truly happy people content with their traditional lifestyle.