It’s important to focus on the good things in life – such as the Northern Lights in the icy cold winter night, autumn hiking in the Muddus National Park, chatting over dinner or in the wood-fired sauna. Simplicity and isolation add to the experience, and it is no problem that the nearest neighbor to Wilderness Retreat Solberget is over 20 km away. A visitor to Solberget takes a trip back in time, a hundred years or so, something that particularly attracts German visitors but anyone is welcome.
Dirk Hagenbuch first came to the forests around Nattavaara in the mid-1990s. He started as a guide for German groups visiting the extensive forest in the north of Sweden, but one day he decided to move here permanently. He worked as a guide on the railway line, Inlandsbanan, then in Kiruna’s mines and one winter at the Icehotel. In 2002 he took over Wilderness Retreat Solberget, which was run by a fellow German and was Dirk’s first destination when he came to the forests north of the Arctic Circle.
Wilderness Retreat Solberget is a traditional and friendly accommodation facility in the middle of the Norrland forests. It is surrounded by three nature reserves, and the ancient forests of Muddus are just 50 km away. There is no electricity, running water or modern toilets, and the experience includes fetching water, listening to the crackling of the heating stove, eating well in the light of the paraffin lamps, and relaxing in the tranquillity of the wood-fired sauna. Quite simply, this is a primitive luxury that is attracting a growing group of families, couples and individuals from, particularly, big cities in Germany, but people from other countries are also starting to find their way here.
Here the natural outdoor experiences are the attraction. A tour on a dog-sled or reindeer-sled through snow-clad spruce forests. An exclusive skiing expedition in the Muddus National Park. Light summer nights filled with birdsong and the luxuriant arctic vegetation, or a bracing autumn hike through the reds and golds of the forests.
Dirk is also a pioneer when it comes to climate-smart train travel. One of his greatest merits is getting the Norrland train to stop in the small village of Nattavaara when his guests arrive. This enables visitors to relax on their journey, and the company promotes this by arranging transfers and by offering generous discounts on activities booked well in advance by guests choosing to travel by train.
Wilderness Retreat Solberget is also stimulating the local economy - every year, dairy products, vegetables, sandwich fillings and other produce are sold for more than ten thousand euro in Nattavaara’s grocery store. Reindeer and elk meat comes from the local slaughterhouse in Harads, and links with the Sami economic association are preserved by inviting in the Sami reindeer herders in the district as speakers on the frequent story-telling evenings.
The labelling comittes statement
Labelling Committee´s motivation (8 May 2012)
It’s easy to overlook things at home, and it sometimes takes outside eyes to see the potential. Dirk Hagenbuch is a perfect example, and he has shown that a link to other countries can lead to paying guests. Wilderness Retreat Solberget is a pioneer at stimulating climate-smart travel and its primitive wilderness luxury has really put Sweden on the map.