Chapel at the end of the world: Alkavare kapell

Alkavare kapell - with my Amundsen touring skis resting agains the outer wall.

I started the solo winter hike on Sarek's Eastern border. After several days of skiing right through the wilderness of Sarek national park, I was coming close to the opposite border in the West. There, an exotic destination was beaconing - literally, a spiritual experience in the middle of wilderness, as remote as it gets, many miles from the nearest road or settlement.

The chapel of Alkavare (Alkavare kapell) was built 1788 in this Arctic wilderness area, abandoned a few decades later, and then was restored and open once again in 1961. It overlooks the lake of Álggajávre, overlooking the nearby mountains, valleys, and the border to Padjelanta - the next national park. There is nothing but rock, water, snow and ice here.

Alkavare Chapel

The chapel holds a service only once a year - last Sunday in July. The Saturday before that, there is a prayer service at 18:00, which is followed by a morning service on Sunday at 11:00. It's actually possible to get married there, when the priest is present. But that has to be arranged beforehand, and you have to be good for some serious hiking, serveral days before and after the ceremony - no honeymoon luxury and lounging around!

The chapel is located at some height, winds caressing it from all sides. The thick walls are local flat stones meticulously stapled on top of each other. The tarred roof had been carried here from Kvikkjokk, the nearest road which is sixty kilometers from here. The windows are closed with heavy shutters; the door faces West. As you open the heavy door, you enter the chapel and see how small it is - only one room, just a couple of meters across.

The sign above the entrance. The door is never locked, only properly closed.

I was alone here, with the silence. <The floor, the benches and even the walls were covered with snow. The howling wind finds its way into the smallest holes between the stones, no matter how thick the walls are, and stays here. Even the chandeliers are covered in snow. It definitely adds to the eerie feeling of absolute remoteness in this winter wonderland, even in April.

Deep snow covering the altar

Walls are covered with snow from the inside

The chandeliers on every wall, waiting to be lighted for that special service

The guest books are locked inside wooden boxes to protect them from humidity - I had to dig them out from a big pile of snow. The first one has notes that date back to 1970's. The following one is from the 90's. Then, there is the one that I will write in. The last person who wrote there was here in September last year. But I see foot traces in the snow, and I definitely saw some pulk traces outside. Could be weeks, or months old - it's hard to tell. Anyway, I'm not the first person here this season. Who knows, maybe I am the last one before the summer.

One of the guest books 

I spent some time here, meditating, looking at the guest books, drinking some hot tea and having some food. The wind was still howling outside, beating up snow and throwing it around. Inside, it was quiet and still. It was just a few degrees below freezing point, and magically beautiful. The stark constrast between the shiny blue mountains and the rustique interior of the chapel definitely added to the unforgettable experience of this very special, very spiritual place.

The locked box, holding the religious mystery

The most inaccessible church in the world is considered to be the Abuna Yemata Guh church in Ethiopia, located on a 700+ meter cliff. However, it seems that it is accessible by a couple-of-hours hike - for this chapel, you need many days. The Church of St Maximus on Katskhi pillar in Georgia would be a worthy competitor, if it were not for the iron ladder to the top of the pillar. I would definitely agree that Alkavare Chapel is the most inaccessible place of worship at least in Sweden and EU. In fact, it's located just a few kilometers from the Point of Inaccessability of Sweden - and of the whole Western Europe.

Apart from being inaccessable, it definitely is one of the most special, charming and personal places of worship to visit, especially if you love a long (very long) hike in the mountains.

The roof chandelier, in hand-wrought iron, decorated with stones. It's deducated to Margit, buried in Alkavare at 51 years of age.

Outside of the chapel, you're quickly brought back to the practical world: wind, snow, slopes, and what probably is the most unaccessible privy in Sweden. Not usable in the winter though - all full of snow.

The next post is about how I went on to visit the Inacessability Pole of Sweden and West Europe.