April 23, 2016 | West Sweden
West Sweden is a wonderful setting for outdoor activities. The landscape – which stretches from Gothenburg all the way up to the border of Norway – varies from rocky coastlines dotted with picturesque villages to open fields, vast forests and thousands of beautiful lakes. Sweden’s west coast is also home to no less than 8,000 islands. It’s therefore no surprise that this is one of Scandinavia’s best regions for outdoor activities. Here, on their Sweden road trip visitors can partake in an endless array of outdoorsy activities from sea kayaking, canoeing and sailing to hiking and cycling.
These activities are available for all ages, levels and abilities, and can be enjoyed either on your own, with a guide or as part of a package arranged by a tour operator. Combine your trip with a comfortable stay at one of the many boutique hotels or delightful B&Bs, taste the region’s renowned fresh seafood and explore the region’s huge array of cultural highlights.
For those seeking an escape from the stresses of modern life, it’s also extremely easy to find your very own piece of West Sweden. And, thanks to the abundance of islands along the coast, you even have the chance to camp on your very own island. Driving is a delight, too: the roads are quiet and safe to explore, with an excellent network connecting visitors easily, to every part of the region.
The best feeling after a long day’s hike or cycle is to finish with a relaxing soak in a hot tub overlooking the sea, followed by a delicious Swedish meal made from local fresh ingredients and a good night’s sleep, ready for the next day’s adventures!
Tempted? Here’s our pick of the best places to visit, and activities to experience, during a four-day long outdoor or active weekend visit to Gothenburg and West Sweden.
DAY ONE – Thursday
Once in Gothenburg, head straight to Vrångö Island (by passenger ferry), a car-free, unspoilt island in the Gothenburg archipelago with only 380 year-round residents. Vrango is incredibly laid back, most of it a beautiful nature reserve. Check in at Kajkanten Vrångö, newly built boat-house apartments in Vrångö harbour, and then grab a bite to eat at Fiskeboa Vrångö, which serves delicious fish and seafood dishes.
Hire a kayak and explore the waters around the island, or take a boat tour and try your hand at fishing. Follow the walking trails or island hop to Donsö or Styrsö, both of which have excellent walking paths. On Styrsö, climb to Stora Rös, the highest point in Gothenburg’s archipelago, to enjoy the stunning view, perhaps from one of the hot tubs that come with the bathing cabins you can hire here.
Have dinner at the glorious Skärgårdens Café, or take the ferry to Styrsö Skäret (a 12-minute ferry ride) and dine at Guesthouse Styrsö Skäret, which serves tasty seasonal produce with a particular emphasis on fish dishes. Stay overnight at Kajkanten Vrångö.
DAY TWO – Friday
After a morning swim or walk, prepare breakfast in the kitchenette (local store open daily in the harbour) or at Skärgårdens café, before catching the ferry back to Saltholmen. Take the tram to the central station and pick up your rental car at Hertz, also located in the station.
Drive to Dalsland, Sweden’s biggest lake district. It’s an awe-inspiring setting for paddling, with its labyrinth of glittering rivers and lakes, surrounded by deep forest. Pick up a canoe at Silverlake Camp and set off on your own paddling adventure. The water here is so clean that you can drink it! It’s also lovely to glide past the little red loch houses in Dalsland’s canal or simply sit back and enjoy the peaceful silence of the lakes.
The great wilderness in Dalsland is absolutely breathtaking. Lovers of the great outdoors will be spoilt for choice amid the abundance of dense forest, the fresh smell of pine and the fascinating variety of animals and birds. Stop to refuel along the way, at one of the picturesque places serving delicious local Swedish food and fika (meaning a coffee and cake break with friends) which the Swedes love to enjoy outdoors.
Head off again in your car to Dalslands Aktiviteter, one of the largest activity parks in Scandinavia, where you can feed moose and try high-rope activities such as Sweden’s longest zip-line. Enjoy a BBQ dinner where you cook your own meal, relax in a hot tub overlooking the lakes and then sleep in tipi tents which have lovely rugs, wools and a fire pit to keep you warm.
DAY THREE – Saturday
Wake up to a glorious view and enjoy an early morning breakfast in the fresh outdoor air. Feed the moose at Dalslands Aktiviteter, before setting off in your car to Bohuslän.
Bohuslän is a gorgeous unspoilt coastal area on Sweden’s west coast, lined with smooth, sculptural pink granite rocks and quaint fishing villages. With thousands of islands to explore too, Bohuslän is a dream for outdoor breaks by the sea, whether sea kayaking, island-hopping by ferry, hiking and biking (some are car free) or experiencing a seafood safari.
Check in at Salt & Sill, Sweden’s fabulous floating hotel and restaurant in Klädesholmen (also known as Herring Island), on scenic Tjörn. Salt & Sill provides a delightful base from which to explore the region and sample the delicious seafood, which is amongst the best in the world, thanks to the cold, clean and mineral-rich water.
One of Salt & Sill’s specialities is its schnapps and herring tasting. A wooden board appears at the table, neatly arranged with a multitude of glass pots, featuring fresh herring in different sauces, such as dill, mustard and star anise.
After lunch, pick up your bikes from reception and cycle around the charming areas of Klädesholmen and Skärhamn (30km cycle in total), where there’s hardly any traffic and the roads are safe and extremely well-marked. On the way, you’ll pass small quaint boat-houses and docks typical to the archipelago of Bohuslän. Cycle to The Nordic Watercolour Museum or Pilane Sculpture Park. The Nordic Watercolour Museum is the first European venue to host the new animation exhibition, Disney’s ‘Art of Storytelling’, which showcases original drawings and watercolours from the early films of Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well as more recent films such as Frozen; known in Sweden as ‘Frost’. Pilane is one of Sweden’s most fascinated cultural landscapes, where modern sculptures are subtly mixed in a rural setting with traces from the Stone Age and Viking Age.
Bike back to Salt & Sill and enjoy a delicious meal and night at Salt & Sill overlooking the sea.
DAY FOUR – Sunday
Tuck into a tasty breakfast and then drive to Marstrand Island, where you’ll park your car close to the ferry (buy your ticket in the small kiosk in the port). It only takes about five minutes to get to the island, where an easy five km hike and rewarding views await.
If you’re keen on longer distances, there are also several nice hiking tracks at Köön, not far from the ferry. Renowned for its cultural history, charming buildings and sailing, Marstrand is filled with charming colourful wooden houses, cobbled streets, lovely shops and many characterful restaurants and bars. In summer, you’ll also find many nice places to stop for a swim.
Have a delicious lunch at the Grand Hotel or perhaps buy some freshly cooked seafood from the fish truck in the port and eat al fresco. Don’t forget to visit Strandverket Art Museum. You could also have fika at Bergs bakery in the port and browse for souvenirs in some of the many quaint shops.
Then it’s time to drive back to Gothenburg, drop off the car at Hertz (located at Landvetter airport) and catch your flight home!
Holidays to West Sweden are available through numerous specialist tour operators, including Discover the World, Green Traveller, Inntravel, Nature Travels, Magnetic North Travel, Off The Map Travel, Simply Sweden, Sunvil and Taber Holidays.
West Sweden can be reached by a short (two-hour) direct flight to Gothenburg with British Airways (Heathrow), Ryanair (Stansted and Edinburgh), SAS (Heathrow), Norwegian (Gatwick), British Airways/Sun-Air of Scandinavia (Manchester) and bmi regional (Birmingham).