Kayaking in Bohuslän, Sweden

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Photo: Julian Rohn

Bohuslän county, on the west coast of Sweden, is perfect for sea kayaking. Few places offer waters that are so suitable for paddling as Bohuslän and with its unique, smooth granite cliffs and thousands of islands, it’s a wonderful experience to paddle here.

You can go ashore on the islands and spend the night in the tent you brought with you, as long as you do not interfere with the environment and follow the local guidelines of the Right of Public Access (see http://www.swedishepa.se/Enjoying-nature/The-Right-of-Public-Access/This-is-allowed/). The opportunity to experience quiet solitude and camp where there are no other people is a wonderfully relaxing experience. However, protected areas such and bird sanctuaries are off limits.

Bohuslän is a beautiful location with its thousands of islands. Kayaking on a quiet morning can be paradise, paddling through calm water in the summer dawn’s pale pink light – or in the evening, seeing the unbroken horizon and the big orange yellow evening sun slowly sink into the Skagerrak .

The soft smooth rocks of this area are ideal for sunbathing on lazy summer days and if you get too warm, enjoy the feeling of a refreshing swim in the ocean.

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Photo: Julian Rohn

For more experienced paddlers, a tip is to make the most of the peace and nature during the long periods before and after the peak summer season – this time is amazing in Bohuslän. It’s always nice to paddle in the archipelago in spring (April-June) when nature is green and the birdlife is awakening. This is a very sensitive time in nature and it’s important to take care not to disturb breeding wildlife, but with consideration and planning as well as a good pair of binoculars both humans and wildlife can enjoy this period. Recommended! Note however that at this time, the water is also colder and it’s important to have more kayak experience/knowledge when paddling at this time of year.

The Bohuslän archipelago offers the joy of paddling, wonderful nature experiences and a sense of freedom and simplicity.

Please see the following tours offering sea kayaking in this area.

Sea Kayak Tour with Skills Course in West Sweden
Self-guided Sea Kayaking in Bohuslän

Fika in Gothenburg, Sweden

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Photo: Nicho Sodling

Fika is a concept in Swedish culture which means ‘taking a break for coffee and a bite to eat’. So the coffee is often accompanied with pastries, cakes, cookies or sandwiches. But it means much more than that – it’s a moment to relax and catch up with your family orfriends.

“Fika is not to do, it’s simply to be”

Fika is a sociable thing. We Swedes consider fika an important part of our culture and it’s well established in the workplace where fika breaks are a daily ritual. These breaks away from the desk, meeting with colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere ,can benefit a business’ productivity as well as contribute to a happy workplace.

Here at Nature Travels we have a “fika break” in the morning halfway to lunch and then one in the afternoon halfway between lunch and the end of the day.

My family in Sweden often take a fika on the days when we’re off together. We’ll have a morning fika around 11am and then an afternoon fika around 2.30. But don’t think that’s the end – you can always squeeze in an evening fika as well!

While in England, you tend to meet up at the pub for a drink, in Sweden it’s more common to meet up for a fika with friends.

Gothenburg is the second-largest city in Sweden, has a chilled-out feel to it and is a perfect place to test the Swedish fika culture.

For things to do,while visiting Gothenburg, please see our Gothenburg blog post

So if you find yourself in Gothenburg, maybe before or after one of our outdoor experiences in the region, you’ll want to take a break from the sightseeing and find a cosy cafe to watch the world go by and enjoy a Swedish fika.

A good place to start your fika tour is Haga, an area of Gothenburg that is seen as the arty, bohemian heart of the city. Haga, with its three main cobbled streets, has many small coffee houses to try. But we’re not taking chain stores like Starbucks, Costa coffee or Café Nero, no, these are more individual small cafés or expresso houses.

Go there, choose a place you think looks cosy, order a coffee to your taste and a cinnamon roll and socialise with your friends/family. There you are! You’re having a fika!

For more information on where to fika in Gothenburg and the surrounding area, see http://www.theguardian.com/try-swedish/2014/oct/03/learn-to-fika

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Photo: Nicho Sodling

Canoeing in Skåne, Sweden

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Photo:Tobias Delfin

Skåne County is the southernmost county in Sweden and one of north Europe’s most productive farming districts.

The Skåne landscape is characterised by farmland, deciduos forests and lakes. It was a strong seat of pwer during the Viking area with many relics from this time.

In Skåne you find many open fields and broad horisons. In the south, dramatic coastal cliffs and long sandy white beaches typify the landscape, with rolling hills and green forest in the west.

The main season for paddling in Skåne is mid-May to end of September.

Paddling in Skåne offers both calm river waters and lakes with an archipelago feeling.

Holjeåleden, where our canoe tour runs, is a waterway that stretches from Östafors in the north to Lake Ivö in the south and offers paddling through unspoilt countryside. It lies at the base of the valley and gives you the feeling that time stands still. n a deep furrow, the river meanders on its way towards Lake Ivö.

Along the stretch from Västanå Mill to Lake Ivö, there are no rapids, just calm water all the way. Along this section the countryside consists of fertile fields. You can glide along at a leisurely pace, enjoy the chirping of birds and the beautiful, varied landscape surrounding the river.

Arkipelag Ivösjön - Tobias Delfin076
Photo: Tobias Delfin

Then you’ll reach Skåne’s largest lake, Lake Ivö. It has an archipelago feel to it, with a large number of islands, around 40 in total. The islands can be reached by canoe and most of the islands are completely uninhabited – perfect places to stay overnight and camp wild. Take some time here to discover the tranquility of the islands.

For more information on our canoe tour in Skåne, please see:

Canoe Getaway in Skåne (Sweden)

Clothing – the Scandinavian Way

This article is a guest post from our friends at Nordic Outdoor, UK stockists of a wide range of Scandinavian outdoor brands.

Clothing: The Scandinavian Way

No matter the weather Scandinavians love to be outdoors. Rooted in this lifestyle are a lot of ways of looking at the outdoors, and the clothing necessary to enjoy it, that are vastly different from what is commonly accepted in the United Kingdom.

Here in the UK clothing manufacturers compete with one another about whose product is the most perfect. They say that you need a product that is the ultimate performer whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring, whether it’s scorching hot or freezing cold – and their product delivers on all accounts. The whole idea of clothing being that perfect is of course ridiculous and in Scandinavia this is something that is accepted. Instead of boasting about perfection it is a matter of finding the best solutions to imperfections.

Aclima-Layering-1Photo: Aclima

From an early age Scandinavians are taught the importance of dressing in layers so that the clothing can be adjusted to the weather and the level of activity. At the heart of this is of course the notion that there is no such thing as a single article of clothing that suits all occasions. Instead, the idea is that you wear a base layer, an insulation layer and finally an outer layer – these layers can then be taken on and off depending on what you are doing. The base layer is supposed to transport moisture away from the body, the insulation layer (as the name would suggest) is the layer that keeps you nice and snug, and finally the outer layer is supposed to keep the elements out.

Fjallraven-FamilyPhoto: Fjällräven

There is also the matter of natural fabrics versus technical materials in general, and membrane jackets in particular. Instead of getting in to the whole technical explanation of how membranes work, which can get long and boring, it is enough to say that a membrane jacket will never be as breathable and comfortable as a jacket made from natural fabrics. At the same time the jacket made from natural fabrics will never be completely waterproof while the membrane jacket will. So, that means a choice will have to be made. Are you willing to be uncomfortable every time you go out in an attempt to avoid getting wet the one time? Or is better to have felt great nine times out ten in a natural fabric? Most Scandinavians will tell you that the latter is the way to go.

Another area where the approach taken by Scandinavian clothing manufacturers tend to differ from the UK is when it comes to decreasing the environmental impact of their production. The way they see it really quite pragmatic. The first realisation is that making outdoor clothing is never going to have a positive impact on the environment, even if you take every care to reduce your footprint. So how do you minimise the impact? In Scandinavia increasing the quality of the product is seen as the most effective way.

Lundhags-Boots---CopyPhoto: Eric Olson/Lundhags

In the long run, a high quality product always has a lower environmental impact than a product of inferior quality. Basically, the way they see it is that if you have two products, the production of both having the same impact on the environment, and one last five times longer than the other, the environmental impact of the higher quality product is five times less. Take Swedish boot and clothing manufacturer Lundhags for example, not only do they make products of the highest quality to begin with but also actively use design that allows for repairs. The fact that it will save you as a customer money in the long run is just an added bonus.

At Nordic Outdoor we know these values better than most and are trying to promote them here in the UK. If you think Scandinavians are on to something here, and you want to know more, stop by our website to gear up for your next adventure Scandinavian style!

www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk

Visiting Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest

In May 2015, Bob from the Nature Travels team travelled to the provinces of North Karelia and Kainuu in Eastern Finland to visit our new experiences in the area. In the article below, Bob visits the kennels of our Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest.

Day 4 and 5 – Watching the fire, hugging the huskies Today I had a morning to explore Kuhmo before meeting Urpo to discuss canoeing in the area. As I was to discover, Kuhmo doesn’t need a morning to explore! Not only because it’s not exactly big, but also because it turned out I’d arrived on a special Sunday where literally the only thing open in town was the Shell garage and the hot dog café next door. Still, I gave the locals at the café some entertainment, attracting some interested stares firstly for turning up at all (unrecognised cars seem to be a rare thing here) and secondly for coming back again 20 minutes later for another visit when I’d failed to find anything else open. But soon enough it was time to meet Urpo to talk about our Canoeing on the Tar Route in Kainuu experience.

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Urpo’s first words words were, “Hello, are you hungry?” as he held out a box of fresh Karelian pies, which seemed like a very good start indeed to the afternoon! After a quick munch and look at the equipment, we set off to a “kåta”, or fireplace, along the river to brew some coffee and talk paddling. We settled into the shelter and lit a fire to make the coffee, and Urpo began rummaging around in his backpack for the necessary bits and pieces. The rummaging became increasingly frantic until it transpired he’d forgotten one vital ingredient – we’d left the coffee on the kitchen table back at his house!

But all was not lost – one of the wonderful things about living in a remote area is how connected people are to their community – you can’t afford not to be. Most people I know, finding themselves out in the bush having forgotten something, would be faced with the choice of either going back to get it or doing without. No so in our case – a quick telephone call – Finland’s mobile network is amazing- to one of Urpo’s “neighbours” (we were 20 mins’ from Urpo’s house) a few kilometres down the road and a fresh pack of coffee was hand-delivered to us in our kåta minutes later…nice!

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My afternoon ended with a lovely surprise. It’s rare to find anyone in a remote region who has just one job – most people put together a living income from at least two or three sources – and Urpo does a little moonlighting taking guests for nature photography. A quick stomp through his farm brought us to a little hide constructed in the forest. We crept inside, drew back the curtain, and I was amazed to discover a nest box with three beautiful Ural Owl chicks just a few metres away, with the female gazing watchfully down from a nearby pine tree. Absolutely fantastic – we watched enthralled for half an hour or so, wondering if the male might return with some food, but time was marching on and it was time to be heading to my next stop, the husky kennels.

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Here I was greeted warmly by Aki and Suvi, the local hosts for our Private Dogsled Tours for Two in the Taiga Forest, and with a flurry of fur and barking by their lovely huskies.

Then I had another amazing wild-themed dinner, this time with creamed wild false morel mushrooms (which are poisonous when uncooked but delicious when prepared properly) served with pike. Dessert was ice-cream (foraged locally that day from the ice-cream trees that grow deep in the forest *only kidding), and blueberries and strawberries picked the previous season.

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No day in Finland is complete without a sauna, and this was a particularly nice one – wood-fired and located by a beautiful tranquil lake, with black-throated divers (“loons”) sending their eerie call across the calm water in the dusky evening light. Superheated by the sauna, I even braved a quick deep in the lake, which was a balmy 8 degrees. I have a Sami friend in Jukkasjärvi in the far north of Sweden who likes his sauna really hot (and I mean REALLY hot – you can feel your eyeballs melting), so it was so nice to be able to set my own temperature for a change! With guests sleeping in the main house, my accommodation for the night was a cosy little shepherd’s hut in the garden!

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The next morning Aki and I packed two dogs into the car and drove to a local hiking trail, where we were going to be doing some “husky trekking”. Unlike pet dogs, huskies are of course trained to pull, and pull they do! So a traditional lead doesn’t do the job. Husky trekking uses a climbing-style harness round the waist to which you attach a shock absorbing lead. Result: they pull you along rather nicely! (Except my dog had a cheeky trick of waiting until I wasn’t concentrating then  trying to pull me off the path into the swamp).

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We spent a happy few hours wandering through a stunning old forest, packed with signs of the rich wildlife of the area – from woodpecker holes to cones gnawed by red squirrels to (most exciting of all), wolf droppings.

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Back home we ended the day with a wonderfully calm row across the lake to check the fishing nets. Here fish forms a large part of the dogs’ diet. Salmon offcuts from a local fish farm provide a nutritious and cost-effective main ingredient, while also making use of what would otherwise be a waste product. But closer to home, the dogs are also fed on roach caught just metres from the kennel. This not only makes use of a natural resource with zero food miles, but removing roach from the lake also has a valuable ecological benefit, reducing the disturbance of sediment and lowering the nutrient content of the water (the forestry industry can cause the lakes to have an excess of nutrients).

It was hard indeed to leave the warmth and hospitality of the kennels, but time was marching on and it was time to head north up the Russian border. Over the next couple of days I would be taking in the route for our Hiking in the Finnish-Russian Borderland tour, ending in Hossa, location of Snowshoeing in the Hossa Nature Park.

What To Do With A Day In Helsinki

Bob from the Nature Travels team spends a day exploring Finland’s capital in May 2015 as part of his visit to some of our new experiences in Finland.

Twelve Hours in Helsinki

The night train from Oulu (on which I had spent a restful night in unaccustomed luxury, in a private cabin with en-suite shower and toilet! – thank you VR Finnish Railways!) pulled into Helsinki station at just after 7am on a beautiful May morning.

I’d been provided with a 24-hour Helsinki Card city pass to try out (48 and 72-hour passes are also available), so before I went to bed the night before, I’d browsed through the brochure that comes with the card and planned my day. The Helsinki Card offers unlimited use of public transport and free or reduced price admission to many of Helsinki’s attractions.

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Photo: Jussi Helstén/Visit Finland

As not much is open in Helsinki before 9am (or 10 or 11 for some of the attractions), I had a couple of hours to kill, so I wandered through the wide, quiet streets towards the water, where I settled down on a park bench in the morning sunshine for a snooze with a view, looking out across the shining blue Baltic Sea to some of the islands that fringe the shore and watching the sailing boats glide by.

Soon it was time to potter along the seafront to the main harbour for the Beautiful Canal Route sightseeing cruise, which is one of the many things that are free with the Helsinki Card.

The cruise is not so aptly named, actually, as rather than canals, the majority of the trip takes in some of the nearest of the gorgeous archipelago islands that lie just off the coast, but it’s great for a taster of archipelago life and a basic history lesson on Helsinki’s turbulent past. Prepare to be just a little jealous at how nice the Helsinkians have it when you see the idyllic summer houses!

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Photo: Juho Kuva/Visit Finland

I’m not a huge art fan, but I do enjoy a look at a gallery or two in any city I visit, so after a spin on the SkyWheel (Helsinki’s version of the London Eye), it was time for some culture as I headed back towards the station for the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Whatever your view on modern art (mine ranges from “clever” to “rubbish”), it’s always fun. The Kiasma is well worth a visit, and once again free with the Helsinki Card. Prepare to blush if you’re caught staring too long at some of the rather naughty photos currently on exhibit.

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Photo: Jussi Helstén/Visit Finland

With my flight time approaching, my day in Helsinki was already drawing to a close and I hadn’t yet bought the goodies I’d promised to take back to the office (in the end I settled on some licquorice and a bag of something wonderfully named Suffeli Puffi), but I still had time for a quick trip to the Ateneum Art Museum, just a couple of hundred metres away and right next to the railway station. Here they had a fascinating exhibition of photographic portraits of rural and urban Finns in the mid-1960s taken by Ilmo. I have to say this turned out to be the highlight of the day. Oh and you’ve guessed it, entrance is free with the Helsinki Card.

Then it was time to board the airport bus, wishing I had another day or two to spend – but with the recent addition of Finland to the Nature Travels portfolio, I’ll be back soon!

So, some top tips for Helsinki? Here are 8 things I really liked, and one I didn’t:

1. The loos are free.
Call me a cheapskate (you wouldn’t be the first), but I believe the possibility to pee for free should be a basic human right, and of the many things that are likely to trigger a rant, paying for public toilets is quite high on the list (try finding a free loo in Venice, for example, where a whopping €2 seems to be pretty standard). But enlightened Helsinki has a wonderful network of free toilets around the centre – hooray!

2. There’s a decent-sized supermarket right at the station.
Supermarkets in city centres can be hard to find, but the S-Market in the railway station complex has pretty much everything you’ll need for stocking up before a long train or bus trip or if you’re planning a picnic in the park.

3. It has a sensibly-priced airport bus.
Getting to and from the airport in many cities can be a real rip-off, but the Finnair Citybus (leaving from the bus station just next to the train station) is a very reasonable €6.50, or just €4 with a valid Helsinki Card. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

4. The city has free wi-fi.
The Finns are pretty hi-tech, with amazing mobile coverage even in the remotest areas. In Helsinki, there’s an open-access wi-fi cloud in the city centre for those who just can’t wait to brag about how much they’re enjoying the sights.

5. It’s cheap.
Well, OK, not cheap exactly, but not too bad at all for a capital city, especially a Nordic one. And the strong Pound against the Euro at the moment helps a lot of course. A lunch of salmon quiche, salad and bread at the centrally-located Svenska Teatern cost me €8.50 (about £6.50), while a decent baguette and two chocolate croissants from the above-mentioned S-Market at the station came to just €5.35 (about £4). Even entrance to the the city zoo, located charmingly on its own island, is only €12, or €10 with the Helsinki card, though sadly I didn’t get time to visit this time around.

6. It has beautiful clear blue skies and warm sunshine all the time!
Hmm…well probably not. But the day I visited was a gorgeous early spring day in late May when there was barely a cloud in the sky. Of course any city shows its best side in the sun, but the glittering water, the leafy green islands and the spacious avenues were a beguiling combination.

7. It has trams.
Enough said. How can you not like trams? (except perhaps if you live in Edinburgh, but that’s another story as only Edinburgh-dwellers reading this will know)

8. It’s walkable.
With “only” 600,000 inhabitants (though that’s still a lot when you consider the world is down to its last few thousand rhinos), Helsinki is very manageably-sized, and most things you’re likely to want to visit are within reasonable walking distance. That said, if you have the Helsinki Card, unlimited use of public transport is free (including the boat out to the island of Suomenlinna).

And the thing I didn’t?

Well, “didn’t” is maybe a bit strong, but the SkyWheel (Helsinki’s equivalent of the London Eye) was rather underwhelming. It’s free if you have the Helsinki Card, so certainly worth a go in that case, as you’re likely to find yourself down by the quay for other attractions anyway, but otherwise I’d recommend saving the €12 ticket price to sample some of the many other delights Helsinki has to offer.

Nature Travels has recently added many experiences in Finland to our portfolio, including Private Dog Sledding for Two in the Taiga Forest, Cycling and Canoeing in Eastern Finland, Island Cabin with Sauna in Eastern Finland and Snowshoeing in the Hossa Nature Park. All of these involve travel to Helsinki for onward connections. My thanks to Visit Finland for assistance with my recent visit and for arranging the Helsinki Card, and to VR (Finnish Railways) for the wonderfully relaxing train trip down from Oulu.

Gothenburg – Sweden’s second largest city.

Gothenburg is located right by the Kattegat sea, on the west coast of Sweden, and has a population of a little over 500 000. It is located about halfway between the capitals of Copenhagen in Denmark and Oslo in Norway.

The international airport, Landvetter airport, is 20 kilometres southeast of the city centre. It’s easy to get to and from the airport by shuttle bus, Flygbussarna, and the journey takes between 25 and 30 minutes. Buses leave from right outside the terminal building and the end station is the largest bus station in central Gothenburg, Nils Ericsson Terminal. Taxis or car rentals are also available at the airport.

GöranAssner/imagebank.sweden
Göran Assner/imagebank.sweden.se

The main street in Gothenburg is called Kungsportsavenyn (commonly known as Avenyn, “The Avenue”). It’s about 1 km long and begins at Götaplatsen and extends all the way to Kungsportsplatsen, in the old city centre of Gothenburg. It crosses a canal and a small park on the way. The Avenue has the highest concentration of pubs and clubs in Gothenburg.

SimonPaulin/imagebank.sweden
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

The Fish Church is an indoor fish market next to Rosenlunds Canal in central Gothenburg. The fish church gets its name from the building’s resemblance to a Gothic church and has a wide range of fish and seafood. There are two first-class fish restaurants, but there are also lunch and take-away options available.

GöranAssner/imagebank.sweden
Göran Assner/imagebank.sweden.se

The district Haga on the south side of the River Göta älv, was once so run-down and messy that large parts were demolished in the 1970s. The part that now remains is now the city’s prime area, its cobbled lanes lined with cosy cafes that sell plate-sized cinnamon rolls are very popular among tourists and perfect for a Swedish fika (coffee break with cake/bun). It has an old, cosy atmosphere – Gothenburgers love their coffee shops and the town is known for its relaxed cafe feel.

Gothenburg also has many parks and reserves, ranging in size from tens of square metres to hundreds of hectares. It also has many green areas that are not designated as parks or reserves.

Slottsskogen is Gothenburg’s largest park at 137 hectares. It has a free “open” zoo containing seals, penguins, horses, pigs, deer, elk, goats and many birds. You also find the Natural History Museum and the city’s oldest observatory within the park.

Rodrigo_Rivas_Ruiz/imagebank.sweden
Rodrigo_Rivas_Ruiz/imagebank.sweden.se

Some major events are held in Slottskogen such as one of the world’s biggest half-marathons, “Göteborgsvarvet”, with 64,000 participants, and the Music Festival “Way Out West”, which features a variety of popular music mainly from the rock, electronic and hip-hop genres. Slottskogen is also avery popular place to go for a picnic. It is permitted to have a few beers and a small barbeque on the grass.

Another large recreation area is Delsjö nature reserve area at ​​about 760 hectares with a 3km long lake. This area is perfect for those who want to get closer to nature without going far from the city centre. You can walk, run, cycle, ride, rent boats, play beach volleyball or why not go for a swim? This area is beautiful in all seasons. There is also a small café selling waffles during the summer. Göteborg is a cosy town well worth a visit at any time of year and a perfect add-on to any of our outdoor experiences in West Sweden and Skåne.   www.naturetravels.co.uk/meetyoursweden

Skåne

Skåne is the southern most county (or län) in Sweden its capital city is Malmö (the third largest city in Sweden).

Due to the Gulf Stream Skåne enjoys mild winters (perhaps with the occasional snow flake in January- February) and warm summers. Whilst the midnight sun does not shine in Skåne at mid-summer there is up to almost 18 hours of daylight in which to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery or the vibrant night life Skåne has to offer.

Justin Brown/imagebank.sweden.se
Justin Brown/imagebank.sweden.se

Ladonia

Perhaps one of the most unexpected things to find in Skåne is Ladonia, a self-declared independent micro-nation which can found in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve in the northern part of Skåne. Ladonia currently has 17000 citizens (none of whom live there) from all over the world, its own national anthem (the sound of stone landing in water) and a Queen (Carolyn I).

Ladonia began when Lars Vilks began creating a sculpture named “Nimis” from driftwood. For two years Vilks worked on the sculpture, a series of towers, without any one discovering it (the location being reached by boat or down a steep path). However once it was discover the local authorities tried to get Vilks to remove his sculpture which they deemed to be a building which are not allowed in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. This resulted in many legal battles, all the while Vilks  added to Nimis making a labyrinth of towers and walkways. He even built a separate sculpture Arx (made from reinforced concrete). Finally in 1996, Vilks declared Ladonia to be a independent Micronation as the local authorities could not control the area or enforce it’s own rulings. Since then people from all over the world have been applying for citizenship and it’s number s continue to grow!

The flag of Ladonia. a green cross on a green background.
The flag of Ladonia, a green cross on a green background.

Malmö

Malmö is one of Sweden’s oldest cities and is full of historical and  cultural attractions, it is easily accessible from Copenhagen and Gothenburg.

Possibly one of Malmö’s most famous landmarks is the Öresund Bridge. The bridge spans about 8km across the Öresund strait connecting Malmö and Copenhagen via road and rail.

The Öresund Bridge whilst well know before for being the longest combined road and Rail Bridge in Europe has been made even more famous by the Scandi crime TV series The Bridge, in which Malmö’s police department and the Copenhagen police department have to work closely together when a body is found no the Öresund Bridge half way between the two countries!

Silvia Man/imagebank.sweden.se
Silvia Man/imagebank.sweden.se

In the oldest part of Malmö you will find Lilla Torg (Little Square), built in 1592 it was once a market square. Today Lilla Torg’s historical buildings are restaurants, bars and shops. In the summer it is busy with locals and tourists alike enjoying a meal or a drink out on the cobbled square or even in Malmö’s one and only Scottish Pub!

Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se
Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se

Ystad & the Österlan coast

Ystad is famous world wide for being the setting for Henning Mankell’s Crime series Wallander. Fans of the TV series can take a tour of the city to visit all the spots featured on the show (it is also a great way to see the many of Ystad’s historical buildings).

Nature Travels Sofia Carter
Nature Travels Sofia Carter

The Österlan coast offers beautiful picture postcard scenery, yellow fields with bright blue skies and the occasional red or white house dotted here and there and some of Sweden best beaches with miles of golden sand to stroll along or to lie on next to the turquoise waters.

Nature Travels Sofia Carter
Nature Travels Sofia Carter

If visiting the Österlan another must see is the Ales Stenar. Thought to have been made in the Iron Age, Ales Stenar is a group of 59 standing stones arranged in the shape of a ship and is Sweden’s largest remaining stone ship. The purpose of the stones ships is not fully understood; theories range from burial site to sundials!

Spettekaka

When in Skäne there is nothing better to accompany your Fika than a slice of a local delicacy, Spettekaka (sometimes Spättekaka or spit cake in English).

Do not be put off by the name, Spettekaka is made from eggs, potato flour, normal flour and sugar, the resulting batter is drizzled on to a rotating spit over a fire (hence the name), each layer is allowed to bake before a new layer is added. When the cake has finished cooking it is usually decorating with icing (often pink and white).

Since the EU gave Spettekaka a protected geographical indication (PGI) you can only get a “real” Spettekaka from Skäne.

Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se
Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

We offer a number of activities in Skåne including canoeing and Forest Yurt Retreat in Skåne next to the Kullaberg Nature Reserve.

West Sweden

West Sweden is a region (as the name suggests) in the west of Sweden, made up of the provinces of Bohuslän, Dalsland and Västergötland.

Västergötland is best-known for the largest city in the region, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city after the capital Stockholm. Gothenburg has two airports, Gothenburg City Airport and Gothenburg Landvetter Airport. Landvetter is Gothenburg’s main airport, located 25 km from the city. Gothenburg City Airport is the closest, just 15 km from Gothenburg. Both are just 20 minutes or so from the city by flight bus.

The region is also easily reached by flying to Copenhagen in Denmark. Right from Copenhagen Airport it is possible to take the direct train that reaches Gothenburg in just over 3 hours.

Gothenburg has many parks and nature reserves, which vary in size from tens of square metres to hundreds of hectares. It also has many green areas that are not designated as parks or reserves.

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Bohuslän

Bohuslän is Sweden’s westernmost province and situated on the west coast on the Skagerrak, the area of sea between Sweden and Norway. It is probably best-known for its coastline with smooth rock formations perfect for sunbathing, as well as for its fishing. Its seafood such as lobster and oysters are among the best in the world.

The archipelago consists of 8,000 islands, islets and reefs. The seascape environment is spectacular with calm, protected waters for kayakers of all levels with no strong currents or tides.

The small islands and villages that make up the Bohuslän archipelago are relaxing, but can be adventurous if you want them to be. Some of the best kayaking destinations that you should look out for include the Koster Islands, a part of the new Marine National Park, which boasts more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Sweden, as well as the wonderfully-named Väderöarna (“Weather Islands”) with ther seal colonies. You can also paddle around more protected by islands in the Fjällbacka archipelago or head to the picturesque islands of Orust and Tjörn.

The Bohuslän archipelago, with its many smooth granite cliffs, fishing villages and green islands, is a favorite of kayakers.

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Dalsland

This province has a low population density of about 14 inhabitants / km² and just one city of significant size, Åmål. Dalsland is sometimes called “Sweden in miniature”. Dalsland has many lakes, plains and even one mountain area, the Kopparfjäll and Kynne hills.

The province has uninhabited areas characterised by dense forests in the northwestern highlands and lakes in the east, giving Dalsand its common title of “Sweden’s lake province”. Its sparkling rivers and thousands of lakes that dot the deep forests mean that Dalsland made for canoeing.

Dalsland is intersected by long, narrow gorge lakes, including Stora Le, Lelång and Västra Silen. Stora Le is as much as 70 kilometers long, counting the part that extends northward through Värmland and into Norway. Between the lakes are deep, hilly forests, interspersed with small villages, locks and farms.

DSCF8480Want to discover more of West Sweden?
By canoe or kayak is the perfect way to travel!

Outdoor Academy in Swedish Lapland 2015

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Outdoor Academy this year. This year was set in beautiful Swedish Lapland and the focus was on hiking, so I was very happy to be invited to such an event. The Outdoor Academy is a collaboration between Swedish tourist boards and the Scandinavian Outdoor Group to showcase an area of Sweden and all the brilliant things it has to offer whilst promoting Scandinavian outdoor equipment.

Elky and mountains

Invited on the academy were tour operators, retailers and journalists from Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland and the UK with an interest in promoting Sweden. We all arrived into Kiruna airport and one of the first questions was “where’s Elky?” Thank goodness I remembered to bring him! Welcomed by our hosts and introduced to our guides, we were given a selection of equipment to use throughout our hike. It felt like Christmas had arrived early, I was just wondering how I was going to fit it all in my new backpack, let alone carry it up a mountain! Elky was greeted by old friends at a dinner of arctic char and reindeer heart to fuelled us up to begin our journey in the morning.

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We started our hike, which would ascent 800m to Låktajåkka mountain station, early in the morning. The views becoming more and more spectacular the further we climbed. The autumn in Lapland is wonderfully colourful and the floor was awash with wild blueberries, we even found some cloudberries. We stopped for a lunch of dried food, which started of looking unappealing but once we added our hot water it magically formed into a beef casserole! I was appreciative of the warm woolly base layers by this point and felt toasty as long as I kept moving.

lakta inside

Warmly greeted at the mountain cabin, we rested our weary legs by the fire and were given waffles and a selection of toppings to try. The mountain station is famous for its waffles and I would thoroughly recommend them with cloudberry jam and cream. Although we were staying at the cabins, we tested out our equipment and cooked our dinner outside on our Trangia. The weather had taken a turn for the worst so we were allowed to eat it inside in the warm and the lovely guides offered to cook our pudding for us instead of sending us back outside, which was greeted with a cheer! The evening included a whisky tasting session of Swedish whisky, as I don’t drink whisky I gave mine to our brilliant Sami photographer and I’m told it was very nice. After being warmed up by the whisky, we were given a tutorial for night photography, the aim originally to take northern lights photos but as it was cloudy, we wouldn’t see them tonight so our tutor talked us through the best way to take night photos.

birthday

I woke up to snow the next day, which also happened to be my birthday so being born in September this was a first for me. Sofia at the Nature Travels office had kindly mentioned to the organisers it was a special day and when I went downstairs for breakfast, suddenly everyone started singing and I was presented with a cake and sparkler. Took me a while to work out what was going on but I eventually twigged they were singing to me! Rör ihop kaka, roughly translates as “stir together cake” and comes in any flavour you fancy but this morning I was enjoying chocolate cake for breakfast.

monochrome

 

We headed out for our second day of hiking, it was still snowing and the landscape we were walking through was a striking monochrome. We were going downhill today and the further we descended the more colourful the landscape became, like falling into Munchkinland on the Wizard of Oz. Rainbows started popping up around us as we arrived at Karsavagge mountain station, where we would be pitching our tent for the night. After picking our spot, we pitched our tents and then had a lesson in how to lasso a reindeer. I was useless and nearly ended up lassoing my fellow participants instead of the antlers that were right in front of me! We cooked reindeer burgers over an open fire and then cooked the rest of our dinner using our trusty Trangias. During dinner I was serenaded with more birthday songs in German, Swedish, Dutch and Sami. Then a couple of Sami coffee sellers joined us and told us tall tales of how they make their lemming coffee. Early to bed as we have an early start and a long distance to hike in a short period of time to get to Abisko.

rainbows

Woken up by a very cheerful guide at 6am, we had our muesli and then it was time to pack up. We start our 13km hike over relatively flat land, through a valley to get to Abisko by midday. Abisko mountain station is the location of the start of some of our summer hikes and winter ski touring. The weather was perfect today to enjoy the stunning scenery and we walked through a valley and then through forest to reach our destination at the gateway to Lapland. Once at Abisko mountain station, the girls jumped straight in the showers whilst the boys prioritised food.

Abisko

The evening was spent sampling the wonderful food Abisko mountain station has to offer and we were all presented with a certification of completion, including Elky, who now has three! In the morning after a hearty buffet breakfast we were transferred to Kiruna airport, then we all went said our fond farewells from Stockholm, already missing the magnificent mountains of Swedish Lapland. Many thanks to all those involved in organising the Outdoor Academy in Sweden.

Kind regards

Niki & Elky

Nature Travels offers many tours in Swedish Lapland. Our winter adventures start from around mid-November ending late April and include Dog Sledding, Ski Touring and Winter Accommodation. For summer we also have Guided and Self-guided Hiking and Guided Canoeing.