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I started working for Nature Travels in September 2015 and had never really thought about travelling to northern Europe. As a girl who likes the sea and sun I had usually headed to a hotter climate for my travels. Last month I travelled to Sweden for the first time to explore their capital Stockholm and all the delights it has to offer!

Stockholm panorama

After a very early start, I headed to Gatwick with my friend Kat who I was travelling with for the weekend and flew to Stockholm Arlanda to begin our first day in Stockholm (you can read about her Five things I loved about my first visit to Stockholm). I picked up our Stockholm Card from the tourist office at the airport. I would highly recommend getting one if you were visiting Stockholm for the weekend. Basically, you can choose to have a card for 2, 3 or 5 days and it covers entrance to over 75 museums and attractions, public transport, sight seeing by foot, bike and boat and you also get a handy map.

Arlanda express

Stockholm Arlanda airport is just outside the city centre but it’s easy to travel into central Stockholm. We took the Arlanda express for our journey there and by train standards this is one stylish train. Not to sound like a train geek (not that that’s a bad thing!) I was very impressed with this simple but elegant train, as well as standard seats (which were like posh office chairs), some carriages had seats lined facing out the window along a bar table with little table lamps at each place so you could work at them, a change from the train travel I am used to in the UK. This train runs on 100% green electricity which means that renewable source are used to generate the electricity, such as hydropower, wind power or biofuels.

metro art

Stockholm has a brilliant public transport system, the underground metro is beautiful having been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings and engravings by over 150 artists. It easy to negotiate and as a person who still struggles with the London underground system, this was a piece of cake!

fika

Talking of cake, I must mention fika! Fika is sort of our afternoon tea equivalent and is the name for having coffee and cake in the afternoon so if you’re invited for fika don’t eat a big lunch as there are a lot of cake and pastry shops to choose from. The Swedes also like their Asian cuisine, there are a lot of sushi restaurants which I found a personal treat and it surprisingly was a very cost effective option for eating out, plus you usually get miso soup and green tea as standard with your meal.

sushi

Once we arrived in Stockholm and dropped our bags at the hotel, we took a bus tour of the town to get our bearings and made a plan for what we would like to visit. The next day, we started with a wander around Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm, full of cobbled streets and little boutique shops. It originally housed the merchants based in Stockholm and has some beautifully impressive buildings, including the Royal Palace and Cathedral.

Gamla Stan 2

We took the metro to Södermalm and walked down the main high street, full of interior designer shops and people dressed in black. Stockholm is an interior designer’s paradise and has many shops dedicated to make your home look chic and sophisticated. We stopped for spot of lunch in the trendy Sofo area and then took a slow stroll back to the Stortorget square, in Gamla Stan for some fika. Although we had not long had lunch the chocolate brownie was hard to resist, (hence the recommendation of not having a big lunch before a spot of fika, unless of course you have more will power than me!).

fika-2

The rest of the afternoon was spent on a boat tour of Stockholm, it’s a great way to see the town and you can get on and off wherever you want and just hop back on later if you like the look of anywhere and want to explore. We had decided to jump off at Fotografiska, one of the world’s largest exhibits for contemporary photography, coincidentally showing an Englishman’s exhibit of seaside resorts, including Weymouth, the home town of my friend Kat.

fotografiska

The following day we decided to spend the whole day at Djurgården, a royal National City park, originally created as a hunting ground for King Carl XI. This green island in Stockholm also has some of the main museums and attractions of the city. Possibly the most famous of which is the Vasa Museum, a brilliant museum that is home to an incredibly well-preserved 300 year old ship that sank just 20 minutes into its maiden voyage. Stockholm is set between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea which has a very low saline content and accounts for the preservation of the ship and why many divers visit Sweden to investigate a wealth of unspoiled wrecks.

Vasa

Back in Djurgården, we also visited the Biological Museum, Noriska Museum and Skansen, home to the world’s oldest open air museum and Stockholm zoo. The beginning of May was a great time to visit as it is home to many native animals to Scandinavia was full of very cute new arrivals. We then stopped at the Spritmuseum which is a surprisingly fun and interactive museum for grown ups, exploring our relationship with alcohol, but sadly we had miss any tastings! We ended our day with a walk around Djurgården, enjoying the tranquility of this oasis in the capital city.

Baby-reindeer

Our final morning was spent on a boat trip to one of the archipelago islands for a short stop and explore, Kat and I went for a walk around the island which wasn’t our cleverest idea. We had managed to walk half way round the island and then scrabbled up some rocks to get the other side of the small island, however we came across some rather disgruntled geese that were nesting in the rocks and the ganders were protecting their new families. We managed to find our way to the other side after some careful negotiating around the rocks, which is tricky when there are hundreds of geese (might be a slight over exaggeration), hiding their nests around corners and behind bushes but they let us know very quickly if we hadn’t seen them and got too close.

angry-gander

After our adventure with the aggressive ganders, we headed back to the centre and spent an afternoon shopping for tourist goodies before taking the Flybussarna back to the airport to travel home.

Gamla Stan

Stockholm is an ideal city break before or after exploring the wilderness of Sweden on one of our outdoor experiences.

Enjoy!

Niki at Nature Travels

For me, the Stockholm Archipelago is a little bit of paradise, but I grew up there. My family lived in one of the archipelago towns during winter and school terms and then moved out to live in our summer house on an island in the middle of the archipelago over 10 weeks during the summer each year.

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The archipelago begins just a few minutes away from the city of Stockholm. It stretches roughly 60 km (37 miles) in a north–south direction, and mainly follows the coastline of the Södermanland and Uppland counties.

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The exact number of islands depends on who you talk to, but something in between 24,000-30,000 seems to be the agreed consensus.

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There are uninhabited islets as well as islands with just a few summer houses and bigger islands with new communities and historic villages, where large houses and small cottages stand side by side. Islands with stores, pubs, restaurants, youth hostels and bed and breakfasts. However, keep in mind that most of the island villages are very remote, with limited options for dining and groceries.

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My family belongs to one of the large archipelago families and many on the surrounding islands are some kind of distant relative – maybe my Mum’s cousin’s cousin! In 1719, the archipelago had an estimated population of 2,900, consisting mostly of fishermen. Today the archipelago is a popular holiday destination with some 50,000 holiday homes. The Stockholm Archipelago Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of the nature and culture of the archipelago, owns some 15% of its total area.

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Like most inhabitants of the archipelago between the mid-1400s and the Second World War, my great grandma and grandpa were farmers and fishermen. Spring and autumn fishing was quite intensive in the outer archipelago from 1450 until the mid-1800s, and many fishermen lived for long periods on the outer islands because of the long distances back to their permanent homes in the inner archipelago. The combined farming and fishing culture lasted until around 1950–1955 when the younger generation, born during and directly after the war, started to leave the archipelago and look for jobs in the cities on the mainland. Today ,most of the small farms on the islands are closed and the fishing industry has almost disappeared.

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The Stockholm Archipelago is really unique. Not so many people live in the archipelago permanently nowadays, but very many people from Stockholm and other areas have their summer houses out on the islands and spend their weekends and summer holidays there.

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You can visit the inner, middle or outer archipelagos. The natural beauty of the archipelago is outstanding and on a nice summer day, absolutely incredible. It’s a mesmerising wonderland of rocky isles carpeted with deep forests and fields of wildflowers, dotted with boats and little red wooden cottages.

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The best time to visit is during the spring and summer months from May to September. If you have the time and possibility, please visit one or several of the islands and not only enjoy the scenery from a boat deck,

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We offer many different options to explore the Archipelago – by kayak, under sail, and by bicycle, so why not make it a goal for this summer to explore one of the worlds hidden beauty spots – The Stockholm Archipelago, so close to the city, yet a world away!

Sofia – part of the Nature Travels Team

Kayak through the archipelago:

We offer both guided and self-guided options for sea kayaking, camping wild along the way, quite probably on your own private island!

Guided Sea Kayaking in the Stockholm Archipelago
Self-guided Sea Kayaking in the Stockholm Archipelago
Stockholm Archipelago Self-guided Kayak Explorer

Go sailing in the archipelago:

A wonderful adventure for couples or families with your very own local skipper!

Sailing in the Stockholm Archipelago

Hiking and Biking:

A multi-activity adventure with luggage transfers and accommodation in local guests houses and hostels along the way

Hike and Bike in the Stockholm Archipelago
Hike, Bike and Paddle Stockholm’s Lakes and Islands

Hiking:

Explore some of the jewels of the archipelago on foot and by boat:

Island Hopping and Hiking in the Stockholm Archipelago

Sofia from Nature Travels shares her top tips for enjoying Sweden’s capital, the “Venice of the North”.

I grew up in a small town Waxholm (also spelt Vaxholm), 45 minute bus ride from Stockholm, and have spent many days shopping, meeting friends and hanging out around the capital. These are my tips for what not to miss when spending a few days there.

Boat trip

The fact that Stockholm is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges makes a tour by boat something of a given. There are many sightseeing boats that will take you on a guided tour around the waterways of the city.

If you have some more time on your hands, it’s worth taking one of the archipelago boats and exploring some of the 30 000 islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. Strömma Kanal Bolag has different cruises in the archipelago.

VaxholmAnother option is to take a day tour to Waxholm (the town where I grew up). It’s an idyllic archipelago town with many well-preserved wooden houses from the turn of the last century, painted in the archipelago’s typical delicate pastel tones. Waxholm has numerous charming restaurants, cafés and shops.

Waxholm is easily accessible year-round, by Waxholmsbolagets boat traffic or by bus, If you take the bus, the trip is covered by Stockholm’s public transport service and so is also included in the Stockholm Card. Why not take the boat one way and then the bus back?

Djurgården

Another thing to do in Stockholm is to visit the green island of Djurgården. It is beloved by both Stockholmers and tourists. Djurgården is a calm oasis. There are fine areas to stroll in and to have a picnic. Djurgården is also home to several of the city’s top museums and attractions (including Skansen and the Wasa museum described below), as well as enjoyable cafés and restaurants.

Skansen

skansenSkansen is an open-air zoo and museum. Here you can stroll through five centuries of Swedish history, from north to south. As a zoo, Skansen is primarily devoted to showing Scandinavian animals. Some 75 different species and breeds of Scandinavian animals are represented.

As an open-air zoo and museum, it’s probably most enjoyable in summertime, but is open for visitors all year around and in early December the site’s central square is host to a popular Christmas market.

Vasa museum

The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum located on the island of Djurgården. The museum displays an almost fully intact 17th century ship, the 64-gun warship Vasa, that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. The showpiece is the ship itself, which is simply magnificent. To look up, or down, at a ship that is almost 400 years old and is essentially in its original state is a fantastic experience.

Södermalm

SodermalmSödermalm is the old working class area of the city, which has turned bohemian chic. Södermalm has a lot of cafés, restaurants, bars and rows of boutiques with a mix of vintage, independent labels, and Swedish mainstream designers.

The vibe in the streets of Södermalm is relaxed, creative and trendy, especially in the Sofo area (South of Folkungatan). SoFo is a play on the acronym SoHo (South of Houston Street, in Manhattan).

In the warm months, Nytorget Square is a bustling social scene. The last Thursday of every month is called SoFo night, where retailers are open until 9pm and offer free entertainment and refreshments to shoppers.

Gamla Stan

Gamla stanGamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval city centres in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm.

All of Gamla Stan is like a living pedestrian-friendly museum, full of sights, attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars and places to shop. The narrow, winding cobblestone streets, with their buildings in so many different shades of gold, give Gamla Stan its unique character. Even now, cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages can be found behind the visible facades, and on snowy winter days the district feels like something from a storybook.

Västerlånggatan and Österlånggatan are the district’s main streets. In the middle of Gamla Stan is Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm.

Drottninggatan – Sergels Torg

KulturhusetThe City area of Stockholm is where the big department stores are and a lazy shopper’s paradise. Sergels Torg is a sunken pedestrian plaza with a triangular pattern (colloquially referred to as Plattan, “The Slab”) and a wide flight of stairs leading up to the pedestrian street, Drottninggatan. Drottninggatan (“Queen Street”) is a major pedestrian street. The majority of the street is car-free and lined-up with numerous stores and shops.

Kungsträdgården

Kungsträdgården (Swedish for “King’s Garden”) is a square/park in central Stockholm. It is colloquially known as Kungsan. The park’s central location and its outdoor cafés makes it one of the most popular hangouts and meeting places in Stockholm. It also hosts open-air concerts and events in summer, while offering an ice rink during winters.

I think that covers it! Those are my my tips – writing this makes me want to go strolling around the streets of Stockholm – hmm, I think a trip to Stockholm might be on the cards for me this spring!

Sofia

Nature Travels

Bob from Nature Travels travelled to Gothenburg and Bohuslän in West Sweden for 5 days in September 2014, and came home with a suntan!

Any opportunity to travel to the beautiful coastal region of Bohuslän in West Sweden is always welcome, so despite a brutally early start of 2am to catch the bus from Dorset up to Heathrow, I arrived at Gothenburg Landvetter airport feeling buoyant and optimistic for the days ahead.

The trip started well with a chat with the world’s friendliest taxi driver on the short ride into town, during which we skipped through subjects as diverse as English football (he was a Man Utd. supporter), his original home of Montenegro and the Swedish welfare system. He dropped me off at the Clarion Hotel Post right opposite the station, an imposing but nicely-converted hotel in the old city Post Office building which retains much of its original charm.

fish-church

The first 24 hours were eat-eat-eat, as we sampled the fantastic herring at Gabriel’s in the “Fish Church” (Feskekôrka), the traditional welcoming atmosphere of Styrsö Pensionat (I loved the cardamom-flavoured meringue!), a little oasis of calm on the island of Styrsö just a short boat ride from the city, and a delicious veggie risotto at Palace.

herring-at-gabriels

We attempted to burn off just a little of our excess calorific intake with a kayak tour of the city under the guidance of the lovely Ulrika from Point 65, though didn’t make much of a dent.

starter-at-styrso-pensionat

Kayaking is a great way to see Gothenburg – from gliding along beside the battleship and submarine floating museums to exploring the canal running through the city centre.

kayak-gothenburg-warships

Getting to drive a lovely old Volvo around town on the “Time Travel Sightseeing Tour” was also great and reminded me of my old Morris Traveller!

old-volvo

Next day it was out of the city and north to the coastal region of Bohuslän, where we spent the next four days glorying in some fantastic late summer sunshine. Barely a cloud in the sky for days, temperatures into the 20s and the sunlight painting beautiful shadows and reflections on the granite and gneiss formations of the coastline.

cardamom-meringue

The water and its rich bounty of seafood were an ever-present companion during our time at the coast – sumptuous lunches of freshly-caught crayfish and cod-related fish varieties, consumed at leisure while watching the ever-changing tapestry of coastal life.

fjallbacka

We explored the coastal towns of Strömstad and Smögen, very popular in the summer especially with Norwegian visitors, and the beautiful small village of Fjällbacka, home to and setting for the crime novels of Camilla Läckberg, now one of the world’s top-selling authors (we even met Camilla’s mum!).

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No trip to West Sweden would be complete without a visit to the stunning islands of the west coast archipelago. The Koster Islands, Sweden’s first Marine National Park, are great for exploring by bike, provided free at the harbour and making it easy to get to the lovely café and organic garden at Kosters Trädgården.

koster-tradgard

We also liked the new network of “snorkelled” (snorkelling trails), self-guided underwater information boards linked by a rope trail to teach visitors about the rich marine life of the area.

styrso

The Weather Islands (“Väderöarna”), Sweden’s most westerly point, have a real “frontier” atmosphere and make a great base for kayaking day trips, where you can end the day’s paddling with a warm welcome at the comfortable guest house and a hot tub on the jetty!

weather-islands

While West Sweden itself is rich in wildlife, from harbour seals to seabirds, the endangered species breeding centre at Nordens Ark provided a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Sweden’s harder-to-see animals from elsewhere in the country, including the mysterious wolf and charismatic wolverine.

tiger

The centre focuses on endangered species from outside Sweden too, and we had wonderful views of the Amur tigers and (a special treat for me) a chance to get unbelievably close to the snow leopards (never felt a snow leopard breathing in my face before – wonderful!) while learning about the valuable work of the centre from head guide, Pelle.

snow-leopard

After squeezing in a short hike along the varied shoreline of Bohus-Malmön (the very last section of the the 3-day IceBug Experience walking/running event, taking place for the first time this year), our last little adventure was a kayak tour from the town of Lysekil, well-placed to offer great kayaking right from the shore – we spent a happy couple of hours exploring the gorgeous smooth rocks and islands which pepper the coastline before returning to land for fresh mussel soup! And just before the bus left, a lightning tour of Havets Hus, a small but very interesting aquarium focussing on local marine species, including a rare blue lobster!

Then all too soon it was time to head south once more to Gothenburg for our journey home. I dozed on the plane with my mind full of impressions and snapshots from the trip – the tang of the salty air, the slap of the waves on the side of my kayak, the succulent softness and rich flavours of the fish and seafood, and the seemingly endless sunshine glinting off the rocks.

smogen

The Boshuslän region has its own very special atmosphere and its proximity to Gothenburg makes it very easy to discover. One of the real attractions of the area is that it offers something for everyone – if you want challenging, world-class sea kayaking with wild camping on your own deserted island, it’s there in abundance. If you just want to chill out with a bowl of crayfish soup and a glass of wine and watch the sun go down, you can do that too!

Nature Travels offers a number of activities in the Bohuslän area, including self-guided sea kayaking, guided sea kayaking (including tours in the Fjällbacka, Koster and Weather Islands regions) and self-guided hiking.

Icelandics in snow

Icelandic Horses are not large in stature (around 12-14 hands in height), they may resemble a slightly oversized Shetland pony in appearance, however, these wonderful equines are indeed and most definitely to be referred to as a horse rather than a pony (horse on short legs), especially in their native homeland!

Icelandic horses noses
They arrived in Iceland during the 9th century via the Vikings and have played a major part within the history and culture of Iceland ever since. They are a hardy, stocky equine and have adapted very well to their sometimes harsh and unforgiving environment. They make up the very tapestry of the land and can be seen grazing in herds during most of the year. 

vikings

Most significantly the native Icelandic Horse is a very much preserved and ancient breed and a prized part of Iceland’s heritage and was largely helped by the ban placed on importing any foreign horses into the country set in the 13th century. Still in place today, this has continued to keep the breed pure and of course free from equine diseases.

horses in water

We love them because…
These endearing chunky little chaps have larger than life characters and an abundance of free flowing mane and tail, they traditionally have a rather short neck and sloping hindquarters. Stocky, hardy and very sure footed, naturally they are extremely woolly in the winter months to cope with the Icelandic winters, however, when the spring arrives, their coats begins to change and reveal a wonderful shiny summer attire in a variety of colours.

There’s an old Icelandic saying – “A Good Horse Has No Colour”

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The Icelandic Horse has grown in popularity worldwide and many have indeed been exported to different countries not least of course here in the UK. Today in the UK, the IHSGB (Icelandic Horse Society of Great Britain) which was founded in 1986, provides a host of help and information for enthusiasts (http://ihsgb.co.uk).

flags

Renowned for their good nature and versatility and ideal for the novice rider to experienced rider, they are the most comfortable of equine transport, this is largely due to their unique extra gait the “tolt”.

What is this “tolt” thing I hear you say?
Of course the Icelandic Horse can do the norm of walk, trot, canter and gallop, but they are of course they are very much known for their “tolting” gait. This movement is a 4 time beat (same footfalls as a normal walking gait) but can excel to a much greater speed such as that of the average cantering horse. This free flowing movement is actually very comfortable as there is no moment of suspension in the pace and therefore less bouncy

icelandic grey

Personally I have been very lucky to expereince riding Icelandics on my various travels over the years and I would never need asking twice if the opportunity came round again, they are extraordinary little horses. If you (like me) love everything that is horsey, then I can highly recommend that you should tick this off your horse riding bucket list!!!

You can experience spending time with Icelandic Horses (among other breeds) with one of our wonderful equestrian getaways in beautiful Sweden, for details please see our ‘Horse Riding’ category:

I hope you enjoyed this mini equiblog, do let me know your thoughts – we love feedback. We would love to hear about your adventures too!

Best regards

Linda

The Nature Travels Team

 

 

Trip report OAS 2013 – Linda from the Nature Travels Team

Dates: 12-16 September 2013

Location: Sälen – Dalarna Region of Sweden

Description:

Outdoor Academy of Sweden is a short visit to promote an area of Sweden, this is organised in conjunction with Visit Sweden and a collective of various local providers and suppliers such as outdoor activity companies, specialist equipment brands, accommodation, leisure venues and restaurants.

Who attends?

Journalists, Retailers and Tour Operators from a range of countries and all with an interest in promoting Sweden within their working portfolios.

Why Dalarna Region?

Dalarna means “The Valleys”.

Dalarna was the chosen area of Sweden for the Autumn 2013 OAS expedition. Dalarna is where the Swedish like to holiday (all year round). The surrounding cottages have a typically traditional red and white theme with awesome forests overlooking scenic lakes. We were based in Sälen which is a beautiful area with outstanding natural landscapes and although very popular during the winter months for skiing and snow based family activities, Dalarna is still much undiscovered for outdoor activities during the summer season. We sampled a few mini adventures on our visit: hiking in the Sälen mountains, mountain biking in Rörbäcksnäs and canoeing on the Görälven river. Fantastic activities for all levels.

Where is Dalarna?

Dalarna is located in the central area of Sweden, bordering Norway in the western mountainous area. Dalarna covers an area of about 31,351km² (including water).  The province is approximately the size of Belgium, so plenty of freedom to roam around. Dalarna county has a population of around 300,000 people.

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What is Dalarna famous for?

Vasaloppet – the world famous 90km cross country ski race (15,000 participants). Excellent Skiing

Vasacycle – 90km cross-country mountain bike trails

Dalarna Horse – famous hand painted wood craft

Njupeskär Waterfall – Sweden’s tallest waterfall at 93m

Svenska folkdräkter – traditional Swedish dress and Maypole dancing.

What do we love about Dalarna?

A fabulously friendly welcome

The many activities available for all abilities:

Summer – hiking, biking & paddling – or just relaxing

Winter – skiing, snowshoeing & sledding (fun either with or without huskies)

The richness of nature, forest and fauna – bears, elk, moose & berries a plenty

The cleanest fresh air and the crystal fresh water

So what happened on the trip?

After very excitedly counting down the days to this adventure, departure date had finally arrived:

12th September

A bit of an early start to catch the 05:15 bus to Heathrow, but it was a smooth journey and after a strong coffee and slightly unhealthy muffin we (that is Elky and I) made it through SAS check-in and boarded with ease for 10:30 flight to Oslo.

Arrival at Oslo:

Flying the flag for the UK tour operators (just me), I met with a group of international outdoor enthusiasts participating in the tour, 40 or so in all, tour operators, journo’s and retailers. I must admit I felt a pinch overwhelmed at all the outdoor kit on show! However…. I had a travel bag with a stuffed Elk in it!

elky1

After the introductions and warm welcome from our hosts from Visit Sweden and cosy 3hr bus ride to Sälen, we made it to our hotel Sälens Högfjällshotell.

First stop – kit check… (for the following days hike up the mountains) Häglofs, Primus and Hillberg all sponsoring fantastic clothing and equipment for a testing on the trek!

After a quick bag drop & refresh, it was a short bus trip via the Häglofs store for a debrief outlining the visit and of course discounted shopping. Oh and nibbles on bear, cheese & reindeer bits and well of course a glass of wine.

This was followed by an evening meal at the 11th century restaurant, ‘Gammelgården’, the cuisine was lovely, the service friendly and the company of course was great! Many stuffed creatures on display but an olde worlde ambience with a slight resemblance to a Tolkein’esque a hobbit house. Very cosy indeed and very popular with guests in winter and summer seasons.

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13th September

An early awakening from a comfy bed and a scrummy breakfast to start the day. It was time to ponder the art of packing that great gert 70litre backpack that was basically the same size as me. Thankfully experts were on hand and knew exactly how to repack my shoddy effort, cramming equipment, food and a toothbrush into the abyss that I will shortly be stomping up a mountain with strapped so seamlessly to my torso. Well, thankfully I can say it worked out ok with the remodelled weight distribution. My goal was to make it till lunch with the hefty load and then swap packs with my Dutch buddy. 13.00 – Goal achieved and outdoor lunch with the best view in Sälen not to mention gathering a glut of wild blueberries for the most organic dessert ever, washed down with fresh water from the free flowing brooks – a true gift from the mountains.


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Hmmm.. fresh mountain blueberries!

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Walking the plank!

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Moss is sooo… !

Late afternoon….Setting up camp was an interesting affair, firstly finding a
flat area of ground and secondly attempting to erect our humble abode for the
night. Easier said than done…Whilst we (Renate and I) were still trying to
figure out the yurt angles, simple calculations told us, that just maybe, we
needed more tent pegs for this monster. Some time later…All other teams seemed to have
successfully completed the task, we were now surrounded by perfectly fine
outlines of dome shaped Hillberg tents. Fortunately, after much amusement the
other teams came to the rescue and our challenge was complete. The
architectural marvel of the newly named  ‘circus tent’ was the pride of the camp. No ground
sheet – no worries! We were cosy enough with Haglofs 2S sleeping bag and spongy
floor mat. Although maybe the ground we slept upon could have been a little
more ergonomic. Rooky campers!!!


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Our Hilleberg home for the night.

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The open air kitchen – cookin’ on gas!
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Primus stove in action. Photo: Henrik Trygg/VisitSweden

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Photo: Henrik Trygg/VisitSweden

A beautiful end to the day!

14th September

Dalarna is the most amazing place to have a mountain bike adventure, this can be a relaxed or as challenging as you so desire. Wonderful scenery and great terrain be it winding trails through the awesome pine forests or if you fancy a challenge, you can take on some gnarly downhill routes at the specialist centre in Sälen.

Our group took bus to Rörbäcksnäs, where we sampled some of the best single-track cross–country cycling in Sweden. We were well equipped with safety hats and a great set of wheels and the all important guide for instructions. Great fun was had by all on our 15km trip with a few thrills ‘n’ spills en route.

A little fatigued at this point (and nursing a few small bruises) we ended the day with a visit top the Moose Park and a very welcoming cultural and traditional Sami dinner in a Tipi.

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Hej….Has anyone seen my antlers???

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Ahhhhaaaa…..

15th September

Our agenda for the morning was to get some expert advice and tips for canoeing on the Görälven River. Bouyancy jackets and waterproofs on, we negotiated our orange canoes down the slope and smoothly onto the water. Our guide carefuly instructed us on the do’s and don’ts of paddling, fully prepared and confident, we floated off down the Görälven. This was truly a relaxing way to spend a morning, taking in the beautiful surroundings, paddling with the flow, of course with a small cuddly stowaway Elk onboard! Also, I have never seen a riverside lodge so cleverly put together as that of a Beaver abode – it’s a first!

This is a great area for photography with the trees reflecting their images in the calm and very clear water. There were also some areas of faster running water to negotiate but not at all taxing, however, I am told there is plenty of white water if you would like a more challenging option. Overall the whole group were enjoying the peace and quite and drifting with nature.

Canoeing really was a wonderful way to finish a brimming itinerary of various outdoor experiences. You could never be stuck for things to do in Dalarna.

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Canoeing on the Görälven River

After a BBQ lunch it was back to the hotel for the workshop, well you have to do some work on these trips!!

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This isn’t Elky’s normal diet.

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Who ate all the snags?

Sälens Högfjällshotell put on a superb culinary feast for all participants, along with live music and a bit of dancing of course!

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Party on Elky!!

We even have a certificate of completion and lest we forget… thank you to Jonas and Henrik who blogged and photographed every step….

16th September

Another hearty breakfast and fond farewell, our transfer had arrived to take us back to Oslo for departure flights home.

dal2

Check-in again soon for the next Nature Travels adventure!

Best wishes – Linda and Elky :)

Nature Travels does not (yet) offer activities specifically in Dalarna, but there are excellent options for canoeing in Rogen in Härjedalen a little to the north and canoeing and timber rafting in Värmland just to the south.

Need something to take your mind off the British rain and cheer yourself up?  How about booking one of our experiences in Sweden for late August or early September before it’s time to start the school term?

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Photo: Kate Bohn

The latter part of August is often a lovely time to be in Sweden – as the Swedish schools start back around the 3rd week of August, it’s an exceptionally quiet period to visit, with temperatures normally still  feeling summery and the waters of the lakes and archipelagos at their warmest for swimming, having had the whole summer to hear up!

We’ve got plenty of ideas to choose from:

What about taking the children on a self-guided canoe trip down the Klarälven river? Our Canoe Tour on Klarälven is the perfect family adventure. The Klarälven is a wide, meandering river which flows at a stately 2km per hour – a wonderful way to experience the beautiful landscape of rural Sweden and watch the world go by!  Accommodation is wild camping so you can spend your nights round the camp fire cooking the fish you have caught along the way.  There’s plenty of time for exploring the area and going on day hikes etc.  What better way for the kids to experience the outdoors!

We also have a wide range of other canoe tours suitable for different levels of experience. If you are looking for a “lads’ trip” away from the kids and are happy with a challenge, how about Discover Wilderness Canoeing in Rogen, which is suitable for those comfortable with travelling independently in a remote wilderness environment.  It’s a real get-away-from-it-all experience. If you’re not sure which tour is right for you, read this article comparing our different canoe tours in Sweden.

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Photo: John Hartshorn

For families with older children who are into their cycling and paddling, try our Hike, Bike & Paddle Stockholm’s Lakes & Islands experience.  It gives you the chance to explore the clear lakes, cool forests and shimmering islands of Stockholm with comfortable overnight accommodation along the way.

We also have a number of log cabin holidays to choose from – such as Back to Basics in Cosy Cabin,s where you stay in a grass-roofed cabin in a secluded forest location, there’s no electricity and cooking is over an open fire.  The children can bathe in the cool clear lakes and drink ice-cold water from the well.  There’s even a tree house called the ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ that’s suitable for couples – a romantic getaway with a difference with the other half?

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Photo: Ben Irons

If you like things a bit more advanced and up-to-date, then one of our log cabins in the beautiful area of Värmland could be just the thing your looking for.  With a sauna and your own boat included as standard,you can explore the area by day and relax by night.

So let’s not be beaten by the weather, make some plans to enjoy the later part of the summer with a visit to Sweden – there’s something for everyone!  We can’t promise perfect weather but we can promise something different. We’re here to help if you have any questions…

Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

Are the Olympics not really your thing?  Not got tickets and not enthralled with the prospect of watching it on the TV?  Just not interested in sport?  Or do you want to get away from the hordes that will be arriving in the UK between 27th July – 12th August?  Then get away from it all…

How about a break in Sweden?  Do something different, where the only flame you’ll see is the flicker of your campfire and the only thing to compete for is who gets the last marsmallow!  Can you imagine the peace and tranquility of being in a canoe in the middle of the wilderness with just the wildlife and your fellow like-minded adventurers for company? – try one of our canoe tours, with a wide range of tours available for both adults and families for both novice canoeists and experienced paddlers, there’s one to suit everyone. With tours running in cultural, rural, remote and wilderness areas, the hard bit will be choosing.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Or, for the Huckleberry Finn in you – how about a timber rafting trip! Build your own raft using nothing but ropes and logs and drift down the river for 5 or 8 days, camping wild along the riverbank.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

What about swapping your four walls in the UK for four very different walls in Sweden? – we’ve got various types of options for a log cabin holiday, from traditional forest cabins (where you can even stay in a tree house) to more luxurious styles (some even have satellite TV if you happen to want to take a peek at what’s going on).  Or how about staying in a traditional tipi where those loads of exciting activities to book? There really is a great choice, with options to suit couples, families, or larger groups of friends travelling together.


Photo: Kate Bohn

We also have various sea kayaking tours (both guided and non-guided) from 1 – 7 days.  After a peaceful day’s paddling in some of the beautiful archipelago areas in Sweden, imagine pulling your kayak up onto your own private island for an overnight stay.


Photo: Sofia Carter Nature Travels

There’s also horse riding and bushcraft or how about a guided tour to listen for the wild wolves? – there really is something for everyone.


Photo: John Hartshorn

So, what are you waiting for? If you would like nothing more than to be away from the Olympics, then Sweden has just what you’re looking for – more in fact!

Happy travelling!

Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

The Rogen Nature Reserve is an area of wilderness in north-west Sweden, bordering Norway where it is contiguous with the Femundsmarka National Park. As well as being famed for its excellent fishing, Rogen is one of Sweden’s top areas for canoe tours, ideal for those looking for a real wilderness paddling experience. The article below describes our Discover Wilderness Canoeing in Rogen self-guided canoe tour (4-8 or more days). A longer and more challenging canoe tour in the Rogen area, Rogen Wilderness Canoe Expedition (8-14 or more days) is also available.

Together with three friends from Scotland (Adam, Craig and Euan our official photographer for the trip), I spent six days paddling in the area in mid-June 2011 – six glorious days of fresh air, clear water and stunning views, all served up with a healthy dose of boys’ trip cameraderie, and of course the occasional mosquito!


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

The night train from Stockholm disgorged us blinking into the morning sunshine at Östersund at a most uncivilised 6am. Fortunately the station staff is used to early morning passengers and the kiosk already had the coffee machine on and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. This, plus the fact that it was midsummer when sleep feels like a shameful waste of daylight, meant that we were relatively awake and ready for action.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

A couple of hours later and we were the only passengers on the bus to the wild and woolly outreaches of Funäsdalen, chatting to the driver about the local sights and his passion for Scottish whisky. Euan got very excited when we stopped for a rest break near an outdoor store – he disappeared inside and emerged five minutes later proudly clutching a full-length net mosquito jacket, which he’d always wanted for those Scottish hillwalking trips but couldn’t find at home.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

I’d visited the area a number of times in winter, but this was my first time in Funäsdalen, and it turned out to be a perfect jumping off point for the outdoor activities in the area. We had an instruction meeting with Kalle from the canoe centre, who advised us sagely to “take it easy”, especially when making land transports – wise words, as even a simple twisted ankle can be very serious in such a remote area.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

A question often asked by clients considering a tour in Rogen is “How far will we paddle each day?”, but in Rogen this question has little meaning. Depending on the particular area of the reserve you are exploring and other factors such as the terrain, wind and weather conditions, as well as of course your own energy levels day-to-day, you could find that you munch through the miles with a full day’s paddling, cover just a handful of kilometres on a day requiring a challenging land transport, or decide to take a day or more off the water completely to climb one of the peaks for an unparalleled view over the surrounding wilderness. Kalle was right – “take it easy” and you will have a more enjoyable, safer and more rewarding experience than if you focus on setting too many goals for your trip.

We dropped our bags at the canoe centre and headed for the supermarket to stock up. Unexpectedly, we were spoiled for choice and it took us rather longer than expected to negotiate a menu we were all happy with, but after quick repack we were ready for the off, rattling our way out of Funäsdalen along gravel forest roads to the start point.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

With a cheery wave, Kalle disappeared in a cloud of dust, our last sight of civilisation for the next week. The silence closed in around us and we gazed out across the water for the first time with a mixture of great excitement and just a flutter of trepidation.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

We had chosen to start the tour at Käringsjön ending at Käringsjövallen (one of a number of possible start/end point combinations), which would take us at minimum through a series of small, interconnected lakes, out into the large lake of Rogen itself, and through another labyrinth of smaller lakes to the pick-up point six days later. How much further we would get would depend on the weather and our own inclination.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

For our first day, we paddled in light rain through a beautiful maze of quiet, forest fringed lakes with some short land transports connecting them. The edges of the reserve are particularly good fishing waters, and occasionally we would spot a local sat quietly in his rowing boat and staring into the middle distance, contemplating the greater mysteries of life as only a lone fisherman can.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Land transports in Rogen are a challenging business. The more commonly used transport points between the lakes do have basic paths worn by previous paddlers, but the terrain can be steep and rocky and at times it feels more like you are climbing with the canoe than walking with it. In these early days before our canoe carrying technique had been honed to perfection, we did each transport twice, once with the canoes balanced on our shoulders (advantage: efficient weight bearing; disadvantage: limited visibility, leading to increased likelihood of walking into a tree!) and once with our gear. By the end of the trip, we had developed shoulders of Kevlar and calf muscles of steel and managed most of the land transports with gear and canoe combined.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Camping in Rogen is possible anywhere, but fires are permitted only at the designated wind shelters, where wood is provided for your use and is the only wood that should be used for fire making. The forests of Rogen are ancient and rates of decay very slow. A beautiful knarled tree stump or log you see lying on the ground may be hundreds of years old, and such rich natural heritage simply does not deserve to be turned into firewood. In places when travelling through the reserve you will come across the remnants of fireplaces made by visitors who have not observed the rules – please do not use these for your own fires, or even better, dismantle them where you find them and remove any traces of the fireplace to discourage others and preserve the pristine nature of the reserve.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Over the next few days we explored a good portion of the Swedish side of the reserve and generally had an utterly wonderful time. We had our fair share of sunshine, and when the clouds parted and the sun streamed down onto the water and the forest the effect was magical. We crossed over the wide expanse of Lake Rogen (choosing our timing and crossing point carefully for safety) to find our “paradise campsite” for the trip near Bredasjön, a lovely spot which opened magically before us as the reeds parted and where we could have stayed forever. We frightened ourselves silly one day trying to round a peninsula at the northern end of the lake during a particularly choppy spell before common sense took over and we made for land and carried the canoes to calmer waters. We took time off from paddling to climb one of the many peaks for a stunning 360 degree view over the surrounding middle-earth-like wilderness and across the border into Norway. We battled early-season mosquitoes for the night at one particularly marshy camping spot and had a real “Cast Away” moment (the Tom Hanks one, not Oliver Reed/Amanda Donohoe!) next morning trying to paddle out from the bay but getting washed back repeatedly by the waves. And through it all we quietly bonded during our daily ups and downs of energy levels and mood, each of us fulfilling the roles that came naturally to us – Euan producing fantastic meals to lift the spirits conjured from a single pot using the humblest of ingredients; Craig, our tea and coffee guru, producing mysterious packets from the depths of his rucksack and concocting a succession of heavenly brews just when they were needed; Adam demonstrating intellectual superiority at the Guardian cryptic crossword and waxing lyrical on everything from music to psychology, and me, well, I mostly admired the scenery and did the washing up.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Navigating on the water can be tricky at the best of times and in an area like Rogen can be very tricky indeed, especially in the more maze-like lake areas. One headland can look very much like another, a gap could be a space between islands or just an inlet, and it’s essential to be constantly monitoring your position to make sure where you think you are and where you actually are is the same thing! Navigation in Rogen is like the essential rule for DIY – “measure twice, cut once”. Amazingly, we managed to make reality and expectation match up pretty much all of the time, apart from a brief episode on the last day when with great reluctance we resorted to turning on the GPS for the definitive answer.

Finally, after a period which in some ways felt like years and in others like the merest heartbeat, we emerged from the depths of the Swedish wilderness like Livingstone from the African rainforest to wait for our pick-up. Our saviour, Jan, arrived to rescue us right on time and we bumped our way home, slightly shell-shocked at the sight of tarmac roads and streetlights.


Photo: Euan Turner DMh Photo

Another bus and night train journey later and we were back in Stockholm, hugging our goodbyes at the airport – hairier, muddier and undoubtedly smellier than we had been a week before (apologies to the poor unknown souls who had to share a plane with the other three on the flight home – I was off to the Stockholm Archipelago for a few days and a hot shower), but with a song in our hearts.

Best regards

Bob from The Nature Travels Team

This is a guest article submitted to us by Ruben Corbo, a writer for several websites such as Red Seven Leisure, which is the best man’s choice in providing the best service for planning your stag weekends and more. When Ruben is not writing he is composing or producing music for short films and other visual arts.

NB: Please note that Nature Travels specialises exclusively in ecotourism activities. Many of our outdoor experiences in Sweden, including dog sledding, canoeing and hiking, are ideal for active stag trips. However, we do not offer some of the alternative activities outlined below such as snowmobiling and heli-skiing.

Sweden is the perfect place for memorable stag weekends. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy such as skiing and hiking. Get all the guys together for an exciting weekend. A weekend in Sweden is a fabulous way to have fun with friends, say goodbye to bachelor-hood and look forward to an upcoming wedding.

Skiing

With around 200 ski resorts to choose from it is easy to see why so many people choose Sweden for their skiing. From cross-country skiing to skiing on ice, there are skiing opportunities for all levels. Ski on Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise, cross country in Höglekardalen or try one of Sweden’s snow parks such as the Åre Ski Resort where jumps and jibs are the name of the game. Other fabulous bachelor party activities to try include snowboarding, dog-sledding and heli-skiing.


(Courtesy of Flickr User: The Next Web)

Fishing

If fishing is more along the lines of what you and the guys were thinking about then Sweden is the place to go. With around 100,000 lakes in the country it is hard not to catch something. Just some of Sweden’s fish species are perch, pike, zander, trout, salmon and grayling. Fly fishing is more and more popular in Sweden due to the diversity of fish, clean waters and the myriad of great fishing waters. Whether your choice is lake fishing, river fishing or coastline fishing, Sweden is a good bet. Sweden even has game fishing right in the middle of Stockholm for those who would rather stay closer to civilization.


(Courtesy of Flickr User:
RukaKuusamo.com)

Hiking

Sweden is a hiker’s paradise. There are so many places to trek in Sweden that choosing will be the hardest part. Choose from many fabulous places including the King’s Trail in Abisko National Park, Sarek National Park, Sweden’s lowlands and mountain hiking.


(Courtesy of Flickr User:
Bohari Adventures)

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is definitely a memorable bachelor party weekend. Imagine standing in front of a wall of ice and being expected to climb it. That is just what you and your friends will do on an ice climbing expedition on Kebnekaise Mountain. Instructors teach guests climbing techniques, the proper way to use ice climbing equipment and how to scale an ice wall in this exhilarating adventure. Climb a Swedish wall of ice and be back in time to relax in a hot sauna that evening.


(Courtesy of Flickr User:
HK James Ho)

There are so many choices when it comes to stag weekends in Sweden. Gone are the days of old where a stag party meant one night with friends. Take a whole weekend to enjoy being with bachelor friends, experiencing wild adventures such as one of the ones mentioned or something else like snowmobiling or trip skating on frozen water. A bachelor party should be remembered for a lifetime. With an outdoor adventure in Sweden it will be.

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Nature Travels is the UK specialist for outdoor experiences in Sweden. Please follow links below for details of our range of holidays in Sweden for independents, families and groups.

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TravelQuest’s Ethical Travel section lists a variety of ecotourism holidays world-wide, including UK holidays, charity treks and gap-year ideas.
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