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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.
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.
Another 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?
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 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.
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 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.
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
The 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 (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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”
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).
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
Hmmm.. fresh mountain blueberries!
Walking the plank!
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!!!
Our Hilleberg home for the night.
The open air kitchen – cookin’ on gas!
Primus stove in action. Photo: Henrik Trygg/VisitSweden
Photo: Henrik Trygg/VisitSweden
A beautiful end to the day!
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.
Hej….Has anyone seen my antlers???
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.
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!!
This isn’t Elky’s normal diet.
Sälens Högfjällshotell put on a superb culinary feast for all participants, along with live music and a bit of dancing of course!
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….
Another hearty breakfast and fond farewell, our transfer had arrived to take us back to Oslo for departure flights home.
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?
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.
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?
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…
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
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!
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.
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.
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)
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)
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 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.
When you go camping in the wilderness there are a lot of things you have to take with you to make your time as enjoyable as possible. The standard packing list includes things like tents, sleeping bags, clothes for all weather conditions, camping stoves, torches and much more. But I’m sure every one of us has those little items and gadgets that you always take with you even though you might not really need them.
Photo: Jonathan Lamb
We have found some outdoor gadgets that have that certain something, which could make your trip to the outdoors even more exciting, but that you can easily leave at home if your backpack is already crammed.
Metal detecting sandals
Who has not dreamt of finding a treasure chest filled with jewels and gold as a child? With these sandals it’s as easy as going for a stroll to detect hidden objects beneath your feet. You don’t have to carry around a conventional bulky metal detector so everybody knows what you’re up to anymore. Now you can just pretend to go for a walk and, with some luck, at the same time discover long lost treasures in the ground. Well, wouldn’t it be great to leave home for a camping trip and return with a pot of gold?
Hiking, cycling, inline skating or jogging is so much more fun if you have some music with you that encourages you to go on. But listening to music with a MP3-player using standard headphones can be pretty annoying because with every step you tear the wires and pull the plugs out of your ears. So why not get a pair of sunglasses which you can use to listen to your favourite tunes at the same time? The player and earplugs are simply attached to the arms of the glasses and give you the freedom to move wherever and however you want to without missing out on your favourite songs.
When being outdoors you can discover amazing wildlife, stunning landscapes, incredible vegetation and so much more. To capture every moment of your trip you can use photo and video cameras or you can simply write down your impressions in a diary. But what happens when the weather doesn’t play along and all your stuff is soaked? With this completely waterproof notebook your thoughts and memories will still be preserved even if you stumble into a shower of rain or you drop your notes into the lake you’re paddling on.
Is there a better way to end a day of hiking, canoeing or kayaking than with a nice campfire and some grilled sausages? We don’t think so either! Normally you would take out your Trangia stove, put it together, fry the sausages on the included pan and have a lot of work with cleaning the stove afterwards. With the Grilliput it’s much simpler, because you can put it over any small campfire and, thanks to a cleaning groove, it’s neat and clean in only a few minutes. The best thing is that, when folded together, it’s only the size of a large cigar and can easily be put in your backpack.
Inflatable fruit cases
An apple a day keeps the doctor away – following a balanced nutritional diet is not just vital in your everyday life, but especially important when you’re outdoors and doing sports like canoeing, hiking or kayaking. Taking fruit on your camping trips can be an unpleasant experience because you can’t store fruit properly and your apples and bananas get pressure marks quite quickly. These funny inflatable fruit cases will protect your healthy treats from dark marks and your backpack from being soaked in freshly squeezed juice. Just make sure that your fruity snacks don’t float away when you’re enjoying a stopping along a river or lake.
Being outdoors often means that there are no proper showers or toilet facilities available. Some of you might say that this is an essential part of an authentic camping experience, but others might prefer to bring this “special gadget” to relieve themselves in the wilderness. This reusable portable toilet is easy to pack and helps you to preserve your dignity on your outdoor trip. It even comes in different designs and sizes so every family member can have their own individual “shit box”.
Essential, superfluous, irreverent, or just plain silly – as an outdoor enthusiast you are never short of new kit to buy! We hope the above suggestions inspire you to explore the full range of possibilities when packing for your next trip!
The Nature Travels Team
Nature Travels offers a wide range of options for summer holidays in Sweden, many of which feature wild camping. From canoeing and kayak tours to timber rafting, log cabins, hiking and bushcraft holidays, Sweden is a vast outdoor playground for the outdoor enthusiast.
This is the second part of a report on the Canoe Tours in Bergslagen experience in June 2010. Canoe in Bergslagen is one of a range of self-guided canoe tours offered by Nature Travels in Sweden, available in 7-day or 14-day variations. We also offer canoeing holidays suitable for families as well as challenging wilderness expeditions.
You can see additional photos from the trip on the Nature Travels Facebook page.
We awake early as the tents heat up under a blazing morning sun. Craig immediately sets to work with the morning baking, while we pack the things together and load the boats, feeling a little sad to be leaving what must surely be the nicest camp spot we’ll find on the whole tour. Little do we realise that camping nirvana awaits us just a few hours’ paddling hence.
We make our way along the rest of this narrow and beautiful lake. Euan and I are in the same canoe today, and we have both sets of maps (bad idea). Supremely (over)confident in our navigational skills, we strike out for what we’re sure is the correct landing spot, while Andrew and Craig in the other boat eye us suspiciously before paddling off their own way into a different bay. “Hah, poor hapless souls”, we laugh, as Euan and I land and sit down to relax in the sun waiting for the others to arrive. Time passes, vague shouts and expletives are exchanged between us across the water, and finally the other canoe gives in and paddles back to us. We unload and head off, only to discover after a few minutes’ hacking through impenetrable bush that Andrew and Craig were right all along. Oops. Feeling sheepish, we reload the canoes again and paddle around the headland where, sure enough, the correct landing spot is perfectly obvious.
Another day of paddling in bright sunshine and a long land transport brings us to the aptly named “Bredsjön” or “wide lake”. With our muscles aching and our tummies rumbling, it certainly looks an imposing stretch of water to cross, but we steadfastly load the canoes and paddle off, keen to reach the far shore before the wind gets up.
Surprisingly, it turns out to be quite an easy crossing, and just as we’re thinking that we’ve really had enough for today and would like a rest, we round a small headland and our very own “paradise beach” swings into view – a beautiful, small sandy bay with a lovely raised area for the tents and a forest conveniently placed for firewood. We resolve immediately to ring our respective wives and girlfriends and inform them that we’ve decided to stay a while and may not be home for Christmas.
Having shown signs of flagging during the day’s paddling, as soon as Craig’s feet touch dry land he is possessed with a maniacal energy. Spontaneously, he and Andrew decide to make a bread oven and spend the next hour of so heaving huge stones into place and lighting a fire inside. Euan wanders around enthusing about the quality of the light and taking pictures by the dozen, the evening passes cheerfully and a while later the bakers present us with the most delicious bread rolls ever made by man.
This time we really are sorry to be leaving, and sorry especially to be constrained to doing the route in 6 days instead of the standard 7, which would have given us another day’s idyllic loafing about at the camp. As I suggest dismantling the bread over, Craig and Andrew mutter about the heartless destruction of an architectural triumph, but after a little persuasion we all agree that in the interests of “Leave No Trace” it has to go. Wiping away a tear or two, the boys take the oven apart and scatter and bury the stones, and five minutes later it’s as if we were never there.
Every expedition has its “grumpy” day, and this is to be ours. Perhaps it’s the emotional wrench of leaving our beloved beach or perhaps the realisation that we’re over the half way mark it won’t be long before we’re heading home, but today we’re all a little fractious. After a long and tiring land transport we reach “Kanalen”, a 5km stretch of water that under normal conditions can be paddled without problem but today looks ominously shallow. Andrew and Craig once again make the sensible decision and opt immediately to do a land transport along the canal path. Euan and I foolishly elect to give it a go, unload the gear, manhandle the canoe down the bank, load the canoe, then half paddle, half walk through a few hundred metres of canal before it finally gets through to us that there’s not enough water to float the boat. We unload the gear, manhandle the canoe up the bank, load the gear and, hey ho, we’re back where we started, except it’s an hour later and we’re completely exhausted!
Nerves on a knife-edge, major fisticuffs are narrowly averted by Craig’s timely brewing of tea and gallant sacrifice of the last of the cinnamon rolls.
Optimism restored, we trudge on and are delighted to find that after a while the canal deepens and we’re able to take to the water after all. Andrew and Craig go into outdoor-catalogue-male-model-pose mode as Euan finds the possibility to take some photos gives him renewed zest for life. The rest of the day passes without incident. We admire the engineering of an enormous wooden-clad water pipe as we transport past a sluice gate and small hydro station (the pipe looks temptingly like a gigantic elongated beer keg and in our hot and slightly delirious state we fantasise briefly about bottomless supplies of ale).
We make camp on a small headland along the river Uvan, another lovely spot in its own right, though our hearts still yearn for the beach. Once again the cuckoo keeps us company as Craig and Andrew invent a new game – pine cone paddle cricket.
It takes us a while to get going this morning, due in part to Euan becoming fixated on taking the perfect arty-perspective picture of our storage barrels. After indulging him patiently for the first few dozen shots, we drag him protesting into the boat and head off. Soon we’re into a lovely winding section of the river Uvan, watching cranes lift majestically from the bank and enjoying the change of scenery from the wider lakes of the earlier part of the tour.
We’ve decided to make things easy for ourselves for tomorrow to give plenty of time to clean and organise the equipment and also to set up some final shots, so today we’re pushing on through the other side of the small town of Hagfors to give us just a short distance to paddle on the last day.
Approaching Hagfors feels strange – the prospect of beer and ice cream beckons, but the call of the wild tugs us back. We land by a lovely floating restaurant where Euan, consolidating his reputation as group nutter magnet, is immediately and helplessly cornered by an elderly local and grilled on the finer points of canoe packing. Mercilessly, we leave him to fend for himself and make immediately for the bar.
As with all Swedes, the waitress speaks excellent English, but her language skills are not quite up to dealing with Andrew’s Tasmanian humour about and he’s surprised when he actually receives the half a burger he ordered, lovingly bisected.
After a surreal episode transporting our canoes right through the centre of town and parking them outside the supermarket, we tire of the bright lights of Hagfors and are keen to be back on the water. We find a nice camping spot on a headland just outside town. It’s cloudier and also windy and this evening, making it difficult to keep the fire going and hard to settle, and we bustle and fuss about for the evening before tiredness overtakes us.
Our last day. The wind drops and the sun comes out once more to greet us for our final short stretch of paddling. We spend a leisurely couple of hours basking in the sunshine at the end point, brewing up the last of the tea, making a valiant effort to eat all the food and pottering about taking photos of the equipment and cleaning the canoes. Before long it’s time for Anders to collect us with the van for return to the canoe centre and bus back to Karlstad.
Having survived 6 days’ paddling in the wilderness unscathed, Andrew finds the walk from the bus stop to the youth hostel a bit too much of a challenge. We hear a yelp and turn round to find him in a heap on the verge clutching a badly twisted ankle. We drag him hobbling to the Bishop’s Arms for an emergency dose of field anaesthetic (aka single malt whisky) and the rest of the evening gives a fitting symmetry to the trip as we make a determined effort to blow our remaining Kronor.
It’s been a great trip all round – we’ve been ridiculously fortunate with the weather, found that we’re not in bad shape at all really for three 40-somethings and a 20-something, seen that four guys can spend an extended period in each other’s company without major violence and indeed actually enjoy it and discovered that, when it comes to our paradise campsite, heaven really is a place on earth. We’re already planning the next trip for 2011….
Bob from The Nature Travels Team