A couple of years back, as May’s extended weekend was peeking its head, I was knee-deep in a quest for an affordable vacation spot. It was during my serial globetrotting phase, where my bank account flirted dangerously with bankruptcy! So, it was ‘budget travel or bust’, and with that in mind, I took to the map. My eye on the world map was drawn to Sweden’s uncharted (by me, at least) West coast.
The Internet served up some tantalizing suggestions, and without further ado, I borrowed a pop-up tent from a friend. I packed a comfy duvet and pillow, as I didn’t even have a sleeping bag back then, piled everything into my little pink car, and embarked on my little escapade.
The west coast of Sweden, a breathtaking spectacle that unfolds from Malmö in the south to the Norwegian border in the north, took my breath away. Picture this – tiny islands speckled around the coastline, quaint villages nestled comfortably, and adorable homes peeking from behind trees and rocks.
Camping in Sweden
Let me tell you, camping in Sweden was one roller coaster ride, my first solo camping trip. A scary, exhilarating, and liberating cocktail of emotions, all bundled into one. Little did I know about the chill that awaited me, and boy, did I turn into a frozen dumpling! Lesson learned, and a -15C sleeping bag was promptly added to my camping kit.
One of the upsides of pitching a tent (aside from a free night’s stay), was the sweet experience of Allemansrätten, Sweden’s delightful ‘freedom to roam’ law. The Swedes have incorporated everyone’s right to access nature, even on privately owned lands, into their law. However, this isn’t a free pass to go rogue; there are some ground rules:
The Golden Rules for Wild Camping in Sweden:
- Respect all life: Be mindful of the flora, fauna, and fellow countryside dwellers. Stay clear of crops and sensitive areas, and hold onto your trash.
- Know your limits: Allemansrätten permits you to cross someone’s land or stay for a while, but you can’t camp near their establishments or cause a ruckus. Gardens and the like, even if forested, are a strict no-go.
- Abide by the rules: Observe camping and fire bans, especially in sensitive areas housing rare species or prone to forest fires. If there’s a one-night maximum stay, honor it.
- Practice responsible camping: Camping for a night or two in forested areas, away from houses, is okay. But don’t overstay your welcome; nobody likes a squatter!
In truth, there was no concrete itinerary etched out. My journey was more of a spontaneous tour from Copenhagen through Sweden, aiming toward the Norwegian border direction. I picked out a handful of spots that piqued my interest and set a course for them.
Bohus Fortress was my first stop. Although I turned up a tad late, missing the open hours, I still took a leisurely stroll around the premises. It was intriguing enough to prompt a promise of a return visit from me.
Back in the 1250s, the then-Norwegian king constructed a fortification on Ragnhildsholmen to safeguard the town of Kongahälla. Later, in 1308, a wooden castle was erected on Bagaholmen. This stronghold was initially named Bagahus, eventually evolving into Bohus. Over the course of more than three centuries, this fortress witnessed expansions and reinforcements under the vigilant watch of Norwegian and Danish monarchs. Among them, King Christian IV was particularly notable, having visited Bohus and Norway more frequently than all other Danish kings combined.
Between 1450 and 1658, Danish rulers held sway over Norway. Bohus Fortress stood tall, withstanding 13 sieges. Nevertheless, later, Bohuslän was incorporated into Sweden, following the peace treaty in Roskilde. The then regal castle was vacated and handed over to the Swedish king. In 1789, King Gustav III commanded the fortress be razed to the ground. However, in 1838, Carl XIV intervened, putting a stop to any further destruction of this historic landmark.
Situated a mere 50 km from Gothenburg, Marstrand is arguably the most popular and frequented island in Bohuslän. It boasts an enviable reputation for its charming wooden homes, scenic landscape, and storied past.
Marstrand sprawls across two archipelago islands, separated by a quaint ferry ride: the vehicle-free Marstrandsön in the west, and the archipelago of Koön to the east, reachable by car via a series of bridges from the mainland.
Overlooking the harbourfront and its labyrinth of cobblestone lanes and narrow alleys, is the formidable Carlstens Fästning. This 300-year-old stronghold, doubling as a prison, once housed infamous Swedish lawbreakers. Established after Sweden annexed Halland in 1658, the fortress’s construction was finally completed two centuries later in 1860. Nowadays, visitors can tour the fortress, delve into its rich history, and enjoy sweeping views of the city. In the summer months of June through August, guided tours offer a more detailed insight into the island’s narrative.
Renowned for its expansive marina, Marstrand is recognized as one of Sweden’s premier sailing hubs. Each July, the island hosts Sweden’s largest international sailing competition, the “Stena Match Cup Sweden”. This prestigious event draws some of the globe’s elite sailors and an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 100 000 spectators, infusing the town with an infectious vibrancy.
One of the highlights of my trip was the quaint island of Dyrön. Only reachable by boat, this spot remains one of the more serene retreats on the West Coast of Sweden. Brimming with rugged natural beauty, vibrant flora, and the sight of mouflon sheep wandering around, Dyrön provides the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
A visit to Dyrön isn’t complete without indulging in a hike along The Dyröleden Trail. This 5 km loop trail encircles the island, presenting you with awe-inspiring views of the Marstrand’s fjord.
In addition to its tranquil beauty, Dyrön is also famed for its sauna, which you can reserve for a personal experience. This isn’t just any sauna – in 2008, it was named Sweden’s best electrically heated sauna. More details here.
Check out the official website.
En route to Copenhagen, I chose to take a slight detour and pay a visit to Läckö Castle. I didn’t have much prior knowledge about it, so its astounding beauty came as a delightful surprise. The Baroque rooms were simply spellbinding, offering a unique experience as the Läckö Castle has managed to retain its original style through centuries. To this day, visitors can marvel at the authentic interior fittings hailing from the 1700s. Upon further exploration, it wasn’t surprising to learn that the Swedes had voted it as Sweden’s most beautiful mansion.
Läckö Castle’s origins hark back to medieval times. In 1298, Brynolf Algotsson, the Bishop of Skara, established the castle’s foundation. The castle was later seized from the church by the crown in 1527. It underwent a significant facelift when the warlord de la Gardie took possession of the property in the 17th century.
When I visited, only one floor was accessible, but I learned that during peak season, guided tours cover two floors. Unfortunately, I was a bit too early to experience this.
If there’s a place that can take you on a time machine ride back to the rural Sweden of centuries past, it is undoubtedly the charming hamlet of Åsle Tå. Tucked away in the beautiful countryside of Västra Götaland County, this historic destination left me feeling as though I had stepped into another era entirely.
Upon my arrival at Åsle Tå, I was immediately greeted by a collection of fascinating ‘tå’ or ‘backstugor’ – traditional Swedish cottages embedded into the hillside. I learned that these intriguing structures, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, were homes to poor landless families, and they were still wonderfully preserved in their original condition.
What makes Åsle Tå particularly unique is that it’s one of the best-preserved collections of these ‘backstugor’ in Sweden. It’s now an open-air museum, and walking among these rustic dwellings, you can vividly envision how life would have been for the Swedish peasants hundreds of years ago.
So that’s the tale of my Swedish escapade – a budget-friendly adventure, breathtaking views, and a dash of the wild, all rolled into one. A tale of a frozen dumpling turned camping enthusiast, all thanks to the beautiful west coast of Sweden!
But wait, there’s more! This wasn’t just a one-time gig. I loved it so much that I came back for seconds. This time, I roped in my boyfriend for a fun-filled camping extravaganza and a tour of West Sweden’s stunning scenery. But hey, I’ll save that yarn for another post. Stay tuned for more of my adventures! 😉