Caught in the pandemic’s grip, our travel destinations were drastically downsized to either domestic Denmark or just a leap over a bridge away to Sweden. The memory of a fantastic camping experience in West Sweden a year before sprang to mind, and before you knew it, we packed a tent and set off toward the Norwegian border.
The Bohuslän archipelago in West Sweden is a stunning sight to behold, with over 8,000 islands that resemble a beautiful necklace of pearls scattered across the deep blue sea. It’s a veritable sanctuary for wildlife and a botanical paradise. The shoreline is adorned with charming fishing villages and offers a stunning view of rocky cliffs shaped by the cold Baltic Sea. The landscape is dotted with crimson and ochre wooden houses, which reflect their colors on the glass-like waters below.
Having already been smitten by this place a year before, I was curious to see my Danish boyfriend’s reaction, who never venture to that part of Sweden. The experience left a lasting imprint, and to this day, he reminisces about it with a grin.
Armed with a list of bookmarked locations from my last expedition that I missed, and with my boyfriend serving as our impromptu Google Navigator, we set off on our adventure. Read more to find out where we ended up!
With most places under lockdown, we decided to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors, taking scenic hikes, basking in the glorious weather, and feasting our eyes on the breathtaking views. The areas we visited, usually buzzing with Norwegian boat tourists and Sweds enjoying their summerhouses, were virtually deserted, so we felt like we’d rented out the entire archipelago just for ourselves. We even struck gold with an exclusive deal to stay on the Weather Islands – a stunning sea retreat – but more on that later!
Where to stay
Camping served a dual purpose for us – it was cheap and, at the same time, a perfect way to maintain social distancing during the precarious start of the pandemic. It was a period fraught with uncertainty, fear, and restrictions everywhere. We chose the path of least risk, and thus camping seemed tailor-made for us. We decided on camping grounds this time around for convenience and easier access to facilities. With tourist numbers dwindling and the travel hiatus, it was a breeze to secure a spot. Each place we picked was breathtaking, allowing us to enjoy some of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen.
Our first stop was the imposing Varberg Fortress. I must confess, castles and fortresses draw me in like bees to honey. My boyfriend found this particular fortress intriguing, primarily because Halland was once part of Denmark, and the Danes built a fair chunk of the fortifications in the region.
Regrettably, due to our uninvited travel companion, Ms. Pandemic, we could only admire the fortress’s exterior – the inner area was off-limits.
Wardberg, the mountain upon which the fortress stands, has been a sentinel since medieval times. Beacon fires blazed from its peak as early warning systems against incoming adversaries. Around 1300, a castle sprouted atop the mountain, forming the oldest part of the fortress. Later, it was Danish King Christian IV, who commanded the construction of a fortress to keep those Swedes at bay. Three decades of grueling labor later, in 1618, Varberg Fortress was unveiled. It proudly stood as Europe’s most state-of-the-art defense installation, so intimidating that it deterred any would-be aggressors. In 1645, the Swedes and Danes buried the hatchet in Brömsebro, and Halland, along with Varberg, has been Swedish ever since.
For an even deeper dive into the fortress’s riveting history, feel free to browse this website.
Our next stop was one of the random Google finds – Tjolöholm Castle. Constructed between 1898 and 1904, this remarkable castle exhibits a captivating blend of architectural styles, including 14th-century English, Art Nouveau, and innovative design elements.
Beyond the castle itself, the owners went to great lengths to create an entire village for the workers, complete with a church, assembly hall, and houses. Consequently, the grounds encompass nearly 30 buildings, numerous exquisite gardens, and vast expanses of unspoiled nature. There are so many beautiful paths to walk along on the peninsula! You’ll see all sorts of amazing plants and animals as you wander through the oak forests, beach meadows, barren cliffs, and sandy shores.
While guided tours inside the castle are available, unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic prevented us from partaking in that experience. Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the castle gardens and the surrounding area.
Skulptur i Pilane
During my previous visit to Dyrön, I caught sight of an intriguing view nearby—a colossal head towering atop a hill. Even though I was curious, I didn’t have enough time to explore it. Hence, this time, I seized the perfect opportunity to finally pay it a visit.
Skulptur i Pilane is a sculpture park that is designed in a way that perfectly blends with the natural landscape, so you can either follow the established paths or wander freely through the meadows and hills. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time! From the elevated vantage points, you can bask in the breathtaking panorama of the West Sea and the Bohuslän archipelago. Among the park’s expansive collection, one of the most magnificent sculptures is “Anna” by Jaume Plensa, which has transcended into a symbol of the entire West Coast and now permanently resides in Pilane.
If you would like to see more pictures, check out a detailed post.
Nestled on the Swedish west coast, Smögen is an enchanting little island that transforms into a vibrant “summer town” during the warmer months. The fishing village has a quaint small-town feel and offers a variety of dining options, including restaurants, cafes, and bars. It is famous for its delicious seafood, especially fish, prawns, and other marine treats.
Smögen is such a popular place, and its pier, Smögenbryggan, is one of the reasons why. You’ll definitely fall in love with the colorful fishermen’s houses there and won’t be able to resist taking photos to share on Instagram.
Aside from enjoying the pier and delicious food, Smögen has so much more to offer! If you’re curious about other fun activities to do in the area, check out our separate post on the topic.
When my dear friend urged me to visit Fjällbacka, I had no idea what was in store for me. But boy, am I glad I listened! This hidden gem turned out to be a traveler’s dream, offering the most breathtaking views you can imagine.
But the real magic of Fjällbacka lies beyond its quaint facade. Just off the coast, an awe-inspiring archipelago awaits your exploration. Imagine island hopping, surrounded by pristine waters and stunning landscapes.
Do you want to know more about what you can do there? Check out the dedicated post for more information.
Rock Carvings in Tanum
During our trip, the rock carvings in Tanum pleasantly surprised us, becoming the highlight of our visit. In fact, we were so captivated by them that we now own a replica of a famous carving from the Vitlycke site, known as the “lovers,” on our home wall.
Unbeknownst to us, we embarked on our adventure solely relying on Google’s recommendations for interesting activities nearby. It wasn’t until we arrived at the destination that my boyfriend recognized the carvings from his school history books! They instantly became a captivating highlight, and I couldn’t help but find them immensely amusing—after all, the sight of hundreds of penises etched onto the rocks is undeniably intriguing! Our fascination grew to the point where we enthusiastically ventured to explore every site in the vicinity.
Did you know that the Tanum UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site is truly massive, covering an area of 45 km2? It’s home to an incredible 500 different locations, each containing tens of thousands of amazing images. Four main sites – Fossum, Vitlycke (accompanied by a museum), Aspeberget, and Litsleby – offer free access, complete with informational panels and parking facilities.
Want to know more about the area where rock carvings can be found? Check out the detailed post here.
After a busy half-day of exploring, we made a brief stop in Grebbestad, a town typically bustling with crowds during the warmer months. However, due to the pandemic, the streets appeared deserted, with hardly any people in sight. Grebbestad has gained significant renown as a shellfish paradise thanks to its abundant supply of crabs, prawns, and other delectable shellfish. This reputation has earned Grebbestad the status of a shellfish mecca. Remarkably, Grebbestad’s clean and frigid salt water is responsible for a staggering 90 percent of the country’s oysters, 70 percent of its sea crayfish, and nearly half of its lobsters. Just look at how many fish we spotted in the marina!
Although our time in the town was short-lived, we managed to locate a restaurant that served food, allowing us to fuel up for the next leg of our journey toward Greby graveyard, the largest graveyard in the Bohuslän region.
Over 180 visible graves dot the landscape, yet the actual number is likely much higher. Legend has it that these mounds hold the resting place of Scottish warriors. In 1873, the graves underwent investigation, which dated them back to the Iron Age, approximately around 400-500 A.C. The artifacts discovered during the excavations in 1873 suggest connections with Norway, England, and Germany.
Väderöarna, also known as Weather Islands, proved to be the most delightful and surprising highlight of our journey and totally blew us away. I had read about it on a bunch of blogs before our trip, and everyone was raving about how it’s a must-see destination.
The Weather Islands, an archipelago composed of several hundred islands and rocky islets situated in the Skagerrak are acclaimed for their rugged beauty, often referred to as the most windy yet warmest islands dotting the western coast. The area is well-known for being home to a large seal colony, which is a major point of interest for visitors.
Out of the numerous islands that constitute this archipelago, only one boasts human inhabitants – the caretakers of a charming inn. During a typical summer day, approximately 250 visitors come to the island to enjoy a break and savor a scrumptious meal. However, the pandemic’s influence meant that we found ourselves in an almost exclusive retreat. Aside from us, the island’s tranquillity was only shared by two other couples.
If you’re headed to Väderöarna, get ready for a unique experience of disconnecting and immersing yourself in the surroundings. Curious about what the island has to offer when you’re offline? Check out our dedicated post for more information.