Welcome to the wild west… of Sweden! Land of car-less islands, tide-free sea kayaking and hardcore, three-day races. Plus quite a lot of coffee breaks…
WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND when you think of Sweden? Lakes? Furniture? Crime stories? Shame
on you! West Sweden is a unique landscape of pink granite and 8000 islands, with serious adventure
by land and sea. OK, there’s crime fiction there too, but more of that later.
OAG likes to discover adventuring in new places and West Sweden doesn’t appear on too many Brits’ radar. Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city and sits on the west coast, facing the northern tip of Denmark.
It’s a mere two hours flight time from the UK and the gateway to a coastline of real beauty. Head north up the Bohuslän coast and your summer days can last 20 hours, so be prepared to play hard.
Crime and crayfish
Idyllic fishing villages await you | Will Robson
We promised crime and if you read Camilla Läckberg’s murder mysteries (and millions do) then you’ll want to stop by the small fishing port of Fjällbacka, where her stories are set. Her mum lives by the harbour and often says hello to gawping tourists.
Culture done you can take a high-speed RIB out to the Weather Islands on a crayfish safari. They’re tricky to find but if you love seafood these cold, clear waters produce some of the world’s best. The 365 islands here are named after the warm but windy weather, and a hike or kayak around shows how conditions created the stark but smooth granite outcrops; often they have a seal or two basking on them.
You can see why the likes of actress Ingrid Bergman made Fjällbacka her summer holiday destination. It’s very pretty and full of great places to eat such as the harbour side Bryggan restaurant.
The Koster living
Koster Island is car free so bike is the best way to get about | Will Robson
Further north up the Bohuslän coast and you should hop aboard the Selin Charter ferry to the Koster Islands. If the Weather Islands are a little windswept, the Kosters are comparatively lush and teeming with nature. They’re also car-free, so perfect for bicycle touring.
The two islands of Nordkoster and Sydkoster are Sweden’s first national marine park and a ride around the gently undulating terrain is the best way to see it, not forgetting to stop off for the legendary Swedish equivalent of teatime, called ‘fika’ (coffee and cake). It seems to be fika time quite a lot in Sweden – not a bad thing!
The Icebug Xperience
Competitors taking part in the 66km race on the West Coast Rock Trail |Photo Jonas Jîrnberg
If all this talk of fika and crayfish safaris sounds too genteel, West Sweden’s Icebug Xperience could be seen as over-compensating. It’s a gruelling three-day 66km stage race along the West Coast Rock Trail, set up by local trainer brand Icebug. The hardcore athletes run it but others happily hike.
The legendary granite coastline makes for an unbelievably punishing trail at times, but it’s hard to complain amidst such beautiful scenery, or waiting for the ferry to take you across to yet another perfectly formed island.
Sea kayaking in Lysekil
Learn to kayak in Lysekil | Pete Coombs
A few winding miles south along the coast from Smögen is Lysekil, one of the best places in West Sweden to sea kayak. Super-cool Torbjörn and Kathrine run Nautopp sea kayaking and can teach you the basics or take you on multi-day trips, camping on the many granite islands off the coast.
There are no tides or strong currents, just the odd curious seal, and although the wind gets up at times, the guides will have you in the right sort of kayak and on a trip that suits your abilities.
Smögen and snow leopards
Untouched beauty on Sweden’s west coast | Will Robson
The 16th century port of Smögen, near the finish of the Icebug Xperience, is decidedly smart and manicured. With boutiques along its boulevard, it’s aimed squarely at people in striped jerseys and deck shoes who’ve stepped off their yacht at the quay. But if you’ve done even one of the Icebug stages it may prove the perfect break from vigorous exercise. It’s not all about consumerism in West Sweden.
Up the road from Smögen is a wildlife park with a difference. Nordens Ark is a non-profit foundation that specialises in protecting endangered species. It has breeding programmes and organises the reintroduction of snow leopards, wolverines, tigers and other animals, all over the world. Walking through a mesh tunnel in the snow leopard enclosure, with said beastie lying inches above your head looking hungry, is an experience not to be missed. They even allow people to stay there and help with the animals.
Direct flights take two hours. BA and SAS fly into Gothenburg from Heathrow , prices start around £120 return. Ryanair flies to Gothenburg from Stansted – prices start around £50 return.
West Sweden’s tourist information is pretty swept up – as you might expect. Details and links on activities and accommodation are on its website: with links through to individual companies’ websites. Very handy
Hotel & B&B
• On Sydkoster the Hotel Koster is around £85 a night
• In Fjällbacke you can treat yourself to a night at the Bryggan for £114 for a double room.
• Camping in the national reserve is only possible at Reservatet Nordkoster. £15 a night ∗
• In Fjällbacke you can camp at Åsleröd for £11 a night