Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe in terms of land area, and a 10th of that is national parks and reserves. All of which makes it easy to see why the Swedes live so close to nature. This tour is all about experiencing the country as its people do, and it ends in the Stockholm archipelago, with plenty of nature to take in along the way.
Start the day by biking around Sweden’s second largest city and along the Bohuslän coast. There are many routes to try, from Änggårdsbergen Nature Reserve, a short walk from Gothenburg city centre, to the 390km Kattegattleden trail, Sweden’s national tourist bicycle route.
Gothenburg is Sweden’s culinary capital, with the best shellfish in the country. This is because the North Atlantic’s cold, clean waters create the perfect ecosystem for maturing shellfish, which gives them a fuller flavour.
Running since 1874, the historic Feskekörka seafood market, aka the Fish Church, gets its name because of its former occupation. Here you can grab a fish stew at Restaurang Gabriel, or, if you come for dinner, tuck into a shellfish platter at Sjömagasinet.
Pick up a rental car and visit picturesque fishing villages and communities along the Bohuslän coast, on your way to Kosterhavet Marine National Park. Hop on a shellfish safari in search of the region’s own Big Five – crayfish, lobsters, prawns, oysters and mussels.
Then head inwards to Ljungskile to farm for mussels, and learn to cook them properly at a restaurant that specialises in mussels: Musselbaren. At the seaside village of Smögen, known for its vivid red, yellow and blue fishermen’s cabins, hop aboard a fishing trawler and pull crayfish and langoustines from the depths.
With its postcard-pretty red wooden cottages, Lysekil is a popular waterfront stop. Swing by the village of Fjällbacka made famous by Swedish crime writer Camilla Läckberg. And you mustn’t skip Sweden’s best oysters, which are to be had in Grebbestad, home to the annual Nordic Oyster Shucking Championships.
If you overnight in Strömstad, you can take amorning ferry to the Koster islands.
Sweden’s first marine national park is home to more than 12,000 underwater species of marine life. Spend the day exploring Kosterhavet Marine National Park, then go island-hopping, sea kayaking or hiking around the rocky coastal beaches of North and South Koster islands, both of which are car-free. For history buffs, there’s a local heritage museum at Långegärde where you can learn all about the background of the islands.
From here, head back to Strömstad and pick up a rental car for a drive east to Dalsland. This place has a brilliant back-to-nature vibe and you’ll really get the feel for it at the innovative 72-hour glass cabin.
Truly reconnect with nature in the backcountry region of Dalsland, which borders Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. You can hike a tiny section of the Pilgrim Path in north Dalsland, which goes all the way to Trondheim in northern Norway.
Make sure you spend time enjoying the Dalsland Canal, one of Europe’s most beautiful waterways, where natural lakes are linked by locks and small waterways.In Upperud you’ll find plenty of places where you can tuck into locally sourced specialties. The beautifully calm lakes provide ample watersports opportunities, as well as the chance to go fishing, canoeing or paddling.
If you want to experience the animal life up close, you can visit Dalslands Moose Ranch, or wind down by practising forest bathing amid lush pine forests. Sunset is best enjoyed over the mirror-still lake – you can see it from your floor-to-ceiling glass cabin – and there are plenty of spots to try your own outdoor barbecue.
Inching eastwards will bring you to one of Sweden’s 30 national parks, Tiveden, which is halfway between Gothenburg and Stockholm. Tiveden National Park consists of dense forests and huge boulders – such as the 10m Junker Jägeres stone – that date back to the Ice Age.
Climb up into the treetops on one of Sweden’s most scenic high-rope courses, then explore the nearby caves, Stenkälla and Vitsands grotterna. If you’re a fan of horse-riding, there’s a 400km trail in Tiveden that you can pick up for a morning or an afternoon.
Next up is a trip to the Göta Canal to indulge in an Edible Country experience at Norrqvarn. With Sweden’s Allemansrätten law – which encourages foraging for wild berries and mushrooms and eating directly from nature – you can experience your own do-it-yourself fine dining with a local guide and chef.
When it comes to back-to-nature options for the night, take your pick from an old mill, a magic tree stump or a toadstool at Norrqvarn.
Leave bright and early for your four-hour drive to Stockholm. The Swedish capital, spread across 14 islands – with 30,000 more, as well as skerries and islets, in its archipelago – has to be one of the most photogenic cities on the planet, and there’s a wealth of ways to enjoy your time here.
For the active traveller, you can spend days kayaking, swimming, biking and hiking around the city itself, and don’t miss out on the daily Swedish ritual of fika – drinking coffee and eating cinnamon buns – in cafés dotted all over town.
And if it’s culture you’re after, the Kungliga Djurgården, or Royal Game Park, is where you’ll find the city’s historical museums and palaces, as well as flower gardens and lush green parks to stroll around. Grab a bike from Stockholm City Bikes for a leisurely waterfront ride, and make sure you swing by Vasamuseet to see the Vasa warship, built in 1628, and Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum.
For sustainable, organic fare in an atmospheric greenhouse, look no further than Rosendals trädgård, where you can grab lunch in the lush surroundings of gardens and an orchard.
You’ll be spoilt for innovative dinner choices in Stockholm, but top of the list for the plant-focused diner is Fotografiska, which serves meat and fish as side dishes. A quirky option for your overnight stay is a docked boat hotel.
On your last day, head off for a taste of archipelago living – either on Fjäderholmarna, Grinda, Värmdö, Sandön (home to Sandhamn), Finnhamn or Möja, to name a few. There’s a fun three-hour round trip to Vaxholm on the 1900s steamboat Stromma brunch cruise, and make sure you lunch on traditional Swedish soul food, husmanskost, consisting of meatballs, pickled herring and cured salmon.
Fjäderholmarna, the Feather Islands, are a great place to spend your final hours in Sweden. Take a ferry ride from Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan, to this tiny island, where you can dig into smoked prawns and fried herring, swim in the Baltic Sea, or bask in the sun on the rocky cliffs. It’s only 20 minutes by ferry, but it feels a whole world away from the capital, and is a great place to really immerse yourself in the Swedish way of life – close to nature. It’ll leave you wanting to come back for more.
Sweden’s laid-back lifestyle lets you live the good life, and a trip offers the ideal opportunity to relax and unwind in nature. Visit visitsweden.com to find out more about planning your trip to Sweden