This year´s October trip took us to the south of Sweden. Why did we chose to go there in October? Because Lu has two weeks of autumn vacation at his German school at the time. And why Sweden? Because we found a cheap ferry ticket from Rostock, Germany, and because wild camping is allowed there. Just right for our Defender, which we converted into a camper alittle over two years ago. We didn’t have an exact itinerary, but in the end I think we managed to experience the best of the southern part of the country, camp at a couple of really great spots, admire countless lakes, red wooden houses hidden among fragrant pine forests, chill at beautiful archipelagos and check out a few modern cities. All this and more completely without tourists, we were alone almost everywhere. Sure, it was a bit colder and windier, but we enjoyed the beautiful nature in complete peace and quiet. Spontaneously, we chose to drive up the west coast from Trelleborg, to the last major town before the Norwegian border, crossed via Jönkoping to the east coast, to Kalmar, and slowly descended back to Trelleborg. A great circle route with something for everyone´s taste. Read more about what you can see and experience in this part of Sweden, and a little more about our wild camping in this new blog post. With extra lots of photos for those who lack time to read it all.
Places: Trellebrog, Malmo, Lund, Helsingborg, Göteborg, Tjörn, Smögen, Fjällbacka, Strömstad, NP Kosterhavets, Jönkoping, Glasrikets, Kalmar, Karlskrona, Blekinge arhipelag, NP Stenshuvud, Sandhammaren, Marsvinsholm, Ystad
How: our LR Defender
Stayed it: wild camping, rented cottages, hotel
So, we started and ended our circular trip through southern Sweden in the town of Trelleborg, which we left quite quickly after disembarking the ferry, so we took a quick walk around the center the evening before leaving for home at the end of the trip. Nice place, if you board the ferry like us here, make sure to at least walk around the pedestrian zone in the center, otherwise I don’t think there will be anything wrong if you skip the visit. Not far away is the beautiful beach and town of SKANÖR, which is a good option in the summer, I suppose.Because we arrived in the afternoon, we drove about 45 minutes and stopped at a beautiful lake to spend our first night.
MALMÖ, LUND & HELSINGBORG, Sweden
We came to Sweden this time primarily because of nature and camping, so we knew from the beginning that we would generally avoid larger cities. The first days we also had quite whimsical weather, so we skipped a visit to Sweden’s third largest city MALMÖ. Otherwise, this ultra-modern city, which is connected to the Danish capital COPENHAGEN by the Øresund bridge, is certainly interesting to visit. The nearby smaller towns of LUND and HELSINGBORG will also have to wait for us untill next time. Both must also be great stops in this part of the country, especially on warm summer days.
GOTHENBURG IS THE SECOND LARGEST SWEDISH CITY, just after the capital Stockholm, and together with the surrounding area it has a population of around one million. True, we avoided bigger cities during the trip, but after a series of events we slept in Gothenburg once afterall. We didn´t see much from this known university city, but still enough to get a first impression about its size and maritime flair. There are also a lot of good restaurants here, unfortunately this time was not the right time for culinary pampering of this kind. We´ll just have to come back one day. The main attractions in Gothenburg include the MUSEUM OF ART, MARITIME MUSEUM and others, BOTANICAL GARDENS, PARK SLOTTSSKOGEN and TRADGARDSFORENINGEN, HAGA NEIGHBOURHOOD, ENTERTAINMENT PARK LISEBERG, FESKEKORNE MARKET, the OPERA and some other important buildings.
Near Gothenburg, nature lovers can also stop and explore the MOVS HALLAR NATURE RESERVE and the beautiful KULLABERG peninsula. If you spend several days in the city, you can of course make day trips to the nearby ARCHIPELAGO, whixh is especially an awesome place to be in the summer.
SVARTEDALEN NATURE RESERVE, Sweden
One of the largest NATURE FOREST AREAS in western Sweden is wonderful for all lovers of HIKING (especially the famous BOHUS TRAIL trail), SWIMMING IN THE LAKES, FISHING and CAMPING. We also found a wonderful quiet place by the lake here for one night.
TJÖRN ISLAND, Sweden
The island of TJÖRN is the sixth largest island in Sweden, but it is still easily explored by car in a short ammount of time and is suitable also for daily visity. As it lies quite close to the town of GÖTEBORG, it is a very popular excursion point on the archipelago among the locals, especially of course on sunny weekends. The rural landscape in the interior and the rocky coast, dotted with typical red wooden houses will certainly charm you, especially if you arrive to this part of the country from the south. In addition to the beautiful natural landscape, do not miss the largest and capital city on the island, SKARHAMN.
Aww Smögen, I still dream of these fairytale-like cottages! Perhaps the biggest tourist magnet on the entire West Coast of Sweden was a real treat on this sunny October week day. Again no one anywhere and it seemed to us that we had the whole city almost to ourselves. And although my expectations were quite high, it was love at first sight as soon as we pulled over at the empty parking lot in front of the bridge and looked over towards this beautiful town.
Smögen is best known for its picturesque LONG WOODEN WALKWAY, with a row of colorful wooden HOUSES OF FISHERMEN in which boutiques, restaurants and bars are located today. It is also known for its good SEAFOOD RESTAURANTS, and there is also an interesting fish market. In the summer months, many events such as concertst and other outoor activities are happening here too, besides, it is also quite popular to take a BOAT CRUISE in the bay.
In addition to SMÖGENBRYGGAN and the Smögen bridge, the largest attractions are also the SANDÖNS NATURRESERVAT nature reserve, located north of the city, and it is also interesting to visit FRILUFTSLED KLEVEN, in the south.
TANUM ROCK PAINTINGS, Sweden
All history lovers who wander in thiese parts of Sweden should also visit the ancient ROCK PAINTINGS, which are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There you can see depictions of people and animals, chadis and other objects depicting the life and beliefs of people living in this area in the Bronze Age.
This popular SUMMER RESORT awaited us in the morning sun and a rather sleepy atmosphere. There is really not much going on over here in the middle of October, but this also has its charms and it felt very pleasantly calm and authentic. Fjällbacka is also known as the birthplace of the popular writer of crime novels Camilla Läckberg, who often places the central events in the vicinity of Fjällbacka in her books.
Otherwise, above the picturesque fishing town rises a beautiful rocky hilly area VETTEBERGET with the famous, over 200m long and a few meters deep ROCK CRACK with wedged boulders called KUNGSKLYFTAN and also known as Ramneklovan. The area is protected as a natural monument and is also known as the setting for the film Ronja, the Robber´s Daughter based on a book by Astrid Lindgren. For beautiful views of Fjällbacka and the surrounding islands, just climb the rocky path that leads past the Ingrid Bergman monument to a wooden staircase which leads to the CRACK and onwards to the VIEWPOINT.
NATIONAL PARK KOSTERHAVETS, Sweden
The first Swedish MARINE NATIONAL PARK, located very close to the Norwegian border, really impressed despite the fact our expectations were high. In total, about 1,200 animal species are found in these waters, and most of the unique rare species in the national park are located in an underwater fjord that is connected to the Atlantic ocean waters. Beautiful landscape and countless rocky islands, charming fishing villages, patches of fragrant pine trees, the largest COLONY OF SEALS in Sweden and much more can be seen over here. Luckily we had beautiful sunny weather, but unfortunately there was still too much wind to RENT KAYAKS, which is probably the best thing to experience here.
The national park has 4 OFFICIAL ENTRY POINTS, one in the town of STRÖMSTAD from where boat trips are organized, the other one on the island of SALTÖ, where you can explore an interesting underwater natural snorkel trail, the third one on the island of ROSSÖ and the fourth on the island of RESÖ. By car we visited the islands of DAFTÖ, ÖDDÖ, TJÄRNÖ, SALTÖ, ROSSÖ and RESÖ, which are connected to the mainland by free bridges. Of the more remote islands reached by ferries and ships, the largest are SYDKOSTER and NORDKOSTER, which are surrounded by a number of smaller, sheltered islands.
One of the main ACTIVITIES you can do in Kosterhavets National Park and the surrounding islands include a BOAT TRIP from Selin Charters, which starts from Strömstad, HIKING, as there are many beautiful (and well marked) hiking trails on the islands, CAMPING, in the summer of course also SWIMMING and enjoying the beaches, DIVING, SNORKLING, KAYAKING and CANOEING between the smaller islands of the national park such as BURHOLMEN, ARHOLMEN, TJÄLLESKÄR and ARCHIPELAGO STORA SOCKNA, also RUNDHOLMEN, URUNHHOLMEN, URUNHHOLHENMEN and URUNEGHOLHENM. Special boat trips with lobster fishermen are also possible, on several islands they offer t.i. LOBSTER SAFARI.
Strömstad, located about a 2 hour drive north of Gothenburg, is another good starting point for exploring the KOSTERHAVETS National Park. It is a pleasant slightly larger town with a typical fishing character in the old center, but it still does not have many typical tourist attractions. The most popular are BOAT TRIPS to the islands of the national park. We took advantage of the short stop to visit the shops in the center of NORDBY and walk around the city. For those who travel with children and like to visit amusement parks, DÄFTOLAND looks like a lot of fun.
Since overnight stays in cities are always a challenge when we want to camp in the wild, and hotels or apartments in cities are usually more expensive than anywhere else, we drove further north, just under 20km away from the border with NORWAY, and stopped at HÄLLESTRAND. This is supposed to be a popular summer resort, but in October it was all completely deserted. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on a secluded beach, did some unsuccessful fishing frmo the pier and had a pleasand walk around.
So we found ourselves at the end of the Swedish west coast and decided to make our way over to the east coast from here. Since we didn’t want to hurry too much, we concluded it didn´t make much sense to drive more north of KALMAR this time. And in order not to spend the whole day in the car, we stopped in the city of JÖNKOPING, about halfway. With a touch of Scandinavian modernity and charms of LAKE VÄTTERN, which is the SECOND LARGEST LAKE IN SWEDEN and the sixth largest lake in Europe, the city surprised us in a positive way. Well, it certainly helped that we had a gorgeous sunny day again.
It was getting dar around 6pm in the time of our trip so we usually started looking for a suitable place for wild camping no later than around 4 o’clock. This time we were extra early and were able to enjoy this amazing landscape with countless lakes in a larger forest area just about half an hour driving south from Jönkoping. We also had absolutely no wind that day, with clear skies and mild temperatures it was the perfect camping conditions.
Yup, the interior of the country is really great for wild camping. Let me remind you that under certain conditions, this form of camping is completely allowed in Sweden. Countless lakes and pine forests, often well-kept places for BBQ and wooden piers from which it is certainly great to jump into the lakes for a refreshing swim in the summer months. This time, of course, it was too cold for such adventures. We were mostly the only ones with foreign car plates, we only met friendly Swedes who came for afternoon hikes.
Level terrain in the hinterland of pine trees, right next to a small lake, a wooden pier just for us, and facing the right side to enjoy the sunset. Could there be anything better when you are camping? I admit, if it was a degree or two warmer, it wouldn´t hurt but hey, it´s October. We did some fishing as well. Quite unsuccessful this time, but nevermind, Lu was hapy to try it out again. FISHING IN SWEDEN WITHOUT A PERMIT is allowed anywhere in the sea and in the five largest lakes – Vänern, Vättern, Hjälmaren, Mälaren and Storsjön. For all other lakes and rivers, the instructions, which are clearly marked on the signs by the lakes or along the roads leading to them, must be followed. It is usually the best to buy permits through the iFISKE app.
Our evenings mostly looked like this. Mila all wrapped up in the stroller and the three of us on chairs by the campfire, with a game of chess or onther board game, a glass of wine and a simple dinner. We usually ate a pre-made salad with couscous or quinoa during the day, and something warm in the evening to keep us warm before bedtime. We also had rainy and windy evenings, which surely didn´t look as romantic as this picture. At that time, we ate our dinners under the awning and quickly hid in our rooftop tent or car.
The next day we continued our way to the town of KALMAR on the east coast, and stopped in the most famous GLASS MAKING DISTRICT in Sweden, GLASRIKETS, which translates into “the kingdom of crystals”. The history of the area dates back to the 18th century, when the famous Kosta Glasbruk (also known as KOSTA BODA) started blowing glass here, and to this day over 12 ATELIERS, where you can watch the glassmaking activity in live, have been preserved.
In the MEDIEVAL TOWN of Kalmar, which is built on several islands and connects the nearby island of Øland with a bridge, we basically only wanted to see the famous CASTLE. The construction of the latter dates back to the 12th century, and it got its beautiful Renaissance look 4 centuries later. You can join guided tours, see different EXHIBITIONS and treat yourself at the CASTLE RESTAURANT.
Otherwise, you can see so much more in the city. Among other things, many HISTORICAL BUILDINGS standing on the city island of KVARNHOLMEN, where a couple of centuries ago the so-called new town was founded. This is a unique neighborhood with old city walls which is home to the city’s CATHEDRAL and many MUSEUMS. For all dinosaur lovers, there is a spectacular museum A WORLD OF DINOSAURS, where you can see about 200 skeletons and fossils, and with the help of animatronics, some of the dinosaurs “come to life” with movement and sounds. This is also the largest museum or exhibition of its kind in Europe and it is located on the outskirts of Kalmar.
OLAND ISLAND, Sweden
We initially planned to spend a couple of nights on this interesting SECOND LARGEST SWEDISH ISLAND, but then we completely skipped visiting it due to worse weather and strong winds. The island is connected to the town of KALMAR by a 6km long bridge, which geographically brings you to the middle of the island. As the island is extremely narrow and long (around 150km), this is a great starting point for exploring. Oland is famous as the ROYAL SUMMER RESIDENCE, it also has 75 NATURE RESERVES, dramatic CLIFFS and long BEACHES, many CASTLES and WINDMILLS (about 350 of which have been preserved to this day). It is a place of many good restaurants serving local delicacies and is also ideal for CYCLING and HIKING lovers.
STALEMARA GARD horse farm, Sweden
So, instead of going to the island, we drove a little further south and accidentally found a good place to stay at a lovely HORSE FARM, where we ended up spending three nights. One day we made a trip to the nearby town of KARLSKRONA, more about the latter below, the next day we enjoyed walks around the surrounding area and Lu also tried HORSE RIDING for the very first time which was awesome.
This was a great experience also because we spent a couple of days in the company of a friendly Swedish family and immersed ourselves in their world.It was also a good contrast to our otherwise lonely camping days. Since Swedes generally speak good English, communication was of course not a problem, I can also add that all the Swedes we were in contact with throughout this journey seemed very friendly and hospitable.
As already mentioned, we visited the town of KARLSKRONA, which as the only baroque town in Sweden at the same time hosts the only SWEDISH MARITIME BASE and is also the HEADQUARTERS OF THE SWEDISH COAST GUARD. This pleasant town, which lies on several islands, is also an ideal starting point for exploring the BLEKINGE ARCHIPELAGO. We also took a look at the city CATHEDRAL, MARITIME MUSEUM and some mights FORTS and LIGHTHOUSES closeby, we wlked around the peestrian zone in teh center and drove over to the beautiful smaller islands of SALTÖ and DRAGSÖ, which host great camp sites and lovely beaches.
BLEKINGE ARCHIPELAGO, Sweden
If you visit this parts of Sweden in the summer months, you should not miss a visit to the beautiful ARCHIPELAGO in the immediate vicinity of the city of KARLSKRONA. If time is of the essence, you can take a BOAT TRIP which takes you around the most scenic areas (starting point for excursions in Karlskrona is FISKTORGET), otherwise you can also sleep over on many islands, rent kayaks, observe seals, explore caves and enjoy walking paths through the woods and along the picturesque shores. The most famous tourist islands are ASPÖ, HANÖ, KARÖN, TJÄRÖ and UTKLIPPAN. Due to strong winds and low temperatures we admires the islands from the shore and skipped the boat trip, so we´ll do that some other time.
STENSHUVUDS NATIONAL PARK, Sweden
We still had a few more days before our ferry back home so we stopped at the STENSHUVUDS NATIONAL PARK on our way south. The park includes a larger wooded area, seaside dunes, meadows, a rocky shore and the highest peak, Stenshuvud mountain. During our walk we also came across a large number of cows and other livestock, but otherwise the park is famous for its exceptional biotopes and diverse flora and fauna.
There are a couple of entrances to the park, but we chose the MAIN ENTRANCE, where there is a larger parking lot and NATURUM VISITORS CENTER. From here you have several CIRCULAR HIKING TRAILS, all of which are nicely marked on information boards, with different colors. We chose a medium length and walked through the lush forest dressed in autumn colors to the beautiful sandy beach, saw the fishing houses along the way and returned to the parking lot through another part of the forest.
The infinitely long white sandy beach of Sandhammaren has been repeatedly voted the MOST BEAUTIFUL SWEDISH BEACH, so we simply had to stop here as well. The walk between the dunes overgrown with typical tall grass on one side and the wavy BALTIC SEA on the other certainly did not disappoint us.
There are more accesses to this beach, but since there was nobody around anyway we easily parked at the main PARKING LOT, near the LIGHTHOUSE. From here it is a really short walk to the beach on a WOODEN WALKWAY with designated benches and rest areas. In summer, of course, this is an ideal place for sunbathing, resting and also SWIMMING – just be very careful, because the sea currents are extremely strong. There are lots of signs reminding visitors of this dnger.
A good hour or two went by too fast, but we got another good dose of fresh air and even some sun rays. Since Lu is no longer the most enthusiastic about aimless walks on the beach, we also had a frisbee and a small ball ready for him – both of which proved to be very practical gadgets throughout the trip.
MARVSINSHOLM CASTLE, Sweden
Near the town of YSTAD, in the idyllic countryside, you can see the beautiful MARSVINSHOLM CASTLE. Since it is privately owned, you can only see it from the outside based on what I read, but for those who love castles it is still worth this very short detour from the main road.
ALES STENAR, Sweden
Before leaving home, we had to visit one of the biggest tourist attractions in southern Sweden, ALES STENAR. I heard about this special place years ago and my first association was that this could also be a Slovenian male name, Aleš Stenar. Well, of course this here is something completely different. The name stands for an 67m long ancient, about 1400 years old, MEGALITHIC MONUMENT, with 59 several tons heavy boulders, which are arranged in an oval shape that outlines a form of a ship. It is located near the seaside village of KASEBERGA, on top of a spectacular cliff and it really is a fantastic place.
There are some theories about the purpose of this unique monument, but the most likely is the one that says it is the SOLAR CALENDAR, as the megaliths are aligned along the sunset at the summer solstice, and the monument could also be used to observe moon cycles. Definitely a very special place, which must be beautiful at sunrise or sunset – we were too late or too early for such a experience, but we had the place almost just to ourselves.
YSTAD & TRELLEBORG, Sweden
Maybe the city of YSTAD would deserve a little more attention from us, but we were really more drawn to nature than to the cities and didn´t have enough time for everything. But at least we drove through the center which looked pretty charming. From Ystad there are also various FERRY CONNECTIONS with Poland, Germany and other countries so it might also be a good starting point for a Swedish road trip.
After a good 1500km we finished our trip in the same city as we started and spent our last night in a hotel right next to the PORT OF TRELLEBORG. The port is really big by the way with a whole bunch of ferry connections. Since the CITY CENTER with its pedestrian zone, restaurants, shops, museums and the most beautiful buildings is located right next to the port, we took a leisurely walk through the streets before going for a yummy dinner in a restaurant without wearing masks for one last time. The Swedes are currently still facing rather mild measures against the pandemic, but we will not talk about what is right and what is not. A bit of normalcy definitely felt good, I have to admit.
The next morning we had an early departure with our ferry leaving at 8 in the morning, and we had to do the check in at least an hour earlier. 6 hours later we arrived in Rostock, Germany, from where we drove back to our (now already former) German home. As I write this, we have already officially moved back to Slovenia. At the end of this trip, I can conclude that such an October road trip around Sweden is a great thing as long as you are aware of the colder and windiew weather. Did we get cold sometimes? Yes of course. Are the day rather short in this time of year? Yup, also true. Is there anything for the kids at all, or are they bored? Well, Mila really doesn’t care where she is as long as the parents are around and as for Lu there was also a whole bunch of (new) activities which occupied him. Who knows, we might repeat a similar trip to the north next October.