Wild camping in Sweden
A guest contribution by Regine Glass
The summer in Sweden is rather short at 100 days, but intense and beautiful. If you really want to experience red Swedish houses, flora and fauna, the country and its people, you should not only stop in the major cities of Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg, which are well worth seeing, but also go out into the vastness of the almost 550.000 square meter country with only 10 million inhabitants. Bright nights, swimming in forest lakes, picking blueberries - and why not a hiking trip to a mountainous nature reserve? Together with my partner, I embarked on an adventurous journey to one of the filming locations for the film adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's book "Ronja the Robber's Daughter", the Sörknatten nature reserve in Dalsland.
Arrival from Gothenburg or Åmål
Getting to the Dalsland region is possible by car, train and bicycle, or by canoe via the Dalsland Canal. The West Coast Foundation recommends that if you travel without your own bike Dalsland Experience to contact, where bicycles can be rented and guided tours can be booked. If you travel to the metropolis of Gothenburg by ferry, train, car, bus or plane from Germany, the best thing to do is take a two-hour train journey to Åmål, from there the journey to the next camp site at Sörknatten nature reserve is only about 1,5 by bike For hours. The complete journey from Gothenburg by bike would take around 9 to 10 hours. In any case, driving a car is an adventurous way through the overgrown country roads, sees sheep and cows grazing, drives past the purple lupines, which are very typical of Sweden.
Stay overnight for free or very cheaply thanks to Swedish “Everyman’s Right”
Of course it is also possible to rent a cabin, called stuga in Swedish, in Dalsland. If you like it more adventurous and cheaper, you have two other options: On the one hand, you can set out with tent equipment and from the Swedish "Everyman's right’ – a law that says you can stay one night at a time on private property. Pitching a tent and picking berries, mushrooms and flowers is allowed. If you would rather have a wooden roof over your head, but have a small budget and a great sense of adventure, there is another option that I tested for Good Travel: Buying a card for 60 SEK per person per night (equivalent to 6 euros). about XNUMX euros) you can at all, on the so-called nature care card excellent campsites. The camp sites sometimes consist of a warehouse with a door, sometimes a simple four-wall wind shelter with a roof. They are made available by a non-profit association made up of municipalities, canoe rental companies and landowners on the Dalsland Canal, called Dalslandsnordmarken (Dano). However, you cannot reserve a specific seat with the card. If you absolutely do not want to share your accommodation with other paddlers and travelers on the Dalsland Canal, you must bring your own tent. Children under the age of 12 stay free of charge.
Arriving by bike or boat is recommended: At the entrance to our desired camp, in Östersbyen by a clear lake called Ärr near the Sörknatten nature reserve, we were greeted by a barrier. Now it was time to leave the car behind and carry provisions piggyback on a short walk in the forest along the bank. It could have been avoided by bicycle.
In any case, if your luggage is not too heavy, you should have enough water and provisions, because restaurants and supermarkets are kilometers away in the middle of the Swedish nature. But you are undisturbed, all to yourself - and despite the usually very good network connection, the Swedish, deserted country is ideal for an online-free time. After a short walk we reached the wooden shed that was supposed to protect us at night. It was equipped with a fire pit and several benches and tables, in a beautiful location directly overlooking the lake. The hostel itself consists of simple wooden slats on which you can sleep well with a sleeping pad and sleeping bag, and the late, intense pink sunsets of the midnight sun on the lake can be viewed through a window.
Relaxation on the "Big Beach" while swimming in the Ärr Lake and around the campfire
After you've worked up a sweat after a tour in the car, train or bike, a cool bath will do you good. We left our backpacks and provisions in the camp, which is even equipped with an eco-toilet, a composting toilet that is common in Sweden. Then it's off to the cool forest lake, where temperatures in summer are around 19 degrees. After cooling off, a warm snack is good – we prepare vegetarian Köttbullar, soy meatballs and vegan chorizo at the fireplace. Served with classic Swedish potato salad with dill, as the trip coincided with Midsommar, the celebration of the summer solstice. If you like it even more original, you will also find prepared firewood at the camp site and can grill sausages or stick bread with branches. When the sun just won't go down, you don't want to go to sleep. After waking up, you can swim in the lake again before continuing to the Sörknatten nature reserve.
Second stop: In the footsteps of Ronja in Sörknatten-Baståsen
The Swedish author Astrid Lindgren has sparked interest in the largest country in the north of Germany. But not only did many people grow up with the books, the films in particular have shaped the image of Sweden internationally. One of the most beautiful films for the summer is the story of the wild Ronja, the robber's daughter. It is about the daughter of a robber captain who lives with him and her family in a robber's castle in the "Mattiswald" - at least until she becomes friends with the son of the enemy Borka family, Birk Borkasohn. The two children then move out of the castle of their quarreling parents into a cave in the forest. There is no such thing as a robber's fortress or a Mattiswald - and yet you can follow in Ronja's footsteps in western Sweden. The film was partly shot in the Sörknatten nature reserve in the Swedish countryside of Dalsland, near the Norwegian border. And a trip there is worthwhile, not only for Astrid Lindgren fans, but above all for outdoor and hiking fans!
The mountains in Sörknatten are not particularly high at up to 142 meters above sea level, but the barren rocky landscape, which is unique in Sweden, is still a real insider tip, despite its famous use. The valley with mysterious gorges and paths, with colorful field flowers blooming along the wayside, and from whose highest mountain you can see blue lakes and on the horizon Sweden's largest lake, Vänern, as a sea can already be guessed, is ideal for a day trip that you can be combined with a holiday in beautiful Dalsland. She's a total of about 6 kilometers long. Despite its short length, the hike is not recommended for the absolutely untrained, because instead of straight paths, it leads over partly steep, smooth stones and unpaved paths. Sturdy shoes are therefore a must. However, once you get to the top, the view is beautiful, whether you've seen the film or not. The filming locations are not immediately recognizable at first glance, but those who remember well will discover the spot where Ronja reconciles with her father. On the horizon, above the mountains, a blue, sea-like line appears, which turns out to be Lake Vänern. The lake, which is over 5.500 square kilometers in size, is not only the largest lake in Sweden, but also the largest in the European Union and in Western Europe.
At the summit it is fika time, the Swedish way of drinking coffee with cinnamon rolls and/or bread you have brought with you. In addition to coffee and provisions, you should take enough water with you for the approximately four-hour hike, and ideally, as is customary in Sweden, a seat pad. The paths into the nature reserve are well signposted, but if you stray from the path, the Swedish wilderness can surprise you with a real adventure: swarmed by mosquitoes, we discover a large skull and a bone, which are believed to be from a moose. With a height of almost two meters, the moose is the largest animal in Sweden, has no natural enemies, so there are 240.000 to 360.000 animals in summer. So it doesn't take that much luck to come across Sweden's most famous animal alive. And yet on our tour we do not see a live moose, but a wild boar from which we respectfully distance ourselves, cranes which we admire and mosquitoes which we protect ourselves against with natural lemon mosquito oil.
Third stop: Fantastic chill oasis at Fengersfors campsite
You cannot stay overnight in the Sörknatten nature reserve itself, so after the hike we continued to a wind shelter that belongs to Dalsland Nordmark. Picturesquely located on a lake in Fengersfors, where some German holidaymakers had already made themselves comfortable. One of them is Verena Mehlfeld. Although the Munich native sleeps in a tent on top of her car, she is very impressed by the Scandinavian invention of wind huts. “I would definitely stay in there too. It's a great invention and reminds me a bit of the shelters we have in Bavaria. However, you cannot stay overnight in it. I'm definitely happy to pay the money for a camp like this!” Germans can pay for the card with Paypal, while those living in Sweden can use the Swish app. An e-mail is sufficient as confirmation, so that visitors can spontaneously buy a ticket on site. Between the dense conifers you can chill in the hammock you brought with you and in the clear water of the lake you can walk slowly over the sandy beach into the cool water, unlike at many other bathing spots in Sweden, where you usually use a ladder to get into the water.
Fourth stop: “Not quite” in Bruket
If you feel like a little more urban life after so much outdoor, swimming and hiking adventures, a stay at "Bruket", a former paper mill, in Fengersfors is worthwhile. In the middle of rural Dalsland, is found in the former industrial plant today an art courtyard with a café, bakery, museum and a wonderful garden to relax in. The café "not quite" has been run by the two Belgian sisters Evi and Mieke Renders since 2021. Cooking and baking is done by Evi, who has worked as a cook in Belgium for a long time. In the café she prepares a special variant of the typical Swedish pastry semla, comparable to cream puffs, from Swedish specialties such as wild wild strawberries (smultron in Swedish). There are also dishes with salmon, quinoa and fresh salad. "I try to do as little as possible CO2-Leaving footprints with my cooking,” explains the chef, “so we work with local suppliers as much as possible. But of course that’s not possible with ingredients like tofu.” Evi was drawn to Sweden by nature and by the values she experienced in the Swedish countryside. Work-life balance, a great deal of trust in each other and living in beautiful nature suit her very well. They were also warmly received by the local population, after all, Fengersfors is already a village where many newcomers live.
The café has the nearest local supplier right next door: the bakery “Brukets godaste” bakes compact bread similar to German, rolls and Dalsland specialities. Among the best customers, says baker Lisa Malm, are German tourists who insist on getting their rolls in the morning, even on vacation. But because of the good bread from the stone oven, the neighbors from the neighboring villages also traveled there and “Brukets godaste” even now supplies the nearby supermarkets with bread.
But the “Bruket” is not just for feasting and shopping, the hunger for culture can also be satisfied. You can find out more about the history of the building in a preserved production hall, other buildings also house the shop of a feminist goldsmith, modern art and the garden currently houses the "Homographic Museum", in which local queer artists exhibit poetry and photos.
Even though our trip was only a three-day midsummer weekend, it still sharpened our eyes for the beauty of Dalsland. And if you have the time, strength and desire, you can hike the entire wind protection map of Dalsland.
Regine Glass is a freelance journalist, author and translator from Swedish language and culture into German. She has been living in Gothenburg since 2020 and thus has the sea and metropolis on the Swedish west coast on her doorstep.
The feminist's most important concern is equal opportunities for all, which is why she writes for daily newspapers, blogs and magazines about injustice, (sustainable) urban development and linguistic equality in Swedish, German and English. She also likes to give tips for trips and excursions without a lot of money in travel blogs, magazines, in her newsletter “Aus Accidental Sweden” and on social media.