The Scandis are known for being lovers of the outdoors – and little wonder as they have some top nature destinations on their doorstep. Here are ten quintessentially Swedish and Norwegian outdoor experiences to be had. Get ready to explore forests, mountains and water in what are some of Europe’s last true wilderness areas…
1. Vansbro Dressin, Dalarna, Sweden
The draisine is a pedal-powered rail vehicle originally used by railway workers. They can be rented from Vansbro to travel as far as you want along an unused 30km section of the Inlandsbanan (Inland Railway) to Mora. A tandem takes two adults and two children, while a single takes two adults. Last used by trains in 1969, the track alongside Vansjön lake is slowly returning to nature, and you can stop by a sandy beach to relax in the sun with great views of the mountains. Take a proper picnic as you can definitely burn it off! Contact Vansbro Aventyr to book and you can arrange to collect your draisine key, instructions and map from the local petrol station.
2. Crayfishing, Dalarna, Sweden
Crayfish have been caught and eaten in Sweden for centuries, and have become a fully fledged national institution with associated songs and parties. Fishing for them is tightly regulated due to the decline in their numbers. In the Västerdalälven at Dala-Floda fishing is allowed for 24 hours on one weekend in mid-August. As crayfish are nocturnal, this involves spending a night by the river around a campfire.Peter Persson of Növarjan is a local guide and can organise everything you need, including traditional tips for preparation and cooking.
3. Ullån, Åre in Jämtland, Sweden
Known locally as Åre’s natural adventure pool. The Ullån river flows over numerous smooth granite slabs, creating a series of natural slides that end in deep and bubbly pools. The further upstream you go the steeper the river gets, with the slides becoming spectacular waterfalls; the deeper and calmer pools for swimming can be found downstream closer to the road bridge. In summer the water can get very warm. Pull off and park by the bridge over the Ullån on the E14 then follow the path upstream along the west bank.
4. FriluftsByn, Högakusten, Sweden
The outdoor village is a constantly evolving project run by a team who are passionate about the outdoors and the High Coast. Lying at the base of Skuleberget mountain it is situated in a landscape that is a veritable playground for anyone with an interest in outdoor adventures. The village organises activities and events, and also has a variety of accommodation options. This is the perfect central location to choose as your base for exploring the rest of what the High Coast has to offer. Visit their website for a calendar of interesting events happening throughout the year.
5. Vistas Paddle, Kiruna Lapland, Sweden
Paddle upstream on the glacial Vistas river from Nikkaluokta as far as you are able, taking time to explore the numerous oxbow lakes. As the river meanders along the valley you will have plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife on the banks, and there are numerous sandy beaches and several headlands where you can set up camp. When you want to head home, just let yourself drift slowly and silently back downstream. Contact Paddlelapland for guiding and canoe or kayak rental.
6. Abiskojokk Canyon, Kiruna Lapland, Sweden
The Abiskojokk river flows down from the mountains in the Abisko National Park into Torneträsk lake. Its final three kilometers starts with a spectacular tunnel that once formed part of a hydroelectric scheme used for railway construction. A waterfall at the end of the tunnel signals the start of an incredible canyon with sheer rock walls and rapids with azure water. The canyon then slowly recedes until it eventually meets the lake, and the very last bit is great for paddling and swimming. There are paths on both sides as well as a bridge part way down. A scientifically important, and also breathtakingly beautiful, environment. Park at Abisko Mountain Station and follow the signposted footpath to the canyon.
7. Sognefjellet National Tourist Route, Jotunheimen, Norway
This spectacular mountain pass has been described as both one of the world’s best road trips and one of its best bike rides. Open to traffic only in the summer, this celebrated national route climbs to 1,434m above sea level at its highest point, offering a succession of breathtaking, panoramic views from start to finish. Make the trip in spring when the road has just been opened and you’ll be amazed by the 10m-plus walls of snow beside the road and understand why it is closed during the winter. There are several rest areas, each located at a point with really exceptional views. You can drive or cycle. The road is called the Fv55 and runs for 108km between Gaupne by the Sognefjord and Lom in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley.
8. Ofotbanan, Narvik, Norway
The Ofot line is the name given to the spectacular 43km section of railway between Narvik and the Swedish border. It is considered one of the most spectacular railway lines in the world. It forms part of the Malmbanan (Ore Line) that runs between Narvik and Luleå on the Swedish Baltic coast. It was constructed over the mountains during two periods between 1884-1888 and 1898-1903 to transport iron ore from the LKAB mine in Kiruna (see the Kiruna Lapland chapter) to the harbour in Narvik. Take the train from Narvik to the Swedish border at Bjørnfjell Station. The route will take you through six stations and 18 tunnels with breathtaking views of the Rombaksfjord and the mountains. You can then descend the Rallarvegen trail to Rombaksfjord and catch a boat back to Narvik.
9. Reine kayaking, Lofoten, Norway
Hire kayaks in the beautiful village of Reine on Moskenes in the Lofoten Islands and explore the sheltered Reinefjord. Around midsummer you can paddle at night under the midnight sun. Fish as you go and stop on a remote beach to cook and camp. From here you can also paddle (with a little walking) to the spectacular beaches of Horseid and Bunes.
10. Tømmerrennene, Røros, Norway
With mining operations around Røros needing timber for pit props or to be turned into charcoal for the smelter, the immediate area quickly became deforested. Wood had to be brought in from further afield so a series of lakes, canals and chutes were built in the 18th century to float timber from Femund Lake to the Feragen closer to Røros. You can walk, cycle or canoe the route.
Ben Love is author of the Wild Guide Scandinavia (Wild Things Publishing), available from all good bookshops. For 30% off and free p+p visitwww.wildthingspublishing.com and enter ‘Red Bull’ as your coupon code. Follow Ben on Twitter @lagomcomm