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  • Photographer: Jonas Ingman

The Vänerleden – cycle around Sweden’s largest lake

The Vänerleden is a new national cycle path looping around Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. The total route length is 640 km but you can easily cycle shorter sections. On the way you’ll find beautiful lakeside scenery, lots of sights, pretty town centres, cosy cafes and cycle friendly accommodation.

There’s an incredible amount to discover along the Vänerleden. Explore its diverse landscapes, from leafy forests and open fields to charming little towns with a vibrant cultural life. Linking them all, and always close by, are the clear waters of Lake Vänern, with plenty of lovely spots for a refreshing dip.


Photographer: Jonas Ingman

10 places to explore along the Vänerleden

1. The Göta Canal and lock area in Sjötorp

If you cycle from Otterbäcken and south along the shores of Lake Vänern you’ll soon come to  Sjötorp, where the Göta Canal starts. There are no less than eight locks in Sjötorp, so you have a good chance of seeing what happens when a boat goes through the locks.  

Continue your journey along the old towpath by the Göta Canal. Just after you pass through Lyrestad you’ll come to Norrqvarn Hotel where you can stay the night in exciting troll and mushroom tree stumps – the children will love it!

Photographer: Åsa Dahlgren


The next stop is Hajstorp, where the Vänerleden heads away from the canal, with its busy boat life. Before you take your leave we recommend a visit to charming Hajstorp Slusscafé for coffee and cake.


2. The Old Town in Mariestad

The Vänerleden goes through the centre of Mariestad, right by the small boat harbour. Did you know that Mariestad’s old town is classed as one of Sweden’s ten best preserved town centres? Hop off your bike and take a walk around Mariestad’s old quarter next to the imposing cathedral.

There are lots of pretty cobbled streets here, with wooden houses and charming courtyards. The buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and on many of them are plaques with information about the house’s history, architecture and sometimes who used to live there. In summer you can go on a guided walking tour.

Photographer: Jonas Ingman


Accommodation tip: Hotell Vänerport in Mariestad is right next to the cycle path.


3. Kinnekulle – the flowering mountain

Dare we say that few mountains in Kinnekulle’s league have such a large variety of natural and cultural experiences as it has. You’ll find hiking and mountain biking trails, observation towers,  antique shops, medieval churches and manors, fishing waters, swimming spots, gigantic wild garlic meadows, cherry blossom, waterfalls, quarries and ancient remains, visitor gardens, several cafes and craft shops – as well as one of the prettiest railway tracks in the country, with a pearl band of picturesque train stations.

The large former quarry on Kinnekulle is known locally as the “Mini Grand Canyon”, which is understandable when you see how the steep sides shift in colour from reddish brown to beige. Incredibly beautiful!  

Photographer: Viggo Lundberg


If you have time you should take a detour up to the summit, by bike or on foot, to enjoy the panoramic view. And stop for a fika, either your own picnic or at one of the little cafes on the mountain.


4. Lidköping porcelain town

On the way down from Kinnekulle you’ll catch a glimpse of Lidköping on the horizon. Best known for its long porcelain history, the jewel in the town’s crown is the Rörstrand Museum, where you can explore 300 years of Swedish porcelain history. And even if you don’t manage to visit the museum you can still get a feel of its history via the porcelain artworks decorating the town square.

Photographer: TINA STAFREN


Take the opportunity to stay for a fika. In the town centre there’s a café around almost every corner.


5. Ecopark Halle Hunneberg

The twin table mountains Hunneberg and Halleberg are the setting for a scenic eco-park. Situated just east of Vänersborg, the mountains boast magnificent natural surroundings, not least in the form of dramatic cliffs and one of Europe's largest deciduous forests. Also called the mountain of the elks, on Hunneberg you can visit the Royal Hunt Museum, which the Vänerleden goes right past.

Photographer: Jonas Ingman


On the way down to Vänersborg you’ll cycle past Ronnums Herrgård, where you can enjoy good food and cosy accommodation.


6. The idyllic town of Vänersborg

Vänersborg is one of the many lakeside towns the Vänerleden passes through. Here you can enjoy genuine small town charm, and a wide choice of sights and activities. Shop in the town centre, treat yourself to a cafe visit and check out what was once Europe’s longest bascule bridge.  

Many Vänersborgers’ favourite part of town is Skräcklepark. The park is right on Lake Vänern’s shoreline and is the perfect spot for a picnic.

Photographer: Rune Andersson


If you carry on cycling north along the Vänerleden parts of it pass right next to the lake shoreline. Take the opportunity to have a refreshing dip from one of the lovely sandy beaches, at the Vita Sandar campsite outside Mellerud for instance.


7. The aqueduct in Håverud

The aqueduct in Håverud is one of Dalsland’s most visited attractions, with its spectacular meeting of road, railway and waterway. You can either see it from land, in a canal boat or directly on the water in a kayak.

Photographer: Jonas Ingman


A short distance from Håverud the Vänerleden passes Upperud, where you can park your bike and go hiking for a couple of hours along the Dalsland Pilgrim Path if you want. Food and accommodation can be found Håveruds Hotell and Upperud 9:9 for example.


8. Rock carvings at Högbyn

Dalsland’s largest and most remarkable ancient monument can be found next to Lake Råvarpen in Tisselskog. This is where the Högsbyn rock carvings are located, which consist of more than 50 stones with over 2000 engraved figures and characters. Most date back to the Bronze Age about 2500-3000 years ago. Maybe you can guess what some of the strange doodles mean.

Photographer: Christiane Dietz


9. Fengersfors – the town that changed track

The town of Fengersfors, tucked deep into the forests of Dalsland, has a long history as an industrial centre. Iron and wood pulp were manufactured here until 1978 when the machinery was switched off for the last time. 

Nowadays the beautiful brick buildings are home to the art collective Not Quite, a network of artists, makers and designers. You’ll find several galleries, a shop, café and bistro, and exhibitions, concerts, guided tours and workshops are held there. It’s definitely worth getting off your bike to spend time exploring this fascinating centre.

Photographer: Kajsa Kax


If you’ve ever wondered what happens to an old abandoned paper factory then you’ll get the answer in Fengersfors.

Top tip! In the neighbouring village you’ll cycle past two charming places to stay, Nordic Refuge and Villa Weidling B&B.


10. Åmål – shop till you drop

Welcome to Åmål, a pretty town on the shores of Lake Vänern. The cycle path leads down to the harbour and town centre where you’ll find lots of quirky boutiques and sellers. There are almost none of the big chains here, and you can shop instead at a range of charming independent stores with unique ranges.

A lot has happened to Åmål over the centuries, including several invasions and fires. These days it’s a quiet lakeside town, and luckily the old Gamla Staden area managed to survive all the great fires, so you can mooch around the well preserved 18th century centre with lovely wooden buildings and a leafy park, Plantaget.

Why not enjoy a delicious meal at Åmåls Stadshotell before you head off?

Photographer: Terje Olsen


Cycling in West Sweden


Vänerleden Facts

Length: The Vänerleden is 640 km long, divided into 4 stages which are in their turn divided into day stages. The route loops around Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern.

Terrain: Mostly asphalt and gravel on quiet roads or cycle paths.

Timing: Decide yourself where you want to start and end your route. There are lots of lovely stretches for shorter day rides and plenty of accommodation if you want to cycle from place to place.

Waymarks: The path will be waymarked as a National Cycle Path from summer 2022.

Remember: Always wear a cycling helmet, respect the traffic and wear/take clothes suitable for the weather. Pack a water bottle and snacks in case you run out of energy. It’s a good idea to bring a repair kit with tools and spare inner tube.