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  • Photographer: Jesper Anhede

The Biosphere Trail – explore a unique natural area

The Biosphere Trail is a hiking trail hugging Lake Vänern’s southern shore, between Mariestad and Läckö Castle. The trail takes you through beautiful, varied landscapes with viewpoints, islands, charming town centres, historic spots, cafes and magical forests.

Biosphere Trail facts

Length: The trail is 140 km long and stretches between Läckö Castle and Mariestad. It’s divided into nine stages.

Timing: The trail can be walked as day stages or longer hikes over consecutive days. 

Difficulty: From easy to moderate – different levels on different stages.

Terrain: Mostly forest paths and smaller gravelled roads, some parts pass through towns with asphalt roads.

Insta-moments: Many! Everything from Läckö Castle gardens to Stora Stenbrottet on Kinnekulle.

Clothes & equipment: For day stages you’ll need good walking boots, a rucksack, picnic, water bottle and clothes suitable for the weather. If walking the whole trail you’ll need changes of clothes and planned accommodation.

Good to be aware of: Certain sections up on Kinnekulle contain steep parts that can be slippery when the weather is wet. Go carefully and we suggest you take something to change into/dry socks even on the shorter day stages.

The Biosphere Trail website

The 140 km long Biosphere Trail goes through several villages and towns, but most of it is through lovely countryside. Whether you choose to do a multi-day hike or shorter day walks there are plenty of exciting places to discover and sights to tick off your list.

In 2010 the Lake Vänern Archipelago with Kinnekulle was officially designated a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco. This encourages a focus in the area on sustainable development through local cooperation, long term community development and the conservation of biodiversity.

Photographer: Björn Lindblom

 

10 places to see along the Biosphere Trail

1. Läckö Castle

It’s hard not to be impressed by Läckö Castle and its surroundings. This baroque castle has been named Sweden’s most beautiful and is situated on a promontory in the Eken archipelago. In the grounds you’ll find the castle’s lovely gardens and the naturum Vänerskärgården Victoriahuset Visitor Centre. The Biosphere trail starts or ends here depending on which direction you choose to walk.

 

2. Spiken fishing village

The quaint fishing village of Spiken is situated in one of Europe’s largest inland ports. Here you can eat well, cool down with an ice cream and mooch among the many small boutiques (mainly open in spring and summer).  And you should definitely try the local speciality, löjrom (bleak roe), in restaurant Sjöboden for example.

Why not buy some freshly smoked fish from one of the smokeries in Spiken and have a picnic on the jetty?

 

3. The view from Råda Vy

There are lots of viewpoints along the trail, not least up on Kinnekulle plateau mountain. But we thought that we’d tell you about another view, namely the one from Råda Ås, the ridge just southeast of Lidköping. You get a fantastic view of Kinnekulle from here, with Lidköping town centre in the foreground. There are helpful information display boards at the viewpoint, describing the landscape stretching out in front of you.

 

4. Porcelain town Lidköping

Lidköping is the biggest town you’ll pass through when hiking along the Biosphere Trail. And the route takes you right through the town, from one side to the other.  Lidköping is perhaps best known as a porcelain centre, with Rörstrand Museum the showpiece where you can peruse 300 years of Swedish porcelain history. And even if you don’t manage to visit the museum you can still get a feel of the town’s history through the porcelain artworks decorating many of the public places.

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

Spiken fishing village

Läckö Castle

Rörstrand Museum

 

5. Munkängarna – The Monks’ Meadows – a paradise for nature lovers

Several of the wooded areas along the trail as classed as nature reserves to protect a particular ecosystem with special attributes. One of these is Munkängarna on Kinnekulle’s northwest slope. Coming here is like stepping into a fairy tale world, especially during late spring when the wild garlic flowers. As far as the eye can see the ground is covered by the fragrant white blossoms. But of course it’s also a lovely place to visit at other times of the year.

Another nature reserve worth adding to your bucket list before you set off is Västerplana Storäng, also found on Kinnekulle. A striking feature here is the sandstone cliff which plunges almost vertically down to the shore of Lake Vänern.

 

6. Stora Stenbrottet – Kinnekulle’s “Grand Canyon”

Stora stenbrottet (the ‘grand quarry’) is one of Kinnekulle’s most popular destinations. The lowest layers of limestone revealed by the quarry workings date back 400 million years, so you truly get a glimpse back in time. The quarry is 40 meters deep and apart from the impressive views there is a small fishing lake in the centre, with introduced rainbow trout (you’ll need a fishing permit).   

The local name for the quarry on Kinnekulle is “ Little Grand Canyon”. And when you see the layers of rock with shades of colour shifting from reddish brown to ochre you understand why. Stunningly beautiful!

 

7. Hellekis Säteri’s beautiful gardens

Hellekis Säteri, up on Kinnekulle, is a manor house dating back to the middle ages. In the extensive gardens you can see the seasons change, from spring bulbs to autumnal explosions of colour. Enjoy the perennial flower beds and a fragrant rose garden with old roses, as well as unusual trees like walnut, sweet chestnut, blue magnolia and gingko.

The lovely pale yellow main building is privately owned, but the garden, café and restaurant are popular pit stops for walkers and other visitors.

Hellekis Säteri

Kinnekulle’s “Grand Canyon”

The Monks’ Meadows

 

8. Qvarnstensgruvan (the Millstone Mine) in Lugnås

It’s many years since the hammering of stone picks was heard on Lugnåsberget, but the old millstone mine outside Mariestad is still an exciting destination. If you dare you can go on a guided tour underground to get a sense of what 800 years of laborious minework was like.

There’s a lot to see in daylight as well, including several opencast mines, a small museum and café. Check opening times if you plan to stay for something to eat or go on a guided tour.

 

9. The Old Town in Mariestad

The town quarter around Mariestad's magnificent cathedral contains many fine streets with cobblestones, wooden houses and charming courtyards. The buildings are from the 18th and 19th centuries and many display signs with information about the house’s history, architecture and sometimes its former residents. In summer guided city walks are available.

Did you know that Mariestad’s Old Town is classed as Sweden’s tenth best preserved town centre?

A short distance from the Old Town the Biosphere Trail takes you through Ekudden, a nature reserve nestled between Lake Vänern and the River Tidan. A really lovely spot!

 

10. The Kinnekullebanan – Sweden’s loveliest train line

It might seem a little strange to recommend a railway line when listing sights worth seeing along a hiking trail, but in this case we had to make an exception. The Kinnekullebanan has been voted Sweden’s most beautiful train journey and this part of the route skirts the shore of Lake Vänern on Kinnekulle’s western slopes.

Along this stretch there is a great selection of picturesque train stations, which makes it a really convenient way to combine idyllic train journeys with fantastic hikes. 

The Millstone Mine

. The Kinnekullebanan

Mariestad

 

More hiking in West Sweden

 

Biosphere Trail facts

Length: The trail is 140 km long and stretches between Läckö Castle and Mariestad. It’s divided into nine stages.

Timing: The trail can be walked as day stages or longer hikes over consecutive days. 

Difficulty: From easy to moderate – different levels on different stages.

Terrain: Mostly forest paths and smaller gravelled roads, some parts pass through towns with asphalt roads.

Insta-moments: Many! Everything from Läckö Castle gardens to Stora Stenbrottet on Kinnekulle.

Clothes & equipment: For day stages you’ll need good walking boots, a rucksack, picnic, water bottle and clothes suitable for the weather. If walking the whole trail you’ll need changes of clothes and planned accommodation.

Good to be aware of: Certain sections up on Kinnekulle contain steep parts that can be slippery when the weather is wet. Go carefully and we suggest you take something to change into/dry socks even on the shorter day stages.

The Biosphere Trail website