West Sweden - The perfect region for a road trip in the great outdoors
West Sweden is a wonderful setting for outdoor activities. The landscape – which stretches from Gothenburg all the way up to the border of Norway – varies from rocky coastlines dotted with picturesque villages to open fields, vast forests and thousands of beautiful lakes.
Sweden’s west coast is also home to no less than 8,000 islands. It’s therefore no surprise that this is one of Scandinavia’s best regions for outdoor activities. Here, visitors can partake in an endless array of outdoorsy activities from sea kayaking and canoeing to hiking and cycling.
These activities are available for all ages, levels and abilities, and can be enjoyed either on your own, with a guide or as part of a package arranged by a tour operator. Combine your trip with a comfortable stay at one of the many boutique hotels or delightful B&Bs, taste the region’s renowned fresh seafood and explore the region’s huge array of cultural highlights.
For those seeking an escape from the stresses of modern life, it’s also extremely easy to find your very own piece of West Sweden. And, thanks to the abundance of islands along the coast, you even have the chance to camp on your very own island. Driving is a delight, too: the roads are quiet and safe to explore, with an excellent network connecting visitors easily, to every part of the region.
The best feeling after a long day’s hike or cycle is to finish with a relaxing soak in a hot tub overlooking the sea, followed by a delicious Swedish meal made from local fresh ingredients and a good night’s sleep, ready for the next day’s adventures!
Tempted? Here’s our pick of the best places to visit, and activities to experience, during a four-day long outdoor or active weekend visit to Gothenburg and West Sweden.
Photographer: Johannes Berner/Göteborg & Co
Day 1 - Thursday
Once in Gothenburg, head straight to Vrångö Island (by passenger ferry), a car-free, unspoilt island in the Gothenburg archipelago with only 380 year-round residents. Vrångo is incredibly laid back, most of it a beautiful nature reserve. Check in at Kajkanten Vrångö, newly built boat-house apartments in Vrångö harbour, and then grab a bite to eat at Fiskeboa Vrångö, open weekends in low season, which serves delicious fish and seafood dishes.
Hire a kayak and explore the waters around the island, or take a boat tour and try your hand at fishing. Or perhaps hire a hot tub that comes with a bathing cabin and sauna with views of the sea, or try the brand new sauna raft. Follow the walking trails or island hop to Donsö or Styrsö, both of which have excellent walking paths. On Styrsö, climb to Stora Rös, the highest point in Gothenburg’s archipelago, and enjoy the stunning view.
Have dinner at the cosy Skärgårdens Café, or take the ferry to Styrsö Skäret (a 12-minute ferry ride) and dine at Guesthouse Styrsö Skäret, which serves tasty seasonal produce with a particular emphasis on fish dishes. Note, opening hours can vary during low season, please check. Stay overnight at Kajkanten Vrångö.
Photographer: Roger Borgelid
Day 2 - Friday
After a morning swim or walk, prepare breakfast in the kitchenette (local store open daily in the harbour) or at Skärgårdens café, before catching the ferry back to Saltholmen. Take the tram to the central station and pick up your rental car at Hertz, also located in the station.
Drive to Dalsland, Sweden’s biggest lake district. It’s an awe-inspiring setting for paddling, with its labyrinth of glittering rivers and lakes, surrounded by deep forest. Pick up a canoe at Silverlake Camp and set off on your own paddling adventure. The water here is so clean that you can drink it! It’s also lovely to glide past the little red loch houses in Dalsland’s canal or simply sit back and enjoy the peaceful silence of the lakes.
The great wilderness in Dalsland is absolutely breathtaking. Lovers of the great outdoors will be spoilt for choice amid the abundance of dense forest, the fresh smell of pine and the fascinating variety of animals and birds. Stop to refuel along the way, at one of the picturesque places serving delicious local Swedish food and fika (meaning a coffee and cake break with friends) which the Swedes love to enjoy outdoors.
Head off again in your car to Dalslands Aktiviteter, one of the largest activity parks in Scandinavia, where you can feed moose and try high-rope activities such as Sweden’s longest zip-line. Enjoy a BBQ dinner where you cook your own meal, relax in a hot tub overlooking the lakes and then sleep in tipi tents which have lovely rugs, wools and a fire pit to keep you warm.
Photographer: salt & sill
Day 3 - Saturday
Wake up to a glorious view and enjoy an early morning breakfast in the fresh outdoor air. Feed the moose at Dalslands Aktiviteter, before setting off in your car to Bohuslän.
Bohuslän is a gorgeous unspoilt coastal area on Sweden’s west coast, lined with smooth, sculptural pink granite rocks and quaint fishing villages. With thousands of islands to explore too, Bohuslän is a dream for outdoor breaks by the sea, whether sea kayaking, island-hopping by ferry, hiking and biking (some are car free) or experiencing a seafood safari.
Check in at Salt & Sill, Sweden’s fabulous floating hotel and restaurant in Klädesholmen (also known as Herring Island), on scenic Tjörn. Salt & Sill provides a delightful base from which to explore the region and sample the delicious seafood, which is amongst the best in the world, thanks to the cold, clean and mineral-rich water.
One of Salt & Sill’s specialities is its schnapps and herring tasting. A wooden board appears at the table, neatly arranged with a multitude of glass pots, featuring fresh herring in different sauces, such as dill, mustard and star anise.
After lunch, pick up your bikes from reception and cycle around the charming areas of Klädesholmen and Skärhamn (30km cycle in total), where there’s hardly any traffic and the roads are safe and extremely well-marked. On the way, you’ll pass small quaint boat-houses and docks, which are typical to the region of Bohuslän. After exploring Klädesholmen, we recommend cycling to The Nordic Watercolour Museum in Skärhamn.
At the Nordic Watercolour Museum on the island of Tjörn, you’ll get to check out the work of leading contemporary, international watercolour artists, along with classical paintings from the past, at the Nordic Watercolour Museum on the island of Tjörn. With a striking coastal setting and light reflected from the water, the modern building shows off the art magnificently while the gourmet cafe, Vatten, is not to be missed.
Or if you prefer hiking, cycle about 3,5 km from Klädesholmen to Rönnäng port and catch the boat to Dyrön Island. Dyrön Island has magnificent views across the Marstrand Fjord and a rather hilly five-kilometre trail.
Bike back to Salt & Sill, prebook the floating sauna also known as the world’s fastest sauna and warm up after the hiking and biking. In the evening enjoy a delicious meal and night at Salt & Sill overlooking the sea.
Photographer: Dan Ljungsvik
Day 4 - Sunday
Tuck into a tasty breakfast and then drive to Marstrand Island, where you’ll park your car close to the ferry (buy your ticket in the small kiosk in the port). It only takes about five minutes to get to the island, where an easy five km hike and rewarding views await.
If you're keen on longer distances, there are also several nice hiking tracks at Köön, not far from the ferry. Renowned for its cultural history, charming buildings and sailing, Marstrand is filled with charming colourful wooden houses, cobbled streets, lovely shops and many characterful restaurants and bars. In summer, you’ll also find many nice places to stop for a swim.
Have a delicious lunch at the Grand Hotel or perhaps buy some freshly cooked seafood from the fish truck in the port and eat al fresco. Don’t forget to visit Strandverket Art Museum. You could also have fika at Bergs bakery in the port and browse for souvenirs in some of the many quaint shops.
Then it’s time to drive back to Gothenburg, drop off the car at Hertz (located at Landvetter airport) and catch your flight home!