Skip to main content

Paddling wild in Sweden's kayaking paradise

By Jini Reddy and CNN staff
updated 5:57 AM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
Paddle-mad Swedes love hitting Bohuslän -- kayaks under arm -- but the region is big enough, in one of Europe's biggest countries, that you can easily find a spot to yourself. Paddle-mad Swedes love hitting Bohuslän -- kayaks under arm -- but the region is big enough, in one of Europe's biggest countries, that you can easily find a spot to yourself.
HIDE CAPTION
Paddle playground: Bohuslän
Starting point: Gothenburg
Wild, uninhabited
No Swede is an island (or perhaps some are)
Grebbestad tradition
Seafood stars
Fjällbacka archipelago
Murderously pretty
Weather Islands
Island anarchy
Sheltered waters
Open ocean
Rock stars
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • With 8,000 islands, Sweden's Bohuslän region is best explored by kayak
  • Fresh seafood is also part of draw
  • Seals, reindeer and mink are among wildlife
  • Gothenburg is a good place to get a taste of fika -- Swedish coffee culture

(CNN) -- Bohuslän might not trip off the tongue, but with its 8,000 islands, many wild and uninhabited, the Swedish coastal strip is a paradise for kayakers -- or for anyone seeking high-grade solitude.

The Swedes come in droves (around half a million last year) and international visitors are on the rise -- more than 200,000 foreigners annually so far, many from neighboring Norway and the UK.

They're on to a good thing -- with its clean water and air, more pretty fishing villages than you could stuff in a postcard rack and countless wriggling nets-worth of seafood, this is a pristine piece of Europe.

Stretching from Gothenburg in the south to the border with Norway, it's large enough that you can easily get away, paddling or otherwise, from crowds -- even in summer.

You'd be missing out to head to the Bohuslän Coast and -- regardless of your ability -- not jump in a kayak (rather than a canoe, which are more suited to Sweden's lakes than coastal waters).

Read more: 10 things to know before visiting Sweden

For starters, there are no strong currents or dangerous tidal waters here.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the water is warm and the islands mostly easy to get to.

Plenty of sheltered coves let novice paddlers practice, while the more experienced paddlers can head out to the North Sea.

Sweden\'s right-to-roam law means you can pitch a tent largely where you like among the islands of Bohuslän.
Sweden's right-to-roam law means you can pitch a tent largely where you like among the islands of Bohuslän.

Born in a boat

Many Swedes appear to have been born in a kayak.

Around Bohuslän, kayakers cluster in the car-free Koster Islands in the Kosterhavet, Sweden's first marine national park.

Popular, too, are the rocky islands of the Fjällbacka archipelago, the Weather Islands (Väderöarna), Sweden's most westerly, and the larger islands of Orust and Tjörn.

Read more: How to see Stockholm like Stieg Larsson

Some of the islands have guesthouses or, thanks to the country's freedom-to-roam law, you can pitch your tent and hike pretty much wherever you like (bar some protected spots).

Reindeer, mink and seal are among the animals you might encounter in this still wild place -- plus ever-present seabirds.

Fishermen still work much of the coast.
Fishermen still work much of the coast.

Flying in

Most overseas visitors fly into Gothenburg.

Once dominated by its industrial seaport, Sweden's second-largest city is now an increasingly lively and cosmopolitan place.

It's worth spending a day or two here to visit Scandinavia's largest amusement park, Liseberg, or to get a taste of Swedish coffee culture -- the famous fika.

A recommended stopping place as you drive up the coast is Fjällbacka, a fishing village about an hour and a half north of Gothenburg.

It's an undeniably pretty place -- any cloying potential is offset by the fact that resident crime writer Camilla Läckberg sets her grisly murders here.

Read more: How to build a Swedish ice hotel

A short drive further north is Grebbestad, where 90% of Sweden's oysters come from.

There are plenty of opportunities in the bars and restaurants around town to test legendary French chef Paul Bocuse's assertion that Sweden's oysters are the best in the world.

You can visit WestSweden.com for more information on planning a trip to Bohuslän.

Kayak guides will show you around the islands. Christina Ingemarsdotter (christinaingemarsdotter@hotmail.com; +46 707 332 240) charges $390 for a wild camping and kayaking trip, per person, for two nights and three days, including instruction, food, equipment and kayaks.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:56 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Journals, luggage tags, Panama hats? Yawn. We've got a selection of gifts travelers will actually use.
updated 7:26 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Global events, new attractions and anniversary celebrations will put these destinations on travel radars next year. Question is, which one(s) to visit?
updated 7:48 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Of all Christmas traditions out there, one has an All-American pedigree: electric Christmas tree lights.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 5:04 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
.
Looking for snow porn? This helicopter ski adventure will fly you into the Coast Mountains for the freshest runs.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
From Singapore to Norway, there are plenty of reasons to plan your next trip around a fabulous hotel opening its doors next year.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Step aside Mount Everest, this mountain country is home to cool cafes, crazy drinks and ancient Buddhist tradition.
updated 5:56 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
updated 3:38 PM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
updated 1:25 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
updated 4:42 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
updated 9:41 AM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT