Sweden wilderness holidays

Meatballs served with mashed potato and lingonberries in a cream sauce is perhaps Sweden’s most popular meal. And in tribute to another tradition beloved by the Swedish people, IKEA has named its own version of the cream sauce after allemansrätten, the freedom to roam.

You can hike, ski, camp, forage, swim and kayak practically anywhere you want in this country that is 97 percent uninhabited and almost 70 percent blanketed by forest and woodland. Sweden boasts some 30 national parks, over 4,000 nature reserves that together span an area greater than Denmark, and almost 270,000 islands. And the Swedish wilderness is home to everything from moose to bears, wolves and lynx.

Sounds close to perfect, right? But all is not well with nature in Sweden.
“There are many threats,” says Marcus Eldh, founder of our multi award-winning partner Wild Sweden, “even before you start talking about climate change. The number one problem is the forestry industry. You have big companies clear-cutting large sections of old growth forest, ploughing the soil, and planting foreign species of tree in regulated rows. It’s become worse and worse over the last 50 years and it has a severe effect on biodiversity. Sweden has vast forest coverage but most of it is unnatural. And that affects the biodiversity, the ecosystems, and most of our many lakes too. It’s a huge concern.”

Marcus and his team of expert nature guides immerse their guests deep within the forest on their Sweden wilderness holidays, where you can track moose, and listen to wolves howling (Marcus himself does a very fair impression). They are highly attuned to the threats facing Sweden’s wild places, from forestry and mining to poorly sited wind turbines that destroy the stillness and the culling of predators.

“There are three wolf families in this area and two of them will be shot this winter,” says Marcus. “Luckily, the one we work with the most is being spared. The official reason is to keep numbers down, but I think it’s a bit ridiculous as other countries like Spain have many more.”

It’s not all bad news, though. When it comes to inclusivity, Sweden has introduced a number of promising initiatives to improve access to the country’s famously outdoor lifestyle for immigrants and other vulnerable groups. These include a ‘leisure bank’ loaning out sports equipment, and a project to help migrants and local people get to know each other through outdoor activities. It’s hoped that the more people experience natural places, the more they’ll want to protect them.

Marcus and his Wild Sweden team, meanwhile, are exemplars of successful nature tourism in Sweden, using their free time to help hundreds of other tourism businesses develop their own projects in other parts of Sweden.

What do wilderness holidays in Sweden involve?

The pine forests of central Sweden are ideal for anyone – groups of friends, solo travellers and families alike – wanting to get back to nature. On the shore of Skärsjön Lake, 500km south-west of Stockholm, you can stay in a wonderfully primitive cabin with no electricity, no hot showers and no Wi-Fi – just the woods themselves for entertainment. Here, Marcus and his guides take you on safaris to track moose and beavers, swimming in the lake (warm up in a floating sauna afterwards!), birdwatching, and foraging for mushrooms and lingonberries. At night, you’ll listen for the unmistakable sound of wolves howling in the distance.

Wildlife-viewing is popular in Sweden. There are otters and beavers in the Dalälven River in Färnebofjärden National Park, and wolves and lynx around Åsgarn Valley. All manner of marine birdlife, as well as grey seals, are found in the Saint Anna Archipelago, a stunning location for kayaking holidays.

For Marcus, though, there’s no question as to his favourite place for a wilderness holiday in Sweden: Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland. Away from the renowned King’s Trail (Kungsleden), this remote landscape that some call Europe’s last true wilderness sees very few visitors.
“We do a moose expedition in Sarek,” says Marcus. “It’s surrounded by other parks, so there is no road in and while you’re there there’s no phone connection, no marked trails, no cabins. We camp and carry our own gear. But what there is here is the largest moose in Europe, wolverines, bears, lynx and golden eagles. It’s wonderful for wildlife.”

Very few people have the confidence or the skills needed to hike here alone, but for those exploring on a guided wildlife holiday in Sarek National Park the sense of wilderness is practically off the scale.

Whether you’re following the tracks of wolves through the snow on cross country skis, pulling up your kayak onto a remote island beach to wild camp, or on a moose safari in Sarek, there’s no substitute for the experience and knowledge of a local guide. They’re not only there to lead the way and point out interesting animals or species of plant, they can also explain what’s going on in the ecosystems you’re visiting, the conflicts between the needs of humans and wildlife, and how responsible nature tourism can help with conservation of the wilderness. Essentially, they give you the bigger picture.

“For newcomers to wilderness holidays in Sweden, I would recommend using our public right of access, hiring a car and getting out there,” Marcus advises. “It’s very easy; hardly any traffic. But as far as seeing wildlife goes, I would say that the services of local guides are absolutely indispensable.”

Our top Wilderness Holiday

Sweden wildlife holiday, ecolodge short break

Sweden wildlife holiday, ecolodge short break

Wildlife break at Sweden's most primitive hotel

From £630 4 days ex flights
Small group travel:
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Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wilderness or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go on a Sweden wilderness holiday

Summer is the best time for wilderness holidays in Sweden. Moose emerge from the forests to graze in open fields between May and September, while wolves are also at their most active. Late September is a good time to be in Sarek National Park to catch moose rutting season. Hardier souls can also track wolves and lynx in the snow during the winter months.

Sweden’s wilderness areas, especially its vast forests, face many threats. But there are pockets of optimism, with small-scale nature tourism flourishing, showing that there is profit in preservation. A push for inclusivity will lead to greater awareness of the issues. And there is no shortage of people out there like Marcus and his team, and those joining them in their efforts to rewild Sweden, who are passionate about protecting the wilderness and the creatures that call it home.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Peter van der Meulen] [Intro: Mikaela Stenstrom] [What do wilderness holidays in Sweden involve?: Martin Isaksson] [Best time to go on a Sweden wilderness holiday: Jon Glittenberg]