3 Places to Stay in the Sweden Countryside to Get You Closer to Nature

December 28, 2019   2 Comments »

“Wait, you mean you don’t wear a swimsuit?” I ask sort of afraid to hear the answer.
“In Sweden we ‘saaaow-na’ naked, but you can do what you feel comfortable with,” Åsa
said without hesitation.
“So that’s what the locals do?” I ask again restating the obvious.
“Yes.”

My first thought was, no way am I going to go naked in the sauna and skinny-dip in the cold lake. I was with work peers, many of whom I just met! Buuuuuttt….she said the magic words…’that’s what the locals do’. Suddenly my mind went to “what if I did go naked?”

While I was getting ready to change into my swimsuit up in the shared loft with the other women I had been hiking with, I asked them what they were going to do – sauna with clothes or without? We all joked around about it and suddenly someone said, “I may go naked.”

rewilding sweden countryside
My relatively new friends

That seemed to be all we needed. Suddenly we were all making a pact to go naked. All for one and one for all!

There is safety in numbers…especially when nudity is involved. We all stripped down to our birthday suits and put on our big, fluffy, white robes, grabbed a towel and were ready to connect with our inner Swede in the remote countryside.

Rewilding in the Sweden Countryside

re·wild
/rēˈwīld/
verb
gerund or present participle: rewilding
restore (an area of land) to its natural uncultivated state (used especially with reference to the reintroduction of species of wild animal that have been driven out or exterminated).

The traditional definition of rewild is all about conservation and restoration of land. However, it seems today we have taken this term and fit it into our vocabulary for many more personal things.

What does Rewilding Mean Today?

Substitue ‘land’ for ‘humans’ and you’ve got the latest take in rewilding. In this age of smartphones and apps we humans are in need of being restored to our natural state. Rewilding today is sort of the new buzzword for ‘digital detox’.

This trip to Sweden to rewild couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m busier than ever, I’m also more stressed out than ever. And the one thing that always makes me feel more grounded and centered is being in the outdoors; hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, or just a walk in my neighborhood. The distractions float away into the sky and I have time to think and contemplate life and my direction again. It’s why I did the Camino de Santiago years ago and continue to do long distance hikes. It’s my rewilding.

However, I was about to experience Sweden’s version of rewilding in Jamtland.

Video by Josiah

According to our Swedish guide Åsa, this modern definition of rewilding also includes learning survival and other skills in the natural wilderness, making us less dependent upon society. When we forage for food, drink water from a spring or make a camp fire in the Sweden countryside, we connect with something real. Together we gain a sense of adventure and how interconnected we are with our surrounding wilderness. Rewilding takes us back to natural roots.

Places to Rewild and Stay in the Sweden Countryside

hiking sweden countryside

Skurdalsporten Lodge

We began our ‘get back to nature’ experience with a 6km hike to a remote cabin the lies on the border of Norway and Sweden. It was a beautiful day to hike above the tree line on the squishy tundra.

I love the tundra landscape in the fall – it’s a patchwork quilt of colors! This pleasing backdrop was also a great place to get to know my fellow hikers in the adventure travel industry. The group was made up of writers, travel company owners, and PR reps. We spanned multiple countries including Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, US, Mexico, and Jordan. We were a group of seasoned travelers and it was a pleasure to hike and talk to them.

hiking in sweden countryside
Video by Josiah Holwick

During the hike we stopped and gathered water from streams for drinking, we were taught about different plants and edible berries, and we learned how to start a fire and make fika – Swedish coffee in the wild.

Remote Paradise on the Border

We arrived at Skurdalsporten Cabin after the afternoon hike. “Welcome to paradise on the border” a striking woman said to us as we crested the hill and hiked onto her property. She didn’t shake our hand or give us a hug; instead she handed us a ladle full of aquavit (a caraway flavored liquor). I laughed and tipped the ladle back. As the aquavit warmed my insides, a smile formed on my face. Chef Lena Flaten welcomed us to her family cabin in an unforgettable way.

Welcome drink Sweden

We were really in the wild. There were no other cabins around, nor were there any roads. You must hike in, or in the winter you can snow mobile or ski there. They get their water from the lake (2km away) using gravity to get it to the house.

The rustic cabin had bunk beds upstairs in a little loft where we all slept, and a shared eating space downstairs with a wood burning stove. The entire space was ‘cabin cozy’. There was also a sauna, hot tub (warmed with wood), an outhouse, and a cabin dog. After a chilly hike we all went straight to the sauna and experienced it like locals.

Historic Skurdalsporten

Skurdalsporten was built in 1947 by John and Betty Kluksdal. They operated Skurdalsporten as a waffle house for skiers and hikers until the 70s, when their daughter Sonja Flaten and her husband Arve Flaten took over the operation and carried on the traditions until the 1990s. Pictures of this simple building and skiers were hung on the walls. This place had quite a history in the region.

After lying in a disrepair for 10 years, the cottage has now reopened for serving by Chef Lena, Sonja and Arve’s daughter. The old cottage was demolished and the brand new opened in 2013 in the same spot. She now takes in groups and bookings all year round. You can book dinners, lunches, activities or team outings. Skurdalsporten also has “nostalgia open” during certain periods of the year, when locals ski there to relive the old history of the place with coffee and waffles.

Skurdalsporten Lodge

A Feast of Nature

Lena is a well-known chef in the region and runs a restaurant and cooking classes in Storlien (Flammen Skafferi ). She is known for cooking from nature; sourcing her ingredients from the forest, mountains, and streams. The candles flickered as Lena served up a series of delicious dishes including reindeer with berries and apples. I felt as if I were eating Fall; the cabin had the feel of a warm hug.

A Morning in the Countryside to be Savored

My eyes flickered open. The brisk, cool air come in the open window near me mingling with the warm loft air making it the perfect morning temperature for sleeping in. My phone wasn’t nearby because there was nowhere to charge it the loft. I didn’t even have a watch. I could hear others sort of waking around me. There’s some weird comfort sleeping in a room with other people.

sunrise countryside sweden

I rolled over and pulled the big comforter up around me and snuggled in. I fell back asleep. It was one of the best leisurely mornings I can ever remember. I get so few of these moments, there was nothing tugging at me. No work, no laptop, no phone; this was a moment to be savored.

I woke up an hour later to a beautiful view. Lena and our guide Sofie were busily preparing a hearty breakfast. There was homemade bread, real butter, oat porridge with fresh berries and brown cheese, and yogurt and berries. We would need the energy for our hike that day.

This step back in nature was just what the doctor ordered to kick off the rewilding experience.

Sweden Countryside Camping

Next we put Sweden’s Right to Roam to good use and set up camp for the next night. The right to roam allows anyone to roam freely in nature (hiking and camping) as long as they respect and treat the surroundings and other people’s property with care and consideration. This is one of the reasons Swedes connection with nature is so strong.

However, we didn’t set up regular tents, we set up two large tepees! Finally – my childhood fantasy of sleeping in a tepee, and huddling around a fire to stay warm was coming true at the age of 49! We worked together as a team to set up the two teepees on the banks of scenic Ottsjön Lake.

sweden countryside tepee tent

I didn’t think the scene could get any better, until Stephan and Annika arrived with cases of local beer and sausage! The new and unlikely owners of Ottsjö Brewery stopped by to introduce us to the local brew. I felt an immediate connection, after all – Ottsjö Brewery is basically Ott Beer! It was named after the lake we were camping by – Ott Lake.

An Exodus from the City to the Sweden Countryside

As I talked to Stephan and Annika, I learned about the trend in Sweden of people escaping the cities and getting back to the countryside. It’s another form of rewilding I suppose. “There’s a desire to get back to the more natural way of life,” explained Annika.

They lived in the city raising their daughter and recently decided to move back to the Sweden countryside where Annika grew up – Jämtland. When Annika’s mother passed away, she was left with a feeling of “is this all there is?”

“I told him I wanted to move up here,” Annika explained. “He said yeah, sure, ok. And then I told him I wanted a dog and he had the same reaction – sure. We came to get a dog and when we came here, I decided that I wanted to stay here forever. But I didn’t know how to. So I found a hotel job. Then we found out a brewery was for sale. Stephan’s brother was interested in investing so we became owners of a brewery and the house and bar that went along with it!”

She now calls the dog “the most expensive free dog ever”!

swedish craft beer

They took over the current brews, and added a few of their own. All were delicious made even better by their lovely company. They loved their new hands-on life in the countryside; it was just what they needed. I picked up another bottle of Lunndörren , a delicious copper ale, and a piece of local sausage paired with it. Stephan opened it for me and said, “Each bottle was lifted at least 10 times by us in the brewing process.” Now that’s hand-crafted beer!

Campfire Cooking

After our happy hour drinks, it was time to get dinner going. We left the talented Chef Lena behind at the cabin and now we were fending for ourselves when it came to eating. Under the instruction of Sofie, our rewilding guide, I carried a bunch of big rocks up from the lake and we made a little fire pit in the middle of the tent. She stacked up the wood, and made a little nest of dry moss and bark we had picked up earlier as we hiked. As part of our ‘rewilding’ experience in Sweden, we were all equipped with knives and flint, and we learned how to make fire. It’s a pretty cool feeling when that spark turns into flame and you realize that you can survive outdoors!

With the fire started inside the tepee, we were ready to cook our own meal – soup, fish and vegetables.

Hike to and Stay at a Swedish Mountain Hut

We tore down our tepee camp and began hiking through the Nature Reserve of Vålådalen to the emerald green lake Blanktjärn. Our next stop on our rewilding journey was Lunndörrsstugan, a shared mountain hut ran by the Sweden Tourism Association (STF). STF is one of Sweden’s largest non-profit organizations dedicated to making nature and culture accessible to everyone – tourists and locals.

The hike was beautiful as we became immersed in fall colors and a perfect brisk hiking temperature. We hiked through the marshland, by lakes, and up mountains. Along the way we stopped to eat and drink over open fires, the Swedish way, and learn a bit about the Sami culture (indigenous people of the Arctic) and way of life.

I felt as if I had really immersed myself in the Sweden countryside, with the day- to-day far behind me; I was just left with fresh air and fresh thoughts.

It wasn’t a hard hike necessarily, but it was 8 miles with a heavier than normal pack. We had to carry all of our food and supplies into the Lunndörrsstugan hut. When you stay in a Swedish mountain cabin you self-cater and sleep in multi-bedded rooms (capacity 25).

Lunndörrsstugan is a cute little hut with a shared kitchen and beautiful porch that looks out onto the nearby lake. It’s a perfect place to sit and enjoy the Sweden countryside, or do yoga lakeside. There’s even a sauna where you can get warmed up and then take a dip in the cold lake!

That evening we added to our survival skills with a little archery class. When I was 16 years old living in Peoria, I took archery in high school as part of my PE class. I remember thinking it was a really weird (and exotic) thing to be teaching us as teenagers. Now 30+ years later – I got out a bow and arrow in Sweden and learned how to shoot again. Unlike highschool…I hit the target – and I loved it! Such a fun experience that teaches you how to feel powerful and capable! At 16 it was lost on me, but at 49…I get it now.

The next morning after some stretching by the lake we hiked back down to civilization; our rewilding experience complete.

If You are Headed Out to the Swedish Countryside, You Need the Right Gear

As I hiked past many Swedes during this trip, there was one thing that stuck out to me. They all had on the same kind of hiking pants. Everyone. I learned pretty quickly that you can’t get more local than a pair of Lundhags’ pants. It’s as if they hand them out with the birth certificate in Sweden!

As part of this rewilding journey, we were also introduced to Lundhags, the ultimate Swedish outdoor brand. The company started in 1932 when shoemaker Jonas Lundhag began manufacturing shoes and boots in a small workshop in the Swedish countryside of Jämtland. Since we started this journey right near their factory, we also rented all of our gear from them; base layer jacket, rain jacket, hiking pants, backpacks, and even their world famous boots! I was a little skeptical of renting boots for such a trip as it’s really important to have boots that are broken in. But the ‘reviewer’ in me also wanted to try out theirs; I had heard so much about how great the Lundhags boots are.

All of the gear worked great, and I didn’t have any blisters on my feet from the boots. And let me tell you – these boots were indestructible! Light but heavyweight quality! I also became a big believer in their hiking pants – yes, the ones that every other Swede was wearing.

Going All Natural

However, taking all of my Lundhags gear off after the first day of hiking to Lena’s border cabin and experiencing a Swedish sauna as the ‘locals’ do, was the most memorable moment in this rewilding adventure.

Right out of the sauna, still dripping in sweat, I ran down the uneven tundra in my robe and got to the cold lake. I hesitated for a moment, remembered my pact with the women in the group, and slid the robe off letting it fall to the grass. It was freeing – it was also freezing! An incredible rush of adrenaline came over me as I hit the water and my naked skin went from beads of sweat to goose bumps in a millisecond. It felt like pins and needles all over my body. My hiking peers, who I just met the night before, were also all naked and splashing around.

It was joyous.
It was wild.

Rewilding in the Sweden countryside takes us back to our natural roots, and sometimes it also takes off our clothes.

PIN IT FOR LATER!

Rewilding Sweden

ESCAPADE Sweden is a company which specializes in transformational travel to the Nordic region. Escapade got its name and brand from its founder Åsa Lind Chong’s love of travel and her heritage as a Nordic, Swedish adventurer. According to Åsa learning survival and other skills in the natural wilderness can give us a whole new perspective on life. Using our instincts and relying on what nature has to offer, we are and feel less dependent upon society, and this gives us a broader perspective.



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