Dalarna in central Sweden offers unspoiled nature in abundance, including misty mountains, immersive forests, stunning valleys, and crystal clear lakes. Red cottages and handicrafts give character to its historic villages, while reindeer are a common sight in Dalarna’s north.
The Local spoke with two people who call Dalarna home – one international and one Swedish – about the regional delights that visitors can look forward to.
How a French baker found true freedom
“It was a childhood dream to have a bakery and then I forgot about the dream,” says Maxime Kindlund. Fortunately for the Frenchman, he remembered eventually and he’s now living his dream life in Grövelsjön, an area of heather moorland, streams and rolling mountains in the north of Dalarna.
For five years, he’s been running Grövelsjön Fjällbageri and his lifestyle is as idyllic as his surroundings. Maxime works from 8am until between 12pm and 2pm, keeping the rest of the day free to enjoy the outdoor life with his wife and young son. He leaves the bakery open so people can help themselves and pay using the Swish mobile payment system.
“It’s the lifestyle I want,” he says. “To work and still be able to do so many other activities close to home every day. In summer, you can swim in the Grövelsjön lake, which has two sand beaches. My wife likes to run and she also inspired me to run a lot. There’s also a lot of fly fishing. We have a boat that we take out on the lake to fish. We love the area.”
An adventurer at heart, Maxime, originally from Grenoble, previously worked in Dalarna as a rafting guide and a mountain guide. He believes visitors to Grövelsjön will be amazed by the opportunities to explore the rich landscape and the feeling of freedom you can find in the sparsely populated area. “Grövelsjön is a big area and I still have fun discovering new places,” says Maxime. “In an area stretching for 20km, we’re only about 100 people living here all year round. But it’s a tourist area. It’s really attractive to people who want to feel far away from the city. Last summer, lots of people came with a camping van or a tent.”
A family-friendly place
Maxime bakes everything by hand using sourdough and plentiful amounts of organic ingredients. If you visit Grövelsjön, you can try one of his cardamom or cinnamon buns or the sourdough bread with sunflower seeds and flaxseed that won him a national artisanal award. On Fridays, you can also enjoy his sourdough pizzas (so long as you’ve ordered by 6pm on Thursday).
Maxime, who is expecting his second child in June, says the area is extremely family-friendly. Grövelsjön’s hiking trails are suitable for people of all ages in good weather and children enjoy the chance to spot reindeer.
“The trails are very good,” Maxime says. “It’s perfect in summer even without any special shoes. As for the reindeer, they stay in the forest in winter but you have a great chance of seeing them in June and July. Sometimes you can see 100 reindeer.”
‘I just walk out into the woods to see what I discover’
Dalarna’s natural delights are far from confined to the northern mountain areas. “I think my region is often overlooked as people pass by going to Lake Siljan or the mountains,” says Matilda Karinsdotter. “People are really missing out.”
The stunning photography she shares on her Instagram account showcases exactly what visitors can discover. Matilda grew up in Hedemora in southern Dalarna, which dates back to 1446. She now lives in nearby Säter, located around two hours and 30 minutes from Stockholm, with her boyfriend and their dog.
She loves nothing more than to head out on spontaneous excursions. “I see a location on the map and just walk out into the woods to see what I discover,” she says. If outdoor cooking gets your juices flowing, you’ll find designated barbecue areas where you can indulge your passion just as Matilda loves to.
“We have lots of nature reserves in the south of Dalarna and many of them are really beautiful places to hike through and for picnics or cooking over an open fire,” she says. One hiking gem in Hedemora municipality is the 16-kilometre Reserve trail that passes through four different nature reserves with varied terrain.
Summer’s star attractions
So what are her top tips for anyone just discovering the area? Kloster and Stjärnsund are two of her favourite villages. “I really like their history and that they haven’t lost the spark of liveliness from their small shops, restaurants and cafes,” says Matilda. “The industrial history of the villages is really deeply rooted and it’s easy to find hidden places with ancient monuments.”
From May to September, Kloster is also part of Visit Sweden’s ‘The Edible Country’ concept. Book a spot at the handmade wooden table to cook a meal with delicious locally sourced ingredients from menus created by Michelin-starred chefs.
Stjärnsund is situated next to Lake Grycken in Hedemora municipality. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll through the English Park and enjoy the sights of the Klosterån river. Or you can visit Silfhytteå mill, which is a popular picnic spot.
“Stjärnsund is a special place,” says Matilda. She also loves to take a rented canoe out on Lake Grycken. “It’s my go-to place for canoeing and I can’t wait to head out there this Spring and Summer,” she says. “You can also go kayaking or canoeing on the Dal River – but I don’t dare as I’m not that good!”
Not that she’s averse to getting wet. Matilda loves to swim in the local lakes and says nobody needs to fear the water. “I’m not that fond of cold water,” she says. “But it’s great in summer and can even get up to 20C.”
While Matilda is studying to be a webmaster, she has no intention of pursuing a city-based career. “My boyfriend and I are both working from home and we came to the conclusion that we might be going a little crazy if we didn’t have all this around us,” she says. “I’m very grateful for that. The contact with nature revives my spirits.”