Discover Dalarna: the Swedish region that will revive your spirits

If you’re dreaming of a summer getaway, you’re not alone. But in 2021, where can you go that’s both practical and able to offer much-needed revitalising experiences?

Discover Dalarna: the Swedish region that will revive your spirits
Photo: Matilda Karinsdotter

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.

Discover Dalarna: find out more about the region’s countless attractions, activities, and accommodation options 

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.

Maxime Kindlund

“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.”

Taste of Dalarna: find out more about the region’s food and drink producers, farm shops, restaurants and craft breweries

‘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. 

Photo: Matilda Karinsdotter

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.

Photos: Matilda Karinsdotter

“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.”

Interested in a revitalising escape? Find out more from Visit Dalarna about the countless attractions and activities that await you in this stunning region.

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Sweden launches bid to become world’s top tourism destination by 2030

Forget the pyramids, the canals of Venice or the Eiffel Tower – the Swedish government has presented a plan to make Sweden the world's most attractive tourism destination by 2030 – but it's not yet clear how.

Sweden launches bid to become world's top tourism destination by 2030
Many tourists are attracted to Sweden because of its nature. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

In a press conference on Monday, Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan outlined the new strategy, which aims to make Sweden “the world’s most sustainable and attractive tourism destination built on innovation” by 2030.

Baylan referred to Sweden as a country which “is usually ranked as one of the world’s most innovative countries”, which he argued can “create value for the tourism industry”.

According to Baylan, the strategy builds on “sustainability’s three dimensions – it has to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable”. The strategy will also “tie into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030”, he said.

Topics covered by the new tourism strategy include the climate impact of tourism, equality and inclusion in the tourism industry and the importance of preserving shared resources such as national parks and sustainable nature tourism such as fishing and hunting.

The press release highlights the importance of natural tourism, explaining that the pandemic has led to people visiting natural and cultural environments “to a greater extent than before”, increasing wear and tear to natural areas.

DISCOVER SWEDEN: The Local’s guide to Sweden’s top destinations and hidden gems

Tourism is an important industry for Sweden, providing employment in both urban and rural areas, as well as generating wealth – before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry represented on average 2.7 percent of Sweden’s GDP per year. The tourism industry also employs a high amount of people from foreign backgrounds – making up over a third (34 percent) of all employees in the industry.

During the pandemic, overnight stays declined in almost every Swedish municipality, with the biggest declines seen in Sweden’s larger cities and border municipalitites.

The government’s plans also include a focus on jobs and skill development, so that workers have the right qualifications for the industry – this reflects issues currently faced by the restaurant and hotel industry in finding skilled workers in the wake of the pandemic. 

There are currently no details as to how the government will achieve this strategy, or indeed how it will measure success. But Sweden is aiming high if it wants to be the world’s most attractive tourist destination by 2030. In 2019, it was ranked the 54th top tourist destination in the world by the UN World Tourism Organisation.