Stretching north from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city, to the Norwegian border, the West Coast has hidden gems and picture-postcard scenery at every turn. Interspersed between the archipelago of 10,000 islands and the dramatic coastline of colourful fishing villages, visitors will find sites of natural, literacy, historical and archaeological interest, as well some of the best seafood restaurants in the country.
We’ve compiled some of the highlights from my recent trip to West Sweden
to whet your appetite.
The Koster Islands:
Situated 10km off the coast of Stromstad, close to the Norwegian border, the Koster Islands are noted for the beauty of its scenery and form Sweden’s first and only marine national park.
The largest island, South Koster, has a gentle terrain of lush green countryside, waterfalls and woodland crossed by winding roads and tracks. Bikes can be rented locally and we would highly recommend this. With a bike you can cycle from the harbour in Ekenas to the beach at Kilesand and to the communities of Langagarde and Breviks enjoying panoramas over the surrounding skerries and islets en route. My favourite viewpoint is from Valfjall.
The tranquil North Koster Island only measures 4km2 and is wilder in its appearance than the neighbouring South Island. North Koster, its landscape and lighthouses, are best explored on foot from the harbour at Vastra Bryggan – from here a small boat connects the North and South island, and also links North Koster to the mainland.
We visited the Koster Islands in October, at a time when few tourists travel. We shared our boat journey with residents of the islands commuting with their weekly shopping and with Swedish visitors. The island was quiet, relaxed and atmospheric thanks to the every changing weather. This is the season for lobster safaris. In the summer months (Jul-Aug), the Koster Islands are alive with sailors and tourists who come to enjoy the nature, musical events and to enjoy delicious seafood in one of the waterfront restaurants.
The Koster Islands are slowly and sensitively developing their tourism products: a small art exhibition is planned and they hope to introduce a self-guided snorkeling excursion in 2012. This is definitely an up and coming destination and one I’d recommend for all visitors to the West Coast.
Fjällbacka was certainly our favorite fishing village on the West Coast. Charming, picturesque and functional, Fjällbacka left me wanting to stay longer. The village is a popular summer destination for Swede’s but also remains open out of season with cafes and shops dotted among the winding streets and village square.
The village is an excellent base for exploring the West Coast by car – the E6, which runs along the coastline and links Gothenburg and Norway is within easy reach. From Fjällbacka it is also possible to take a boat to the Weather Islands and on a seal excursion. Guided kayaking tours and Oyster courses are available nearby.
Fjällbacka is famed as the summer home for actress Ingrid Berhman and as the setting for Camilla Lackberg’s crime books.
The Weather Islands:
The Weather Islands, or to give them their correct spelling, Väderöarna, boasts some of the most unspoiled landscapes in Sweden. Accessed by boat from Fjallbacka, these picturesque islands (365 in total) have only one island where development is evident, the island of Ramna, and are rugged, barren, and truly beautiful.
But, what is there to do the Weather Islands? Our recommendations would include:
• Climb to the top of the pilot’s look out point for a great view across the island and the surrounding archipelago.
• Explore the islands by scrambling across the rocks and admire the reflections of the red wooden houses in the crystal clear water.
• Visit one of the seal colonies.
• The islands are a big hot spot for Swede’s sailing fraternity in the summer months and you will often find them enjoying the rays of the sun on the rocks. Follow in their footsteps… Find your own corner of the island to have a picnic, relax and take-in the scene.
• Stay into the early evening and enjoy drinks on the harbour front.
Tanum rock carvings:
The bronze-age rock carvings at Tanum are included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and make an excellent afternoon excursion. Set slightly inland from the coastline Tanum is easily accessible from Fjällbacka (16km) and is famous for the volume of carvings found within such a concentrated area. There is a visitor’s centre and marked walks.
Experience and indulge in fika… The Swedish tradition no tourist should miss out on! So what is it? Fika is Sweden’s
version of our ‘afternoon tea’; it is a coffee break where a sweet snack is served – our personal favourite is a scrumptious cinnamon bun! Gothenburg is home to Sweden’s largest cinnamon buns are found in Gothenburg at Café Husaren, and for us this is reason enough to visit the city.
The compact city of Gothenburg however, has more than cinnamon buns going for it: There is an abundance of cafés; a beautiful food market; fascinating museums (such as the Konstmuseum that houses historic art works from across Europe, or for the motoring enthusiast, the Volvo museum); bustling cobbled streets; wonderful shopping experiences and, in the summer months, archipelago cruises. In short, the city is an ideal city break destination.
We loved our time on the West Coast
and cannot wait to return. For new or seasoned travellers to Sweden, the region offers interesting sightseeing opportunities as well as a friendly, welcoming community and mouthwatering cuisine. A great summer destination.
Emily Green & Rachel Jelley