My personal road trip itinerary around the EU’s largest lake

Göteborg was never on my urgent destination-wishlist, but I went. I never thought of taking a freighter for a trip, but I did. Camping in nature was never something I thought I would dare to do, and I was awake all night.

A lot of things I didn’t ever considering doing, all compiled in one week. That was my trip around lake Vänern in a couple of sentences. Obviously there is a lot more to say and learn from my experience. So let’s get started!

Ghent to Göteborg with a freighter

I met up with Bart, from Vetexbart, in Ghent. There we took a cab to the docks of DFDS. They were so kind to invite us over for a trip on one of their freight ships. This way we could experience a bit more about slow travel. The ship left the dock at 3pm headed for Göteborg. We would not arrive there until 9pm the next day.

Book your own cabin on the ships to Göteborg or Brevik.

In the meanwhile me and Bart talked and discussed, wrote some blogposts, read books and were allowed on the bridge for a couple of photos. The captain talked us through his steering-console and answered our dumb questions about weather, docking and other ship-related subjects.

I just hope I did not offend him by referring to his ship as a boat. I kept thinking to myself: don’t say boat, don’t say boat. And when I went to ask him a question, the word always slipped my lips.

Anyway, that evening we arrived at Göteborg and stayed at the lovely Poseidon hotel. The bed might’ve been a bit small for two persons, but they made up for it with a great atmosphere and breakfast-buffet.

Day 1: Taking the rental car for a spin

I booked a car in advance via Sunnycars.com. The website is pretty easy and helps you to pick the car that fits you perfectly. In my case I went for a Renault Megane to stay within our budget, but got upgraded to a Volvo V40 we named Mats. Which fitted the theme of driving around Sweden even more, so thank you for that, Sunnycars. Upon arrival at the rental business, I got the information about the car, the key and was send of to have adventures. The only thing I had to do was bring the car back in one piece and with a full tank.

Easily book a car at a destination of your choosing too.

Quick stop at Skärhamn on Tjörn

We left Göteborg, did a quick stop at a grocery store and headed for Fjällbacka. While driving we added an extra waypoint on the GPS. This one brought us to Skärhamn on the island Tjörn. It’s not necessarily a special village. It just has a little harbour between the rocks. A typical small island harbour with fisher boats, crab-pots and piers.

We had a quick slice of bread with bacon flavoured cheese from a tube before we left. A typical Scandinavian kind of bread topping. They really love to tube their food.

Sunset at Fjällbacka

As the sun sets early this season, we went on to the little village of Fjällbacka. Apparently it’s famous for being the hometown of writer Camilla Läckberg. I just noticed it for it’s brilliant sunset possibilities. Above the town is a huge rock which you can climb by stairs. From there you have a beautiful view over the village and the islands in the sea. On top of that, it’s perfectly pointed at the sun setting. It doesn’t come better than that.

Failed attempt at camping

As the dark was coming in, we decided to head out to a place where we wanted to camp. We didn’t really plan a lot for this trip, just that we would do two nights camping in the wild. This would be the first one. We searched all the roads on the islands of Rossö and Tjärnö, but could not find a single spot where we could park the car and pitch a tent. Both the practicality and law worked against us.

Fun fact: places that end with an ö are always islands. Ö literally means island in Swedish.

We even went to two official campsites, but they were closed due to the low season. In the end we last-minute booked a hotel in Fredrikstad, Norway (the destination of the next day). Not the perfect way to start a trip, but we learned from our faults. Some great food and friendly staff at Egon Restaurant helped to lift our spirits again.

Day 2: Unexpected bucket list experiences

At the Fredrik hotel we had another big breakfast. We had a quick search online for things to see and went to the Gamblebyen: an old fort and neighbourhood of the city. It’s a picturesque part of town that is definitely worth your time. A visit will only take you an hour anyway.

Time to hit the road again.

Urbexing in Norway

Just before we would cross the border to Sweden again, we had a little stop in Ørje. It’s a small town at the end of a fjord. There is a lock, a view on the fjord and a hidden castle. A short hike brings you up a mountain. There you see the remains of what was the Ørje fort. I must say it had an eery vibe. There were stairs, leading into more stairs, leading into a gate that looked like it was keeping something in, more than keeping us out.

Maybe it was just Stranger Things still messing with me.

Mistake that turned in a fist-bump

Leaving Ørje behind I had the idea to find the lighthouse in Ekenäs at the tip of the Säffle peninsula in lake Vänern. It was a rather large detour, but I figured seeing the sunset there would be worth it. I was wrong. We drove too long, missed the sunset and couldn’t even find the lighthouse. I tried to save the detour by trying some long exposure shots, but the landscape and moonlight were uninteresting.

Defeated we turned around to have a stop in Karlstad. On our way, however, we saw some deer next to the roads. Bart started hoping for more. As I was driving, I just hoped there wouldn’t be any animals crossing the road. A bit further, at Säffle, two elk (moose if you’re from the US) crossed the road in front of us. It took me a while to process what I saw. Before I could even think about grabbing my camera, they were gone.

Me and Bart couldn’t do anything else but give each other a fist bump as we mentally crossed “seeing elk” from our bucketlists.

Keep hoping

All the way to Karlstad, where we ate at a Thai place, and to Blues Berry we hoped to see more. Unfortunately we didn’t. We only saw Dennis, our nice AirBNB host for the night. He pre-warmed our cabin for us and gave us a tour around the domain showing us the eco-toilet and the shower finished with moss. We were in for a treat.

Day 3: We finally did it!

The next day we woke up to a beautiful sunny day and delicious homemade breakfast. Before we left, Dennis gave us some valuable tips for our second try at wildcamping.

We left Blues Berry and rode to Rottneros for an open air museum, which unfortunately was closed due to the low season. No worries, nearby was another spot we wanted to check out: Brunskogs Hembygdsgård. An old village where you can walk around. This too was closed, but that wasn’t an issue. We could still walk around between the buildings, check-out the church and enjoy the lakeside view. The only difference with an open Brunskogs would be the people being dressed up in old timey clothes. Not really my cup of tea anyway.

Getting the perfect spot

We made some food on the parkinglot and left to find a spot to sleep that night. The second try at camping in the wild. We drove down the eastern coastline of lake Vänern, saw a wild fox cross the road, and arrived at the island Torsö. There is only one way to get there, and that is by bridge. I figured this would mean there wouldn’t be any big wildlife on the island, but ten minutes later I was proven wrong. We saw two deer grazing in the fields.

After a bit of looking around we decided to dedicate ourselves to one of the spots we saw. A little rock overlooking a bay in the island. We had trees protecting us from the wind, a gorgeous view where the sun should rise and enough room for Mats (the car) and the tent.

The sun sets early in autumn, so at 6pm we already went to bed. We did not really sleep as much as we would’ve wanted. Rain was beating up our tent, we thought we heard animals around the tent (which probably was just the rain), and we couldn’t find a comfortable position in our sleeping bags.

Day 4: That’s one wild boar less

We woke up at 7am to a pretty miserable sunrise. We did go out from our tent a bit to try and photograph it, without result. We did all of a sudden hear a rasp and a throaty sound at our tent. We turned around to see nothing, moved up to our tent, checked it for an animal, but saw nothing. We are pretty sure it was a wild boar, even-though we never saw it. Maybe we did hear animals the night before?

Hiking around Fjällastigen

After packing our stuff we headed to Borås, a small town near Göthenborg. In the area you can find plenty of hikes. We decided to do the Fjällastigen in Mollaryd. It’s a ten kilometers hike through woods, rocks and boggy fields. It’s a quiet walk where you won’t see too many other people.

BANG! Err… what was that? A couple of minutes later we encountered a hunter. I was interested and talked to him for a few seconds. He just shot a wild boar and was going to collect it now. Friendly guy, but obviously in a rush.

A couple of minutes later we heard another shot. I’m not sure if it was at the same boar or a second one. Another few minutes pass and we see the hunter in his truck driving past us. He waves politely and that’s the last we saw and heard of him.

Beers!

We finished the rest of the walk and returned to Mats, our car, exhausted. We re-arranged our bags and left for Göteborg to return the car and check in at the Royal hotel. With Google trips we searched for a good place to eat and found 2112. There you can eat quality burgers and try out several beers.

Beware: alcohol in Sweden doesn’t come cheap.

Day 5: Strolling around Göteborg

Another great breakfast and off in town we went. We each went our own ways because we had different things we wanted to see. I walked into town, past the harbour to the Masthuggetskyrkan for a view over the city. Then to Älghägnet and Slottskogen. Had a look at the Botaniska Trädgården and strolled around in Haga. A fun and quick citytrip. There is so much more to do there, unfortunately we had to head back to the ship for our trip back home.

Highlights

I will remember a lot of this trip, but for me there are a couple of highlights I will never forget:
Camping on Torsö in the wild for the first time
Traveling by freight-ship (thank you DFDS)
Seeing wild elk/moose cross the road in Säffle
Sleeping in a typical Swedish cabin at Blues Berry
Cruising around the Swedish roads in a Volvo (thank you SunnyCars)

I will definitely go back to Sweden for more!

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  • Lotte

    Wat een avontuur: dit artikel doet me zin krijgen in mijn roadtrip naar/door Zweden volgende zomer. Goed om te weten dat dat wildkamperen niet zo idyllisch is als het lijkt haha!