I am not alone saying that I have always thought of taking that great adventure-filled road trip across the country some time. To make my wish a reality, and after discovering that there are much more to Sweden than just meatballs on my work trips, I have decided to finally do it. I am taking a 5 day road trip touring Sweden by car, and I know many suggests by train, but a car gives you more freedom.
Sweden is a country full of wonderful nature and heritage, ideal for scenic drives. This will be just one on the many road trips I will be taking. For this time, my journey is a roundtrip in the south of Sweden, from Stockholm to Karlskrona to Gothenburg and back to Stockholm. Total will be around 1433km, which takes about 16 hours.
- Days 1-2: Stockholm – Nyköping – Norrköping – Västervik – Kalmar – Karlskrona (491 km – 5.5 hours)
- Days 3-4: Karlskrona – Malmö – Gothenburg (475 km – 5 hours)
- Day 5: Gothenburg – Jönköping – Linköping (469 km – 4.5 hours)
Before I get into it, I want to emphasize that 5 days is enough, but if you really want to enjoy yourself, 1-2 weeks is better. That’s why days 1-2 and 3-4, I leave it up to you to decide how long you want to stay in each place. You can dedicate one day for driving and one day to relax, or keep driving and rest along the way.
Stockholm – Nyköping – Norrköping – Västervik – Kalmar – Karlskrona (491 km – 5.5 hours)
Starting point – Stockholm
As the capital city, Stockholm has a lot to offer. There are many of places with gorgeous views you can visit, and tons of things to do. There isn’t anywhere particular I can recommend that you haven’t seen elsewhere. See the sights, walk the old streets of Gamla Stan, taste the delicious local food, or even join a kayaking tour.
Rather, I suggest you just pick wherever and whatever that seems interesting to you and take your time to explore. What I would like to do as a Stockholmer is take a swim and have fika at the archipelago.
The Stockholm archipelago
For me visiting Värmdö, Stockholm’s archipelago’s largest island cluster, is more interesting. The islands feel alive to say the least.
On the islands, you can find boatyards, shops, fish markets, pubs, golf courses, camping, and much more. For returning visitors, it can be fun to rent a bike to explore the islands, or simply walk. You can also rent kayaks and paddle around the islands, perfect for avoiding the crowds in the city. Many of the activities are seasonal, so be sure the check ahead of time if you are not coming in summer.
Just north of Värmdö is Möja, arguably the largest island in the region. About 250 people live on the island all year round. You can take a tour boat, your own rented boat, or a water taxi to the island. It is a fascinating place and the locals are very friendly.
Baltic sea coastline going south
Now that you have seen the Stockholm archipelago, and maybe you also visited some other islands on lake Mälaren, it is now time to go further south along the Baltic sea coastline. This day, be prepared to drive a lot.
On your way to the most southern point of Sweden and the Biosphere Reserve in Blekinge, you will drive past several nice archipelagos. Great places for being outdoors and kayaking or canoe adventures.
Trosa is a small coastal town not far from Stockholm. Here you can find three nature reserves. The first one, Kråmö is on the main island Kråmö and seven smaller islands. The other two are Bokö-Oxnö and Bokö-Askö. These islands form the archipelago area which you can find southeast of Trosa.
Nyköping with quaint coastal localities, bays and islands. Some examples are, Nävekvarn, Svärdsklova, Sävö, Hartsö, Ringsö and Långö.
Heading southeast from Norrköping, you will arrive at the coastal location of Arkösund, or Valdemarsvik, and you have the archipelago of Östergötland in front of you. You will also be close to the Gryt archipelago, the archipelago of Saint Anna and quaint villages, such as Tyrislöt on the island of Norra Finnön. You can reach more archipelagos from the harbor in Fyrudden. Some islands you should visit are Ekön, Harstena and Häradskär.
Arriving in the south, Småland
In the region of Småland, there are in total 30 nature reserves. If you want to go in search of a fairy tale adventure, go to the isolated island and national park Blå Jungfrun, situated in the Kalmar Strait between the mainland of Småland and the island Öland. The folktales tell a story about an island where witches gathered.
One of my favorite places to spend the night when I am in the south is at Ödevata Countryside Hotel and Fishing Camp. It is a small family-run resort and the owners, Malin and Magnus, are very passionate about making Ödevata as sustainable as possible. It is also located in the middle of the forest, surrounded by lakes, so you would get a quiet and calm night.
Kalmar is located on the Baltic Sea shore, surrounded by water. It was one of Sweden’s most prominent cities from the 13th through the 17th century. Due its location, it was a point of defense for Sweden and therefore is a fortified city. The Kalmar castle has many functions, including defending Sweden from invaders and hosting the royal family.
In terms of treaties and negotiations, Kalmar had a significant role in Scandinavian politics. The castle and the Kalmar Cathedral, which are still excellent examples of classicist architecture, can be visited almost all year round.
In the Strait of Kalmar, you will find as many as 5429 islands. This is a great introduction to the region of Småland. The largest cluster of islands is in the archipelago and nature reserve Misterhult. The landscape is true to the Swedish Baltic coast with rocky elevations, densely wooded forests, and there are about 230 lakes to take a dip in.
Karlskrona – Malmö – Gothenburg (475 km – 5 hours)
The south coast, Blekinge
Blekinge is worth a story of its own. It is probably one of the most hidden gems in Sweden, not so well travelled to by the mainstream tourist. However, it has much to offer. In the capital of Blekinge, Karlskrona, you have the ocean, archipelago, typical Swedish cottages, Swedish naval history museum and marine life just outside your motorhome doorstep.
To find your way around, and the best information on the coastline, hiking and bike trails, kayak adventures, nature reserves, and islands of archipelago, you can download the app, ARK56, as your digital guide. Or you can find a local guide that knows the little quirks of the city and can show you its highlights. I would recommend my friend, Iwona from CrossBaltica. She can even take you to one of the hundreds of bunkers under the city built for defense.
The naval city, Karlskrona
The Naval Port of Karlskrona is a UNESCO declared Marina Heritage site that gives you a glimpse of the history of a naval city from the 17th century. In this period, Sweden wanted to show its strength in terms of sea warfare. Here you can find traces of naval base facilities, the old shipyard, military fortifications and defenses, as well as buildings and facilities for trade, logistics and administration.
For an insight into the many times dramatic naval and marine history of Karlskrona, a must visit is the naval and marine museum. It is, with free entry, one of the very few museums in the world that has a full-sized submarine that you can visit the inside. While you are there, you can check out one of the favorited islands, Trossö, just south of the museum.
Karlskrona is also a haven for sea kayaking. You can easily rent a kayak, paddle through the archipelago, have picnic on one of the islands, and see the old forts. Some of the forts include Ljungskär, Mjölnarholmen, Koholmen, Godnatt, and Kurrholmen. On the larger islands, you can visit Drottningskärs Citadel and Kungsholms Fort, Skärfva Manor House and the Crown Mill (Lyckeby).
Karlskrona today still has a role as an active naval port, and the historical environment is part of the city’s pulse and life. It is an authentic place full of wonders as the institutions and people of Karlskrona are working together to restore the old part of the port. The Naval Port of Karlskrona is included in the Blekinge Archipelago Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme).
Sweden’s west coast and nature
For sure, we Swedes love our nature. The Swedish forests, lakes, and archipelagos remind us of our childhood. The Swedish summers, though are short, are thoroughly beautiful and full of outdoor activities. The days are long and there is plenty of time to go swimming on secluded beaches, fishing in a rowing boat, or even cliff dive.
Today, on many of the more popular islands you can find nature reserves offering such outdoors activities.
On the Swedish west coast, you will find more charming fishing villages, a stunning archipelago, and the lovely countryside. If you are travelling in a motorhome, you can definitely find beautiful campsites either close to the Gothenburg city center or in the nearby countryside easily. There are also plenty of campsites along the coastline in the small and friendly coastal destinations.
You can’t leave the west coast without taking a dip in the Swedish sea water! It relives stress and you will suddenly feel revitalized! Head to the sauna afterwards and enjoy as the relaxing warmth fills your body.
Otherwise, you can also drive to Saltholmen, a popular outdoor open-air bath house around 30 minutes from the Gothenburg city center. From there you can also take ferries across to the archipelago. If you like swimming and chilling by the water, then you wouldn’t be disappointed.
These places are slowly gaining popularity amongst travelers, so be sure to experiences it all before everybody else! For those who prefer more land activities, you can also sunbathe, go shopping, eat delicious food, discover local arts, and much more on the west coast.
Malmö and Gothenburg
Malmö is one of the most visited cities in Scandinavia, surrounded by the scenic beauty of Skåne. Since it is close to Denmark, it is viewed as an even more diversified city than Stockholm. Many Swedes and Danes use the Öresund bridge on a regular basis for business and vacation. It is also very unique because 7-kilometer of the bridge is under water!
Malmö also has well-developed bike pathways, so it is one of the nicest destinations for cyclists in Sweden. Exploring the city on a bike is the best way to get to know the place. Also, don’t miss the “Twisting Torso” tower, which is a magnificent modern architecture building.
Gothenburg is a modernized urban metropolis that is home to Volvo and Liseberg, Scandinavia’s largest amusement park. Gothenburg is definitely a foodie haven. Taste a wide range of Swedish comfort cuisine and high-end delicacies at one of the many stylish cafés and restaurants.
It is unquestionably worthwhile to pay a visit to the Volvo museum. Volvo is the people’s automobile of Sweden, having pioneered many current vehicle safety measures. Also, pay a visit to Liseberg and ride the wood roller coaster to experience some G-force.
Hälsö and Rörö
There are gorgeous nature and wonderful hikes on Hälsö. It is just north of the Gothenburg archipelago. The harbor is also a great place for food and coffee. Stuvö, in the north of the island, has a peak with a spectacular view of the archipelago. From there, you can even see the Marstrand fortress. If you enjoy paddling, there are great paddling waters on the western side of Hälsö.
The Gothenburg archipelago’s northernmost island, Rörö, has a beautiful nature reserve, sandy beaches, an excellent harbor, tennis courts, in addition to cafés and restaurants. It is a stunning island with open fields, cliffs, barbecue areas and alkaline rocks.
Bohus-Malmön and Värjen
Secluded coves, sandy lagoons, and crystal-clear turquoise water are all over on the magnificent rocky island of Bohus-Malmön. Back in the late 1800s, the first cobblestone was cut from the pink Bohus granite on the island. The quarry and numerous stones remain.
There is a tiny port in Väjern, a fishing village north of Kungshamm in Bohuslän, where locals gather to enjoy a flea market and play boule on one of three accessible pitches.
You may swim in isolated coves, sandy lagoons, and crystal-clear turquoise water on the rocky island of Bohus-Malmön. The pink Bohus granite on the island dates back to the late 1800s, when the first cobblestones were carved. Here you can find a rich history of stone cutting. There is still a quarry and a number of stone artifacts.
There is a small marina in Väjern, a fishing town north of Kungshamn in Bohuslän, where the inhabitants gather during the summer months to play boule or shop around the flea market.
Gothenburg – Jönköping – Linköping (469 km – 4.5 hours)
Did you know that Jönköping is the birthplace of the safety match? That’s right, the safety match was invented by Swedes! You can visit the matchstick museum to learn about its fascinating history. Jönköping is also a very scenic city. It is located at the most southern shore of lake Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden also known for its delicious crayfish.
Visit the Sofia Church, a well-known landmark of Jönköping and a meeting place for holiday celebrations. It was constructed due to the growing population in the region during the latter part of the 19th century. Its style is considered as a high point of Gothic Revival design.
You should also take a small detour to Gränna, just outside Jököpng. The town is famous for its “Polkagris”, a hard peppermint candy, which you can watch being hand made by candy masters. If you have the time, take the ferry across to Visingsö, an island perfect for hiking and cycling.
Do you know what Saab is? You may know them as an unsuccessful car maker. However, they are more known for their design and construction of equipment for Sweden’s Air Force. Linköping is the city where Saab is based. Learn about how, despite being a neutral country, Sweden has the greatest military arsenal by visiting the Saab/Swedish Air Force museum.
There are also historical churches, art galleries, castles, and other attractions in Linköping. You can participate in a variety of activities as well, such as horse riding. Aside from the traditional activities, you should also try the local food, intense go-karting, and a spa in the woods.