Paddling wild in Sweden

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Paddling wild in Sweden

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Paddle-mad Swedes love hitting Bohuslän -- kayaks under arm -- but the region is big enough, in one of Europe's biggest countries, that you can easily find a spot to yourself.


Most foreign travelers to Bohuslän fly to Gothenburg. Sweden's second largest city is an increasingly cosmopolitan place renowned for its lively coffee culture -- the famous fika.


The stretch of western Swedish coast between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border, Bohuslän encompasses around 8,000 islands and islets. One thing's guaranteed: you probably won't see all of them in a lifetime, let alone a two-week vacation.


Many of Bohuslän's islands are uninhabited, although you'll find the odd Swede on some of them. Maybe odd in more senses than one in this case ...


A recommended stop on the drive up the coast is the town of Grebbestad, home to traditional fishermen.


The town is renowned for its seafood and, particularly, its oysters -- it supplies Sweden with 90% of the molluscs that French master chef Bocuse said are the best in the world.


Another coastal stop is the pretty fishing village of Fjällbacka. You can start paddling out to the islands right here: the rocky Fjällbacka archipelago is one of Bohuslän's most popular kayaking spots.


Find all the prettiness cloying? Others do, too. Bestselling crime writer Camilla Läckberg lives, and sets her murders in, Fjällbacka. This sinister-ish shot of a kayaker near the village will have to do to illustrate this point.


The Weather Islands (Väderöarna), Sweden's most westerly, are another popular kayaking location. They tend to be the warmest of the Bohuslän bunch, which may be partly what draws so many seals here. The large islands of Orust and Tjörn also pull in visitors.


Sweden's anarchic freedom-to-roam law means you can generally camp where you like around Bohuslän. Some islands have guesthouses, if you prefer not to emit those tortured groans in the morning, hand on lower back.


Coming to Bohuslän without trying out a paddle would be like visiting Ikea and not buying a self-assembled collapsible stool. There are sheltered waters for the novice kayaker (in Bohuslän, not Ikea).


Experienced kayakers can join the fishermen heading out into the North Sea.


Other inhabitants of Bohuslän you might spot, apart from mink and reindeer, are seals, which, like kayaks, do better in the water than on land.

























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With 8,000 islands, Sweden's Bohuslän region is best explored by kayak
Fresh seafood is also part of draw
Seals, reindeer and mink are among wildlife
Gothenburg is a good place to get a taste of fika -- Swedish coffee culture




(CNN) -- Bohuslän might not trip off the tongue, but with its 8,000 islands, many wild and uninhabited, the Swedish coastal strip is a paradise for kayakers -- or for anyone seeking high-grade solitude.
The Swedes come in droves (around half a million last year) and international visitors are on the rise -- more than 200,000 foreigners annually so far, many from neighboring Norway and the UK.
They're on to a good thing -- with its clean water and air, more pretty fishing villages than you could stuff in a postcard rack and countless wriggling nets-worth of seafood, this is a pristine piece of Europe.
Stretching from Gothenburg in the south to the border with Norway, it's large enough that you can easily get away, paddling or otherwise, from crowds -- even in summer.
You'd be missing out to head to the Bohuslän Coast and -- regardless of your ability -- not jump in a kayak (rather than a canoe, which are more suited to Sweden's lakes than coastal waters).
Read more: 10 things to know before visiting Sweden
For starters, there are no strong currents or dangerous tidal waters here.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the water is warm and the islands mostly easy to get to.
Plenty of sheltered coves let novice paddlers practice, while the more experienced paddlers can head out to the North Sea.



Sweden's right-to-roam law means you can pitch a tent largely where you like among the islands of Bohuslän.

Born in a boat
Many Swedes appear to have been born in a kayak.
Around Bohuslän, kayakers cluster in the car-free Koster Islands in the Kosterhavet, Sweden's first marine national park.
Popular, too, are the rocky islands of the Fjällbacka archipelago, the Weather Islands (Väderöarna), Sweden's most westerly, and the larger islands of Orust and Tjörn.
Read more: How to see Stockholm like Stieg Larsson
Some of the islands have guesthouses or, thanks to the country's freedom-to-roam law, you can pitch your tent and hike pretty much wherever you like (bar some protected spots).
Reindeer, mink and seal are among the animals you might encounter in this still wild place -- plus ever-present seabirds.



Fishermen still work much of the coast.

Flying in
Most overseas visitors fly into Gothenburg.
Once dominated by its industrial seaport, Sweden's second-largest city is now an increasingly lively and cosmopolitan place.
It's worth spending a day or two here to visit Scandinavia's largest amusement park, Liseberg, or to get a taste of Swedish coffee culture -- the famous fika.
A recommended stopping place as you drive up the coast is Fjällbacka, a fishing village about an hour and a half north of Gothenburg.
It's an undeniably pretty place -- any cloying potential is offset by the fact that resident crime writer Camilla Läckberg sets her grisly murders here.
Read more: How to build a Swedish ice hotel
A short drive further north is Grebbestad, where 90% of Sweden's oysters come from.
There are plenty of opportunities in the bars and restaurants around town to test legendary French chef Paul Bocuse's assertion that Sweden's oysters are the best in the world.
You can visit WestSweden.com for more information on planning a trip to Bohuslän.
Kayak guides will show you around the islands. Christina Ingemarsdotter ([email protected]; +46 707 332 240) charges $390 for a wild camping and kayaking trip, per person, for two nights and three days, including instruction, food, equipment and kayaks.

Source: Paddling wild in Sweden
 

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