‘Kayak across the fjord to your own secluded beach’: readers’ favourite summer trips to Scandinavia

Beautiful Bergen and beyond, Norway

Bergen is often referred to as “the city between seven mountains” – which encapsulates its blend of culture and nature. Lose yourself in its charming old town, fish markets, galleries and museums, then hike or take a funicular up Mount Fløyen for views and pine forest trekking. Bergen is a great base from which to day trip. Using direct buses/trains, you can go to Gudvangen to kayak across the fjord to your own secluded beach for a picnic lunch, or pop to Voss for its water sports, hiking and farm-to-fork food (Store Ringheim is my top pick).

Car-free calm on Utö, Sweden

Utö island is “utöpia”. Photograph: Natalia Ordasi/Getty Images

Utö in the south-western part of the Stockholm archipelago might just be “utöpia”. We packed a tent and went for a weekend adventure from Stockholm, taking the bus and the Line 21 ferry. Life slows on the car-free island and you discover summer houses, wild strawberries, secluded beaches and swimming spots. We camped at a waterside site, with a view of the south harbour and Mysingen, which has its own beach. An absolute must is a visit to the island’s bakery, Utö Bakgård, to try its cinnamon and cardamom buns.
Lizzie Bird

A dream break by Lake Vättern, Sweden

The beach of Guldkroksbadet, Hjo. Photograph: Berndt-Joel Gunnarsson/Alamy

Hjo in Sweden is on the edge of Lake Vättern and provides the setting holiday dreams are made of. You’d feel as if you’d stepped back in time … if it weren’t for the heated outdoor pools, modern play parks and a few antique shops for those looking to uncover a gem. Liquorice ice-cream in a homemade waffle cone is a must at Gula Paviljongen, a wonderful place to sit by the water and take it all in.
Kirsty Johansson

Kayaking around Vaxholm, Sweden

Our reader’s photograph of kayaking off Vaxholm. Photograph: Rebecca

We’ve toured Norway, Denmark and Sweden over the last few summers, cycling and using public transport. We love the freedom it brings, and the opportunities it provides to explore cities and their outdoor pursuits. One of our favourites was travelling by commuter boat from Stockholm to the island of Vaxholm, which takes about an hour. It has lovely shops, huge ice-creams and picturesque cafes. We found a small jetty and beach that was popular with swimmers and kayakers. On the day we visited we’d already booked a kayak using Kayakomat, paying online and releasing the kayak and all the equipment needed using a pin code; it cost 398 Swedish krona (£30) for two hours in a two-seater kayak and was a great way to explore the island.

Going Viking in Denmark

A wooden stave church in Ribe. Photograph: OJ Photos/Alamy

Ribe, one of Denmark’s oldest towns, has a Viking Centre where you can get an authentic feel of the life of families from more than 1,000 years ago. The town is also a great place for exploring the marine wonders of the Wadden Sea national park and climbing the nearby Marsk Tower to look over the expansive marshes. There’s a campsite and great restaurant by the tower, too.

Boat house stay, Norway

Vermundsjøen, near Åsnes. Photograph: Jan-Tore Egge

My partner and I stayed in a traditional boat house (on Airbnb) in an area called Åsnes Finnskog in Norway, near the border with Sweden. We took a canoe out on Lake Vermundsjøen, cooked over an open fire, sunbathed on the pebbly beach and swam to a nearby island – without coming across anyone over the two nights we stayed. It was an amazing experience.

I found a perfect beach in Denmark

Hornbæk beach is just 90 minutes from Copenhagen. Photograph: Stuart Black/Alamy

In summer, I’ve found Denmark’s sandy beaches to be peaceful and free of sunbeds and hotels blocking off swathes of them. They’re often protected by sand dunes, making them sheltered from winds and perfect for swimming, sunbathing and having picnics of local rye bread, cheese and fresh herring. Hornbæk beach was my favourite of the many I tried last summer: it’s just 90 minutes by public transport from Copenhagen. A morning drink at Albis cafe will set you up for the day. Danes love their ice-creams, and Iskagehuset, just behind the beach, has lovely flavours, made with milk from local cows.


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At one with nature hiking in northern Sweden

Nijak mountain, Sarek national park. Photograph: mauritius images GmbH/Alamy

My friends thought I was crazy when I told them I was going to the Arctic Circle last summer instead of Ibiza, but my visit to the Sarek national park in northern Sweden was brilliant. I joined a community of hikers and wild campers who were just wandering around, totally at one with each other and nature, happy to share tips, resources, food and life stories as we walked, and then lit camp fires to keep warm in the long summer nights. In a landscape of mountains, forests and streams, there were reindeers, elks, wolverines and kind-hearted Sami people. Much better than getting burnt and drunk on a Spanish island.

Winning tip: Nature under midnight skies on the Åland Islands

Midnight skies in Swedish-speaking Finland. Photograph: Dani65finn/Getty Images

The Swedish-speaking but Finnish Åland Islands, in the gulf between Turku and Stockholm, encompass so much of the culture and beauty of Scandinavia. There is idyllic farmland, charming villages and banks of wild lupins in impressionist colours. We cycled to Kastelholm Castle, which has served as a palace and a prison, went birding on Lågskär island and visited the museum ship in Mariehamn harbour. Gorgeous local cheeses washed down with the cold-pressed juice of fresh berries were a highlight, as were midsummer rituals such as the saunas. A wonderful moment was watching swans gliding on a calm sea under light-filled midnight skies.


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