Canoeing and kayaking in the land of lakes, rivers and archipelagos
Few leisure activities are as fun and accessible for beginners and hardcore enthusiasts alike as canoeing and kayaking. Whether you'd prefer to explore Sweden's waterways with an experienced guide or take a solo tour through the canals in one of the three largest cities, canoeing and kayaking in Sweden have never been easier.
Northern Sweden: Glide the wild rivers towards the sea
Swedish Lapland is home to the country’s wildest rivers. The Torne, Ume, Kalix and Lule rivers offer canoeists and kayakers a true wilderness experience as the waterways cut through ravines across giant Arctic plains and marshes on their way to the Gulf of Bothnia. River canoeing doesn’t get any wilder than this! The highest coastline in the world, Höga Kusten, beckons you to go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding along this magnificent Unesco World Heritage site.
Here, above the Arctic Circle, the midnight sun lights up the sky 24/7 in the summertime giving you double the time to explore this extraordinary and dramatic landscape and beautiful archipelago.
Eastern Sweden: Paddling through ancient history
On the Swedish east coast, archipelagos like Stockholm, Gryt, St. Annas and Tjust are just waiting to be explored. Sea kayaking along the eastern coastline is suitable for both beginners and more experienced paddlers. Rent a canoe and venture out into Stockholm’s vast archipelago where you can stay overnight on one of approximately 30,000 islands. The seaside village of Dalarö, located only 45 minutes away from downtown Stockholm, is a perfect place to start your Baltic Sea adventure.
Further down the coast, in the province of Småland, you’ll find Lake Åsnen, Sweden’s newest National Park. It consists of a unique lake archipelago featuring islands, forests and wetlands. People have travelled these waters since the Stone Age and along with astounding nature and wildlife you will find traces of early human settlement. Younger family members will be intrigued by Trollberget (Troll Mountain) and its exciting forests. For a week-long trip you can traverse the 120 km long canoe route Värendsleden and stay overnight at campsites along the way.
Western Sweden: Leisurely canoeing along the coastline
The western part of the country features the province of Värmland where 10,000 lakes create an environment perfect for paddling. Sweden’s longest river, Klarälven, meanders through the entire length of the province before flowing into Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden.
Värmland is also known for its giant forests. In the Glaskogen Nature Reserve you can find 80 pristine lakes and waterways. The rivers Klarälven, Röjdån, Rottnan and Svartälven also offer fabulous canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
Sweden’s western coastline stretches from second largest town Gothenburg up north to the Norwegian border. Known as Bohuslänskusten, it features 8,000 islands dotted with quaint fishing villages, and is world-famous for its fresh seafood. It is also recognised as a sea kayaking wonderland of islands, islets and skerries.
One reason is Kosterhavet Marine National Park, a 450 sqm natural haven for the flora and fauna above and below the waterline. Or visit the village of Grebbestad and treat yourself to a culinary paddling tour and learn how to open and eat oysters straight from the sea. In the winter, adventure seekers can paddle through icy waters past pristine snowy cliffs.
The large number of islands make these waters un-navigable for shipping, so you will have them all to yourself. Claim an uninhabited island for camping or simply cruise in for a spot of sunbathing or a picnic. The islands also act as wind breaks, making for leisurely paddling.
Southern Sweden: A paradise for kayaking and birdwatching
The southern province of Skåne is flat with many lakes and rivers and a long coastline. If dramatic cliffs plunging into the sea is on your bucket list, the nature reserve of Kullaberg is the place for you. Kullakajak offers guided tours day and night. To experience something as unique as a biosphere reserve, head for the quaint city of Kristianstad where you can paddle on the Helge å river. Keep an eye open for white storks, typical for the region!
The most popular canoe route is Immeln, Skåne’s third largest lake with more than 200 islands perfect for camping, fishing and cooking outdoors. Many islands in Immeln are Special Protection Areas (SPA) for birds so bring your binoculars.
Looking for a family friendly and safe paddling excursion? The Rönne å river is a one-way river course winding downstream through lush greenery and open meadows.
Further east, in the province of Blekinge, is the city of Karlskrona. Founded in 1680 it's the only remaining naval base from when Sweden dominated the Baltic Sea. The charming city is spread over 30 islands, with the city center on the island of Trossö that still has many baroque buildings.
If you start your kayak adventure from the harbor of Matvik, you can head for the islands Ekö, Tärnö, and Hallö to put your tent up for the night. On Joggesö, the popular boarding house Gullkråkan is open year around. You need to book in advance.
Family canoeing in the summer.
Photo: Maria Skarve
Photo: Maria Skarve
Canoeing in Idre, Dalarna
Photo: Idre Fjäll
Camping by a lake
Photo: Lindsten & Nilsson/imagebank.sweden.se
Fun city paddling in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö
Fancy paddling in a more urban setting? In Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö you can rent gear downtown and explore each city’s canals, waterways and islands.
- Stockholm is built on 14 islands, among them Kungsholmen, Södermalm, Långholmen, Reimersholme and Djurgården. A Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) board is a great way to get around and take in the beauty of the capital.
- In Gothenburg, guided kayak and SUP tours around the downtown area are offered by PaddlaGBG. From the calm waters of Säveån you will discover new sides of the city. You can also paddle through Eskils canal out into the southern archipelago to islands like Brännö for a “fika” in the village or to neighbouring Galterö for a stroll on the beach.
- In Malmö, the twisted skyscraper, Turning Torso, and the imposing Öresund bridge will be your backdrop as you travel the canals around town.
Kayaking in Malmö, Skåne
Kayaking is a fun way to explore Malmö city.