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Kayaking on lake Svärdlång in Värmland
Kayaking on the Dalsland Nordmarken lake system Svärdlång in Värmland.
Photo credit: Henrik Trygg

Kayaking and canoe adventures in Sweden

Experience Sweden from the waterside in a kayak or canoe, gliding along mighty lakes, clean rivers and through Swedish archipelagos that spread across the idyllic coastlines and into the sea.

Few experiences are as peaceful as paddling in a kayak or canoe. Moving silently across the waters, you’re at one with nature. Aside from the sea surrounding it, Sweden has a vast number of lakes, rivers and archipelagos – often within easy reach of quaint towns and other urban environments. Set off with paddle in hand wherever you might be in the country – from Gothenburg on the west coast to Luleå in Swedish Lapland in the north.

There’s no end to the variety of adventures to embark on, either independently or as part of a guided tour, with or without accommodation. Often, you can also combine the excursions with indulging in local food and beverages. Discover the diversity on offer for kayakers and canoeists, beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

City kayaking

Gothenburg

The Gothenburg archipelago on Sweden’s west coast is within easy reach of the city. Located north of Sweden’s second largest city, the magnificent Vättlefjäll nature reserve is one of the biggest recreational spaces in the region. Take in the beauty of its moorland and forestry as you paddle through a network of small, interconnected lakes. Keep an eye out for rare flora and fauna – black grouse and capercaillie are just two types of feathered species you might catch sight of. Canoes can be rented at Kanotpool Vättlefjäll.

Discover more of Gothenburg’s archipelago with the island of Vrångö as your base. Skim the cliffs at a peaceful pace or enter the open sea for a more adventurous outing. Kayaks are available to rent year-round at Kajkanten Vrångö, a hostel complex offering self-catering accommodation in converted boathouses.

Luleå

Luleå is one of Swedish Lapland’s main towns and a relaxing paddling trip can be easily incorporated into a city break. Kayaks are available to rent from the town centre’s southern harbour. A trip to the tiny island of Gråsjälören is a popular day-trip. From here, you’ll get to view the Luleå townscape from another perspective, enjoying the midnight sun during the summer months.

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Canoeing at Vättlefjäll nature reserve

Canoeing in the small connected lakes in the nature reserve Vättlefjäll close to Gothenburg.

Photo: Steampipe Production Studio AB

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Canoeing at Vättlefjäll nature reserve

Photo: Steampipe Production Studio AB

Kayaking at Vrångö Island

Photo: Jonas Ingman / westsweden.com

Kayaking in Luleå City

Photo: Fredrik Broman

Archipelago canoeing

Gothenburg and Bohuslän archipelago

The Gothenburg archipelago’s islands offer a menu of natural wonders and unique flora and fauna. Combine a paddling trip with a visit to charming hamlets. Point 65 Kayak Center, located in Lilla Bommen harbour in the centre of Sweden’s second city, rents kayaks. The Gothenburg archipelago is divided into a northern and southern part. The southern section is car-free, making it particularly suitable for hikes if you fancy taking a break on land.

The Bohuslän archipelago and its numerous islands and islets start spreading a little north of Gothenburg and upwards along the west coast for about 280 km. Hotspots are Grebbestad and the Koster islands. At each of these seaside havens, you can rent kayaks and SUPs, or join guided tours. For culture enthusiasts, Kajaktiv offers an excursion involving a visit to the Nordic Watercolour Museum, followed by a cycle ride to view sculptures at ‘nature’s own art gallery’, Pilane.

The archipelago is a hit with adventure-seekers too – the more boisterous waters lend themselves well to sea kayaking, though there are calmer stretches as well. Take advantage of the abundant supply of freshly caught shellfish and the various forms of accommodation available right by the sea. Several places offer packages that include canoe and kayak rental, food and accommodation. Boutique B&B Lådfabriken and Vann Spa Hotell are two top choices.

Tjust, Västervik

The Tjust archipelago nestles at the fringes of the beautiful town of Västervik, in the north-eastern part of Småland. Rent a single or double kayak at Tjust Sport, which has a broad range to choose from. A vast number of islands and islets scatter this stretch of the Baltic Sea coastline. Many are peacefully secluded, while others are livelier, with a good mix of restaurants, cafés and accommodation options. Kayaking adventures can be combined with other activities, such as fishing and diving.

Lurö, Värmland

The Lurö archipelago is a natural wonderland in Lake Vänern – Sweden’s biggest lake – in the province of Värmland. Kayakers and canoeists are attracted by its scenery and wildlife – there are several bird sanctuaries across this large archipelago, comprising some 250 islands. There’s much to discover here. Take a break in one of the many bays and continue exploring on dry land along the walking trails found on the main island of Lurö itself. If you fancy staying the night, Lurö Gästhärbärge & Krog, offers accommodation as well as dining options.

Swedish Lapland – Luleå and Piteå archipelago

The Bothnian Bay, which incorporates the towns of Skellefteå, Piteå, Luleå, Kalix and Haparanda, forms part of the world’s northernmost brackish water archipelago. There are some 1,300 islands and islets to explore in the Luleå archipelago alone. Rent a kayak in the city’s south harbour and be on your way, choosing between easy and more challenging routes.

When exploring this unique environment, you’re likely to come across mushrooms, berries and various freshwater fish, as well as rare geological specimens, such as Haparanda monzonite rock. This is a peaceful escape, but if you’re looking for a restaurant or a cabin for an overnight stay, you’ll find several on the larger islands.

Piteå, located further south along the coast, offers an equally wide range of activities, allowing you to paddle off on your own or as part of a guided excursion. One such experience, Bright Night Kayaking, sets off from Renöhamn at night to make the most of the magical midnight sun. Animal lovers will enjoy the seal safari canoe tours. These are just two experiences offered by eco-tourism company Guide Natura.

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Gothenburg Archipelago

Njutvandra - Gothenburg Archipelago

Photo: Steampipe Production Studio

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Gothenburg Archipelago

Photo: Steampipe Production Studio

Kayaking in Bohuslän

Photo: Ingela Holgersson

Kayaking outside Västervik

Photo: Ostkustenkajak

Kayaking in Tjust Archipelago

Photo: Ostkustenkajak

Kayaking in lake Vänern

Photo: Per Eriksson

Kayaking in Luleå river

Photo: Fredrik Broman

Long-distance paddling

Dalsland/Nordmarken

Dalsland-Nordmarken – or the DANO district as it’s also known – could have been made for long-distance canoe trips. This network of lakes stretches out in a maze-like manner to the province of Värmland, some 135 km to the north-east. You’ll be at one with vast forests and Swedish wildlife.

You can rent a canoe at Silverlake Camp for an independent excursion or opt for a three-day package, from Swedish Country Living. This newly introduced package combines outstanding nature with the enjoyment of sustainable food cooked using local ingredients. You’ll stay at the design-led Upperud 9:9 hotel, housed in a 100-year-old grain silo.

Klarälven, Värmland

The Klarälven river snakes through the county of Värmland in southwest Sweden. A paddler’s dream, this natural wonderland offers beautiful sandy beaches and small islands providing idyllic resting spots. Keep an eye out for beavers in the water at dusk – you may even hear them splashing with their paddle-like tails.

Nissan river and Ronneby river, Småland

There are several reasons why the Nissan river in Småland is such a draw for canoeists. Surrounded by magnificent terrain dominated by pine forest, this 86 km waterway has mostly calm waters with a few livelier stretches. You’ll find many picnic spots and places to stay along the river, including Isaberg Mountain Resort in Hestra, which serves as an ideal base as canoes and kayaks can be rented here.

The 110 km long Ronnebyån (Ronneby river) is another excellent paddling spot in Småland. From the charming village of Korrö you can set off on an adventure lasting for anything up to five days. Accommodation is available at Korrö, along with cafés and restaurants.

Lake Vänern

Vänern, the country’s largest lake, stretches across western Sweden and has a direct connection to the North Sea via Göta Canal, making it a long-distance canoe destination unlike any other. Studded with more than 22,000 islands – some of which form part of the Lurö archipelago – it offers everything from sandy beaches and rugged rocks to varied flora and fauna. A popular trip for experienced canoeists is the 10 km open water stretch from the island of Lurö to the equally enchanting national park of Djurö. Eco-tourism company Vänern Outdoor organises a range of experiences.

Swedish Lapland

Four of Sweden’s major rivers flow through the vast area of Swedish Lapland, making it a long-distance canoeist’s dream. The national rivers of Torne, Kalix, Pite and Vindel all allow you to paddle for miles, discovering magnificent, unspoilt scenery along the way. As these waterways cut through ravines en route to the Gulf of Bothnia, adventure-seekers are in for a treat as sections of these rivers make up some of Sweden’s wildest stretches of water.

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Upperud 9:9 in Dalsland, West Sweden

Upperud 9:9 is beautifully located by a lake in Dalsland, West Sweden.

Photo: Alex Vizeo - Loris Monteux

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Upperud 9:9 in Dalsland, West Sweden

Photo: Alex Vizeo - Loris Monteux

Upperud 9:9 hotel, West Sweden

Photo: Gaby Karlsson Hain/Westsweden.com

Canoeing on river Klarälven in Värmland

Photo: Deluxturer - Waara World Wide

Timber rafting on river Klarälven in Värmland

Photo: Øyvind Lund

Canoeing on a foggy lake

Photo: Isaberg Mountain Resort

Canoeing at Ronnebyån, Småland

Photo: Alexander Hall

Canoeing in the midnight sun in Swedish Lapland

Photo: Swedish Lapland

Canoeing on the river Juktån in Swedish Lapland.

Photo: Swedish Lapland

Canoeing on the river Juktån, Swedish Lapland

Photo: Swedish Lapland

Rafting in Swedish Lapland

Swedish Lapland is a haven of tranquillity but there’s drama too, thanks to the wild rapids on the Torne river. This beautiful waterway, which flows past the village of Kukkola on the Swedish/Finnish border, is a popular spot among rafting enthusiasts. Seasoned guides are on hand via tourist company Kukkolaforsen to teach you the art of rafting before you hit the water in multi-seat rubber boats. This particular trip takes about two hours, and the outing includes two exhilarating runs down the rapids.

The world-famous Icehotel also organises rafting adventures on the Torne river. This guided seven-hour outing will have you rafting through calm waters as well as rapids. Lunch, cooked over an open fire, followed by Swedish fika, is served on Puonojokk island.

Rafting in Torne river

River rafting in Torne river at the ICEHOTEL in Swedish Lapland.

Photo: Asaf Kliger, Icehotel.com