Top 8 lake vacations in Sweden
With over 100,000 lakes in Sweden, you're never too far from a beautiful lakeside. And thanks to Sweden’s right of public access, these serenity-inducing waters are free for all to enjoy. Embark on any number of activities – from refreshing wild swimming and peaceful kayak excursions to Nordic tour skating and tranquil fishing experiences.
Lakeside living is part of the Swedish lifestyle and local waters provide both therapeutic relaxation and soft adventure – go for a swim, cycle along the shore, rent a boat or kayak your way around. You may even just choose to sit by a rock and dip your toes in the water – Swedish lakes are tranquil havens, complete with nature's health-boosting ability to help you destress.
Surrounded by nature – ranging from endless fields and forests to dramatic hills, marshes and mountains – Sweden's lakes have year-round appeal and offer any number of vacation activities by the lake. Come winter, the thick ice enables you to ski and skate. If fishing is on your agenda, this can be done any time of year, as well as wild swimming.
So, do like the Swedes and opt for a lakeside vacation – stay in an off-grid cabin or take advantage of the country's freedom to roam custom and pitch a tent for a night or two. Breathe in the fresh air, sleep under the stars and try a spot of skinny-dipping.
Here, we present the top lake vacations in Sweden, from north to south – though you'll find many more across the country.
Lake Hornavan, Arjeplog, Swedish Lapland
Go for a swim in crystal clear glacial water in Lake Hornavan.
Photo: Carl-Johan Utsi/Swedish Lapland
Lake Hornavan – a haven for fishing and nature enthusiasts
Surrounded by the pristine nature of Swedish Lapland, Lake Hornavan is Sweden's deepest at around 221 metres. Covering over 220 square kilometres, this vast lake and its crystal-clear waters offer activities year-round. Outdoor experience organiser, for example, ACWA Fishing will have you discovering Lake Hornavan via trolling fishing trips, where a bait is pulled behind the boat at high speed. The fish you can expect to catch include the unusually large trout and arctic char found in these waters.
Immerse yourself fully in this mountainous environment by staying at Hornavan Hotel in Arjeplog, a stone's throw from the lake. You'll have sought-after fishing waters on your doorstep and various hiking packages can be booked.
Lake Tavelsjö, Västerbotten
Lake Tavelsjö is the largest lake in Umeå. It is ideal for canoeing or kayaking.
Photo: Visit Umeå
Lake Tavelsjö – a northern gem to discover in a day
Swedish lakes come in all shapes and sizes, and it's not unusual to discover hidden gems just by walking around in nature. Lake Tavelsjön near the coastal city of Umeå is manageably sized. You'll be able to walk around the entire lake – a 23-kilometre stretch – in a day. A hiking trail will lead you here from Umeå city centre, taking you through forests and hills. Paddling is on offer too, with canoes and paddleboards available at Tavelsjö Kanot & Kayak. Wintertime, the lake can be accessed on cross-country skis and there's also a well-maintained 10-kilometre ice track, allowing you to skate in a loop around the lake – perhaps rounding off the experience with an invigorating cold bath.
Skating on Storsjön, Östersund
Ice-skating on Lake Storsjön in Östersund is a popular outdoor activity in wintertime.
Photo: Visit Östersund / Håkan Wike
Lake Storsjön – where mountain views and moose abound
Lap up the majestic, mountainous landscape of Jämtland by the waterside. Set off across the water in a kayak, available to rent at places such as dairy farm Tivars Gårdsmejeri – a much-loved dining spot located on the island of Norderön, accessible via ferry. The 19th century steamboat M/S Thomée, docked in the harbour of Östersund, invites anyone keen to sit back and relax the opportunity to discover Sweden's fifth largest lake. Come winter, Lake Storsjön's Winter Park provides the ideal setting for ice fishing, cold baths, skiing and skating – a stone's throw from Östersund city centre.
The lake and its surroundings are studded with unique accommodation options. A prime example: Moose Garden, near Orrviken, where you'll be staying in cabins overlooking grazing moose.
Fishing on Lake Siljan
Lake Siljan in Dalarna has something for everyone.
Photo: Johan Willner/imagebank.sweden.se
Lake Siljan – the pride of Dalarna has something for everyone
Lake Siljan in central Sweden's county of Dalarna is a definite beauty spot. Take it all in on two wheels by cycling along the well-established Siljansleden trail – which stretches on for some 310 kilometres – or opt for a leisurely trip onboard M/S Gustaf Vasa. This heritage steamboat runs evening excursions with dining – including the Swedish classic 'shrimp feast'. Sauna rafting is also on offer, and if travelling with kids, consider Siljansbadet's sandy beach, with its shallow waters near the town centre of Rättvik.
As for food and accommodation, historical Rättvik estate Tällbergsgården has a White Guide-listed restaurant, Johansson, and a menu brimming with local flavours and panoramic views across Lake Siljan. Bruntegården has equally stunning lakeside views, with accommodation across twelve individually designed rooms. The sustainable restaurant found here also features in the White Guide.
Summer by Lake Mälaren
The city of Västerås with its surroundings is great for enjoying the summer holidays by Lake Mälaren.
Photo: Pia Nordlander
Lake Mälaren – a lakeside idyll near Stockholm
With its many islands and inlets, Lake Mälaren is deceptively large. With a surface area of 1,140 square kilometres, the freshwater lake stretches all the way to Stockholm, by way of Västerås and Sigtuna, said to be Sweden’s first city. A plethora of activities are on offer, many of which are facilitated by the heritage hotel Sigtuna Stadshotell. Wintertime, touring ice-skates are available, allowing you to set off across the frozen lake. Top tip – a long-distance skating adventure with an instructor.
Over in Västerås, you'll be able to immerse yourself in Swedish lake culture further by staying at Utter Inn – a unique form of accommodation in the shape of a red cabin floating on a jetty about a kilometre off the mainland. Relax on the jetty or use the boat to explore the nearby islands and when it's time for bed, you'll find the panoramic-windowed bedroom submerged three metres underwater. As for other idyllic places to stay near Lake Mälaren, Sundbyholms Castle is an eminent option.
When hunger sets in, pay Hornuddens Trädgård a visit. This lakeside eco farm specialises in homegrown vegetable dishes, served with locally sourced meat and fish.
Canoeing on Lake Vänern
On a cliff by the shore of Lake Vänern rises Läckö Castle - captivating in its Baroque splendour, sensual gardens, magnificent treasures and ancient medieval vaults.
Photo: Roger Borgelid/Westsweden.com
Lake Vänern – majestic and varied
At 5,650 square kilometres, Lake Vänern is Sweden's largest lake. On its western shores you’ll find the perfect back-to-nature style cabins available, courtesy of Swedish Country Living. You'll have the opportunity to go swimming or set off on a canoe excursion right on your doorstep, and the stunning nature reserves found here are ideal for hiking. Discover the Vänern archipelago by heading to the island of Brommö, near Mariestad. On this car-free island, much of which is a nature reserve, you'll find a 14-kilometre hiking trail snaking through dunes and smooth rocks, as well as an easy 16-kilometre biking trail.
Håveruds Hotell serves up stunning views over the lake and an ideal location for exploring the magical region of Dalsland. Rent a kayak and glide along the Dalsland Canal route. It will give you access to a multitude of different lakes and waterways in what is an undeniably beautiful water-based route.
Autumn swim in Lake Vättern
Try a refreshing autumn swim in Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake.
Photo: Patrik Svedberg/imagebank.sweden.se
Lake Vättern – an all-round gem and cycling hotspot
Lake Vättern – Sweden's second largest – stretches from Jönköping in Småland all the way to Askersund in the north. With the charming town of Hjo as your base, you'll be able to discover this mighty lake's western shore via a range of activities – from steamboat trips and paddle board excursions to relaxing moments in the harbour's wood-fired floating sauna. Bathers can choose between several beaches, located centrally and further out. The lake is also home to Vätternrundan, an annual cycling event of 315 kilometres, known as 'the world’s largest recreational bike ride'.
Another highlight is the island of Visingsö – the former royal residence of King Magnus Ladulås. It's easily accessible by boat from the charming town of Gränna. An ideal cycle destination, you'll find a 25-kilometre bike trail on Visingsö, taking you through historical sites, idyllic farmland and one of Sweden's largest oak forests. Bikes can be rented in the harbour.
If you’d like to cross Lake Vättern from west to east or the other way around, M/Y Modig offers a one-and-a-half-hour ride in between Karlsborg and Motala during the summer.
Camping by Lake Immeln
In Sweden, you can set up camp almost anywhere you want. The shores of the lake Immeln are surrounded by dense and magical, tranquil forests - perfect for relaxation.
Lake Immeln – tranquillity and fish-rich waters
Set off on a soft adventure in Lake Immeln, situated in the southern county of Skåne, about 23 kilometres north of the city of Kristianstad. Studded with some 200 islands, this lake is a joy to discover and is known for its peaceful fishing waters. Species such as pike and perch thrive here and even in winter, you'll be able to get a catch – Immeln is something of an ice-fishing hotspot.
With its many islands and bays, this is also one of Sweden's best lakes for canoeing. Skåne's most popular canoe trail runs through it, connecting to other lakes nearby. As you glide through this natural wonderland, keep an eye out for the area's rich birdlife – several of the islands are bird sanctuaries. As night falls, pitch a tent on an island of your choice. Canoes and associated equipment – including tents and grills – are available to rent at Immeln Canoe Center – allowing you to take full advantage of all that Swedish lake culture has to offer. Dotted all over the country, Swedish lakes will have you peacefully immersed in a variety of natural environments – all begging to be discovered from the waterside.