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Kayaking in Vojmån river, Kittelfjäll, Västerbotten
Kittelfjäll is best known for its skiing opportunities, but the area offers several outdoor activities during all seasons.
Photo credit: Patrick Trädgårdh/Kittelfjäll

Västerbotten county – a hotspot for unforgettable experiences in nature

Few counties offer as much variety as Västerbotten, particularly if you're craving sustainable tourist activities in nature. Urban types are in luck too – the region's two cities, Umeå and Skellefteå, have much to offer across culture, history and dining.

A natural wonderland, Västerbotten Sweden stretches across the Gulf of Bothnia’s east coast, all the way to the Norwegian border in the west; the county’s northern section, from Sorsele and Skellefteå, forms part of Swedish Lapland. The wild nature found throughout this county incorporates coastline, lakes, mountains, valleys and deep forests. You'll be able to take it all in a variety of ways year-round. Hop on your bike, get on horseback or opt for a spot of hiking or skiing – or glide across the water in a kayak.

There are also urban experiences to be had courtesy of Västerbotten's two main cities, Umeå and Skellefteå. Umeå is also known as "City of Birches", a nickname that came about following a devastating fire in 1888, after which the city was built up with wide, birch-tree lined avenues. As for its industrial roots, Västerbotten has for centuries been active in the fields of mining, shipping and forestry.

Whether spending time in the city or nature, you'll never be short of things to do in Västerbotten – its ever-growing initiative Västerbotten Experience is a growing network of some 80 companies offering unique sustainable tourism activities to suit every taste and age group.

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Nature in Västerbotten

Västerbotten offers stunning nature with a great variety of forests, rivers and mountains.

Photo: Magnus Ström/Region Västerbotten

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Nature in Västerbotten

Photo: Magnus Ström/Region Västerbotten

Borgafjäll, Västerbotten

Photo: Magnus Ström/Region Västerbotten

Dogsledding in Umeå, Västerbotten

Photo: Beatrice Holmberg/Visit Umeå Content Bank

Horseback riding at Grönåkers Farm, Västerbotten

Photo: Fredrik Larsson/Grönåkers Farm

Relaxing in nature

Photo: Visit Skellefteå

Skiing in Kittelfjäll, Västerbotten

Photo: Patrick Trädgårdh/Kittelfjäll

Discover Västerbotten via a smorgasbord of outdoor activities

Västerbotten's stunning and varied terrain is ideal for a plethora of activities.

Wintertime, snow sport fans are presented with endless options. The major ski resort Hemavan Tärnaby offers skiing for beginners and pros alike across its 27 slopes, three kids’ areas, snow parks and Ski cross Arena. In Hemavan, you'll also find the free and much-loved ski area Kobåset.

Kittelfjäll, meanwhile, is celebrated for its scenic off-piste and cross-country tracks, and in summer, hikers take advantage of the midnight sun to take in the vistas. Saxnäs and the nearby Borgafjäll mountain are other natural wonderlands ideal for outdoor activities, with numerous trails taking you through old-growth forest, marshes and mountain tops.

Situated in Umeå municipality, Holmöarna is an idyllic group of islands and one of Sweden's biggest marine nature reserves. Take it all in by bike – available to rent from Holmön's Boat Museum – or set off on foot along the many marked trails. Botanists can look forward to unique and varied flora – many types of plants and flowers thrive here thanks to the land uplift and the brackish water of Kvarken.

Trotting through the forest on horseback is an unforgettable experience. Grönåkers Farm in Bjurholm, some 58 kilometres from Umeå, will have you riding Icelandic horses – a breed known for its robustness and calm, friendly nature. These horseback riding experiences are suitable for beginners and experts alike, and you get to prepare your four-footed friend before you set off.

Dogsledding is another popular mode of transport in winter, offered by organisers including Peder Karlsson Upplevelser, situated in the mountainous region of Tärnaby, and Aurora Borealis Adventures, which offers experiences lasting from 1.5 hours to several days from its base in Vindeln. In the same area, thrill-seekers can have a go at rafting courtesy of Wilderness Adventure.

Most of the nature-based experiences mentioned above can be found on the Västerbotten Experience website.

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Umeälven river, Umeå

Umeå is beautifully located next to Umeälven river.

Photo: Fredrik Larsson/Visit Umeå Content Bank

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Umeälven river, Umeå

Photo: Fredrik Larsson/Visit Umeå Content Bank

Umedalen Sculpture Park, Umeå

Photo: Örjan Furberg / Galleri Andersson/Sandström

Museum of modern art, Bildmuseet, Umeå

Photo: Henke Olofsson/Visit Umeå Content Bank

Bonnstan, Skellefteå

Photo: Visit Skellefteå

Lap up the art and culture of Umeå and Skellefteå

Västerbotten's two cities are awash with notable museums, cultural highlights and dining spots. In November each year, Umeå plays host to Sámi Week or ‘Ubmejen Biejvieh’ as it’s known in Sámi – in celebration of Sweden's indigenous population, the Sámi people. Joyously reflecting on Sámi culture, the event involves everything from food tastings to ‘Joik’ singing battles.

Umedalen Sculpture Park is an art-fuelled wonderland, open year-round and free to enter. As you wander around this leafy space, designed by notable landscape architect Ulf Nordfjell, you'll discover sculptures and installations by world-renowned artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor.

Located on the banks of Umeälven River, Umeå's museum of modern art – Bildmuseet – is another hit. One of Sweden’s key establishments for international contemporary art, there are seven floors of art to discover.

Over in Skellefteå, don't miss Church Town – 'Bonnstan'. This well-preserved collection of wooden cottages, located just outside the city centre, has remained largely unchanged since it was built in the first half of the 19th century. Also, visit Sara Kulturhus, who was awarded the Wood Prize (Träpriset) in 2024. This landmark has garnered international attention for its innovative approach, advancing the use of wood construction.

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The delicious Västerbotten cheese was first created in the 19th century. Since then, the cheese has become a part of Swedish traditions such as Västerbottensostpaj quiche, which is served at midsummer celebrations.

Photo: Roland Persson/Västerbottensost

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Photo: Roland Persson/Västerbottensost

Facit bar, Umeå

Photo: Jonas Pekkari / Visit Umeå

Bistro Bryggargatan, Skellefteå

Photo: Jakob Nylund/Bistro Bryggargatan

The sustainable dining experiences of Västerbotten

Västerbotten has a rich and varied culinary culture, centring on produce found in the county. Its most famous product is no doubt Västerbottensost, a delicious cheese. So, what is Västerbotten cheese and how is it served? It's a hard cheese, typically enjoyed with crispbread and a hint of sweetness via figs or cloudberries, for example. It also gives flavour to a range of recipes, including Västerbottensostpaj quiche – a classic on festive occasions such as crayfish parties, midsummer celebrations and Christmas. It also features in the regional specialty 'paltmuffins' – a potato-based black pudding in muffin form. Another Västerbotten classic to try is ‘älgwallenbergare’ – an elk meat version of the classic Swedish ‘wallenbergare’ dish.

Umeå-based Facit Bar – owned by star bartender Emil Åreng – serves innovative cocktails and food sourced from Swedish producers exclusively. To eat, expect modernised classics such as ‘smörgåstårta’ (a savoury cake).

The tasting menu served up at fine dining restaurant Hunger och Törst, another Umeå highlight, is based around organic ingredients sourced locally. The dishes you get to sample change according to the season and include options for vegetarians.

Västerbotten is studded with quality eateries featuring in the foodie favourite White Guide. Bistro Bryggargatan is one of Skellefteå's most popular dining spots, replete with a cocktail bar. Fish lovers will enjoy Kvarkenfisk near Umeå – a harbourside restaurant specialising in fish dishes seasoned with the flavours of Västerbotten.

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The Wood Hotel

The Wood Hotel by Elite is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. It’s made of pine and spruce, with all trees harvested within the local area.

Photo: Elite Hotels

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The Wood Hotel

Photo: Elite Hotels

Granö Beckasin

Photo: Bea Holmberg/Visit Sweden

Fishing, Skellefteå

Photo: Visit Skellefteå

Biking on Isälvsleden, Västerbotten

Photo: Petter Lämås/Visit Umeå Content Bank