Hiking and boating across one of the most beautiful
sea-side regions of Scandinavia
> Two weeks in Sweden's Bohuslän archipelago during Autumn <
Here is a little qiuzz for island nerds: Which country in the world has the most islands? You might think it is Indonesia (18.300), Arctic Canada (36.500), the Philippines (7.500) or the Bahamas (3.200). But all of the big Scandinavian countries have more. Norway has an amazing 240.000 islands, islets and cays, Sweden has 60.000, and Finland can count 40.000. The cluster of islands off the coast of Norway, Finland, and Sweden forms the largest archipelagos in the world, with more rocks, skerries, islets and habitable chunks than any other region. The Stockholm archipelago alone is the start of a chain of 28.945 of them, stretching 60km towards the open waters of the Baltic Sea.
Enough with the statistics, let's get down to business: Along Sweden's 7000 km-long coast-line, without a doubt, the Bohuslän coast and archipelago is one of Sweden's most alluring regions. Stretching for only 160km from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, the coast is dotted with small, charming fishing communities, natural harbors, and hiking trails both on shore and off the coast on the 8000-or-so Bohuslän islands. What is so special about this region is its remoteness and the unusual coloring of the rock found everywhere. Known as Bohus granite, the rock ranges in color from earthy brown to dusky grey, though the rock bears a distinctly pink hue. At sunset, the combination of the golden yellow of the sky, the aquamarine of the sea, and the pink of the granite is a Bohuslän and West Sweden classic. Bohuslän is also known for its succulent seafood. Mussels, oysters, lobsters, langoustines, crabs and prawns all thrive in the deep, cold and exceptionally clear waters off the Bohuslän coast. The colds waters cause the crustaceans to grow more slowly, which produces an exceptional taste.
We have spent a few weeks hiking across the entire Bohuslän coast from Gotenburg in south to Strömstad in north along Marstand, Åstol, Klädesholmen, Tjörn, Orust, Käringön, Gullholmen, Fiskebäckskil, Lysekil, Smögen, Väderöarna, Fjällbacka, Tanumshede, and Kosteröarna. The summer months from June to August are always the best time to visit with long, sunny days and white nights, but our trip took place in October where the weather is not always playing along. This however was not too bad for nature and outdoor-gear enthusiasts.
The Swedish flag putting around an island in the Gothenburg archipelago. The Konungariket Sweden flag dates back to the 16th century.
After arriving in Gothenburg by ferry from Frederikshavn in Denmark, our first point of contant on the Bohuslän coast and on this journey was the Marstrand archipelago. This was a nice place with lots of coastal tracks and islands with no cars. Small fishing huts dot the coast, and in Marstrand village we would pick up fresh coffe and hot cinnamon burns in between trekking. There is a nice fortress and church in the village.
The herring island of Klädesholmen, to the far south of Tjörn, was a nice place to break up the journey. With its wooden houses and picturesque island setting set on steep inclines it was worth exploring on foot. There were once 30 processing factories here, today reduced to a handful. The fresh smell of herring was stil in the air. Naturally, herring featured heavily on the menu of the few restaurants on the small island.
This was the main settlement in the southwest of Tjörn. We came here for the ferry towards Åstol Island, and utilized the opportunity to stroll around town and nearby beaches. It's a magnet for artists, thanks to its general prettiness.
...looks like something from a bizarre dream or fairytale. We loved this tiny, barren chunk of rock, dotted with rows of white houses that seemed to perch on top of each other. All the streets are car-free, the atmosphere is unhurried and there is a hostel where we could sleep.
...Sweden's third-biggest island where we would focus on Mollösund village and the many archipelagos offshore.
This is the oldest fishing village on the Bohuslän coast, with an old church, wooden houses and a picture-perfect harbour.
Many sailors belive this archipelago is the most enchanting of all the Bohuslän's villages. 1 km wide and 1 km long, we thought we would feel stuck here during our stay, but it was easy to stay for two days without getting bored. There is a "jungle" of alleys and timber houses, beautifully painted in any number of pastel shades, as well as red wooden fishing shacks, outhouses and small gardens. The island has changed little over the last 150 years. The island has good beaches, too!
These islands, which can trace their history back to the 13th century, are very charming. The island villages have dense huddles of red-and-white wooden homes and rocks plummeting into the deep blue waters. Half of the islands is a nature reserve where birds nest undisturbed beneath smooth granite rocks. We stayed on Gullholmen, which is connected to Härmanö by a small footbridge. The latter is known for its fissured bedrock which is known locally as "hell's corridor".
After crossing both Tjörn and Orust and visiting offshore islands, we continued towards the peninuslas north of Orust but made a stopover at Flatön. In the waters off Flatön we did some excellent trekking across the Traneviken bay.
With orange, yellow and purple coloured rocks.
Crossing the Gullmarsfjorden was a fascinating sight. It is Sweden's only real fjord, measuring 25 km in lenght. It separates Skaftö from the mainland and we had to go to Skaftö. The trek across Skaftö to Grundsund is a very nice treek through wild forest, revealing several view over the fjord.
...where we rented a house on Airbnb and ended up staying for a whole week, doing several hikes in the area. The village is located on the western tip of Skaftö island with access to a vast offshore archipelago that acts a windbreak, reducing waves and making trekking and kayaking smooth and fun.
...in front of our Airbnb house. We would often eat our pasta bolognaise early afternoon to be ready for a sunset walk on the rocks. The sun went down quite early in spring, and we went early to bed every day.
A good hike in the area is the coastal walk from Grundsund to Fiskebäckskil, a hike that we did several times.
Fiskebäckskil, on the southern shore of the vast Gullmarsfjorden, is a little village that was easy to fall in love with. It is full of wooden houses, which perch on rocky outcrops above and on the fjord.
It is also a good stopover since a passenger ferry operates across the mouth of the Gillmarsfjorden to Lysekil.
...with shellfish cages in the foreground. Seafood safaris are on offer in most villages along the Bohuslän coast, where lobster and oyster safaris leave from small boathouses in the fishing villages.
...waiting for the full sunset and a trek home on the rocks with headlamps.
Every day, we bought food from a grocery store in the small villages along the coast, and then we prepared sandwiches for lunch, etc., typically sitting on the beach or in the woods. We brought a small stove and brewed coffee, boiled eggs and made hot chocolate.
After our week on the Gullmarsjorden-region, we continued towards Lysekil and Kungshamn and finally Smögen. This tiny offshore island and village is linked to the mainland by an arching bridge that we had to cross on foot during very misty weather. The weather got increasingly bad during the rest of the day, but next morning we woke up to a blue sky!
...is the most attractive part of the Smögen island village. It occupies boathouses, fishing huts, artwork stores and small hole-in-the-wall restaurants where they dish up fresh seafood. It is one of the liveliest places on the Bohuslän coast.
...was part of our daily intake during lunch and dinner. The place is also a good place for seafood safaris, where we put out to sea with a local skipper to fish for seafood before heading back to shore to samle our catch.
We loved strolling around the island and village, escpecially in the harbour-area.