Tiveden, the first national park we’re visiting in Sweden. Yay! After spending a week in Gothenburg, the second largest city of Sweden, it was a relief to set foot in such a large nature area.
The park is located in the historical province of Västergötland just in between Sweden’s two largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern. It was established back in 1983 and is approximately 20 km2 in size.
Back in the Netherlands, we’re used to small patches of nature. They’re crossed by many paved roads and highways, and you’ll pass quite a few houses when hiking. Especially during weekends, we’d encounter other people just about every minute. To say the least, it’s difficult to find secluded patches of nature where you get to enjoy the silence.
Luckily, that’s not the case here in Sweden. Spending some time in Tiveden national park was amazing!
Enjoying dinner at a lake and heading to the park!
The first day, we arrived at the edge of the national park quite late. Just before we had to take a left onto the first dirt road leading towards the park, we saw the perfect spot to park our home for the night.
It was a large grassy spot with a picnic table, situated on the bank of a large lake with a small wooden pier. It was just lovely, and a perfect place to spend our first night away from the busy city life!
We cooked up a simple pasta dish with some herb oil and enjoyed at the picnic table, taking in the views and serenity of nature.
The following day, it was finally time to visit Tiveden national park! We woke up bright and early, and took the first exit onto the dirt road. It led us directly into the center of the park.
The first thing we noticed here in Sweden, is that the paved roads stop and dirt roads begin each time we enter a nature area. Be it a national park, a nature reserve, or a lush green area in general, you can reach them via bumpy roads with small loose rocks.
Although this certainly enhances our feeling of being in nature, it also shook up all our belongings in our camper van that morning. Each time we drove over a bump, we cringed a little at the sound of the pots and pans smacking into one another. Or that empty metal water bottle that fell from the countertop.
We learned from it though, and we now do a second check before we start the engine!
Instead of planning our adventures, we prefer to discover new places full of ignorance. We hence certainly didn’t expect to find such a large parking lot in the middle of the park after driving on those dirt roads for a while. It certainly made things easier, though! The parking lot is full of information signs, some benches to rest in between hikes, and a wooden cabin with composting toilets.
During our three-day stay within the area, we followed five of the marked routes scattered through the park. The one more challenging than the other.
That first day, we started at the so-called ‘main entrance’ where five out of nine routes in Tiveden start. Our first hike was the grey route. It was listed as 4.2 kilometers, without the height differences taken into consideration, that is. The time scheduled for this route explains the terrain; a whopping 3 hours. We foolishly thought that we could easily beat that time!
It took only half an hour or so to convince us otherwise… We are used to the very, very flat river delta, also known as the Netherlands. We still had to get used to the more demanding terrain here in Scandinavia.
Previously, we could easily walk 5 or 6 kilometers an hour, even in nature reserves. Well, this route certainly took us more than 3 hours. That included our many breaks though, to take pictures, to eat and drink something, or simply to take everything in.
Enjoying the sounds of nature
As Venus was still a puppy, we took our e-readers along, and had several long long breaks during our hike. It’s great to just take a moment and relax. To enjoy the birds chirping around you, and hear the wind go through the leaves, gives quite a peaceful feeling.
The route truly was amazing. One minute we were walking on the strong rigid roots of old pine trees, and the next we climbed on lichen-covered rocks that felt like we were walking on soft pillows.
At times, the challenging paths prove it difficult to enjoy the surroundings, but it is important to remember to take a second and take everything in. Besides those damn mosquitos and ticks though, they were terribly annoying, and abundant!
About half-way through the route, we stumbled upon a little surprise. A guestbook was hidden all the way below four massive boulders! It was not even old and forgotten, but written full of greetings from people that had explored the area. It was amazing to browse through the pages and read people’s names.
We could scribble a little something on the final page of the book. Be sure to check it out if you ever walk the grey route in Tiveden national park!
Our hikes through tiveden’s Old-growth forests
Over the next two days we embarked upon a total of four hikes. The blue route, that also started at the main entrance (6.7 km); the orange route, starting at Vitsand (1.3 km); the white route, also starting at Vitsand (2.8 km); and lastly, the green route, starting at Ösjönäs (1.9 km).
Most of the hiking paths deemed to be quite challenging. We personally loved it, but it does reduce the park’s accessibility for the less agile. After having completed all these hikes, we certainly understand why the area has never been habited by people. It also explains why man-made interventions have been kept to a minimum over the years, and why it has never been subject to extensive forestry. The terrain is simply too demanding. All routes, except the green one, at least partly included quite steep terrain with difficult rocky paths.
We must say, the routes were marked just expertly. We were never in doubt of were to go. The symbol of each route doesn’t solely have its own unique color, but also contains an unique dot pattern. This even enables the color blind to follow these paths. Tiveden is the first national park that we visited in Sweden, so we are not yet aware whether each park includes the same system.
Tamed by fire
Fire has tamed the forest over the years, instead of human intervention. It’s another sign that shows how nature itself has been in control. Sure, some fires could’ve been lit by people, but fires have been a natural occurrence in nature areas across the world resulting in the most stunning landscapes. At certain locations within the park, forest fires occurred every 20 years on average!
As pine trees are fairly resistant to fire, they have come to dominate the area; in contrast to the sensitive spruces. In the moist areas of the forest however, you do find some old spruce stands. The fire has not been able to reach this part of the park recently.
Not many nature areas nowadays offer such a primeval feeling. We had to wane through swampy forests on elevated wooden walkways, on to large expanses of steep lichen-covered rocky paths through old pine forests, with lakes scattered throughout the park. Tiveden has it all.
Spending the nights
During our drives around the park, we saw many small parking spaces. They were located just next to the road before entering the national park. These are just perfect to spend the night with a camper.
We could park our camper van almost next to the park, get up at 5:30, and start our day with a hike in the park at 6 o’clock in the morning. Even though it is not allowed to spend the night in a camper within the borders of the park, we did come across many doing so on the official parking lots. It’s clear that Tiveden is the perfect place to spend a few days with your camper, whether or not you abide to the rules!
We did miss having a tent on us though. There are a few designated places where you can pitch your tent for the night. Nothing beats spending the night truly in the middle of a forest next to a lake.
Even if you don’t have a camper van or tent, Tiveden is still a nice destination. Just north of the park you can find a small old-fashioned looking town – well just a street, really – called Tivedstorp. It isn’t much, but there is small little hostel where you can spend the night. And if you’re hungry, you can find a small café there to get a bite to eat.
Just our first (hopefully)
For anyone that appreciates nature, Tiveden national park is a must see. We’ve seen many forests throughout Europe over the years, but few come close to the old-growth forests we’ve come across during our hikes in Tiveden.
Like we said, this was the first national park in Sweden we’ve visited so far. It has sparked our curiosity to visit as many of the other parks as possible!
If you’d like to learn more about Tiveden, the official site of all Swedish national parks offers a great deal of information about it! Alternatively, you could pay a visit to the website of Tiveden national park itself, though it does seem to be focused on selling activities rather than sharing information.