You can spend hours, days, weeks, researching the web to determine where to go and what to see once you have arrived at your travel destination. But, honestly, to find the little gems in every area, nothing beats talking to the locals.
Until, now we haven’t yet asked anyone for tips directly. Instead, we’ve relied on people’s natural enthusiasm about the area in which they live. When we tell people that we live in a camper van and that we’re traveling through their area, many immediately respond saying something like: ‘Oh, you should definitely check out …’. Everyone loves to talk about the area in which they live, or even have grown up!
So today we’ll share two areas close to Stockholm, recommended to us by locals. You should definitely visit them when you’re ever around!
When we were exploring Tyresta National Park, we walked into the information center for help in the nearest camping to do our laundry. After kindly helped us out by sharing an address, we ended up talking about nature areas in Sweden, the national parks in particular.
Gaining some insider knowledge
One of the employees, an older man, told us just about everything there is to know about all of Swedish National Parks. Little side note, how come that so many Swedish people speak impeccable English!? Even the older generations, it’s crazy! Anyways, it was great to get some insider knowledge on many of the national parks. The man certainly knew what he was talking about!
Afterwards, the other employee, a younger woman, told us all about the (former) island Gålö. It was situated just around the corner of the national park. Her description of the island sounded so amazing that we just had to check it out.
Islands, and in this case a peninsula, always host such a great diversity in nature. On Gålö you’ll find a rocky coastline with beaches, with diverse forests and a large agricultural area in the center which feels like a wild park landscape. And not to forget, there are an abundance of marked hiking routes, which take you along all the sights of the island.
Exploring a peninsula
We spent three days exploring all there is to see on Gålö. On the first day, we went hiking along the coastline and through the forest. The day after, we took things slow and relaxed a little. Our dogs joined us for a chilly swim in the sea on of their beaches. And yes, they even have a dog beach! It is located on the east coast of the island.
We spent our third day on Gålö exploring the Stegsholm farm. Yes, we visited a farm! You can find a little cafe at the entrance to get something to eat and drink, but most importantly, the land of the farm is open and has a marked hiking path that runs all the way through. Along the path you’ll find signs with information about the area and the island in general. The farmland truly is a stunning area unlike anything else you’ll come across around the Stockholm area. The landscape looks somewhat like a natural park where grass alternates with fields of flowers and small groups of trees such as oak and juniper.
Gålö also seemed to be a great place to go rock climbing. We came across a family spending the whole day climbing at the edge of a forest. For anyone who’s planning on visiting the area, we definitely recommend to go early in the year. Some time in the middle of spring would probably be best. Most of the flower fields at the Stegsholm farm will be in full bloom at that time. We did came across some lovely colorful orchids, but for most flowers, we visited Gålö just a few weeks too late.
Roslagen and Norrtälje
Halfway through our fourth week in Sweden, we met up with a friend. She lives on Lidingö, an island east of Stockholm. This was our first time seeing a Swedish house on the inside, and the layout was so different to what we had seen before.
A wide wooden staircase led up into the kitchen and living area, overlooking a garden that consisted of boulders, moss, lichen, and small bushes. The house was made of wood, painted a warm red, like most cottages we’ve seen in this country. But it was massive, and really an impressive house to see.
After a lovely picnic in the grass and a talk about her business, we walked around the area and received some recommendations for places to visit next. We explained that we were headed for Uppsala, and a national park afterwards. She recommended to head east first, and discover the nature in Roslagen, just north of Stockholm. So we set off, and exchanged the city buzz for nothingness.
After a 45 minute drive we ended up on narrow winding roads. At one point Jordy said bluntly: ‘Where on earth have we ended up?!’ Well in Sweden, somewhere north of Stockholm. And the area looked exactly like what we had been craving over the past few days; nothing but endless forest all around us.
We past a couple of houses, but eventually solely saw short dead-end streets. We kept driving north toward a lake (or so our sat-nav indicated). But each road that seemed to lead to the lake was closed, or had a sign saying that it was solely destined for traffic that was there with a purpose (we clearly weren’t).
After a while, we slowed down and asked each other whether we should just turn around and drive further north. But just as we said it, we finally found a tiny inlet. We parked our van, cooked dinner, and called it a night. We decided it was best to start exploring the following day.
And so we did, we drove further up the road, for another 5 minutes or so, clearly approaching the lake on the map! And yet, eventually, we met a dead end. We saw a sign covered in graffiti – how on earth do people decide to go all the way up here with a can of spray paint?! – which used to say ‘P’. At least we’d found another spot to park.
Exploring the area
It was hot that day, 28 degrees Celsius, so we leashed the dogs and walked north to where our iPhone told us there should be a lake. Jordy even changed into his swimming trunks, just in case we’d be able to find the lake. Just around the corner, we saw a tiny wooden sign that said ‘nature reserve’. An indication of something cool in the right direction!
After walking on a dirt road, we finally heard streaming water in the distance. And yes, before we knew it, Mojo was already splashing in water, she loved it! We encountered a small stream at the edge of a dense forest with a small path going through. Of course we had to check it out! After some climbing, we finally found the lake!
Put simply, the whole coastal area north of Stocholm was like this. Small dirt roads leading you through immense and beautiful forests with lakes scattered throughout. Sure, it isn’t as organized as the national parks with signs telling you where to go and signed routes, like we’d seen in Tiveden National Park. This is rather more of a robust area allowing you to explore as you like with plenty of paths leading you to unknown destinations.
Back to civilization
When you’ve had enough of all that green and nothingness around you, at the northern border you’ll find a picturesque town called Norrtälje. Our friend who recommended exploring the nature in Roslagen explained it as a lovely village with cute cafes. Well, it certainly was just that! It was such a lovely city to stroll through, and we spent hours walking around. If you plan on visiting the town with a camper van, there is a free parking lot at the end of the harbor. It is within walking distance of the city center and there is even a very small green island adjacent to the lot, connected by a bridge. The perfect place to walk with your dog!