I fell in love with South Sweden 4 years ago, for its natural beauty, tranquil vibe and accessibility, especially by car, which makes it perfect for a road trip adventure and this time we did that in the authentic and diverse regions Småland and Halland.
Sweden is known for its natural beauty, and the south offers many pristine natural areas and fun outdoor activities for different experience levels.
From rugged rocky coasts, to vast nature reserves, where you often won't see anyone all day.
Beautiful hiking trails, some even wheelchair accessible, and scenic cycling routes along sandy beaches, forest areas and authentic fishing villages.
4 years ago I visited the southern Swedish region Skåne already, which truly surprised me, you can read all about that in this Sweden blog.
And last month we explored 2 more regions in the south.
In this blog I’ll happily to show you all my favourite towns, activities, hotspots and the sites we visited during our 6 day road trip through the Småland region in the south, to Halland on the southwest coast of Sweden.
As always through many of my own pictures, but first:
How to get there?
South Sweden is easy to reach from the Netherlands via Denmark, as these flights go directly and more frequently with KLM, Easyjet or Norwegian Air.
But you can also drive directly to southern Sweden from the Netherlands or go by train via Germany if you have more time to spare. You can even take the night train from Hamburg or Berlin!
The flight to Copenhagen takes about 1,5 hours, where we took a train from the airport station to cross the bridge to Sweden.
The Oresundstag goes every 30 minutes and takes 20 minutes to get to Malmö. From there it generally takes about 2-3 hours to get to Alvesta, depending on which train you get. Here we rented a car to drive on to the center of Småland.
To follow our road trip and exact 6 day route I made a custom Google map, with all our tips, the nicest spots we visited and the accommodations we stayed at:
Itinerary - Småland & Halland South Sweden road trip
Exploring the regions of Småland
Småland is one of the larger historical provinces of Sweden, actually the 3rd biggest, and is about the size of Belgium. The region is primarily located in the southern and central parts of the country.
Astrid Lindgren, the famous Swedish author known for Pippi Longstocking, was also born in Småland. This had a significant influence on her writing, and the region is often associated with her work and legacy. Småland also houses the largest ski area of South Sweden, the Isaberg Mountain Resort.
Åsnen region & National Park
We started our trip in this unique nature region and lake district. Lake Åsnen forms a paradise for water sports, boat- and bird enthusiasts, with its extensive waternetwork.
In total the Åsnen region has about 700 kms of shoreline and more than 1000 islands divided over 155 km2. Of this the National Park forms 19 km2 consisting for 70% of water. Åsnen is the youngest National Park of Sweden, since 2018, and forms the breeding ground for various bird species, like the magnificent osprey. A master fisherman, who nests abundantly in this area.
You can almost certainly spot these impressive birds and their big nests on a boat tour over Lake Åsnen, provided that they haven’t flown south for winter yet.
We did our birdwatching by boat from the Getnö Gård resort, located directly on the lake, where we stayed in a cabin amidst nature. Read more about this in my next blog.
The resort offers plenty of options to explore the clear waters of Åsnen National Park, while enjoying the serene surroundings and spotting local wildlife, including moose, wild boar, lynxes, foxes, otters and other aquatic animals.
Cycling in Åsnen National Park
The park also has many well-marked trails for hiking and cycling, and is the perfect place to fully experience the tranquility of the Swedish countryside.
We rented e-bikes at the lovely café / shop / restaurant of nearby Ålshults Handelsbod and from there followed the car free cycling route through the National Park, all the way to the Trollberget entrance.
The trail runs through stunning forests filled with ferns, heather, tall pine trees and is surrounded by lakes and islands.
It ends up at 1 of the 2 National Park entrances with a beautiful plateau and viewingpoint right on the lake and many other facilities.
From Ålshult we drove on to Växjö, located amid a patchwork of lakes, Småland's capital certainly is special. We drove here via the Sirkövagen road, which passes by many quaint and photogenic spots.
Don’t forget to stop along the way for lunch at the colorful Kurrebo in Urshult. This B&B also has a café and restaurant with vegetarian and vegan food, served in a relaxing atmosphere.
The charming vintage furniture, delicious food, sharp prices and location on the hill above Lake Åsnen, make it a must.
And do walk up to Lunnabacken too for the best views, to visit the homestead museum and if you're a sucker for those traditional Swedish houses with natural roofs too.
Växjö - Sustainable & eco-friendly city
This charming city is renowned for its dedication to sustainability, its beautiful natural surroundings, cultural offerings, and commitment to creating a high-quality living environment for its residents.
It has even been awarded the title of 'Europe's Greenest City' by the European Commission for its dedication to sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
We visited one of these initiatives called: Ekobacken, one of the largest ecological city farms in Sweden. Here the 'deluxe family' grows their own vegetables which are served at their establishments.
But also at the restaurant in the greenhouse right next to the vegetable garden: Picknick de Luxe.
Only open during summer and weekends in harvest season, directly from farm to table, so quaint and unique.
Their organic food is also served at Villa de Luxe and Kafe de Luxe in town, 2 eclectic restaurants. The last one is also a bar and nightclub, located in the oldest wooden building of the city, right in the center.
Växjö with its cobblestone streets, twin-spired cathedral, colorful buildings and numerous boutiques and cafés is certainly worth a visit.
Skurugata Nature Reserve
120 km north we visited a hidden gem of the Växjö region. This Nature Reserve is known for its impressive gorge, called Skurugata, created by thousands of years of erosion.
From the public parking it’s an easy 10 minute walk to the Skuruhatt viewpoint, where you get a magnificent view over the Nature Reserve, looking out all the way to Eksjö.
There are also different spots to relax or even have your own campfire or bbq here, like we did.
Swedish nature laws - right of access
Spots like these we saw often throughout the nature areas and along hiking trails, which we loved.
According to Swedish law everyone should be able to enjoy nature to the fullest, within reason and with respect. This is made easy throughout Sweden by creating spots like this with fire pits, benches and picnic tables.
The ‘Allemansrätten’ basically means that in nature areas you can eat what you gather, build campfires and sleep in the wild for a night or 2, anywhere you want.
As long as the area is not private property or fenced, and as long as it’s safe.
From the Skuruhatt viewpoint it’s just a short hike to the Skurugata.
This deep gorge, with steep rock walls on either sides takes you past narrow passages and several interesting spots throughout the Reserve.
There are also several hiking trails suitable for both novice and experienced hikers and rock climbing opportunities.
Eksjö – Medieval wooden city
This semi-wooden town is just a 20 minute drive from the Nature Reserve and is known as one of the best preserved wooden towns in the country.
It’s one of the only 3 surviving wooden villages of Sweden, dating back to the Middle Ages, even after having survived 2 fires.
Half of the town consists of wooden buildings, dating back to the 16th century, which are very colorful and photogenic.
Many of these historic houses are still inhabited, creating a unique and atmospheric environment.
Get an impression through this gallery, swipe to see all:
Eksjö's central square is quite lively with cafés and restaurants surrounded by historic buildings, with the city hall and the town’s church, built in Gothic style, at the center.
The newer part of the city is built in Neo-Classical style from 1830, forming a lovely contrast and combination.
Outdoor activities in Småland
Småland is known for its diverse landscapes, such as forests and countryside. Due to its natural parks it offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, rock-climbing, cycling and even skiing in winter.
And Småland's numerous lakes are ideal for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, watersports and boat trips, like we experienced ourselves in Åsnen National Park.
But also the neighboring region Halland offers many activities like this and more.
Exploring the regions of Halland
Luckily I had the opportunity to explore both during our trip and was equally surprised, as each region has so much to offer.
Halland is an idyllic smaller region on the west coast of South Sweden, which has a great mix of sandy beaches, forests and lots of culture.
It’s divided into 6 municipalities, each with its own characteristics and unique activities, of which we visited 3:
Varberg region & the Kattegattleden
The fishing town of Varberg is quite idyllic and a great starting point for one of the most beautiful parts of the Kattegattleden route. We followed the 8 km segment from Varberg beach promenade to Träslövsläge.
One of Sweden's most remarkable long-distance bicycle routes, stretching along the west and south coast.
It covers about 390 kilometers of varied terrain, and is a great way to discover Sweden's natural beauty in a relaxed way, like we did by renting an e-bike at Cykelverkstaden No.1 in Varberg.
These were some of our highlights along the route, also marked on my Google map:
We passed by rugged coastlines, pure nature areas, picturesque lighthouses and plenty of local restaurants and cafés to enjoy real Swedish cuisine.
Be sure to stop at the vibrant Apelviken surf beach to check out some of the cool beach clubs and sample local seafood, such as smoked salmon and herring.
Or reward yourself with a delicious seafood lunch at the authentic Joels Brygga, in the fishing village of Träslövsläge at the end of the route, like us. Definitely recommended!
Varberg is also famous for its Fortress, dating back to 1287, with impressive views of the coastline.
Opposite is the photogenic Kallbadhuset. A historic bathhouse in Moorish style, where locals come daily for relaxation and a refreshing dip in the sea between Sweden and Denmark.
Something that is quite normal for Sweden, which is why you'll regularly see small piers with stairs along the coast that make this possible in the wild too!
This region is perfect for adventurous hiking and biking tours. The Nature Reserves are ideal for bird watchers and the 2.5 km of sandy beaches offer challenging waves for avid surfers.
Falkenberg is known for its picturesque river Ätran and the historic Tullbronbridge. This region offers plenty of opportunity for kayaking and fishing in the river. Then again, you will also find extensive sandy beaches and dunes here.
We found Falkenberg town very photogenic, with character and a rich history.
Here the Toll Bridge and the Gamla Stan neighborhood, with its cobblestone streets, authentic Swedish houses, historic buildings, museum and rose garden are surely worth visiting.
Get an impression through this gallery, swipe to see all:
You will find cozy cafés and stores in the center. And interesting nature areas in the surroundings of Falkenberg as well, like Morups Tånge, which we visited.
Located along the west coast, the Halmstad region is known for its extensive coastline with miles of sandy beaches and the charming town of Halmstad as its central hub.
The city along the Nissan River has several parks, an art museum, some authentic Swedish streets, such as Vallgatan and Hantverksgatan, and the Halmstad Castle, an iconic symbol of the region.
Do note that the castle has limited opening hours, so make sure to check this in advance.
We loved strolling around this tranquil city, but the wide sandy beaches near Halmstad also offer excellent opportunities for long beach walks and a range of water sports activities, including wind and kite surfing.
Get an impression of Halmstad in this gallery:
Outdoor activities in Halland
Like many other Swedish regions, Halland offers a variety of outdoor activities.
Kayaking and fishing are excellent here on the rivers, lakes and sea. But surfing or renting a boat is also popular and fun to do here.
And with its extensive trails, Halland is very suitable for hiking and cycling.
We really enjoyed the bike tour we did from Varberg on Sweden's very first national bicycle route, the Kattegattleden. As well as the beautiful and easily accessible Prince Bertils hike, starting from Halmstad.
Walking the Prince Bertil's Trail
This route, also known as the Prince Bertils Stig in Swedish, is a scenic hiking trail along the coast. It covers a total of 18 km, divided in 4 parts, starting from the center of Halmstad, going on to Tylösand and Möllegård nature reserve. The trail is named after Prince Bertil of Sweden, also the duke of the Halland region, who had a special love for this beautiful coastline.
The trail is classified as easy and accessible for all ages, without having to wear hiking boots. We walked the 4 km segment from Tylösand to the fisherman’s town of Grötvik in a relaxing pace of less than 2 hours, including photo stops.
We started at Tylösand beach, one of the most popular beaches in Sweden. Easy to reach with plenty of parking space, several restaurants and beach clubs.
The trail led us through a variety of landscapes with beautiful views of the varied coastline. Easy to follow and well-marked with blue posts along the route.
There are also designated places to picnic and relax. One of the many typical features of Sweden, where outdoor recreation is highly valued!
At the Möllegård nature reserve, a stop at World of Riccardo / Riccardo's Glass should not be missed.
A cozy Italian brasserie, situated in renovated stables with several terraces among the cornfields. They offer delicious pizza's, authentic Italian ice cream and delicacies.
Very surprising in this part of Sweden and ideal for a delicious pit stop after a long walk.
The Prince Bertil's Trail is perfect to see more of the varied western Swedish coast in a relaxed way, in one go or in stages. Ideal if you are staying in the Halmstad region a bit longer!
Video of Halland & Småland
Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation or want to enjoy nature, Halland with its expansive beaches, peaceful nature areas and unique accommodations offers all that and more.
In my opinion and experience Halland makes the perfect combo with Småland, as combined they offer everything you need for the ultimate road trip adventure, to recharge and enjoy the tranquil vibe, authenticity, culture and purity of South Sweden.