From the world’s first twisting skyscraper to a UNESCO-protected cemetery, Sweden has form for pushing the architectural boundaries. Now, remarkable structures are increasingly being built in the country’s nature, their contemporary designs entwined with their natural surrounds. Here are seven incredible stays where you’ll leave in awe of both human craft and Mother Nature…
The term off-grid is overused these days, but not in the case of INFOREST. That’s because its pair of cosy cabins (called tiny houses) really are in the middle of nowhere, namely encased within a pristine forest near the small town of Hjo in West Sweden. With solar panels and constructed from sustainably sourced wood, the houses are both self sufficient and eco-friendly, while the lack of WiFi means you can concentrate on the nature around you. You can explore the forest either on foot or by mountain bike on well-marked trails but make sure you take the time to pause for a while and absorb your wild surroundings. Lighting up the firepit back at your cabin and sitting with a drink in hand is the ideal conclusion to a day in the wilderness. This is glamping, Swedish style.
2. Dalsland Stugbat
Once a trading route for transporting goods from the region’s steel and saw mills to Varmland, the Dalsland Canal has become a scenic stretch for those who love being on the water. Slow travel is well appreciated in Sweden and hiring a houseboat is one of the most unique ways of not only fording the canal’s network of lakes and channels, but soaking it up over a few days. Its large terrace means you can kick back and relax as you glide past sleepy countryside, while it’s also a handy vantage point to spy birds such as black-throated divers, ospreys and cormorants. A motorboat tows your houseboat rental, so you have the option to explore at a quicker pace, but life on the canal is meant to be enjoyed unhurried, especially in this picturesque location packed with 1,000 lakes.
3. Ramoa private island
Imagine hopping in a canoe and paddling to your own private island for the night? It’s a memorable experience offered by Ramoa Adventure Village in Småland, a province known for its lush, dense and magical forests immortalised in John Bauer´s paintings. Why not take the chance to stay on Lake Orken? The island is so tiny there’s barely enough room for the pavilion you’ll sleep in, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with the sheer intimacy you’ll enjoy with nature. Your canoe means an early morning paddle is on the cards before you leave, or you could just stay in bed admiring the ethereal beauty of dawn breaking over the lake. That’s not the only unique sleep the adventure village offers – Flotellet is a floating cottage attached to one of the lake’s other islands, complete with kitchen, shower and rooftop sun deck for capturing the all-encompassing lake views.
4. Arctic Bath
Sometimes, just visiting Swedish Lapland doesn’t cut it – you want a truly wholesome experience of this snowy wilderness. Arctic Bath is a hotel and spa retreat completely entwined with its surroundings just south of the Arctic Circle, so you can fully immerse yourself in the elements. The cabins, some of which are either floating or frozen on the Lule River (depending on the time of year), have been constructed from the same timber which was once transported along the same waterway a couple of generations earlier, while the food served in the restaurant is wholly drawn from local produce. The activities here are endless and you can pack your Swedish Lapland itinerary with everything from forest bathing to a moose safari and herb foraging. Sometimes you don’t even need to leave your cabin for the most unforgettable moments, with the land cabins having a huge wall of glass through which you can spot the Northern Lights and the floating cabins have a glass ceiling, so you can lay back and watch the green ribbons dance through the night sky. Outside, the decking offers Aurora-spotting opportunities in winter or it can be a launchpad for wild swimming under the midnight sun in summer.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a UFO suspended within thick pine forest. But it’s also a quirky treehouse you can call your home for a few nights, surrounded by nothing but unspoiled nature. That’s not the only strange thing hanging from the trees at Treehotel in deepest Swedish Lapland. You could find yourself staying in a mirrored cube, bird’s nest or even a grandiose eco-retreat named the 7th Room, complete with glass walls so you can watch the Northern Lights dance from under your duvet. Your elevated position only serves to bring the Swedish Lapland wilderness into sharper focus, a landscape the hotel is keen for you to explore. Activities include fat biking though pristine taiga forest, ice fishing in winter and spending time with a local Sámi family.
6. Pater Noster
For over a century, the red lighthouse of Pater Noster on isolated Hamneskär island in the West Sweden archipelago was a crucial beacon of hope for seafarers trying to safely navigate the treacherous waters. Now, the crimson cabins which once belonged to the lighthouse keepers and their families have been refurbished and welcome guests for an island escape like no other. Pater Noster is where the elements of wind and sea are at their most raw – ocean air really does equal salty hair here. Guided tours and a climb up the iconic lighthouse paint a richer picture of the island’s history, before a dip in a heated seawater hot tub gives you a far more relaxing experience of the ocean than the sailors of yesteryear.
7. The 72-hour cabin
In a recent study called ‘The 72-Hour Cabin’, Swedish researchers discovered that after spending three days surrounded by nature, the negative emotions and stress levels of five people (all in demanding jobs) were greatly reduced. Now, those same glass cabins, all of which are dotted around the natural areas of West Sweden, have become available so anyone can have their own rural detox. Their understated design, minimalistic features (a double bed is all that’s inside) and completely glass exterior ensures the attention stays on the great outdoors, whether you’re perched on the rocky shores of Lake Iväg in Dalsland or amid the dense forests outside Bengtsfors. It’s an intense burst of nature which will ensure you leave feeling completely rejuvenated.