The sun is beating down on the back of my neck. The sky above is a clear blue, dotted with puffy white clouds. The only sound is that of canoe paddles dipping into the cool water. There’s a lone fishing boat in the distance but otherwise the four of us are alone in this crystal blue placid lake encircled by forest in the middle of Tiveden National Park.
It’s the first week of September. That’s Autumn up here in the north, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it today. I’m regretting my choice of outfit – black gym pants and a black t-shirt that I bought from the Ájtte museum up in Jokkmokk during our motorcycle trip to the Arctic Circle.
Tiveden National Park has been on my to-explore list for a while now. This weekend, with a bright weather forecast and three willing companions, I wasn’t going to hold off any longer. We packed some tea, coffee and snacks into some backpacks and drove for 2hrs around the eastern side of Lake Vänern (western Europe’s largest lake) into Örebro Län to reach Tiveden National Park.
Canoeing on Lake Unden
The folk running Camping Tiveden, the place where we decided to stop for a canoe trip, were very friendly. Canoes were 50SEK per hour and we nabbed two for the four of us and set off to explore Lake Unden.
Unden is dotted with several small islands and it’s easy enough to stop off at some of these and take a little walk to rest your shoulders and arms from the exertion of paddling (for someone with about as much arm strength as a newborn kitten, this was very important). Though they appeared deserted, we found that most of these islands had already been colonised by some spiders that had made themselves very much at home in the undergrowth.
Now, on behalf of Australians everywhere, I feel that I need to clarify something before continuing any further. Just because we were raised in a country with a few deadly insects and reptiles, it does not mean that we love to be surrounded by them. On the contrary, why do you think you find us Aussies in every far-flung corner of the globe? You think it’s due to our love for exploration but really it’s because we’re trying to escape our poisonous animal population. I do not appreciate being told that I should be “used to spiders” when I am an arachnophobe. Australian or not, they are just as scary to me who has seen them thousands of times as they are to you.
Glad that’s been cleared up. We returned from the lake after a couple of hours of paddling and wandering through the undergrowth of an island or two. After refuelling with a snack we continued on towards the national park visitor’s centre, where we hoped to take one of the trails that started there. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be, but we did come across a place much more exciting.
Either we missed the turnoff to the visitor’s centre completely or never reached it but we decided to turn down a road that led to Vitsand (“white sand” in English). It sounded promising.
The trail that purported to lead us to the white sand was for horses. As first in line it was my job to dodge the horse shit that was dotted along the footpath while also clearing the path of the multitude of spiderwebs at both feet and face level. The curse of being Australian strikes again. Even waving a stick in front of me wildly didn’t get rid of all the creatures and I got a face full of web a few times. But at least the route was clear for the way back, right? You’re welcome guys.
Vitsand Strand was certainly a pleasant surprise. We also encountered another type of suprise when deciding to take a shortcut through the forest to reach the beach. We stumbled across a rather embarrassed older gentleman sunbathing stark naked. He clearly hadn’t anticipated that anyone would cut through the trail to happen upon him in such a state of undress.
But he wasn’t the only one to strip down that day. With the beautiful weather I decided to take a dip in the lake for what would probably be the last swim of the year. Despite the fact that I had to put my clothes back on over my wet underwear for the drive home and was soaked through by the time we arrived home, it was worth it. If there’s one thing I’ve learn in Sweden, it’s that if there’s an opportunity to go for a swim, you take it, because you never know how long you’ll have to wait until the next one.
Overall, my impression of Tiveden National Park is that there are plenty of opportunities to find places to explore and to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. While the location of the visitor’s centre remains a mystery to us, we certainly didn’t need it to have a memorable experience.
How to Get to Tiveden National Park
Tiveden National Park is situated in central Sweden, on the border between Örebro Län and Västergötland. We took the E18 east from Karlstad and turned onto route 26 at Kristinehamn. We then turned left towards Skottlanda and continued to Åtorp, at which point we turned off towards Finnerödja to the right and followed the road south, following the signs for Tiveden National Park. After canoeing, we continued south along the same road towards the National Park but as we obviously failed to reach the visitor’s centre, I don’t think my directions will help you at this stage. I would recommend simply doing as we did and finding a place to go for a walk and you’ll end up having a more spontaneous trip!