Guides, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Vanlife

Scandi-Van Tour 2017

Every year the happiest countries in the world are ranked and you always find the Scandinavian nations at the top of the list.  This, combined with their stunning natural beauty, potential for watersports and inviting ‘freedom to roam’ rules, made it our chosen destination for our 2017 campervan trip.

After lots of research, particularly focused on good sea kayaking locations, we planned a route through Denmark, Sweden and Norway, set some dates and booked ferries.  The trip would start and finish with long, purposeful drives but once on our loop we would be able to relax, take in the sights and spend a few days in many of the locations.

Scandi-Van Tour 2017 Route
A long drive, but worth it…

As you would expect, 24 days of touring across three nations was something of a rollercoaster ride with many highs and a few lows.  I thought I would share below some of our highlights and lessons learned that might help you plan a trip to this area of the world in the future.

Locations We Loved and Why…

Karlo Slotsruin, Denmark – A wonderful location that ticks a lot of boxes; park right next to the water, visit the ruins of a castle on an island reached by a causeway, no issues launching kayaks, SUPs or open water swimming and public toilets open from dawn until dusk.  We had a great visit, freedom parking overnight with no issues and massively enjoyed our time there.

Karlo Slotsruin
Our first freedom camp in Denmark, and what a location!

Galo Havsbad, Sweden – There are many places you can base yourself to access the Stockholm archipelago but it would be hard to beat our time at Galo.  The campsite there is right next to the water allowing us easy access to sea kayak, SUP and swim in the perfect waters, travelling from island to island, exploring.  On land there are numerous hiking/running trails through forest and along the rocky shorelines.  We even developed a bit of a mini golf habit in the evenings too…

Stockholm, Sweden – Camping in the centre of a city?  That sounds awful.  Except it isn’t, it is instead a very cheap, easy, comfortable way of accessing a city centre.  Astonishingly,   on Langholmen in the centre of Stockholm there is an ‘RV Park’ with facilities for campervans.  All the sights of the city are walking distance from the site (20-30minute walk…), and best of all, there are places to access the water so once again kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming were options.  I can confirm that Stockholm looks at its best from the water…

Stocken, Sweden – From the city centre to the truly wild Bohusland Coast.  We had visited Stocken for sea kayaking adventures having read about the numerous coastal islands there and we weren’t disappointed.  We stayed a few days and the highlight was a  paddle out to wild camp on our own island for the night.  Wild and wonderful.

Nissedal Potholes, Norway – When an injury stopped Ellie kayaking or SUPing we changed our plans and headed inland, and as a result discovered some gems.  We found spectacular waterfalls and swam in beautiful lakes, but the highlight was Nissedal Potholes, a series of amazing river smoothed pools that are effectively a natural water park.  Well worth a visit on a sunny day…

Mandal, Norway – We were running out of time and had realised that we hadn’t travelled far west enough in Norway to find the truly spectacular fjords (see below) so it was an unexpected delight to discover this area.  Mandal itself is a very pleasant, scenic town and the campsite there had beach access and miles of forest and coastal trails to explore.  We also took an opportunity to travel to the nearby Lindesnes Fyrstasjon, the lighthouse on the most southerly tip of Norway, a great location for a cheeky SUP.

Skagen, Denmark – The Northernmost tip of Denmark where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea.  I hadn’t appreciated how literal this would be, but sure enough, you walk out along the beach until you reach a sandbar where to your left there are waves coming in from the North Sea and to your right are waves from the Baltic Sea.  Magical…  Oh, and they served nice beer too!

Locations We Should have Driven on by…

South Funen, Denmark – A guidebook had suggested this was a good place to kayak with a wild coast.  We found that although, yes, it was a place you could hire kayaks, it wasn’t a particularly wild or scenic place to kayak.  In fact, it felt a bit like a Danish Solent with a mostly inaccessible, privately owned, residential waterfront.  We didn’t stay long…

Sandefjord, Norway – Picture a fjord in your mind.  I am guessing it is steep sided, with a rocky waters edge, patches of forest and surrounded by mountains, a spectacular place.  Well, not all fjords look like that fjord, in fact many in the south of Norway could be mistaken for simple river inlets surrounded by residential areas.  We had mistakenly expected all fjords to be spectacular and not done enough research.  Sandefjord is a perfectly nice place, but it turns out we should have driven further west to find the kind of scenery we were hoping for…

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Some beach art on the last day of our trip at Skagen…

I hope you’ve found this blog useful and maybe it had inspired you to head to Scandinavia yourself.  There will be more advice in future blogs, but wherever your #vanlife travels take you have fun!

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