My days living in Scandinavia were some of my favorite memories to date—not just because that’s when I met my now-husband, but also because the area is rife in outdoor wonders, places like Sweden that might not be the first place your average American would travel abroad. During those eight months, I flitted back and forth from Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula to southern Sweden, hitting up Malmö, Blekinge and other small towns in the region. But it wasn’t until this fall that I got to see more of Sweden’s rugged west coast.
GETTING TO GOTHENBURG
SVV and I started our journey from Newark where we got to fly one of my favorite international airlines, SAS, for the first time in years. We were booked in the new class, SAS Plus, which is somewhere between economy and business, and that gave us access to the SAS Lounge (a godsend given our lengthy layover and meetings immediately following our arrival).
When we got on the flight, we were blown away with all that legroom—a novelty when flying in 2017—and the size of our TV screens. Both were essential given that we had an eight-hour flight ahead of us and I’m not one who can sleep on planes. So instead, I caught up on my movies and downed a couple craft beers while I did so. How cool that SAS has two specialty beers brewed just for its airline guests?!
AFTER ARRIVING IN SWEDEN
We were partnering with West Sweden and Volvo on this particular trip, so upon arriving, we got the full Volvo Overseas Delivery treatment. Americans who purchase a Volvo not only get one of the world’s best cars—seriously, after a few days driving an XC60, I’m already thinking of the day when I trade in my Jeep—but also a vacation. When you buy a Volvo, U.S. buyers get two round-trip tickets to Scandinavia on SAS, a night’s stay at the Clarion Hotel Post in Gothenburg and home shipment services for the vehicle you’ve purchased.
So we pretended we were so lucky, headed to the Volvo factory, got the full tour (unfortunately, no cameras were allowed) then went on our merry way: a road trip along the West Coast.
Looking to recreate our trip to Sweden? Here’s an overview of what we did and how we did it.
DAY 1: GOTHENBURG
Once we had our loaner car, we drove into Gothenburg and checked into our digs: the Clarion Hotel Post. We got our bearings by meeting up with a local travel blogger, Kattis Lundin, who took us for a quick city tour followed by cocktails at The Gothenburg Museum of Art.
Then, we headed back to the Clarion Post Hotel for a delicious three-course tasting dinner at the on-site restaurant, Norda Bar & Grill, which is also included in the Volvo Overseas Delivery program.
At this point, we’d been up a solid 34 hours, so we hit the bed hard and rested up for our forthcoming road trip (after a beer, that is).
DAY 2: THE WEATHER ISLANDS
Up and at ‘em early! We got a full seven hours of sleep and were ready to go at 7am. We had breakfast at the Clarion Post Hotel before checking out and picking up our Volvo at the valet stand, then were off!
SVV and I have now rented cars in countries across five continents together for some epic road trips, but this one was particularly nostalgic: It felt like the ultimate throwback to our early adventures together some 12 years ago.
It’s so easy to drive in Sweden—everyone is so orderly! They follow the rules! They drive on the right side of the road!—and we quickly became obsessed with our loaner vehicle when we learned that it actually drove for us. Anytime SVV started to veer off course, it would correct his path; it also would automatically slow down if we got too close to the car in front of us and match speeds while on cruise control. On our factory tour the previous day, we learned that Volvo’s ultimate mission is for zero fatalities in their new vehicles by the year 2020. Ambitious and awesome.
Because we got a bit of an early start, we detoured to Smögen upon the recommendation of our server in Gothenburg. This picture-perfect town was lined with colorful houses and boats flanking harbors and marinas; it’s one of the more charming places I’ve ever seen and absolutely empty following the high season.
We had an hour to poke around and fly the drone before we needed to get back on the road. If your schedule is more flexible, I suggest allowing a half a day (minimum) for exploring all the cute towns that hug the West Sweden coastline.
From Smögen, it was another 45 minutes up the coast to Hamburgsund, where a ferry was waiting to transport us and our luggage to the Weather Islands. This archipelago of 365 small isles might just be the most peaceful spot in Europe; only one of them is inhabited, and the entire island chain was designated a marine nature reserve in 2001.
We occupied one of the 16 rooms on the island upon arrival, went on a seafood safari, soaked in the hot tub and enjoyed the relative solitude of this little slice of remote paradise, free from TV and technology but adorned with with candles, Scandinavian luxuries and all the comforts of home.
DAY 3: ORUST ISLAND
We had a few hours to ourselves in the morning, but it was too windy and wet to do any hiking. I cozied up with a cup of coffee in the main house while watching the waves crash against Väderöarna and the boat captain prepare our ferry for transit.
After our 45-minute ride back to the mainland, we had another 90 minutes in the car to our next destination on Orust Island. A former fish crate factory, Lådfabriken on the cliffs of Bohuslän is now a four-bedroom bed and breakfast with the most charming of owners, Johan and Marcel. Within minutes, we felt like we had known them for ages. They took us around the area to the fish market and to forage for mushrooms, and we settled in that evening for a Michelin-worthy, multi-course dinner with their other guests.
We only had one day in Lådfabriken, but I wished we had several. This is definitely the kind of place you can check in to check out if you know what I mean; the weather wasn’t great while we were there, but this area of Sweden is known as the Sun Coast, and there are so many outdoor adventures to be had—from hiking to fishing to kayaking out around all the small islands. The region is absolutely stunning in cleanliness and natural beauty.
DAY 4: RETURN TO GOTHENBURG
The following morning was still gray and glooming, so kayaking was out—though we had a brief intermission from the rain during which we were able to get an aerial view of the islands via the drone. A feeling of sadness swept over me as I said good-bye to our new friends at Lådfabriken; this was definitely one of my most memorable stays in recent years, if not ever, and I hope we find our way back there someday. But we had a deadline to meet—a walking tour to make in Gothenburg—so we loaded the car up and drove the hour back to the city.
The final leg of our trip had us in Gothenburg for three nights at Hotel Pigalle. While there, we explored the city’s food and drink culture, as well as walked many miles each day—through botanical gardens, cobblestone streets and to rooftop spas. It was nice being back in such a cosmopolitan European city for a long weekend with no real agenda.