Sustainable Journey Through Sweden: 20 Stops in Småland & Öland

A few months ago, our founding team, Madeleine and Benjamin, received an invitation: Would you like to travel through southern Sweden and explore many sustainable experiences in Småland and Öland?

Naturally, they were excited! After all, they have been travelling to Scandinavia in their bus for vacations for the past 10 years. In this blog, Madeleine shares their journey through these two regions, which are as picturesque as Astrid Lindgren’s stories promise: 20 stops on a journey through nature, charming towns, and unique production sites.

20 Stops on a Sustainable Journey through Småland & Öland

Ahoy, we’re Madeleine, Benjamin, and our little son. Join us and accompany us on our sustainable journey to Southern Sweden! Perhaps our trip report will inspire you to plan your next vacation in Småland and Öland as well? We wish you lots of fun in advance!

For this trip report, it’s important to note that we were on the road for only one week. We would recommend planning at least 2 weeks if you want to see everything. This brings us to our first tip for sustainable travel: the concept of slow travel. Slow travel allows you to, for instance, plan your shopping, avoid food waste, and truly immerse yourself in the local nature and culture.

Madeleine & Benjamin

1. Preparation and Getting There

On June 31st, 2023, the day finally arrives and our journey begins! But there’s still a lot to do:

  • Our preparation for long car trips always starts with getting our VW T6 inspected at the workshop. Safety first!
  • After that, we work through our shopping list. This includes items like gas cooker cartridges, fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of snacks, and foods that remain shelf-stable in the car even in warm temperatures.
  • We aim to pack as lightly as possible. This has two benefits: we don’t need to move things around as much, and we use less fuel. All our bathroom items fit into a travel container in the felt holder on the back seat. We use a “shower bar” for shampoo and shower gel, and we’ve replaced liquid toothpaste, sunscreen, conditioner, and dish soap with solid products.
  • Each of us has our own reusable water bottle that we refill whenever possible. I highly recommend carrying a travel water kettle and a mug, which we always have with us to avoid disposable coffee cups. Also, a tip for home: I got myself a favourite cup with a carabiner and made it a habit to never leave the house without it.
  • This time, we filled a casserole dish with vegan lasagna and all the leftover veggies we had, and simply brought it along. We wrapped our sandwiches in wax paper, which we reused during the trip whenever we needed to bring along partially used food items.

And off we went. We opted for the ferry for our journey since we didn’t want to drive long distances in one go with our little son. We spent the first night in Malmö, and this is where the Swedish adventure towards Småland and Öland begins.

2. Ikea Museum in Älmhult

In our quest for sustainable trends and developments in Sweden, a certain topic was right at our fingertips: the world of furniture. Swedes have a knack for making everything look beautiful and tasteful, while also being sustainably minimalist and long-lasting. So, our first stop was the IKEA Museum in Älmhult.

(We still have some furniture from our teenage rooms in our apartment and even furnished our kid’s room with the Trofast shelf. It always looks tidy. We painted it white and adorned it with small wooden labels to indicate what’s in the toy boxes.)

Since we were intrigued by the founding story of IKEA, we had a helpful employee by our side who patiently answered our questions. This IKEA showroom is the very first one ever established, showcasing the evolution of furniture pieces over the years. Particularly fascinating was the display of original designs. Our son was able to explore, scan barcodes, touch materials, and learn at every corner.

We spent a significant amount of time in the “Democratic Design” section of the main exhibition. This part delves into IKEA’s philosophy, addressing questions like: How do we balance sustainability and affordability? Alongside form, function, and quality, these are the five guiding principles of their product development. This exhibition covers topics such as the use of recycled plastic and other materials that can reduce the ecological impact of furniture. As this aspect intrigued us greatly, we engaged in an extensive conversation with a museum staff member about it. The exhibitions at the museum change regularly, so you can come back every year to see the advancements. There are recycling collections from time to time – be sure to keep an eye out for those!

My personal highlight was the visit to the museum shop, which offers many unique gift ideas that you can hardly find in any other IKEA worldwide. Here, we took a pleasant break from our car journey and learned a lot in the process. Our latest travel acquisition is an IKEA bag in rainbow colours, which we will now use for transporting our BRACENET nets. Additionally, we plan to use it for collecting waste if we come across any.

My personal highlight was the visit to the museum shop, which offers many unique gift ideas that you can hardly find in any other IKEA worldwide. Here, we took a pleasant break from our car journey and learned a lot in the process. Our latest travel acquisition is an IKEA bag in rainbow colours, which we will now use for transporting our BRACENET nets. Additionally, we plan to use it for collecting waste if we come across any.

In the in-house restaurant, you can then have a meal with your family. By the way, nowadays there are not only their well-known dishes but also vegan options available – have you tried the Plantbullar yet?

3. Muff Café

For those who love vegan and gluten-free treats and couldn’t already get enough of Swedish design at IKEA, we highly recommend the charmingly decorated Muff Café. The owner personally prepares many of the offerings behind the counter. We adore discovering the flavours of the countries we visit, and in this café, you can get a taste of Sweden through regional ingredients and herbs. We indulged ourselves in a variety of dishes from the menu and can genuinely recommend everything listed. In the garden, our son had a blast playing around, and we felt very welcome here. The 207 positive Google reviews were spot on – be sure to make a little detour here.

4. Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse – the Car Cemetary

With our little car enthusiast on board, we simply had to visit the Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse, also known as the Car Cemetery. This used to be a junkyard operated by Åke Danielsson from 1940 to 1991 and then left to its own devices. However, the vehicles have remained.

Today, nature is quite literally reclaiming this space. Plants, and even trees, have sprouted from old, moss-covered vehicles. We took a break here, transporting ourselves to another era and imagining how these vehicles once looked. During a forest stroll, with sunlight streaming through the trees, we captured wonderful images and truly relished our time. Our little one hopped into almost every vehicle, not wanting to leave.

On the one hand, we left with an odd feeling after seeing so much scrap lying in nature. On the other hand, this car cemetery holds significant meaning. It serves as a reminder of the post-war era when cars were becoming increasingly popular, and small businesses were growing larger. The local cultural museum supported the decision to preserve the site in this form, and potentially hazardous materials such as oil and batteries were all removed.

5. Getnö – Lake Åsnen Resort

One of our highlights was the Getnö Lake Åsnen Resort in the Åsnen National Park. It’s a privately managed nature reserve that places sustainability and nature conservation at its core. For instance, its own solar cells generate all the required electricity, and guided tours are kept in small groups to minimise any impact on the environment.

Despite having visited Northern Småland several times before, we discovered this beautiful place for the first time. Ingrid, the second-generation owner who manages the park, loves and knows every corner of it. During her daily walks through the national park, she spots at least one moose every week. We learned that almost every island here is home to a moose cow, and the bull moose swim to the islands during mating season. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot a swimming moose yourself?

Here, we felt like we were experiencing a piece of Canada right in the heart of Sweden. It felt so far away from home, yet it was just a day’s journey away! Everywhere around us were lakes, small charming red houses, and unique nature. If you imagine Sweden by the lake, this is exactly it. Such places can be found all over Sweden, but here, every turn of the road makes you exclaim, “Oh, how beautiful!”

We stayed in this wonderful house: https://www.getnogard.se/en/houses/haren

The house is equipped with everything you need for a comfortable camping experience, including a microwave, stove, barbecue grill, and shower. If you’re in the mood for something warm, you can book meal packages that you can prepare yourself, or simply dine at the on-site restaurant.

It was so cosy here that we’re considering hosting our next BRACENET team outing here. The location is well-equipped for it and even has its own dance bar that you could rent. We had a barbecue package with charcoal, which we immediately put to use. And once again, there are vegan and vegetarian options available here too.

You find yourself right in the heart of the newest Swedish national park, inaugurated by Crown Princess Victoria in 2018. It’s a peaceful place, like something straight out of a fairy tale.

Have you heard of Åsnen’s “Big 5”? Here, you can observe ospreys, moose, great crested grebes, cranes, and white-tailed eagles up close. We even spotted a nest with fledglings.

Here, you can rent canoes or a boat and explore the lakes from the water. We stumbled upon a gigantic grebe egg and even managed to observe one of these massive birds in the water.

Although we aren’t typically big fans of camping sites, we highly recommend this place due to its secluded cabins and direct proximity to nature. A floating sunbathing island, a scene typically found in summer tales – we wished we could have stayed here longer.

Next time, we plan to rent one of the houses that can only be reached by boat and stay a bit longer. https://www.getnogard.se/en/houses/vikingaborgen/

6. Åsnen Full Experience

Beyond the resort, the Åsnen National Park is a beacon of sustainability and is recognized worldwide for its efforts. For instance, the region is part of the “Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories” and has received the “Green Destinations Gold Award” twice. All visitors are invited to contribute by following certain principles, such as buying locally, reducing waste, and camping only in designated areas. It’s through collective effort that we can ensure the preservation of nature so that we can continue to enjoy it, whether it’s hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, or even spending the night.

We primarily explored on foot and enjoyed swimming a lot. We were particularly impressed by the recycling options both in the surroundings and at the accommodations. At both official entrances to the National Park, where all hiking trails begin and end, there were facilities for proper waste separation and ample bins. Even separate bins were provided for the waste of dogs and kids.

One thing that struck us was the absence of any litter on the ground, in the bushes, or in the lake. Not a single piece. It deeply touched us that there are still places where both locals and visitors show such immense respect for the environment. As parents of a young child, it was incredibly refreshing not to constantly remind someone to pick up after themselves. This allowed us to focus on observing caterpillars and dragonflies.

We explored several routes that we can highly recommend. Here’s a brief overview for you: https://visitasnen.se/en/outdoor/hiking/

7. Kingdom of Crystal

Småland is renowned for its glass art, which we now bring directly to your wrist. During our journey through Glasriket, the “Kingdom of Crystal”, we got to know Lioba, a glass artist who works both on commission and makes her own creations. We had the opportunity to admire the work of many guest artists at The Glass Factory and watch Lioba in action. What really impressed us was that they reuse their excess glass – that’s true, meticulous, and sustainable craftsmanship.

In our shop, you’ll now find two Bracenets inspired by our journey. One of them includes a glass bead made from production excess by Lioba. With your purchase, you’re not only supporting Bracenet and Healthy Seas but also artists from the Kingdom of Crystal. Check out the Bracenets here: https://bracenet.net/en/store/

8. Öland

We expected some stunning views from Öland, but the unique, partly rugged landscape dotted with tall peaks, full of endemic plants and animals still managed to surprise us. Equally impressive were the roads winding along the coastline, the beautiful sandy beaches, and the scent of lilac that stretches as far as the eye and nose can sense. The rugged coastline and excellent cuisine are here for you without much searching.

Öland stands out markedly from the rest of Sweden, making it definitely worth a visit. Even the north and south of the island are quite distinct. Whether on foot, by bike, or with a camper, you can experience a highly diverse holiday here. We particularly enjoyed combining our trip with the mainland and the island.

Throughout our journey, we were accompanied by entrepreneurs who have passionately and lovingly managed their accommodations, farms, and restaurants over the years. They poured their heart into every corner and could narrate a story about every nook and cranny. This warmth and hospitality will remain with us for a long time.

What we appreciate about the Swedes is their reserved nature. However, if you ask questions and show interest, they’ll eagerly share their stories with glowing eyes. It’s no surprise that the royal family has a residence here and can maintain their anonymity despite the diverse culture.

9. Arontorp Kroppkakor

Arontorps Kroppkakor, Torslunda 102, 386 96 Färjestaden.

Delicacies that even locals line up for (for an hour!) at Arontorps Kroppkakor? That’s definitely worth a try. If you’re heading to Öland, you’ll pass by here and should grab a portion to go or try it right on the spot. This place offers regional dishes, either as a buffet or for takeaway.

The Kroppkakor are made of a potato dough, filled with pork and onions, served with cream, butter, and lingonberries. It’s a tastefully interesting dish that pleasantly surprised our palates. Notably, Sweden places a strong emphasis on regional ingredients, which helps keep the carbon footprint of all meals low. Regional here means that the flour comes from the village mill, the milk from the neighbouring farm, and the cheese from a nearby dairy.

10. Hiking in Öland’s World Heritage Site – Exploring the Agricultural Landscape in Southern Öland

Hiking through the southern part of Öland truly left us in awe. There are orchid species found only here and numerous herbs that now define the island’s cuisine and flavour. I recommend you discover the island’s treasures and learn something new by joining a guide. Over 140 km of hiking trails wind through this exceptional South Swedish landscape. Even though the terrain might appear flat at first glance, you’ll repeatedly discover unique ground structures and numerous monuments that speak of a different era. Our guided tour lasted about an hour, and we cherished every second of it.

If you plan to visit Öland, contact Eva Åkerstedt for guided tours: www.olandsguiderna.se/guider/

11. Eksgården Krog & Rum – Hotel & Restaurant

Adresse: Gårdby 149, 386 92 Färjestaden

During our time in Öland, we had the privilege of staying in a stunning accommodation and enjoying what might be the best food we’ve had in years – all at a truly reasonable price. The Eksgården Krog & Rum is an enchanting farm with charming lodgings and a restaurant housed in a barn that truly delighted our taste buds.

Before arriving, we read that passing through the farm gate should make you feel embraced – and we can only confirm that. Our initial thought was: This is how we’d love to live someday.

An inner courtyard, bordered by traditional Swedish houses, holds these beautiful lodgings. If you’re seeking tranquillity and relaxation along with attentive care, this is the ideal place for you.

In the evenings, we sipped wine on our terrace and took dessert back to our room. Although we had to set off early for breakfast, we were given the best breakfast boxes for the road. Everything was thoughtfully packaged, without unnecessary waste. The yogurt came in jars, which now have a new home in our kitchen. Fresh fruit, juices, and vegan options were all readily available. We always appreciate such choices, even outside the major cities in Germany.

12. Byrums Raukar

Adress: Byrums Raukar, Folketshusvägen 76049, 760 49 Herräng

Wow – the 600-metre-long coastline of Byrums Rakar was impossible to miss. The path was interspersed with rock formations, some with peaks you could walk or even climb onto. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. Peaks up to 4 metres high right at the coastline, followed by a stunning beach where we just let ourselves fall into the powdery sand. We could have lingered here for hours.

13. Hotell Borgholm

Adress: Trädgårdsgatan 15-19, 387 31 Borgholm

I fell in love with the Hotell Borgholm and its enchanting herb garden right from my research. It used to be a well-known dance hotel on the island, where the wildest parties were thrown. Today, it’s a lovingly run hotel, with the owner himself being the head chef. He breathed new life into the hotel and restaurant three years ago with his personal touch. The history is palpable in the garden suites, especially when you gaze into the herb garden. In the modern, affectionately designed restaurant, you’ll spot old furniture that catches the eye. These pieces were personally selected and reintroduced by Christofer Johansson.

A truly special place where you can sense everywhere that over the years, many stories and people have come together. From the stationery on the menu to the hand picked herbs, we felt welcome throughout our stay.

We also recommend taking a leisurely stroll through the charming town of Borgholm before heading back into nature.

14. Västervik

The Tjust Archipelago of Västervik is an underrated area that many may not have heard of. As far as the eye can see, we were surprised by the beauty of the partly inhabited, partly uninhabited small islands and the many white swans. Västervik is a gem that is worth exploring thoroughly to not miss any beautiful corner or activity.

Västervik is an archipelago city and is home to the largest harbour on the Swedish east coast. Ferries dock here, and there is a lot to discover as well as many different accommodation options. If you’re not the typical camper, this is your city.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a beautiful sunset on our dreamy balcony. These sunsets must be seen and, above all, felt. When dusk falls on a warm summer evening in Sweden, it’s a time you want to hold on to.

15. Slottsholmen on water

A childhood dream came true with the accommodation “Slottsholmen on Water,” and an adult BRACENET dream was also fulfilled. The hotel is located, surrounded by water, on the eponymous island of Slottsholmen. It is managed by ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus and his daughter Anna Hydbom. But it’s not just that which makes the hotel what it is – it’s what’s inside that truly counts.

We were allowed to take a look behind the scenes, and by that, I mean really behind the scenes. We examined everything from the kitchen, storage, to the waste room. Sustainability is a top priority here. The kitchen sources regionally, the facade is made from recycled wood, and even the paper trash bags are recycled in the waste separation process. We’ve never seen this level of commitment to sustainability in such a large establishment before.

Underneath Slottsholmen lies a dual heart. One is the storage system for the solar energy collected from the roof, storing all surplus energy from the summer months for the winter – not only for self-sufficiency but also for redistribution. The second heart is the water treatment system, which sources all the water for the hotel from seawater. Slottsholmen truly stands as a leading example for the hotel industry when it comes to sustainable practices and energy generation.

A small highlight was definitely the record player with ABBA songs. And by the way, Björn isn’t just the founder here – if you’re lucky, you might even meet him in person.

16. Västervik and the Archipelago – Lake & Eagle Safari

Lake and Eagle Safari with Marcus Höglund. After a wonderfully diverse breakfast at Slottsholmen on Water, let Marcus Höglund pick you up right at the jetty: idoskargardskrog.se

Marcus will pick you up right at the jetty with his boat and life jackets, ready to kick off the Lake and Eagle Safari. Get ready for an adventure through more than 5,000 islands: he knows this area like the back of his hand and can answer all your questions about the land and its people. But most importantly, he can share everything about the animals on the islands and in the water.

We headed to a seal island, initially thinking we were out of luck and wouldn’t spot any. However, Marcus’ experienced eye assured us to wait. And lo and behold, after about 10 minutes, the first seals peeked at us, realising they had nothing to fear.

In this area, it’s permitted to hunt seals if they become a burden to the fisheries. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common for seals to get entangled in nets as they search for food, due to the declining fish population. This underscores the fact that if we managed Earth’s resources more responsibly, it would benefit everyone – humans, fish, and seals.

After the boat trip, we headed straight to the newly opened café and restaurant, Idö Skärgårdskrog, owned by Markus and Katarina: https://idoskargardskrog.se/

With arguably the most stunning view of the archipelago and a little tour of the island to an old tower, the excursion became perfect. The couple has lovingly set up Idö Skärgårdskrog. You can reach the restaurant by a small ferry as well, and enjoy the day on the island.

Being here brought us back to our childhood memories, and we could only imagine what it must have been like to spend a summer here as a child. We tried three main dishes from the menu, and we’re still fondly reminiscing about them. Don’t forget to try the apple crumble dessert; we’d say it’s one of the best we’ve ever had!

17. Gränsö snorkeling

One highlight follows another! After our safari, Marcus drops us off in Gränsö to meet another Marcus: Marcus Nord, a passionate biologist at Naturum: https://www.naturumvastervik.se/

He snorkels with Benjamin through the water, exploring the seabed together. There are many seahorses here, and Marcus has placed signs underwater to help identify different types of algae. These algae are not only found underwater but also along the shores while hiking.

You can book guided tours for larger groups at Naturum. We rarely encounter individuals like Marcus who love their profession so much and explain everything with enthusiasm.

18. Ingebo Hagar – Charming Accommodation and Excursion Destination

Adress: Ingebo Hagar, Ingebo 107, 598 91 Vimmerby

At Ingebo Hagar in Vimmerby, you can truly find them: the red farms where families gather, barbecue together, collect eggs from the chicken coop, and sit in the garden until dusk. Children play tag and fall into the loft bed when their eyes get heavy… and so much more!

We stayed in a charming little cottage with both a north and a south terrace, allowing us to always bask in the sun. Our view stretched over the extensive vegetable garden during dinner and shifted to a garden with a tree swing while enjoying morning cereal.

What else can you find here? A farm shop brimming with local produce. Sheep seeking a good scratch and growing old on the farm. Rabbits digging expansive burrows and eagerly munching on fresh carrots …

For over 100 years, Ingebo Hagar has remained in family hands. In recent years, they’ve added accommodations to the mix. The small red houses have been upcycled from the Astrid Lindgren World and given a second life here. Nearly everything has been built by the family themselves. If you wish to spend some time in the small garden house for free, you can help out in the vegetable garden or lend a hand with the renovations on the farm.

Have you ever seen sheep’s wool in a garden bed? Neither had we. It retains moisture and keeps the soil cool even in hot weather. During winter, it stores warmth. Ingebo Hagar is a farm adorned with the KRAV label: vegetables grown without chemicals, a small carbon footprint, and animal husbandry that genuinely nurtures happy animals.

Here, you have the opportunity to explore various hiking routes, discover lakes, or simply learn a lot about sustainable living by spending time with your family. When we visited, a 95th birthday celebration was in full swing on the farm, truly a place for both young and old. Our son particularly enjoyed the many pedal tractors and cars, allowing him to navigate the large barn with glee.

There’s a keen focus on ensuring that animals are only interacted with under the supervision of adults when small children are involved and that herbs are not accidentally trampled. When new families arrive, guided tours and feedings are organised, which you can take part in.

18. Bullerbyn / Sevedstorp

“The Children of Noisy Village” is a tale of idyllic childhood life. Lasse Hallström’s adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s book was filmed in the charming village of Sevedstorp, where Astrid Lindgren’s father grew up. This village is nestled in the picturesque landscape of Småland, where the hustle and bustle of the city feels very, very distant.

It’s no wonder that this place served as the inspiration for children’s books. Small red houses, nestled closely together like in a fairy tale. The sun shines, a swing squeaks, a hay barn stands right beside the “lemonade tree” from the stories. A few tears well up in my eyes as I stand in front of the Middle Farm. How many times, as a child, I imagined living here myself, just like the siblings Britta and Inga, Ole and his little sister Kerstin, and Lisa with her brothers Lasse and Boss!

The dream can become a reality for you, as you can move into the “Middle Farm” through Airbnb.

20. Katthult

What shouldn’t be missing after the “Noisy Village”? Well, Emil of Lönneberga’s farm! In Katthult, you can admire the family farm from the movies. A small café in a barn stands next to the famous house, surrounded by pastures. If you know the stories, you’ll recognize some corners of the farm from movie scenes. The shed where Emil carved wooden figures, or the step in front of the door where Emil poured water into his father’s rubber boots.

That was our last destination before travelling back to the real world through Denmark to Hamburg. In a week, we experienced so much that would typically take us a month of travelling, and we’re happy to head back home with so many new impressions.

A heartfelt thank you to Småland and Öland for this opportunity and this unforgettable journey. We arrived as strangers and left as friends, and we will be back. Until then, see you soon!

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