Whether you’re a family with children, a couple wanting a romantic break, or a group of friends looking to reunite, Dalarna in central Sweden offers a wealth of winter activities and some of the country’s most majestic sights.
Here, one family tells The Local about their unforgettable trip to Rättvik in Dalarna last winter, while we also look at some of the many possibilities for exploring the rest of the region. Rättvik is around three hours and 30 minutes from Stockholm by car, while some parts of Dalarna are even closer – and even its mountainous north is only six hours from the capital by car. You’ll also find it easy to get to from even further afield, with two airports serving the region.
N-ice, affordable family fun!
In the heart of Dalarna lies Lake Siljan. Sweden’s sixth largest lake, its magnificent surroundings are the result of a meteorite impact 360 million years ago. Today, many towns on its shores, such as Orsa, Mora, and Rättvik, have a timeless quality thanks to the simple pleasures they offer if you just want to get outdoors and reconnect with nature.
Claire Hamilton and Antonio Morveto, chose Rättvik, where Antonio grew up until the age of 12, for their first family holiday with all their kids; Claire has one daughter and Antonio three. They booked a cottage on AirBnB for five nights at a cost of under 1,000 Swedish kronor per night.
“The kids were really excited about the first holiday we’d all taken together,” says Claire, originally from Scotland. “It was a super-cute little cottage with a really nice view down to a small lake.” Swedish-born Antonio, who is half-Italian, says the location is equally ideal for couples without kids. “It’s perfect for a romantic weekend – just get a cabin in the middle of nowhere,” he says.
Both Lake Siljan and the smaller lake, 200 metres from the cottage, were frozen but the family were not short of ideas for things to do. Sledging (or sledding), including with huskies, is hugely popular in Dalarna. “We were sledging down the hill with the girls for a few hours on the first day,” recalls Claire. “The lake was completely covered in ice,” adds Antonio. “We saw lots of ice skaters and everything looked just beautiful.”
If you’re fond of outdoor ice-skating, take a look at the Skating Dalarna network, which ploughs paths stretching for more than 70km across the region’s frozen lakes every winter.
The family also took advantage of a sauna for hire by the small lake, with the combination providing an opportunity for their own spontaneous ice bucket challenge! “We filled buckets with ice cold water from the lake,” says Claire. “The kids poured it all over Claire and myself,” adds Antonio. “Then we did the same to them! You all want to dive back into the sauna pretty quickly after that!”
The couple are also big fans of winter swimming and would happily have taken a dip if conditions had allowed. “I have a challenge with a friend that we have to take one dip every month all year round,” says Antonio. “Claire and her friend also have to be in the water every week for five minutes.”
“You get such a buzz from it,” says Claire. “It’s so invigorating.”
Skiing, snowmobile – or just a good old snowball fight?
If you’re looking for a ski trip (or a day or two skiing as part of a longer break), Dalarna has plenty of options. You can enjoy Alpine skiing at larger resorts in the north of Dalarna or smaller options further south. Many resorts also offer activities such as snowmobile driving and snowshoeing. Or you could opt for cross-country skiing. The region has many well-prepared and clearly marked trails, both close to urban areas and going deep into the forest, so why not give it a try?
When the family wanted to go skiing locally one day last winter, they unfortunately found the slope was shutting for the day due to a lack of snow. But they didn’t let that spoil their fun. “We had a massive snowball fight on the slope with a wonderful view overlooking Siljan,” says Antonio. “It went on for hours!” adds Claire. “It was great fun and one of those moments you’ll always remember.”
Antonio advises anyone visiting this year that the Granberget ski resort, in Siljansnäs, near Rättvik, is ideal for families. “There are several small slopes and it’s perfect for children to learn how to ski.”
Walking on water
One of the most famous sights in Rättvik is the 628-metre pier, built all the way back in 1895 to enable a steamship to berth in the town.
“We took the girls down to walk on the frozen water underneath the pier, which was also pretty cool!” says Claire. “The holiday was during the pandemic, so we weren’t going out and spending lots of money. But we still found loads to do, just taking the girls on little walks and finding nice places to explore.”
One special place to explore is Springkällan, just 7km from Rättvik. Here, you’ll find a natural fountain in the middle of the forest and in winter, the water freezes to create beautiful ice formations. If you fall in love with it, there’s even a slogbod available (that’s a wooden shelter where hardy souls can camp out overnight!
Having returned to his childhood home, Antonio is already thinking about the next trip to Dalarna. “It would be a great place for our youngest children, who are five and eight, to learn to ski,” he says. “I only have good memories of Rättvik; it’s the perfect place to raise a family.” Or for a well-deserved getaway when you all need to recharge your batteries!