Escape: Discovering Sweden’s picturesque Skåne

To be perfectly blunt, I did not expect a whole lot from going to South Sweden. My initial assumption was that it was probably a lot like the places around the German Ostsee with some nice parts, and yeah sure, it can be beautiful, but unfortunately too often its beauty is ruined by city planning. Oh my, was I wrong. It is nothing like it. First of all, it’s a lot greener, the villages and cities are a lot prettier, and the beaches wilder. I came back a reformed Sweden-fan. And you know what the best thing is: getting there is super easy. You only need to get to Rostock, take the comfy ferry for 6 hours, and there you are!
I did it like many tourists do: get a camper van to explore the countryside of Skåne, Sweden’s southern province, from south to east coast, to the remote lakes of the north and the stunning cliffs of the west. Here’s my summary with all the nicest spots to check.

VisitSkåne, the local tourism board, supplied me with a fully equipped van to explore the country on my own, which I picked up from the super nice Jimmy in Trelleborg. I had never done any type of camper van holiday before, so I was asking a thousand questions which he patiently answered. The van was a perfect choice for a newbie, since it had everything – a kitchenette, fridge, bathroom with toilet and shower, as well as a seating area plus a quite spacious bed, but was still small enough to easily navigate. However, Swedes drive casually, my fear of tight roads and rough rowdies was unfounded and I got more and more relaxed steering my temporary home through the country, sticking to remote areas. I also arrived as the summer season just ended, which meant loads of closed shops but also free roads and easy access of camping sites without any reservation.

Day 1 – South East

My first stop was a free spot in the forests around Vombsjön. It was my first night and thanks to the Swedish principle of Allemansrätten, the right of access to nature, my idea was to park my van just anywhere I pleased. However, while you can easily find a lot, the real picturesque, nature-immersed ones are hard to find! Especially because no one likes to publicly share once they discovered a spot! Which is kinda understandable, because most clearings only offer enough space for one overnighter. I managed, though, stopping by the side of an unpaved forest road, and got up the next day only to find out an even better spot just 300m further down during my morning walk. Oh well, I’m an amateur… The walk through the lush forest made up for it, and even more did my cinnamon bun and coffee breakfast at the Lanthandel in close by Torna Hällestad, where I also grabbed some delicious and local white and rye breads, cheese, tomatoes, juice and more for a lunch by one of South Sweden’s prettiest beaches.

Since I arrived just days after the summer season officially ended, I had the privilege of enjoying most of the super busy destinations almost on my own. Like Sandhammeren, a stunningly wide beach with the whitest sands, that is a crowded spot during the warm season. I only enjoy swimming when it’s 30 degrees and more, so I don’t mind not being able to go into the water, but played catch with my dog, who just loves the beach and always goes completely wild and runs around like a racer. I parked my van in a lot just by the beach at the very end of Sandhammervägen, which meant I could enjoy a plein air lunch with all the goodies from the Torna Hällestad farm shop.

After that beautiful morning, I went north to the national park of Stenshuvud just by the east cost. It’s surprisingly small, yet pretty, but not necessarily worth the trip. I might just be disappointed I didn’t find any of the advertised wild orchids around… I decided to spend the night at a camp site just off the beach (to plug in my van and have a proper shower) and explore the adjacent city of Simrishamn, which had already shut down for the coming winter.

Day 2 – North East

The next day started with heavy rain and I was already worried about spending a whole day in the van when I had made so many plans! But driving north the rain mostly stopped. First, I was headed to the Kivik Cider Factory, a couple of buildings next to a huge parking lot with just a couple of publicly accessible apple trees and a big shop. I was a bit underwhelmed and only took one bottle of apple juice – which was a huge mistake, as I later found out, their apple juice is amazing! I should’ve brought crates of it home… like the rest of the people shopping there. Well, I sure have to let you know so you don’t make the same mistake.

After, I drove to Wanås, an art park, hotel and restaurant on the grounds of a medieval castle and its gigantic barns. It’s a stunning and elegant place. The restaurant (my first destination) is located in one of the big barns and offers a delicious lunch with a big dessert buffet. Fully satisfied, I started my stroll through the park filled with impressive art works from Yoko Ono’s wish trees to Robert Wilson’s creepy house. It’s full of impressive younger and more seasoned work, some of it permanent others just temporary, and one of the most exciting and beautiful art parks I have visited – very much worth a trip. I should’ve totally bought the guide, because I feel like I missed a ton of pieces just by not walking the right paths. At one end of the park I heard a young kid cry out Mama in increasing desperation, and then a younger man calling on this mother, and then more… I’d call myself a trained contemporary-art-visitor, but it took me a while to get it’s an installation. And even when I understood, it was still quite arresting. Marianne Lindberg De Geer’s “I am Thinking About Myself” has been installed since 2003 and is one of the park’s most attentive pieces. Sorry for the spoilers.

After all that art, I was determined to find a picturesque spot in the woods to stay the night. I checked the maps for the area around Immeln, a giant lake known for it’s canoeing possibilities, and headed down more or less paved roads. Only once I ran into a dead end and had to slowly manoeuvre out of it, which wasn’t too hard because my van had a back camera! I wouldn’t have been able to park this long one anywhere without it, really. After some more turn-arounds, I finally found a little clearing very close by the water and parked my van in the setting sun with a view on the lake and the dramatic sunset. I schlepped by little folding chair down to a ruined jetty and read a book in the remaining warm sun. My later stroll through the woods gave me a bit of the creeps, though, it was actually the first time I stopped and thought, whether it’s a bit weird to stay out there by myself? It’s hard to get rid of that thought once it arises but you will be happy (and not surprised) to hear I made it through the night unharmed.

Day 3 – West

I brought the insecurity into the next morning, and did the first walk very brisk while talking to the dog in a pretended assured manner to shoo off any moose. Or whatever else might’ve been hidden in the forest. Whether being alone in the woods is creepy or not isn’t something I think about when I plan a trip. And the thought doesn’t come up every time I walk a path alone. However, once it’s there, it’s stuck. So I left this pretty forest clearing and headed west. My first stop being a tomato farm! Yeah, giant greenhouses filled with innumerous tomato plants in all the colors, sizes and shapes you can imagine. Dating back to the 1960s, Vikentomater is a family owned farm that has its own shop and supplies many restaurants as well as shops in the area. The range of tomatoes available is impressive, from sweet & small to firm & ample, they all differ in texture and taste. And while I should’ve not bought the strawberries, my two big bags of tomatoes fed me well after I came back from this trip.

Following my tomato shopping, I needed a hearty lunch and was getting it at Flickorna Lundgren, a café that was started in the 1930s by the Lundgren sisters. It’s here where I had my very first (ever) Äggakaka after an original recipe from one the sisters, Anna Lundgren. And this is what it is: a very plump oven pancake topped with a ton of veggies (originally served with pork). I enjoyed this massive treat in their very pretty garden with tons of flowers and plants, some going to back to seeds that were gifted to the sisters by king Gustav Adolf in an exchange for a box of cookies. I knew I should’ve gotten some cookies, but the pancake really filled me up. A hike was desperately needed.

My first try was to go to Kullaberg a nature reserve at the tip of the peninsula of the same name. You can easily drive all the way up there, and once arrived, there isn’t much to walk around. However, once I found the hiking paths I was intrigued, but really didn’t bring the right boots and was too timid to descend the rocky hill to see the many caves. Hiking boots and a safe harness for the dog would’ve been appropriate. My hike was stopped short again with the path crossing an animal pasture, and a sign asking for dogs to not be taken into it. I obliged and instead went to Mölle to have a piece of cake at the Mölle Krukmakeri, before I went north to find another nature spot to enjoy.

My final destination was Hovs Hallar and it was everything I wanted it to be. It’s located on the northern tip of the Bjäre Peninsula and has some of the most impressive cliffs and wild life. Behind every corner stunning views awaited me, the paths are winding and steep, and will bring you very close to cliff edges for an even greater view, and soon you will very much get that hiking high. Unfortunately, I lost my path and ended up climbing up a rocky cliff to find my way again, not able to find trail marks after some time. Luckily, my dog doesn’t need any help with climbing, so I only had to hoist myself up.

I left Hovs Hallar stoked, ready to come back with some proper boots. It really doesn’t look like much when you judge it from the satellite pictures, but then, that was my misjudgement before I even set one foot into Skåne.
It is beautiful, from soft hills to wide fields of grass, thick forests to clear lakes. The people are very friendly, food is good and plenty (looking at you, Brandenburg…), prices are okay (out of season?) and there’s a ton of pretty holiday homes or campers to rent to explore. The only thing I didn’t find was a pretty camping site, but why would you stay on a proper site if you can stay in the great Swedish outdoors?

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, I have already booked my next trip in the winter. Not kidding. I kinda influenced myself, I guess. Can’t wait to be back!

As mentioned above, I was invited on this trip by VisitSkåne with all expenses paid. They let me go wherever I wanted so I made my own travel schedule which means all places I visited were chosen by me.