It’s a well-known truism that the Swedish are pretty happy most of the time. And it's plain to see why when exploring the country’s small lands.

With vast forests, spectacular lakes and drivers who appreciate pottering around Småland is a fabulous and surprisingly not too expensive treat.

Just a hop and a spit from the country’s second city of Gothenburg and it’s like being nestled in the Scottish Highlands in a region which boasts more than 5,000 lakes and rivers, 200 kilometres of coastline, 400 nature reserves and lovely towns and cities with coloured timber houses and clean and well-looked after centres.

The birthplace of IKEA is a magnet for outdoor lovers, with skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of the accessible slopes at Mullsjö Alpin and Isaberg Mountain Resort until the white stuff disappears and then enjoying warmer days in the same landscape, but this time on foot, bike or with golf club in hand.

Hiring a car from Gothenburg’s Landvetter Airport, means freedom to explore and with near empty roads, its easy to get around.

An hour away from the big city and you find yourself in the beautiful town of Mullsjö and at the heart of it are sister hotels, Mullsjö and Björkhaga.

The Herald: Old-fashioned comforts at Hotel Mullsjö Old-fashioned comforts at Hotel Mullsjö (Image: free)

Both are steeped in history, with Mullsjö, set in the heart of a forested conservation area, with old-fashioned charm, but modern amenities.

Quiet and with crystal clear air outside and a nearby lake to dip in, the hotel based in a beautiful wooden building, has modern bedrooms and a restaurant serving up excellent dinners and breakfasts using local produce. A sauna, indoor pool and outdoor hot-tub make the stay even more special.

A five-minute drive into the small town, full of colourful houses lit up with warming lights at night, takes you to Björkhaga, which dates back to the 1900s and serves memorable meals, many using game from the local slaughterhouse.

Both are just what you need after a hard day at the slopes. With five lifts taking you to the seven pistes at Mullsjö Alpin, one with a 95m drop, it’s a good workout, ski-ing and snowboarding among the forests, which are a stone’s throw away from Sweden’s first private golf club at Ryfors. Another 75 minutes on the road and deeper into the forests and you will find the outdoor kingdom of the Isaberg Mountain Resort.

It’s southern Sweden’s largest and full of families patriotically wearing the country’s popular winter gear from Dope Snow, started by Gothenburg brothers Emil and Linus Hellberg in 2006.

You can stay, dine and enjoy adventures, with the winter dominated by snowboarders, skiers and tobogganists and summer fun including mountain biking, water sports, golf and tree top climbing.

There are 11 slopes to ski down, with one which takes you right down to the Höganloft Restaurant and ready for some Swedish classics.

One of the highlights of Isaberg is the 1,000 metre long rodeling track, a bob sleigh on wheels, which hurtles down the mountainside.

There is plenty of local accommodation too, with luxury being the main staple of the nearby Hestraviken Hotel and Spa. This compact site has views of the Algustorpasjön lake and Isaberg mountain, with rooms in the turn of the century wooden mansion as well as a new build spa, with relaxing pools, saunas and the wild swimming option of the lake, handily placed below the swish accommodation.

The Herald: The snow at Mullsjö AlpinThe snow at Mullsjö Alpin (Image: free)

Away from nature, there is plenty of culture and no where better than the beautiful cobblestoned town of Gränna, famous for its castle ruins and candy canes.

You are welcomed by a huge air balloon in memory of adventurer Salomon August Andrée and fellow explorers, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel, who attempted to fly over the North Pole in 1897. Their journey ended in disaster, when their balloon lost height and they were forced to land in the middle of ice floes with no chance of being rescued.

The fascinating journey is told through a wonderful exhibition at The Grenna Museum, which also has a great exhibition on the town’s love of candy canes.

Just out of the town and nestled overlooking Lake Vättern and the island Visingsö, famous for its cider mustard, is the mighty castle, turned Hotel Gyllene Uttern, with fabulous views, magnificient chandeliers and lots of armour.

All in all, this versatile area of Southern Sweden is a fresh air playground and bang on the button for a great adventure.

The Herald: Art in BeskurenArt in Beskuren (Image: free)

Getting there

Low cost airlines head to Gothenburg from Scotland and good-priced car rental is available from Landvetter Airport. Back home, can help with airport parking, lounges and transfers.


Old fashioned with modern comforts at www.hotellmullsjo-se and www. Fabulous spa and rooms at and top views from


Ski and snowboarding can be enjoyed at and with Swedish extreme sports gear from Enjoy culture at Tourist Information:

For tips and practical help, see and

Image credits:

Ski slopes:  Photo courtesy of Tomas Magnusson 
Museum: Photo courtesy of Grenna Museum 
Hotel Mullsjö : Photo courtesy of Evelyn Einebrant