When considering Stockholm, one typically envisions the city’s modernity, classical architecture, and diverse neighborhoods. However, if you shift your gaze eastward, just over 20 miles from the city center, you’ll discover a lesser-known natural paradise consisting of around 30,000 islands extending around 40 miles into the Baltic Sea from the mainland.
Although ferrying between islands is a popular exploration method, the ultimate way to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of the archipelago is by kayaking. The calm sea conditions allow for effortless navigation between thousands of islands, islets, and skerries, accompanied only by seabirds. Here, three seasoned kayak guides of the region delve into what makes this area exceptional and disclose their personal favorite spots.
Co-founder and CEO of The Kayak Trail
The Stockholm archipelago holds a unique allure due to its dense concentration of islands, each affording the freedom to camp in the wild anywhere you choose. With no underwater currents, significant swells, or tidal waters, kayaking here is remarkably safe and accessible for everyone.
Tell us about your favored kayaking destinations.
I hold a special affinity for the Bullerö Nature Reserve, situated to the east of Nämdö. There are three historic cottages available for rent, maintaining their traditional design. Devoid of electricity, the experience offers a genuine off-grid escapade.
When is the prime time to visit?
Referred to as the ‘magic season,’ the period from late August to early September presents a unique allure. This timeframe provides solitude and pleasantly warm waters. It’s an underrated time for exploring the archipelago, especially since most tourists arrive during July and depart by mid-August.
What wildlife encounters can one anticipate?
Beyond roe deer and moose, frequently seen swimming between islands, various sea birds populate the area. If luck prevails, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea eagle—the largest bird in Scandinavia.
Apart from kayaking, what other methods do you recommend for experiencing the area?
Venturing on hikes across the larger islands is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Swedish way of life. Möja, one of my cherished islands, offers a blend of Viking-era history and cozy cafe culture.
Astrid Landgren Patterson
Sea Kayak Instructor at Kayak & Uteliv
What captivates you most about kayaking here?
During my daily paddles, I encounter a diverse array of 20 islands—an unparalleled experience. The journey itself offers variety, ranging from the lush inner isles to the wilderness of the outer archipelago. Crafting a roundtrip itinerary without revisiting the same location is effortless.
When is the ideal time to visit?
June holds a special place in my heart due to its near-constant daylight. Even at midnight, captivating evening paddles are possible sans head torch. Late summer transitioning into early autumn exudes a unique charm as well.
Which locales do you favor?
The northern archipelago boasts fewer boats, fewer visitors, and less infrastructure, resulting in a greater abundance of nature. Embarking from Gräddö to Vattungarna and Håkansskär islands in the outer archipelago is a personal highlight. Whenever feasible, I opt for overnight stays—camping on the flat rocks is hassle-free.
Apart from kayaking, how else do you prefer to explore the region?
I’ve developed a keen interest in swim-running, an activity involving swimming to islands, traversing them on foot, and then swimming to the next. It’s both intriguing and challenging, and I’m currently training my six-year-old daughter to partake in this adventure together.
Founder of Stockholm Adventures
What enticed you to the Stockholm archipelago?
The landscape here is truly unparalleled. During summer, you can kayak across 30,000 islands, while winter offers the opportunity for ice-skating tours on frozen waters. The stark contrasts—wild camping in nature and fine dining in high-end restaurants—cater to diverse preferences.
Where do you particularly enjoy kayaking?
Southern and eastern areas of Dalarö stand out for me, featuring pristine and unforgettable wilderness.
When is the optimal time for a visit?
Late August and September are my recommendations. The archipelago sees fewer visitors during this period, and the water remains warm, often until October. As we’re centrally located in Stockholm, we’re able to facilitate tours even during off-peak seasons, even with just one solo traveler.
Any recent encounters with wildlife?
During a kayaking course last week, a beaver curiously observed us from a mere couple of meters away—an incredibly cool experience.
Apart from kayaking, what’s your preferred way to explore the archipelago?
I’m an avid cyclist, and surprisingly, excellent mountain biking opportunities are abundant here. It’s a realization of my dream lifestyle.
Direct flights to Stockholm are accessible from various UK cities. Numerous boat services and tour operators provide passage to the larger archipelago islands from Stockholm. You can book multi-day packages inclusive of travel and guided kayaking tours through Kajak Uteliv, Stockholm Adventures, and The Kayak Trail. For further details, visit stockholmarchipelago.se. For a subscription to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine, click here (available in select countries only).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Archipelago Exploration
What makes kayaking in the Stockholm archipelago unique?
Kayaking in the Stockholm archipelago is unique due to its dense concentration of islands, safe conditions, and the freedom to wild camp. The archipelago offers tranquil waters, making it accessible for kayakers of all levels.
Is wild camping allowed in the Stockholm archipelago?
Yes, wild camping is allowed in the Stockholm archipelago, provided you respect both people and nature. Sustainability is integral to Sweden’s outdoor culture, granting visitors the freedom to enjoy the wilderness responsibly.
When is the best time to visit the archipelago for kayaking?
Late August and September are recommended for kayaking in the archipelago. During this ‘magic season,’ there are fewer tourists, warm waters, and a tranquil atmosphere, providing an underrated and serene experience.
What wildlife can be encountered during kayaking?
While kayaking, you might spot roe deer, moose, and various sea birds. Lucky kayakers might even catch a glimpse of the majestic sea eagle, the largest bird in Scandinavia.
Apart from kayaking, what other activities can be enjoyed in the archipelago?
Aside from kayaking, the archipelago offers opportunities for hiking, exploring larger islands with Viking-era history, cozy cafe culture, and even engaging in unique activities like swim-running.
How can I plan a trip to the Stockholm archipelago for kayaking?
You can fly directly to Stockholm from various UK cities and then access the archipelago via boat services or guided tours. Multi-day packages that include travel and guided kayaking tours can be arranged with reputable operators such as Kajak Uteliv, Stockholm Adventures, and The Kayak Trail. For more information, visit stockholmarchipelago.se.