Head off on a biking adventure in Skåne, Sweden

Glide along the serene Sydostleden biking trail in the far south of Sweden to discover quaint towns, a wild coastline and welcoming locals.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020,
By Nicolline van der Spek
Photographs By Frits Meyst
Cycling along the Syndostleden in Skane
Cycling along the Syndostleden biking trail, stretching between the forests of Växjö, in the province of Småland, and the coastline of Simrishamn, in Skåne.
Photograph by Frits Meyst

It’s morning, and we start on our e-bikes in Kivik — one of Skåne’s quaintest little villages, where colourful hollyhocks sway in the front gardens of immaculate, half-timbered houses. We cycle out of the sleepy hamlet, past rolling fields of grain, old farms, cream-white churches and countless apple orchards.

I’m pedalling along the Sydostleden, a biking trail stretching for 170 miles between the coastline of Simrishamn, in Skåne, and the forests of Växjö, in the province of Småland. It’s one of only three national trails in Sweden — a title that certifies routes are of high quality, traffic safe and dotted with experiences and services. The gentle Sydostleden trail is also a great place to start if you want to learn more about the country: taking travellers past farms, misty greenery, wildlife and characterful locals, it provides a perfect introduction to the Swedish countryside.  

We make a big loop inland, pulling into Andrarum for a lunch stop. Just like Kivik, it looks like an old-world village and we nab a table at Kaffestugan Alunbruket, one of the oldest coffeehouses in Skåne. Opened in the 1930s, it’s now run by the great-grandchild of the original owner who regales us with tales about the village. Once, he tells us, it was engulfed by a yellow cloud of sulphur from the local alum factory. Today, though, there’s no sign of the smog — just skies of brilliant blue above the charismatic hobbit-like village. 

That’s the thing about the Sydostleden — it’s the sort of trail that puts the spotlight on the locals and the compelling towns and villages that pepper the route. We push on down a gravel road in a hilly forest. The south of Sweden is sloping, but there are no tough climbs along the route, and for the most part the cycle paths are paved — making the trail suitable for both beginners and seasoned enthusiasts.

We approach Åhus, a picturesque medieval town where many of the homes have private jetties and the locals have garnered a reputation for their love of eel, snuff and spirits. It’s hardly surprising, then, that it’s also the home of the Absolut Vodka distillery — its great copper stills have been churning out the world-famous vodka since 1906.

The next day, we make our way to Kristianstad. Skåne was Danish until 1658, and if you head to this Renaissance city, founded by Christian IV of Denmark in 1614, there are clues to its roots almost everywhere — in the local dialect, for example. I make tracks to Kristianstad Vattenrike Biosphere Reserve, a wetlands conservation area, with the Naturum Vattenriket at its heart, a design-conscious visitor centre. Here, you can book boat trips and glide around the UNESCO-protected area, and watch wildlife such as otters, white herons and kingfishers. It’s really the sort of place where you have to spend at least a few hours — but we have to carry on. Back on track, we go. 

Åhus, a medieval town in Skåne along the Sydostleden, where many of the homes have private jetties.
Photograph by Frits Meyst

How to do it

Skåne offers bike-friendly conditions, with accessible cycle paths and a good public transport system that lets riders bring bikes on board. The Sydostleden cycle trail runs through the three provinces of Skåne, Blekinge and Småland. There’s also the Kattegattleden trail, winding for 245 miles along the coast — from the city of Helsingborg to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest urban hub. In the summer of 2019, a third cycle route through Skåne was opened: the Sydkustleden, stretching for 162 miles from the coastline of Simrishamn to Helsingborg. Combined, these three routes allow travellers to cycle 577 miles, exploring the west, south and east of Skåne. 

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