Top 10: unmissable stops along the Skåneleden hiking trail

Explore this long-distance trail in Sweden's Skåne region, winding beneath ancient beech trees and along lonely beaches. It’s a place to wild camp, forage for berries and stumble across sites far beyond the tourist trail.Tuesday, 18 February 2020

By Nicolline van der Spek
Photographs By Frits Meyst

1. Haväng
Make tracks to this beach in the popular holiday region of Österlen, in Skåne’s southeast corner, early in the morning. Take a walk through the meadows that fringe the shoreline; horses and cows occasionally head down to stalk the shallows, too. Before you leave, wander up to Havängdösen — a 5,500-year-old Stone Age monolith — lording itself over the beach or admire the reflection of trees in the Verkeå river.

2. Stenshuvuds National Park
Set your alarm early to avoid the crowds at this park, joining the Skåneleden from the village of Kivik in the north to the small city of Simrishamn in the south. For the best views of the Baltic Sea, fields of hornbeams, wide sandy beaches and ancient beech trees, climb a trail to the top of the Stenshuvuds hill, before making your way back down among the lush vegetation.

3. Knäbäckshusen beach
Skane’s 235-mile coastline has been quietly gaining a fan base with beach lovers, and another must-see is Knäbäckshusen beach next to Stenshuvud National Park. Follow the fragrance of pine and you’ll stumble across this stretch of white sand, where adventure seekers pull off their boots and launch themselves into the shivery water. For true beach-bragging rights, don’t miss the gorgeous shores at Mälarhusen and Sandhammaren, either.

4. Knäbäckshusen
Travellers in the know are slowly waking up to the charms of this tiny town on the southernmost tip of Sweden. White timber houses line the one and only road, with impeccably red-and-blue painted window frames, and gardens filled with swaying hollyhocks. From here, walk down the town’s unpaved track, which gradually opens to Hanöbukten — a sandy bay where the Blekinge and Skåne regions meet in flinty waters.

5. Ales Stenar
Is this a sundial or a group of tombstones marking a burial ground? Sweden’s answer to Stonehenge, Ales Stenar continues to baffle the experts. This mysterious megalithic monument dates back to the early Iron Age and features 59 boulders arranged in the shape of a ship. Visit this enigmatic sight, on the top of a hill by the Baltic Sea, before refuelling in a smokehouse in the nearby town of Kåseberga.

6. Nyrups Naturhotell
The only way to reach this offbeat, self-styled ‘slow hotel’ is on foot. There’s no electricity, running water or wi-fi — which only adds to the wild charm of this place. Guests gather kindling to make their own fires — the outdoors cooking alone can take up a couple of hours — and sleep in spacious yurts that contain real beds. In the morning, take a dip into the nearby lake.

7. Hovdala Castle
Take a tour of this popular 16th-century fortress, built during Denmark’s reign; the holes of Swedish bullets are still visible in the walls of the gatehouse. Several small trails snake out from the castle, including the 35-mile Hovdalaleden. History-lovers should also make sure to take a walk in the surrounding thick forest, which once hid the greatest spy in Swedish history: Colonel Stig Wennerström, responsible for leaking well over 20,000 pages of top-secret Swedish defence documents.

8. Birk, Birka and Ronja
For a unique night in the outdoors, book a stay at the new campsite at Hovdala Hiking Centre and its three design-conscious huts: Birk, Birka and Ronja. These wind-shelters, which can accommodate up to 18 people, are camouflaged with stacks of birch and open to magnificent views of Finjasjön lake.

9. Kullaberg Peninsula
For some extra adventure, look to the Kullaberg Peninsula — a windblown spit of land where outdoor-lovers can mountain bike, surf and rock climb. There’s also abseiling and the chance to head out on a speedboat and spot the porpoise – a small whale that looks like a dolphin. Guides will even take intrepid visitors into the peninsula’s weathered caves — some of which served as dwellings as far back as the Stone Age.

10. Kullaberg Nature Reserve
A major highlight of the Skåneleden trail, this peninsula is studded with mountains, meadows and wet marches that are patrolled by boar, deer and lizards. Stunning views pop up along the northern and southern shore hiking trails, and you can also visit the highest lighthouse in Sweden — be sure to catch your breath at the cafe.

The Skåneleden trail

The 775-mile Skåneleden trail is divided into five, multiple-day sub trails and 107 sections, varying between three and 15 miles in length, each with its own charms. And thanks to Allemansrätten (‘The Right of Public Access’), hikers have the right of everywhere. But there are a few things to keep in mind: don’t pick any protected plant species; limit your stay on someone’s private property to one night; close all fences behind you; don’t leave any waste behind; be careful with fires; and finally, respect the local flora and fauna.  

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