Lake Vänern

On land and water, all year round, Lake Vänern offers natural, cultural and culinary experiences for all the senses, and a variety of fun and fulfilling activities.

As the biggest lake in Sweden and the EU, Vänern resembles the sea in some respects. You’ll find barren cliffs and skerries, wide sandy beaches, and shallow coves. The lake contains 22,000 islands, islets and skerries. Other features of the landscape include species-rich shoreline meadows, deciduous swamp forests, and extensive wetlands and bird habitats. The rivers that feed into Lake Vänern include Klarälven, Upperudsälven, Byälven, Norsälven, Tidan and Lidan. From the mouth of the lake, the water flows to the sea via the Göta Älv.

What to do on Lake Vänern

Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities on Vänern. Nordmarkens Kanot och Fiskecenter has been in the business for over 50 years and can offer plenty of helpful advice on canoeing and outdoor life. They have 50 aluminium canoes available for rent. In western Värmland and northern Dalsland along the Dalsland Canal, there are 100 approved campsites for visiting canoeists to choose from.

Borgvikshamnen has great views of the islands and skerries at the north end of the lake. More adventurous visitors can rent a canoe or kayak and explore Borgviksjön and Grumsfjorden, two smaller lakes connected to Vänern. If you’re lucky, you might spot a beaver or a bird of prey as you paddle gently through the calm waters. More experienced kayakers can venture out onto the main body of Lake Vänern, with or without a guide, to explore its open waters and desolate islands that have been designated as nature reserves.

In the archipelago off Kristinehamn, you can enjoy the cliffs and beaches as you paddle your way around Vålösundet, past the Picasso sculpture, and out to the islands of Vålön, Kalvön and Sibberön.

In partnership with Duse Udde and Krokstad HerrgårdNordc EcoTours  offers packages including accommodation, meals and waterborne activities, with optional guiding. The attractive, well-run marinas at Säffles are easy to find and make a great starting point for exploring Vikingaleden (the Viking Trail) by boat.

From Säffle you can take a cruise ti the islands of Lurö and LäcköThe Lurö archipelago is famous far beyond Sweden for its beautiful natural surroundings and distinctive fauna. On Lurö, right in the middle of Lake Vänern, you can take a ramble along the cliffs and forest paths before staying overnight at the island's hostel. You’ll also see traces of Lurö’s rich history in the form of the ruined abbey and brickworks, stone mounds and fishermen’s shacks, meadows and a small schoolhouse.

Where to swim in Lake Vänern

The most popular bathing spots are Bomstad and Skutberget, but there are any number of coves, islands and beaches along the shores of the lake.

You can find more information about bathing spots on Lake Vänern here badthing spots on Lake Vänern here.

Where to fish on Lake Vänern 

Vänern has more fish species than any other lake in Sweden. The fishing is good, and anglers don’t need a permit. You can get to many of the islands by cruise boat or join a chartered fishing cruise.

Lake Vänern contains more than 30 species of freshwater fish. The commonest species is smelt, followed by vendace. You might also catch perch, pike and sander. The lake is one of Europe’s best salmon and trout waters, known for excellent spring and autumn fishing. Vänern is Sweden’s largest inshore fishery, with approximately 80 professional fishermen landing 600 tonnes of fish annually.

Where to stay on Lake Vänern

Duse Udde Camping is a true gem, set amid beautiful surroundings. There are great nature trails and cycle paths, abundant wildlife, and fabulous bathing spots with child-friendly beaches sheltered by cliffs. Commanding fantastic views over the lake, the century-old lighthouse now houses a cosy restaurant and café. With its lakefront location, Duse Udde is a paradise for windsurfers and anglers. The campsite also boasts its own marina.

Ekenäs has a popular marina and campsite offering bike and kayak rentals. From here you can stroll along the shores of Vänern, following the 1 km trail to the southern tip of Ladholmen, where you’ll be rewarded with a fine panoramic view of the lake. There is a shelter with barbecue facilities, and this part of the trail is accessible to disabled visitors. If you’d prefer a longer trek, Pilgrimsleden (the Pilgrim’s Path) runs from Lurö and Säffle all the way up to Arvika and Eda.

Karlstad Swecamp Bomstadbaden is holiday heaven in a riviera setting on the shores of Lake Vänern. The resort offers plenty of activities for all the family: an obstacle course, supervised children’s activities, hiking in the surrounding countryside, and entertainment on summer evenings. More relaxing options include a mini-spa, jacuzzi and sauna, beach hammocks, and mushroom picking in the tranquil surroundings.

First Camp Karlstad at Skutberget offers chalet accommodation and camping areas. Outdoor activities include beach volleyball, frisbee golf, minigolf, football pitches, a mountain bike trail, electric cars, windsurfing, kayaking and other watersports. There are also barbecue areas and an award-winning jogging track.

Lake Vänern offers natural, cultural and culinary experiences for all the senses.
Photo credit: Lake Vänern offers natural, cultural and culinary experiences for all the senses.
Lake Vänern offers natural, cultural and culinary experiences for all the senses.