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Summer in Sweden: ten reasons you should visit Dalarna 

Whether you prefer hiking or heritage, wilderness or wild adventure activities, Dalarna in central Sweden has plenty to offer. If you’re looking for a summer break, this could be the answer – for a long weekend or something more.

Summer in Sweden: ten reasons you should visit Dalarna 
Photos: Katarina Jansson and Visit Dalarna

With a little help from Katarina Jansson, a Stockholm-born blogger and podcaster now living in her “childhood paradise” of Särna in Dalarna, The Local presents ten reasons to visit this enchanting region.

Mountains, lakes, craft traditions, and industrial history: find out why visiting Dalarna is like experiencing ‘Sweden in miniature’

1. To go hiking amid unspoilt nature

Dalarna is home to large areas of untouched nature. Escaping into its many accessible forest trails and wide-open fells near lakes and rivers is easier than you might think. 

Some of the best walking areas are easy to reach by car. Once there, you’ll find plenty of signs with distances and directions, as well as rest huts and shelters where you can cook in the open air – or even stay overnight!

Head to Dalarna and you could soon be picking lingonberries and cloudberries as you ramble through the countryside, enjoying majestic views.

2. And see Sweden’s magical mountains

In the north of Dalarna lie Sweden’s southernmost mountains. The varied terrain and moorland in Fulufjället National Park makes it an ideal place for walking and hiking, with 140km of marked paths. Popular trails include the child-friendly path to Njupeskärs waterfall or a trip to see the world’s oldest tree – a 9,550-year-old spruce.

But there’s also far more to enjoy, says Katarina. “Fulufjället is so beautiful, with the old-growth forests and the ancient trails and monuments,” she says. “The views from the mountains give me a sense of freedom and humility – feeling small but in a good way.” 

Fulufjället. Photo: Katarina Jansson

Just a little further north, she also recommends hiking and fishing around Idre and Grövelsjön. 

Ready for an outdoor summer? Whether you want hiking, biking, fishing or anything else, find out more about your options in Dalarna

3. The wildlife: reindeer, moose and more 

If you love wildlife, visiting northern Dalarna in summer could prove a real treat. June is the best time to spot Fulufjället’s rich diversity of birdlife. You may also see moose or beaver – if you don’t make too much noise! 

You can also see reindeer and other wildlife around the region. Katarina, who lives less than 30 minutes from Fulufjället, says: “I live across the lake from Särna village and we see reindeer here in the summer – adults and young together. I also see moose and foxes quite often.”

Photo: Visit Dalarna

4. For fun and family-friendly activities

In winter, Idre Fjäll is a ski resort. But in summer, you’ll find a host of exciting activities, such as river rafting, kayaking, horse-riding and swinging through the trees in the adventure track.

There’s also an outdoor pool with waterslides. You might even consider a wilderness experience to really get away from everything – are you brave enough to go walking in the tracks of the Swedish brown bear?

Further south, you’ll also find fun family experiences in the Siljan region. Your options include everything from Leksand Sommarland water park to Orsa Predator Park – the biggest park of its kind in Europe. Visitors to the latter can see animals including polar bears, Persian leopards and a Siberian tiger, the world’s largest feline

5. To see the origins of a national Swedish symbol

You can’t spend much time in Sweden without seeing a Dala Horse. The colourful carved wooden statues are a national symbol – and as the name suggests, their origins lie in Dalarna.

In the village of Nusnäs outside Mora, you can closely observe skilled craft workers creating the famous horses – or paint your own.

Enter Dalarna from the south, and the world’s biggest Dala Horse (13 metres high) welcomes you to the region at Avesta, only two hours northwest of Stockholm.

Photo: Visit Dalarna

6. And discover the source of Sweden’s red cottages

Many homes and cabins in Sweden are a distinctive rusty-red colour. This is another national feature with its roots in Dalarna.

The paint, known as Falu Rödfärg, contains pigment from Falun Mine – a copper mine that operated for a thousand years! Today, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Falun and it will be easy to impress your friends with your knowledge of Swedish history after returning home.

7. Food glorious food!

Food and drink are also a big part of Dalarna’s heritage. See how traditional local flatbreads are baked at Rättviks Tunnbrödsbageri in the pretty lakeside town of Rättvik. The smell is sure to have you wanting a taste!

In Borlänge,  you can visit an ostrich farm. Will you try an ostrich burger? Or some ostrich-egg ice-cream? Check out the Taste of Dalarna network for more ideas about tasty regional food experiences.

Katarina’s recommendation? A traditional dish called kolbotten, a kind of pancake with pork and cream. “The men who work in the forest used to eat it and it’s delicious,” she says.

8. The unique accommodation options

Ever stayed in a floating hotel room in a lake? How about a floating cottage with a cosy fireplace? Or a forest camp? Or a peaceful mountain station where you wake up to the freshest of fresh air? You can find all these options and more in Dalarna. 

The floating cottage. Photo: Föreningen Allmogen/Visit Dalarna

There are also a wide range of options for more conventional stays in hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, and campsites across the region.

9. To swim in the great outdoors – while you can!

For most of the year, it’s fair to say that swimming in any of Sweden’s almost 100,000 lakes has limited appeal. But in summer, a dip in the pristine waters is an invigorating and even life-affirming experience. 

Lake Siljan in central Dalarna is one of the region’s biggest attractions. But wherever you go in Dalarna, you won’t be far from some inviting waters.

10. To see Sweden’s southernmost Sami village

Want to understand more about Sweden’s Sami people? Idre is home to Sweden’s southernmost Sami village, Idre Sameby, around which reindeers graze on mountain slopes and in the forests.

One local Sami family, the Andersson family, runs Renbiten, which combines a shop and cafe with reindeer herding. Take a guided tour with their tame reindeer to join the reindeer herders at work and listen to stories around the fire in the gåetie, the nomadic Sami’s traditional tipi or tent. 

Want to discover Dalarna this summer? Find out more about the many outdoor activities and attractions you can enjoy.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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