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Winter getaways: the stunning Swedish region with something for everyone

If travel is finally back on your agenda, you may be dreaming of an idyllic winter getaway? Luckily, you no longer have to stop at dreaming.

Winter getaways: the stunning Swedish region with something for everyone
Photo: Anna Holm/Visit Dalarna

Whether you’re a family with children, a couple wanting a romantic break, or a group of friends looking to reunite, Dalarna in central Sweden offers a wealth of winter activities and some of the country’s most majestic sights. 

Here, one family tells The Local about their unforgettable trip to Rättvik in Dalarna last winter, while we also look at some of the many possibilities for exploring the rest of the region. Rättvik is around three hours and 30 minutes from Stockholm by car, while some parts of Dalarna are even closer – and even its mountainous north is only six hours from the capital by car. You’ll also find it easy to get to from even further afield, with two airports serving the region.

Want to escape to a Swedish winter wonderland? Find out more about Dalarna from Visit Dalarna

N-ice, affordable family fun!

In the heart of Dalarna lies Lake Siljan. Sweden’s sixth largest lake, its magnificent surroundings are the result of a meteorite impact 360 million years ago. Today, many towns on its shores, such as Orsa, Mora, and Rättvik, have a timeless quality thanks to the simple pleasures they offer if you just want to get outdoors and reconnect with nature.

Claire Hamilton and Antonio Morveto, chose Rättvik, where Antonio grew up until the age of 12, for their first family holiday with all their kids; Claire has one daughter and Antonio three. They booked a cottage on AirBnB for five nights at a cost of under 1,000 Swedish kronor per night.

“The kids were really excited about the first holiday we’d all taken together,” says Claire, originally from Scotland. “It was a super-cute little cottage with a really nice view down to a small lake.” Swedish-born Antonio, who is half-Italian, says the location is equally ideal for couples without kids. “It’s perfect for a romantic weekend – just get a cabin in the middle of nowhere,” he says.

Claire Hamilton and family: playing in the snow with a view of the lake

Both Lake Siljan and the smaller lake, 200 metres from the cottage, were frozen but the family were not short of ideas for things to do. Sledging (or sledding), including with huskies, is hugely popular in Dalarna. “We were sledging down the hill with the girls for a few hours on the first day,” recalls Claire. “The lake was completely covered in ice,” adds Antonio. “We saw lots of ice skaters and everything looked just beautiful.” 

If you’re fond of outdoor ice-skating, take a look at the Skating Dalarna network, which ploughs paths stretching for more than 70km across the region’s frozen lakes every winter.

The family also took advantage of a sauna for hire by the small lake, with the combination providing an opportunity for their own spontaneous ice bucket challenge! “We filled buckets with ice cold water from the lake,” says Claire. “The kids poured it all over Claire and myself,” adds Antonio. “Then we did the same to them! You all want to dive back into the sauna pretty quickly after that!”

The family in the sauna and playing by the frozen lake

The couple are also big fans of winter swimming and would happily have taken a dip if conditions had allowed. “I have a challenge with a friend that we have to take one dip every month all year round,” says Antonio. “Claire and her friend also have to be in the water every week for five minutes.” 

“You get such a buzz from it,” says Claire. “It’s so invigorating.”

From cosy cottages to hotels, check out your accommodation options in Dalarna

Skiing, snowmobile – or just a good old snowball fight?

If you’re looking for a ski trip (or a day or two skiing as part of a longer break), Dalarna has plenty of options. You can enjoy Alpine skiing at larger resorts in the north of Dalarna or smaller options further south. Many resorts also offer activities such as snowmobile driving and snowshoeing. Or you could opt for cross-country skiing. The region has many well-prepared and clearly marked trails, both close to urban areas and going deep into the forest, so why not give it a try?

Photo: Visit Dalarna

When the family wanted to go skiing locally one day last winter, they unfortunately found the slope was shutting for the day due to a lack of snow. But they didn’t let that spoil their fun. “We had a massive snowball fight on the slope with a wonderful view overlooking Siljan,” says Antonio. “It went on for hours!” adds Claire. “It was great fun and one of those moments you’ll always remember.”

Antonio advises anyone visiting this year that the Granberget ski resort, in Siljansnäs, near Rättvik, is ideal for families. “There are several small slopes and it’s perfect for children to learn how to ski.”

Walking on water

One of the most famous sights in Rättvik is the 628-metre pier, built all the way back in 1895 to enable a steamship to berth in the town.

Claire Hamilton and the children on Rättvik’s pier

“We took the girls down to walk on the frozen water underneath the pier, which was also pretty cool!” says Claire. “The holiday was during the pandemic, so we weren’t going out and spending lots of money. But we still found loads to do, just taking the girls on little walks and finding nice places to explore.” 

One special place to explore is Springkällan, just 7km from Rättvik. Here, you’ll find a natural fountain in the middle of the forest and in winter, the water freezes to create beautiful ice formations. If you fall in love with it, there’s even a slogbod available (that’s a wooden shelter where hardy souls can camp out overnight!

Having returned to his childhood home, Antonio is already thinking about the next trip to Dalarna. “It would be a great place for our youngest children, who are five and eight, to learn to ski,” he says. “I only have good memories of Rättvik; it’s the perfect place to raise a family.” Or for a well-deserved getaway when you all need to recharge your batteries! 

In need of a winter break? Discover Dalarna through Visit Dalarna and start planning your own trip to this Swedish winter wonderland

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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