Produced by The Local’s Creative Studio in partnership with Visit Dalarna 

‘Dalarna stole my heart’: 16 reasons to visit Sweden’s winter gem

‘Dalarna stole my heart’: 16 reasons to visit Sweden’s winter gem

Winter is coming – and in Sweden that means every reason to stay indoors, right? Wrong! Actually, there’s every reason to head outdoors to reinvigorate your mind and body – and where better to do it than Dalarna?

When we asked The Local’s readers for their best winter memories of this majestic region of mountains, lakes, and Swedish wildlife, you had plenty to say. There are many places in the world that I love but Dalarna stole my heart completely,” Mirka Mati, from Slovakia, told us. Ready to pack your bags? Thought so! But first, here are 16 fun things to do once you get there.

Discover all that Dalarna has to offer to make the most of this winter in Sweden

1. Go cross-country skiing 

Cross-country skiing is a perfect way to discover Dalarna’s mountains – and it’s easier than you might think! Grövelsjön in the north of Dalarna offers some of Sweden’s finest cross-country skiing, whether on marked trails or by choosing to make your own tracks across pristine snow. Stay in a cosy cottage, a hostel or a four-star hotel – then get up for a hearty breakfast and set off once more.

2. Skate on natural ice

One of the joy’s of Sweden’s big freeze is the opportunity to safely undertake fun activities on natural ice. With over 70 km of ploughed courses, the Skating Dalarna network can satisfy both novice outdoor skaters and experienced enthusiasts. Check out the wide choice of locations around Dalarna, ice reports and more.

3. Cook over an open fire

Outdoor cooking is a quintessential Swedish experience. Do it fearlessly in winter to be even more like a local! Maybe you just want to grill some sausages on a break from cross-country skiing? Or perhaps you fancy a luxurious outdoor meal with friends after preparing all the ingredients at home? Dig a snow pit, so you can unwind and enjoy the crackling of the fire as the food cooks.

4. Go hiking

Lace up your winter boots and grab your backpack! Many of Dalarna’s finest walking trails are open in winter. Once you hear the snow creaking under your feet as you breathe in pure mountain air, you’ll know you made a good decision. You’re also spoilt for choice as Dalarna has over 360 nature reserves to explore.

Outdoor cooking. Photo: Frans Björklund/Visit Dalarna

A couple skating on a frozen lake in Dalarna. Photo: Anna Holm/Visit Dalarna

5. Just switch off 

After a busy year, wouldn’t it be nice to just switch off? “I usually tell people who travel to Sweden to see Stockholm to stay a little longer and visit Dalarna as it has this different vibe, where you can relax your mind,” says Mirka, who lived in Dalarna in 2013, and still returns frequently. She recommends “just wandering in the forest or enjoying calm days at Bojsen beach [in Falun] or Lake Siljan”.

6. Enjoy a sauna (but earn it with an icy dip!)

A sauna can work wonders. But it’s no longer enough. To take things to another level for body, mind and spirit, take a winter dip first. If you’ve thought about it but never found the time (or courage?), you’ll have no excuses once you’re in Dalarna with its many lakes. Just make sure you have a companion to be safe – and keep thinking of that wonderful hot sauna!

7. Go walking in snowshoes

Fulufjället National Park outside Särna is spectacular all year but has a special magic in winter. Don’t miss the ice art works that form when Sweden’s highest waterfall Njupeskär freezes! Walking in snowshoes is a great fun for both children and adults – and a novel way to reach areas you’d otherwise miss. Snowshoe hiking is offered for all levels at Yttermalungs camping and Green Owl Travel in Rättvik.

8. Follow the pack – try dog sledding

Ready for an unforgettable experience that you’ll only find in a handful of locations globally? Various places in the northern part of Dalarna offer dogsled tours. Watch the fabulous scenery rush by as you’re pulled along by a powerful pack of huskies. Exhilarating.

A family enjoy dog sledding in Dalarna. Photo: Anna Holm/Visit Dalarna

9. Take a summit tour 

At Bjursås Berg & Sjö in Falun Municipality, you can sign up for a summit morning – heading up the mountain before the ski lifts open. A guide leads the activity, so you don’t need any prior knowledge, and the tour ends with breakfast – at the top while taking in the views as long as the weather allows!

10. Join a snowmobile ‘safari’

Another great option for those who want to feel their pulse racing. You’ll find various places where you can rent a snowmobile in Dalarna’s north and join a guided snowmobile ‘safari’ to give you an adventurous experience of the Swedish wilderness.

11. Find your spark with a kicksled 

Kicksledding is another popular winter activity in Dalarna and you can borrow a kicksled (also known as spark) at a number of hotels. But wait: what exactly is it? This is a small sled, with a chair mounted on metal runners, that you propel by kicking the ground with your foot. Got it? Off you go then! 

12. Lap up the Christmas magic

You’ll need to plan your trip soon to enjoy this one – but it’ll be worth it. Michael Bryant, originally from the UK and now based in Gothenburg, can still feel the magic of a Christmas spent skiing and staying in a log cabin in Dalarna over 20 years ago. “The smell of the fire, the snow-capped cabins, and the evening lights glistening in the thick snow,” he recalls. “It was the truest Christmas feeling I’ve ever had.”

13. Meet the reindeer 

Reindeer walk and graze freely in the countryside around Idre and Grövelsjön in northern Dalarna. Idre is home to Sweden’s southernmost Sami village and an ideal place to experience and learn about Sami culture. Want to be sure of meeting these enchanting creatures? Sign up for reindeer experiences at Renbiten, a Sami family business in the area.

Reindeer in the winter snow in Dalarna. Photo: Nisse Schmidt/Visit Dalarna

“Dalarna has this different vibe, where you can relax your mind."

14. Go ice fishing

Once thick ice settles on Dalarna’s lakes, how about some fishing for perch, pike, trout and rainbow trout? You need an ice drill, fishing equipment, a valid fishing licence, and a safety-conscious attitude: check the ice, bring ice studs and dress appropriately. Need help? Book a guided ice fishing tour at Anglerman Fishing Adventures in Älvdalen or Rösjöstugorna by Fulufjället.

15. Stroll through a historic town

If you prefer a gentle stroll to a vigorous hike, towns such as Falun – a World Heritage Site thanks to its mining history – and Rättvik are great choices. “I fell in love with Dalarna, and especially Falun, because it reminds me of my hometown in Slovakia,” says Mirka.A mountainous region full of ski resorts, lakes, and untouched nature.”

16. Go spring skiing

Well, ok, you might argue that this shouldn’t be on a winter list. But in Dalarna, the ski season is long and the spring conditions are often fantastic. If you’re not sure when you’ll get away, this is an option to keep in mind! Check out the list of Dalarna’s top resorts for Alpine skiing.

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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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