JT Blatty, a former Traveler photo intern, has been spending the last month traveling through Sweden, and sends us a dispatch from their swath of national parks.
During an impulsive, two-week road trip through the less populated landscapes of Sweden, it only took a few nights for my friend and I to realize that our spontaneous agenda was becoming quite predictable – but in a good way. A few hours before dusk, a quick look at the map would indicate a picture-perfect location to camp for the night and explore the next morning, whether forest, lake, beach, or mountain peak. In other words, there was no way of avoiding the 7,000 square kilometers of Sweden’s 28 national parks.
At the time I didn’t realize that 2009 is “Nature’s Year” in Sweden, a 100-year milestone celebrating Swedish national parks and the successful measures taken to preserve their diverse ecological landscapes.
Sweden was the first country in Europe to establish a national park, introducing their first nature conservation act in 1909 with the opening of nine parks the same year. This September they opened number 29, Kosterhavet on the southwest coast. It’s Sweden’s first marine national park, which protects the wildlife of the Koster Fjord channel.
Sweden’s national parks and nature reserves (over 3,200 reserves in total) cover 12% of the country’s surface area, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a diversity of stunning landscapes in such a small area and in such a short amount of time.
One day we were hiking a mountain peak surrounded by rifts and valleys carved by the ice age in Skuleskogen, the next day standing at the base of Sweden’s tallest waterfall in Njupeskär, and the next day throwing rocks into a freshwater spring at the flood plains of Färnebofjärden.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
While Sweden’s EPA takes every measure to conserve their parks, they also strongly encourage the recreational use of them. Hiking trails and walking paths for every level and age weave through each of the parks, and the information centers accommodate travelers with maps, lodging and camping information, you name it. If you’re the outdoors type, I’d highly recommend a road trip through Sweden.
[The Guardian: “A Taste of Sweden’s First National Marine Park”]
Photos: JT Blatty