In the heart of Sweden lies the enchanting region of Dalarna. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions. But it is not only culture lovers who will enjoy Dalarna. The region consists of glittering lakes, deserted forests, meandering rivers and gurgling waterfalls. During our road trip through Sweden, we discovered many of Dalarna’s cultural and natural attractions. It became a fantastic trip full of great memories.
Cultural highlights of Dalarna
During our tour, we were able to soak up the typical culture and cultural history.
Everywhere in Sweden, you will come across the famous Dala horses in every souvenir shop. These coloured and hand-painted wooden horses have become the symbol of Dalarna and of Sweden itself. Their origins go back centuries. Local craftsmen made these wooden figurines as gifts for their children.
We visit Nils Olsson‘s workshop in Nusnäs. One of the craftsmen shows us around. He tells us that almost the entire process is manual. Painting, in particular, is precision work. It takes two weeks for the workshop to transform a rough piece of wood into the famous Dala horse. Of course, we buy two little horses for home in the shop. We can’t pass up such a typical Swedish souvenir!
The Falun Copper Mine
One of Dalarna’s biggest attractions is Falun Copper Mine. This mine, along with parts of the city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the mine dates back to the 10th century. At one time, it was the largest copper mine in the world. For centuries, the mine contributed to the prosperity of the region and the country.
We take a guided tour of the mine. Dressed in an orange helmet and cape, we slowly dive into the depths and history of the mine. Eventually, we end up more than 60 metres underground. During the hour we are down, our guide tells one anecdote after another about the mine and the miners. Especially impressive is the story of the crashed miner ‘fat Mats’. He perished in the mine in 1719. Only 42 years later, his mummified body was found. We also hear how a goat with the red horns caused the copper ore to be discovered.
Further special is the story about the typical red colour of houses in Dalarna. ‘Falu Rödfärg’ paint is made from the by-product of copper mining. The paint adorns countless houses in the region, as well as further afield in Sweden. The paint factory is located at the mining complex.
Falun’s red houses
From the copper mines, it’s a short walk to the old quarters of Falun city. The parts Elsborg, Gamla Herrgården and Östanfors have beautiful wooden red houses that used to belong to the miners.
With our guide, Lotta, we take a walk around the city. From her, too, we hear interesting stories. For instance, we learn that the Falu river used to divide the city into a beautiful and ugly side. The green side of the city was beautiful. The side towards the mine was ugly and polluted. Now visitors, on the contrary, like to come to that side, to enjoy the beautiful red miners’ houses and the imposing mine.
Drunkenness was a big problem among miners in Falun. Miners fell ill or had accidents in the mine. Some miners were fed up with these problems. They wrote a letter to the king, asking for regulation of alcohol sales. This is how the first Systembolaget came into being in Falun. These shops for the controlled sale of alcohol can now be found all over the country.
House of Carl Larsson
Carl Larsson is one of Sweden’s best-loved artists. He lived and worked with his wife Karin in Sundborn. Today, Carl and Karin Larsson’s house is a museum. It is entirely dedicated to their life and art. A visit to this beautiful house offers a glimpse into the daily life of these artists.
The rooms of the house are decorated with beautiful murals and artworks by Carl and Karin Larsson. Every detail, from the furniture to the textile designs, is testament to their unique creative vision. Taking photos of the interior and the art is unfortunately not possible. But the memories remain, also thanks to our guide’s fascinating stories.
Tip: be sure to walk through the village after your visit. Sundborn is beautifully located on the south bank of the Toftan River. A short walking route will show you the best spots of the place.
Festivities around the midnight sun
For centuries, the beginning of summer has been a magical moment for the Sweden. Everyone moves to the countryside to celebrate ‘midsommar’. After Christmas, this is the biggest holiday for the populace. It always takes place on a Friday between 19th and 25th June. Dalarna is the region where the old traditions and customs are still the basis for a lavish day and night.
The day begins with picking flowers. From these, people make wreaths to hang in the maypole. Because planting a maypole is an important moment on the holiday. The flowers also serve as decoration in the hair; almost everyone wears a wreath. Ancient folk dances around the maypole continue throughout the day.
Everywhere in Dalarna there are lavish festivities. A great place to experience midsommar is Leksand. There you can watch the village churchgoers go to church in special church boats. With those boats, they then organise a boat race on the lake.
Kulturresan cultural route
If you are interested in more cultural sights in Dalarna, the Kulturresan is a good idea. This tour of Dalarna visits nine special cultural places. For example, the workshop where Dala horses are made, Falun’s copper mines and Carl Larsson’s house are part of the cultural route in Dalarna. With a special culture passport, you get a discount on the entrance fee to all the sights. If you have visited them all, you will receive a specially made Dala horse as a gift.
Outdoor opportunities in Dalarna
Dalarna is known for its pristine nature, vast forests, crystal-clear lakes and breathtaking mountains. This makes for plenty of natural highlights.
Hiking in Dalarna
One of the most popular summer activities in Dalarna is hiking. With hundreds of kilometres of marked hiking trails, the region is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you are looking for a leisurely walk along a lake or a multi-day trek through the mountains, Dalarna has it all.
We hiked in Dalarna in and around Sundborn (the site of the Carl Larsson Museum), in the Kloten-Malingsbo Nature Reserve, Styggforsen Nature Reserve and Fulufjället National Park. Detailed blogs about the walks at Kloten and in the national park will come later.
Cycling in Dalarna
Dalarna also offers excellent opportunities for cyclists. Whether you like mountain biking, long-distance cycling or just leisurely bike rides through picturesque villages, there are routes for all levels and interests. You don’t have to worry about traffic. The roads are quiet and deserted. Should there be a car anyway: the Swedes take excellent account of cyclists.
A must for cyclists is the Siljansleden route, which goes around the beautiful Lake Siljan. This route not only offers a great cycling experience, but also allows you to stop at picturesque towns such as Mora and Leksand.
Canoeing or kayaking in Dalarna
Dalarna’s many lakes and rivers make it an ideal destination to explore paddling. Canoeing or kayaking are great ways to explore the region’s calm waters while enjoying the abundant nature and wildlife.
We took a nice kayaking trip near Sälen. Not only is this place a great winter sports destination, it is also an ideal base for various outdoor activities in summer. In our kayak, we paddled from Högstrand back to Sälen, a trip of about ten kilometres. This allowed us to see the area from a different perspective. The calm water and serene surroundings made it a great experience. Sälens kanot central took care of the gear and transport to the starting point.
Fulufjället National Park
Fulufjället National Park is home to pristine wilderness, with vast forests, open plains and mountainous areas. The park is mostly in Sweden and extends into Norway.
The most impressive sight is the Njupeskär waterfall. This is Sweden’s highest waterfall. Another attraction is ‘Old Tjikko’, the oldest tree in the world. The park offers various hiking possibilities through a fascinating landscape. You can also experience organised excursions. There will be an extensive blog about Fulufjället National Park later.
Walking on the Rättvik pier
Lake Siljan is one of the country’s largest lakes. The lake and the surrounding landscape were once created by the impact of a meteorite. A great place to enjoy the lake is in the town of Rättvik.
Rättvik’s long pier is an iconic landmark and a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. This wooden pier stretches into the serene Lake Siljan and offers breathtaking views of the water and the surrounding mountains. It is only a short walk to the end of the pier, but we certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss this.
Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve
In south-eastern Dalarna lies Malingsbo-Kloten Nature Reserve. This nature reserve offers a breathtaking variety of landscapes. From vast forests to crystal-clear lakes and meandering rivers, this reserve is a true reflection of Scandinavian wilderness at its best.
From our idyllically located cottage on the park of Kloten Nature Resort, we explored the area. We took a beautiful walk there and also enjoyed an amazing sunset. There will be an extensive blog about the park later.
Styggforsen Nature Reserve
Styggforsen Nature Reserve is a small but beautiful nature reserve near Älvdalen. It is known for its scenic beauty and peaceful atmosphere.
Styggforsen Nature Reserve offers hiking trails that take you through dense forests and along babbling brooks. The highlight of the reserve is the Styggforsen waterfall. We took the walk around the waterfall from the car park. It is an easy and a fairly short round trip. But the views are breathtaking!
As nature lovers, we were keen to see Dalarna. But besides that, we were surprised by the region’s beautiful culture. It is a destination that should therefore not be missed when visiting Sweden!
At the invitation of Visit Dalarna, we visited several nature parks and attractions in the region. We compiled the content of the blog independently and objectively based on our own impressions.
Frequently asked questions about Dalarna’s cultural and natural treasures
The region of Dalarna is situated in central Sweden. On its western side, Dalarna borders Norway. The famous Fulufjallet National Park is also partly on Norwegian territory. The south-western part of the region is about 200 kilometres from Stockholm.
Dalarna is easily accessible from Gothenburg, Oslo and Stockholm.
From Stockholm, it takes about two hours to drive to Kloten Nature Resort. That is in the south-eastern side of Dalarna. To northeastern Grövelsjön, you're about six hours away.
Dalarna is ideal for exploring with your own car or motorhome. When travelling to Sweden, you can easily catch the Scandlines ferry. It departs from Puttgarden in northern Germany. You will arrive in Rodby, Denmark. From there, you can easily drive to Malmö in Sweden via Copenhagen and the Öresund Bridge.
The region is the cradle of Swedish culture. Independence was declared here in 1523. Many traditions and customs are still lived today. The traditional midsummer night celebrations around the maypole, the typical red colour of the houses and the famous Dala horse have their origins in Dalarna. In addition, the region offers unparalleled natural beauty. You will find deserted forests, crystal-clear lakes and meandering rivers. This makes Dalarna a great region to visit for both nature and culture lovers.
There are many interesting places to visit if you want to enjoy Dalarna's typical culture. For example, you can visit the workshop where the famous Dala horses are made. These wooden statues are the symbol of the region and of Sweden. The city of Falun and its large copper mine are on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Another major attraction is Carl Larsson's museum. This is one of Sweden's most famous artists. The house is beautifully decorated and features many works of art.
Fulufjället National Park is Dalarna's best-known nature park, and for good reason. The park is home to pristine nature, with highlights including the country's highest waterfall and the world's oldest tree. But don't forget Kloten-Malingsbo Nature Reserve in south-eastern Dalarna. This area is less known, but has plenty of natural beauty. Another must-see is Styggforsen Nature Reserve. This fairly small park has the Styggforsen waterfall as its main attraction.
There are so many different walks possible in Dalarna. Short to multi-day hikes are available for every level of ability. A good resource when selecting walks in Dalarna is Visit Dalarna's website.
There is a lot of choice of good restaurants in the region. We had delicious meals at the following restaurants:
On our tour, we spent the night in these unique accommodations:
- Kloten Nature Resort in Kloten-Malingsbo Reserve
Idyllically located wooden cottages equipped with all mod cons, close to a lake where we experienced a fantastic sunset. We stayed in a spacious cottage that could accommodate six people. From season 2024, there will also be cottages available for two people.
- Clarion Collection Hotel Bergmästaren in Falun
Located in the heart of the city in a beautiful building. It once housed a Systembolaget (state-controlled liquor store). Now it is a comfortable hotel equipped with all conveniences. From our hotel, we walked to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Falun in a short time.
- Fryksås hotel in Orsa
The hotel is located in one of Sweden's oldest and largest pasture areas, a historic location 10 kilometres from Orsa. As it is perched high, we enjoyed breathtaking views of Lake Orsa and Lake Siljan. Be sure to take advantage of dinner at the restaurant. They serve delicious dishes and meanwhile you won't get enough of the panorama.
- Olarsgården Hotel & Restaurang in Sälen
Olarsgården hotel is a hotel where you taste the rich history in all rooms. The hotel has 21 rooms, all uniquely decorated. Clearly, this is a hotel near a winter sports area. Everywhere in the rooms there are beautiful historical photos of winter sports in the area. We highly recommend dinner at the restaurant!