With rich history, vibrant traditions and glorious nature everywhere you look, Sweden is made for road trips.

The country’s comprehensive network of highways and secondary roads is well maintained, and even dirt roads tend for the most part to be relatively smooth gravel and dust than suspension-jolting rutted tracks. Though many attractions are accessible by public transportation, one of the joys of a Swedish road trip is all the unexpected discoveries along the way, from secluded lakes to endless views, charming cities and towns to archaeological sites dating back a thousand years. Here, from north to south, are nine driving routes that showcase the best of Sweden.

A snow covered road in arctic Sweden in late evening lined by trees covered in snow
For an Arctic experience take the Kiruna to Norway road in winter © Lasse Lund / 500px

Best Arctic road

Kiruna to the Norwegian border

Kiruna-Riksgränsen and back; 163 miles (262km); allow at least a day

Mountains, lakes and forest are the main attractions on this gorgeous 82-mile (131km) stretch of route E10, one of the most northerly roads in Sweden. The road hugs the south shore of Torneträsk, Sweden’s largest alpine lake, passing through Abisko, one of the jewels of the national park system, and providing excellent views of Lapporten, the region’s iconic U-shaped mountain.

Unless you’re also planning on visiting Norway, you’ll have to turn around at Riksgränsen and drive back the way you came — no hardship, since even the most panoramic view looks different in the opposite direction. You can easily make the round-trip drive in a day, but if you’ve got time, spend at least a night or two in the Abisko area to experience the national park.

Best road trip for wild alpine scenery

The Wilderness Road

Strömsund-Strömsund; 310 miles (500km); 2-7 days

This route makes a circuit through one of Sweden’s most spectacular alpine wilderness areas. Starting in Strömsund, drive clockwise past a string of sparkling lakes and rushing rivers before climbing onto the Stekenjokk plateau, 2884 feet (879m) above sea level. This is Sweden’s highest-altitude paved road and is closed from mid-October to early June due to heavy snow. Once you descend, continue along more lakes and rivers to Vilhelmina, then circle back south to Strömsund to complete the loop. 

Without stops you could drive this route in a day and see plenty of stunning scenery, but taking your time reveals many interesting sights and detours, including hiking trails, waterfalls, Sweden’s longest cave system, Sámi camps and church towns, local heritage centers and a variety of guided outdoor activities.

Busy Smedsuddsbadet beach with people relaxing in the summer sunshine
Leave time to stop off at sights like Smedsuddsbadet for a summertime cool down © SophieOst / Shutterstock
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Best road trip for intriguing natural wonders

Indalsälven and the High Coast

Östersund-Örnsköldsvik; 240 miles (385km); 5-7 days

This route connects one of Sweden’s major rivers to one of its most geologically interesting stretches of coastline. As you follow Indalsälven through the beautiful Ragunda Valley worthwhile stops include Döda Fallet (the Dead Falls), a striking display of nature’s power and human folly, and Thailändska Paviljongen, an authentic Thai pavilion commemorating King Chulalongkorn’s 1887 visit to the region.

Continue to the coast to explore Höga Kusten, a stretch of shoreline that has been rising steadily since the end of the last Ice Age. The region’s many attractions include hiking trails in rugged Skuleskogen National Park, spectacular views from Skuleberget, the once-secret Cold War fortress at Hemsö and boat excursions to Ulvön. Don’t miss the viewpoint at the north end of Sweden’s longest suspension bridge, Höga Kustenbron.

Best road trip for Swedish arts and culture

Dalarna circuit

Falun-Borlänge, 160 miles (257km): 3-7 days

A road trip through Dalarna is an opportunity to explore some of Sweden’s most beloved traditions and cultural icons, as well as striking scenery around Lake Siljan. The lakeside towns of Leksand, Rättvik and Mora are centers for local music, folk dance and handicraft traditions. North of Leksand, be sure to take the side road via the picture-perfect village of Tällberg. Near Mora, stop in Nusnäs to see hand-painted wooden Dala horses being made. Along the west side of Siljan, take the road across Sollerön, an island with many Viking graves, and hike — or take the chairlift — to the top of 1686-foot (514m) Gesundaberget for panoramic lake views. 

Other highlights include Falun, known for its historic copper mine, and the homes of the famous Swedish artists Carl Larsson, in Sundborn, and Anders Zorn, in Mora.

Gothenburg / Göteborg city in the dusk light with buildings in Sweden
The Bohuslän Coastal Road is just north of the city of Göteborg © joahol0323 / Getty Images

Best coastal road trip

Bohuslän coast

Göteborg-Strömstad; 250 miles (400km); 3-10 days

Just north of Göteborg, Bohuslän is a stunningly beautiful region with a jagged coastline dotted with picturesque villages and historic sites. By highway, it’s just two hours from Göteborg to the Norwegian border, but taking your time on the smaller roads along the coast quickly reveals why this is one of Sweden’s most popular summer vacation areas. 

Attractions along the way include nature reserves, imposing fortresses, the outdoor art exhibit Skulptur i Pilane, thousands of ancient petroglyphs at Tanum and Sweden’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet, off the coast near Strömstad. Among the most beautiful communities are Smögen with its brightly painted fishing huts; Fjällbacka, made famous to crime fiction fans by local author Camilla Läckberg; and Grebbestad, with a vibrant guest harbor and renowned oyster fisheries.

Best road trip for castles and history

Around Lake Mälaren

Stockholm-Stockholm; 250 miles (400km); 2-7 days

The heartland of the Swedish kingdom for centuries, the Lake Mälaren region brims with fascinating history and lovely scenery. Surrounding the lake are enchanting towns such as Sigtuna, founded around 970, and dozens of impressive castles including Skokloster, Strömsholm and Gripsholm. 

If you’re intrigued by ancient mysteries, don’t miss Anundshög, the largest burial mound in Sweden; the Bronze Age rock carvings at Boglösa and Häljesta; or Sigurdsristningen, Sweden’s longest runic inscription. If you love historic churches, the medieval cathedrals in Västerås and Strängnäs are must-see attractions. For a look at daily life in bygone days, stop at Vallby Open Air Museum or Rademachersmedjorna. Near Södertälje, Taxinge-Näsby Slott is a stately mansion famous for its bountiful selection of pastries — a sweet finale to your Mälaren adventure.

Boat houses on harbour in hamlet of Bruket.
Explore watery inlets dotted with boathouses in Sweden © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Best road trip for varied attractions

Around Lake Vättern

Jönköping-Jönköping; about 200 miles (321km); allow 4-8 days

Long and narrow, Sweden’s second-largest lake is the centerpiece of a diverse route blending history, nature and culture. Follow the eastern shore to Gränna, famous for striped candy canes, and the gorgeous nature reserve Ekopark Omberg. Nearby are the 12th-century monastic ruins at Alvastra and Sweden’s longest runic inscription, Rökstenen. Continue on to Vadstena with its renowned medieval abbey and impressive Renaissance castle, and Motala, the “capital” of the Göta Canal, with Sweden’s longest lake beach, Varamobadet.

Tiveden National Park and Karlsborg Fortress are among the highlights on Vättern’s west side. If you have time, interesting detours around the lake include Visingsö island (by ferry from Gränna); the Göta Canal with multi-lock staircases at Borenshult and Berg; the medieval sites at Skara and Varnhem; and Lake Hornborga, beloved by birdwatchers. 

Best road trip combining nature and history

Skåne

Kristianstad-Ängelholm; 250 miles (400km); 7-10 days

Sweden’s southernmost province, Skåne, has a reputation for being flat, but as this route proves, that’s only true some of the time. This road trip encompasses a diverse range of landscapes, including rocky coastline, golden fields, apple orchards, wildflower-covered hills, and some of Sweden’s finest beaches. Other highlights include medieval towns and cities such as Åhus, Ystad and Lund; the mysterious ancient ship setting Ales Stenar; and Sweden’s vibrant third-largest city, Malmö. 

Skåne also has three national parks — Stenshuvud, Dalby Söderskog and Söderåsen — which protect special landscapes unique to the region. In the northwest, don’t miss the magnificent gardens at Sofiero Palace and Kullaberg, a cave-dotted peninsula with dramatic coastal views, picturesque towns and Sweden’s most powerful lighthouse.

Malmo Castle, also known as Malmohus Slott in the afternoon light
Malmö Castle, also known as Malmöhus Slott, looks beautiful in the afternoon light © holgs / Getty Images

Best long-distance road trip

Cities and coasts

Stockholm-Göteborg or vice versa; 620 miles (1000km); 10-14 days minimum

Connecting Sweden’s three largest cities, this route takes in many of the highlights of southern Sweden, following the coast most of the way. At Södertälje, southwest of Stockholm, pick up the excursion route Utflyktsvägen, a scenic byway that terminates near Norrköping. Next, follow the E22 south to Skåne, making detours inland or along the coast as you please. Worthwhile stops include pretty Söderköping on the Göta Canal, historic Kalmar with its iconic Renaissance castle and Karlskrona, a naval city overlooking Sweden’s southernmost archipelago.

From Kristianstad, follow the Skåne route above to Ängelholm, from which the E6 highway runs straight up the beautiful west coast. If you have enough time, there are many alternative routes past fine beaches and attractive cities such as Halmstad, Falkenberg and Varberg, en route to lively Göteborg.

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