In the small Swedish coastal region of Halland, it seems that they have cracked a code, because the ‘Hallenders’ are the longest living people in all of Sweden. What’s the Swedish recipe for a long life? Read on and find out more.
Maybe it’s because of the proximity to the wide beaches, the sea and the forest? Or the long tradition of spas, cold baths, well-being, and good access to good ingredients and good food? Here we guide you on a journey for both body and mind on Sweden’s Riviera.
Halland can be said to be “Sweden’s blue zone“, i.e. an area where the population is getting extra old. Here, the average age is 84.9 years for women and 81.5 years for men, and they also have the largest proportion of 100-year-olds in the country. Under the 9 principles that are said to be decisive for a long life, you will find, among other things, keeping the body in motion, stress reduction, and a healthy diet with lots of vegetables. In Halland there is a big focus on health, well-being and good ingredients.
Halland has a long history of health and well-being. Health resorts and the spa experiences on this part of the west coast have for several hundred years been characterized by a health-promoting focus, relaxation and the calming power of the sea. Even today, the wellness and spa tradition lives on, and you will find, among other things, some of Sweden’s very best and most award-winning spa hotels in Halland. But Halland is more than just a spa. Here you are always close to a cold bath in all its simplicity, wild winter surfing, beautiful beach walks and healthy food.
Year-round bathing – a healthy tradition
Bathing all year round – even in cold water – is something the Hallenders have been doing for hundreds of years. Research shows that rapid cooling of the body can promote health, through the body’s defenses being activated. When the blood vessels contract, endorphins are also released in the blood, and year-round bathing enthusiasts testify to good psychological effects as a good tool for managing stress and creating mental balance in a stressful everyday life.
In the small coastal town of Varberg you will find the Varberg Kallbadhuset, which is one of the most famous cold bath houses in Sweden. The bath house is located in a magnificent building in Moorish style, and was built in 1903. The cold bath house is open all year round and is divided into two sections – one for men and one for women. You do not need to bring swimwear, as bathing au naturel is encouraged.
Spa, mud bath and seaweed massage
The word spa comes from the Latin “salus per aqua” which means health through water, and water has always been linked to health and well-being, ever since the Roman baths. Along the coast of Halland you will find some of Sweden’s award-winning spa hotels, such as: Hotel Tylösand, Falkenbergs Strandbad, Varbergs Stadshotell & Asia spa, Varbergs Kusthotell and Sinnenas spa at Ästad vineyard.
One of the spa hotels that has integrated nature into its treatments and rituals is Varbergs Kusthotell – the only spa facility in Sweden that offers a Thalasso spa. The word Thalasso means sea in Greek, and here the sea finds its place in both physical and sensory experiences. Seaweed is said to relieve muscle pain, make skin soft and elastic, stimulate blood circulation and improve skin texture. In addition, the algae contain substances that protect against sunlight, and this is a property the plants have developed after thousands of years on the seabed.
For over 200 years, Varberg has been a place for seaweed baths and seaweed massages. In the past, people went to the old spas for seaweed baths, mud packs and massages. Since Kusthotellet’s inception 30 years ago, the hotel has continued to manage and refine the old traditions. Enjoy cold baths, a heated seawater pool, steam rooms, a classic hot tub, spa treatments and more. The combination of spa, salty breeze and a walk along the beautiful beach is unbeatable whatever the season.
Seaweed in food and drink
Seaweed also has a good composition of, among other things, important vitamins, minerals and Omega-3, and in Halland, seaweed is processed as a local raw material in food and drink. The sea outside Halland is filled with many types of nutritious seaweed, which in recent years has become a popular ingredient in food. Previously, seaweed was used to fertilize fields and as insulation in buildings, but now it has also found its way into the kitchen. In sushi it has been an essential component for a long time, but now it is allowed to play the main role in several dishes in restaurants all over Halland. If you want to taste Halland seaweed, you can visit restaurants such as Tiraholms fish, Prostens Pizza and Joels Brygga.
Short-distance and sustainable raw materials – for body and mind
The region’s fertile soil, teeming forests and the fantastic coastline make Halland a distinctive larder. Located in the southern parts of Sweden, where the sun conditions are good, leads to abundant crops. The Halland pantry is filled to the brim with great flavors and local produce. At the farm shop Ugglarps Grönt, for example, they grow vegetables for a better and happier life. The farm produces root vegetables, spices, berries, fruit and flowers for further sale. The products from Ugglarp are also sold to star restaurants and the Nobel dinner. A visit here will surely lead to ‘green’ joy and inspiration.
A place that combines natural luxury close to nature with fine dining is Stedsans. The place is run by a couple who moved from Copenhagen to Halland to live closer to nature. A mixture of forest camping and fine dining is offered here, with a floating sauna, simple but beautiful cabins to stay in, rooms for yoga, and an extraordinary restaurant. There is also an outdoor stage and an 80m2 glass house which is used as a winter restaurant.
PaulssonPaleo is another place that focuses on health and food. The self-sufficient health farm is a Bed & Breakfast, where you can take part in fermentation courses, yoga and gathering wild plants, among other things. The owners of PaulssonPaleo left their hectic jobs in the pharmaceutical industry in London and started a simpler life in the country. Here they work to spread knowledge about a healthier lifestyle using, among other things, Stone Age food, anti-inflammatory food, yoga and barefoot running in the forest.
Winter surfing and hiking – whatever the weather
Movement of the body and fresh air are good for both body and mind. Many people in Halland live an active lifestyle, and Varberg is known as Sweden’s wind and kitesurfing mecca. For the truly hardened, there is winter surfing – here you have to learn to love the cold, water and wind. Rent equipment or book courses through, for example, KiteKalle and Villa Surfgarden in Ugglarp. For those who prefer a walk, the Hallenders are happy with a walk on the beach. Regardless of the weather, soft sandy beaches and salty rocks have their charm, and outside the summer season you can discover the silence among the sand meadows, dunes, shells and beautiful views.
Skrea Strand, Mellbystrand, Åsa Havsbad, Tylösand and Apelviken are just a few examples. A great alternative is to walk the 18 km long coastal hiking trail Prins Bertils Stig in Halmstad or cycle parts of the popular Kattegattleden cycle path, which originally runs from Helsingborg to Gothenburg.
Info on “blue zones”
At the beginning of the 2000s, the term “blue zones” was coined by the researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain. The term is used for places in the world where the population tends to get extra old. The five original geographical locations are Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and Loma Linda, (California, USA).
Various factors play a role in longevity, such as a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, regular physical activity, as well as having good social relationships, both in society and with family and friends. Restaurants based in the region have a particular focus on sustainable and short-traveled ingredients.
The Swedish Recipe for a Long Life, based on a press release from Opplev Sverige
Feature image (on top) Photo: Varberg Kusthotell