If you want to see Sweden at play, head straight for the Göta Canal. This marvel of 19th-century engineering stretches 190 km (118 mi) from Sjötorp on Lake Vänern to the Baltic Sea at Mem and is a real crowd puller.
Whether you are travelling on it or cycling alongside it, you cannot help but be impressed by its sheer scale. Fifty-eight locks, some of them rising to an incredible 90 m (295 ft) above sea level, carry vessels through a chain of stunning natural lakes, making this one of the most impressive waterways anywhere on the planet.
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Through the Heart of Sweden on the Göta Canal
The canal takes you through the heart of Sweden, passing historic sites, medieval churches, attractive towns and rich green forests along the way. Many steamers ply their trade along it and this gentle form of transport is much recommended.
You can hop on and off these boats and, with the aid if a bicycle, it is possible to explore the wider environs.
Hire a boat for a more intimate experience
For a more intimate experience, there is nothing better than hiring a boat on any one of the stunning beautiful lakes that grace the waterway, stopping only to have a picnic lunch by the shore. Most journeys are about getting somewhere, whereas riding the Göta Canal invites you to stop and marvel at every point.
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If offers great fishing, kayaking, Nordic walking and a whole host of other activities. Like one big joyful playground, it has become more than the sum of its part – a wonderful potpourri of outdoor adventure.
You can go there year-round, but it springs fully into life from June to September. The journey takes two to six days by steamer. Highlights are the gorgeous lakes pf Vättern and Vänern and the Trollhätta Canal Museum. Don’t miss the Läckö Castle, which was built in 1298 as a bishop’s residence. Its golden age was during the reign of Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie, who transformed it into a baroque castle in 1652.
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There is also a Viking settlement on Birka, Sweden’s first town.
Organized tours, though usually all-inclusive, can be expensive. With a little forward planning, it is possible to enjoy this magnificent waterway for a fraction of the cost.
Through the Heart of Sweden on the Göta Canal, written by Tor Kjolberg