By most estimates, Sweden is home to just shy of 100,000 lakes, so no matter where your travels take you within the country’s borders, you’ll never be far from one.
Many are among the largest in Scandinavia and Europe, and it’s not surprising that much of the year-round recreation enjoyed by the local population centers around these plentiful and scenic bodies of water.
Due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, the country experiences harsh winters, and many of the lakes in Sweden are covered by meter-thick sheets of ice for much of the year. But unlike many places where things grind to a halt during the winter, that’s not necessarily the case in Sweden.
10. Lake Asnen
Located in Sweden’s south-central region between the Baltic and North Sea coasts, Lake Asnen is most well-known for the archipelago of more than 1,000 islands that dot its surface.
The lake is located near the privately-owned Getna Gard wildlife preservation area, one of Scandinavia’s largest bird sanctuaries, so it’s a particular favorite of bird-watchers and wildlife photographers.
Bird enthusiasts will need to bring their binoculars and bird-identification books and plan to spend a decent amount of time in this stunning preserve.
Known for the lush green forests that cover much of the shoreline during the spring and summer months, the lake is also a labyrinth of waterways meandering between the islands, making it relatively easy for kayakers, paddle-boarders and fisherman to find uncrowded coves and stretches of shoreline.
The area is known for its wildlife as well; otters, moose, and ospreys are fairly common, especially in the lake’s less crowded areas.
9. Lake Akkajaure
Though technically a human-made reservoir, Lake Akkajaure is one of the country’s largest. It was formed in the early 20th century when construction of the Suorva Dam was completed across the headwaters of the Lule River.
It’s one of the deepest lakes in Sweden, and since it’s used to generate electricity for the surrounding countryside, its water levels fluctuate greatly.
Located in the country’s northwest region about 50 kilometers from the Norwegian Sea, Lake Akkajaure offers visitors some of the most stunning and unobstructed alpine views to be found anywhere in the country.
Fishing, boating, and swimming are favorite summer activities, but fall and winter come early due to its northern location, so familiarize yourself with the seasons before making your arrangements.
8. Lake Hornavan
Located in the north-central area of the country between Norway and the Gulf of Bothnia, Lake Hornavan is situated at the north end of the chain of finger-shaped lakes that stretches up Sweden’s western border with Norway. It’s unique in that it’s almost surrounded by some of the country’s most popular national parks.
As the deepest lake in Sweden, Lake Hornavan was formed eons ago by glaciers gouging large chasms into the earth. Like most lakes in the country, the majority of its fresh water comes from glacial melt that takes place during the short-lived spring and summer seasons.
There are plenty of year-round accommodation options by the lake. For those who’d like to enjoy group or guided-tours, there are many available, including some very rustic wilderness adventures that are perfect for the young (or young at heart), fit, and fearless.
This is the perfect spot to add to your itinerary if you’re looking for some quality outdoors time to explore the wild places of Sweden and see some endemic wildlife.
7. Lake Tornetrask
One of the country’s largest and most northern lakes, translated into English, Lake Tornetrask means ‘Swamp Lake.’ That misnomer is more for the soft and spongy land around it, not because it’s murky and primordial like we think of swamps in Europe and North America.
The lake’s southern end is part of the Abisko National Park, which draws visitors from all over Scandinavia and the continent. It often remains covered in ice from November until June when it thaws briefly.
Depending on the conditions in the atmosphere, it’s one of the best places in the country to witness the Aurora Borealis – or Northern Lights – a truly amazing spectacle that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the area.
Winter recreation activities include ice-fishing, dogsledding, and guided camping expeditions.
6. Lake Siljan
Lake Siljan’s scenic beauty lies mainly in the gentle hills and forests that come right to the water’s edge around much of its perimeter.
Located in the Province of Dalarna in the country’s center, it is nearly seven miles across at its widest point, making it much fuller and less narrow than most of Sweden’s lakes.
The island of Solleron in the lake’s northwest corner is a premier destination for sportsmen, nature-lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts, especially in the spring and summer months. The quaint towns along its shore are particularly well-known for their unique architecture, narrow streets, and old-world charm, which make most visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time a century or two.
5. Lake Hjalmaren
With its plentiful islands, clear waters, and proximity to Stockholm, Lake Hjalmaren is one of the country’s most popular recreational destinations. It’s a haven for city-dwelling vacationers looking to experience the great outdoors without spending too much time cramped in the car.
Much of the land surrounding the lake consists of picturesque forests and fields. The underwater terrain in many of the lake’s coves and bays is characterized by relatively shallow water, thick vegetation, and protruding rocks and logs, making it the perfect habitat for game fish like pike – which grow to epic proportions.
Though you won’t see mountains in the background on Lake Hjalmaren, the flatness of the land makes for vast stretches of unobstructed lake and forest views; the wide open spaces give a feeling of relaxation and freedom.
4. Lake Storsjon
Of all Sweden’s lakes, Lake Storsjon is among the most well-known, primarily because it’s purported to be the home of a legendary creature called the Lake Storsjon Monster.
Those who’ve claimed to have seen it say it’s about 20 feet long, with a long neck and a green-grey body – similar to the iconic Loch Ness Monster of Scotland.
Surrounded by rolling hills, forested peninsulas, and towering, often snow-covered mountains on the horizon, Lake Storsjon is one of the country’s most scenic bodies of water. It is another favorite area for anglers, who come in search of its pike, walleye, and trout – both during the summer and winter, when ice fishing becomes popular.
3. Lake Malaren
Often referred to by its English name Lake Malar, Malaren is the third largest of Sweden’s lakes. Since it’s just a few kilometers west of Stockholm, it’s also one of the most frequently visited.
In ages past, the lake was part of the Baltic Sea, but receding water levels in the 10th and 11th centuries made it permanently landlocked. Eventually, the salt water was replaced with fresh, glacial water.
Though most of the land around the lake is forested, there are a few golf courses that offer a stunning humanmade contrast to the natural scenery.
The lake is also known for its unique and often photographed bridges and the small towns and resorts that dot its tree-lined shores.
2. Lake Vanern
With castles on its shores dating back to the 13th century, Lake Vanern and the surrounding area have been important to Sweden’s economy and growth for centuries; many of the nearby villages still depend on fishing as their primary means of support.
It’s the largest lake in Sweden and sits squarely in the country’s center along the east-west line between Oslo and Stockholm.
During the 1800s, a series of locks and canals were built to facilitate transportation of raw materials from one side of the country to the other.
The nearly flat terrain around the lake and its numerous bays, islands, and peninsulas, make it one of the most picturesque. It’s particularly well-known for amazing sunsets, so plan an afternoon visit if it’s something you’d like to experience.
1. Lake Vattern
Dotted with scenic lighthouses, large patch-work areas of farmland jutting inward, and sweeping sections of white sandy beach, Lake Vattern is arguably the most scenic of all Swedish Lakes.
Though it’s a title claimed by more than a few of the country’s lakes, because of its undeniable beauty and relatively central location, you may find that after a trip to Lake Vattern you really won’t need to visit many more lakes.
The famous town of Hjo on the lake’s western shore is one of a few of its kind remaining. Built almost entirely of wood, the stark but aesthetic Nordic-style architecture is a favorite of tourists, photographers, and artists. The quaint town is a must-see for those interested in experiencing Sweden’s old-world charm. It’s near a few beaches that are popular swimming and sunbathing areas, and they’re free to all.
Steamboat tours of the lake are available, as are paddle-boards, which are a popular way of getting around, seeing the sights and getting some exercise.