International Adventure Guide 2013: Stockholm, Sweden

Known as the Venice of the North, Stockholm is a city defined by water; it’s in the soul of the city’s inhabitants. Cold and icy in the winter and ready for sailing and bathing in the summer, water is as much a symbol of Stockholm as Old Town and the Royal Palace. This makes the Swedish capital the ideal hub for adventure – the chance to blend an urban center with the beauty of the outdoors.

Swedes are known for their deep connection to the outdoors. Nature is a part of Swedish literature, art, music and everyday life, and you’ll find this throughout Stockholm. From boat trips out into the Stockholm Archipelago to afternoon walks around Djurgården, Stockholm is the city for those that love the outdoors. In a time when Scandinavian culture is at the top of every travel hit list, Stockholm and its outskirts are worth an exploration for those that are looking to blend the big city with the beauty and possibility of the outdoors.

Activities

By Water
You can’t know Stockholm without exploring its waterways. For anyone that loves life on the water, there are plenty of options. The archipelago is a hub for summer sailing trips, and kayaking is another easy way to get to know the area. Renting a sailboat for a week and touring around the islands is a popular summer pastime of Swedes. If your sailing skills aren’t quite up to par, you can go on an organized sailing tour with Event Segling. An excellent way to explore the city of Stockholm is to kayak the waterways. The Stockholm Tourism Office has a list of companies that have kayak rentals in the city. You can also go out for a day in the archipelago and rent a kayak on one of the islands. Horiston Kajak offers guided tours of the archipelago, as well as rentals and help for organizing a self-guided trip. For even more water-based adventures, check out Stockholm Adventures, which organizes everything from kayak trips to hiking tours.

By Foot
Because of its many parks and the surrounding natural areas, if you like trail runs or hiking, you’ll have plenty to explore in Stockholm. Get a good feel for the city with a Waterside Jogging Tour from Stockholm Jogging Tours, which will take you around all of the central city’s well-known waterways and monuments. If you are looking for a more urban adventure, check out the guided Rooftop Tour, a combination of climbing (in harnesses of course) and sightseeing. For a slower pace, there are a variety of hiking trails easily accessible, providing the opportunity for day trips or even multi-day excursions. In the vicinity you will find Sörmlandsleden, Upplandsleden and Roslagsleden. Stockholm Adventures organizes hiking tours, but you can also take off on your own. In Sweden you are able to take advantage of Allemansrätten, the Right of Public Access. It is an important part of Swedish outdoor culture and allows you to fully explore areas, even if they are on private land.

By Bicycle
If you want to really learn how to be Swedish you will get on a bicycle because in this country, cycling is a way of life. Stockholm City Bikes is the local bike share system and allows you to use one of the bicycles for up to three hours at a time. A three-day card can be purchased for 165 SEK at various retailers around the city. If you are staying for more than three days, consider getting a season card for 300 SEK. If you want to rent your own bike instead of using the bike share system, check out Rent a Bike, located right by the water on Strandvägen. Pick up the Stockholm Bike Map from the tourist office or the department store NK and you will have a good guide to exploring the city. There’s also a digital version you can use to find a route from point A to point B. For guided tours, check out the following companies:

  • Bike Sweden – Bike tours in the city and in the archipelago. They also do multi-day trips starting at 2390 SEK/person, including lodging.
  • Guide Stockholm – Guided bike tours of Djurgården.
  • Stockholm Adventures – Stockholm on Two Wheels Tour, a tour of all the classic Stockholm sites for 300 SEK/person.

Hotspots

Lidingö
Home of Lidingöloppet, an annual 30-kilometer run around the island that’s popular for Stockholm residents that want a dose of the countryside. It’s also home to Långängen-Elfvik National Park, which has 125 acres of open farmland and also houses one of the largest old farms, Elfviks Farm, which is still functioning today. In the winter the island is home to both cross country skiing trails and long distance ice skating routes, and in the summer it’s a hotspot for anyone interested in being close to the water.

Skärgården – Stockholms Archipelago
Stockholm’s Archipelago is made up of approximately 30,000 islands and islets, meaning there is more than enough to explore. Some of the most popular islands are Vaxholm, Sandhamnm, Grinda and Utö. The easiest way to access the archipelago is by ferry. Waxholmsbolaget runs an extensive network of boat services to many of the bigger islands. Visit Skärgården is the archipelago’s own tourist bureau and a good resource for planning a trip to the islands. The Right to Public Access allows you the right to pitch a tent in public places, so for a budget adventure, bring your accommodations with you and sleep on a beach by the water.

Hellasgården
A 20-minute trip from Slussen, Hellasgården is an outdoor area that’s full of bike paths, hiking and running trails, swimming areas and even beach volleyball courts. In the winter you’ll find ice-skating as well as cross-country skiing trails. After a day on the snow you can go sit in the sauna for 60 SEK/person as well. From Slussen, take buss 401 to Hellasgården I Älta, or take subway line 17 towards Skarpknäck and get off at Hammarbyhöjden.

Where to Stay

Af Chapman
Centrally located on the island of Skeppsholmen, Af Chapman is one of Stockholm’s most well known budget accommodations as it’s a hostel on a boat. Since you’re staying on Skeppsholmen, you’re well located for a morning run around the small island and into the city. Staying right on the water also gives you a very different feel of the city than staying in a standard hotel. Starting at 260 SEK/night.

Cabin Rentals in Stockholm’s Archipelago
If you’re looking to explore Stockholm’s archipelago for more than a few days, consider renting a cabin. There are plenty of accommodations available throughout the archipelago, on both the big and smaller islands. This gives you the chance to enjoy a summer week like a true Swede. Prices vary. www.skardgardsstugor.se

Långholmen Hostel
Renovated in 2008 the Crown Remand Prison was turned into the Långholmen Youth Hostel. Today the dorm rooms are built in old prison cells. There’s beach access to Mälaren and a jogging trail, so you get plenty of chances for fresh air while at the same time living centrally in the city. Starting at 255 SEK/night. Långholmsmuren 20. www.langholmen.com

Where to Eat

8T8
Craving raw, organic and vegetarian food? 8T8 is the place to go. An environmentally conscious restaurant and café, 8T8 has breakfast, lunch and the classic Swedish “fika” offering of a variety of goodies to go with your coffee or tea, all with raw and vegan options. Perfect for the health conscious adventurer. It’s centrally located close to Mariatorget. Swedenborsgatan 1, www.8t8.se.

Vete-katten
There is no more classic Stockholm café than Vete-katten. This is the place to go for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll or a freshly baked scone. During the summer months you can even sit in the inner courtyard to get a dose of sunshine. Kungsgatan 55. www.vetekatten.se

Café Panorama
Located on the top floor of Stockholm’s centrally located Kulturhuset, Café Panorama offers simple Scandinavian fare in a classic cafeteria setting with an excellent view from above the city. You can come here for a full lunch or just an afternoon coffee. www.kulturhuset.stockholm.se

Logistics

Get Around
Central Stockholm is easy to navigate by foot. For longer journeys there are buses and a subway system, as well as a bike share system from April – October. One-way tickets on public transportation within Stockholm are 12.50 SEK, and you can get a seven-day unlimited pass for 300 SEK.

Seasonality
Depending on your sport of choice, seasons in Stockholm are very different. Winter is dark and cold, but perfect for winter activities like long-distance ice skating and skiing. Stockholm even has its own downhill slopes at Hammarbybacken. For trips out to the archipelago, summer is a better bet. Many Stockholmites flock to the islands during the summer, which means that stores and cafes that are closed during the off-season come back to life. You’ll find that during the summer there are certainly more visitors to Stockholm and the surrounding areas, but the weather is ideal and you’ll get to take advantage of the long hours of daylight.

Safety
Sweden in general is a very safe place to travel. As in any big city, in and around Stockholm, be aware of your surroundings and stay street smart.

Ultrarunner sets new Everest to Kathmandu speed record

Ultrarunner sets speed record between Everest BC and KathmanduLast week, British ultrarunner Lizzie Hawker set a new speed record for running from base camp on Mt. Everest to Kathmandu, Nepal, besting her own previous record in the process. The 35-year old endurance athlete covered the 200 mile distance in just 2 days, 23 hours, and 25 minutes.

Hawker, who is considered one of the top long distance runners in the world, first made this run back in 2007, when she completed the course in 3 days, 2 hours, and 39 minutes. She had high hopes of shattering that record by a significant margin this time out, but heavy rains and cool temperatures forced her to take shelter in the village of Bupsa. That delay cost her 8 hours of time, which put her chances at the record in serious jeopardy, but she was able to find her rhythm and still managed to beat the previous time.

Covering 200 miles nearly non-stop is an impressive feat in and of itself, but when you consider the conditions that Hawker was running through, you gain a whole new appreciation for her accomplishment. The trail from Everest to Kathmandu is not a paved road, but is instead a rough, uneven path that wanders up and down the Himalayas. In addition to the rigors of the trail, Hawker had to deal with altitude as well, as base camp sits at 17,600 feet. The record run also came after Hawker participated in the 125 mile, nine-day Everest Sky Race, during which she also contracted a respiratory infection.

I’m going to try to keep all of those challenges in mind when I whine about my 3 mile run later today. It’ll help keep things in perspective.

Endurance athlete to run across Chile’s Atacama Desert

Endurance athlete Ray Zahab is running the length of the Atacama DesertCanadian endurance athlete and adventurer Ray Zahab is in Chile this week where he has just launched an epic long distance run across the Atacama Desert, a place that is renowned as the driest environment on the planet. Zahab is making the attempt as a challenge to his own abilities, but also as part of an educational outreach program with the hopes of delivering an ongoing message to students about the importance of biodiversity to the health of the planet.

All told, the run will cover approximately 750 miles, starting in the northern part of the desert and heading south. Ray hopes to complete the expedition in a little over two weeks and will average more than 43 miles per day on foot. (That’s a marathon + 17 miles each and every day for those keeping track at home!) All of his gear will be carried in a backpack, along with the 8 to 10 liters of water that will be necessary for each day. A support team will make strategic water drops along the route, so that Zahab can count on a fresh supply when needed.

Along the way, Zahab will use satellite communications technology to interact with school children in classrooms all over the world. As part of the impossible2Possible program, a non-profit organization that seeks to educate and inspire young people through adventure, he’ll reach more than 16,000 children to deliver a message about threats to the environment. The desert will make for a stark contrast to a similar expedition that he conducted last year in the Amazon Jungle.

Zahab is no stranger to these kinds of challenging adventures. He has already run across the Sahara Desert, traveled to the South Pole, and set a speed record for traveling the length of Russia’s Lake Baikal on foot, a distance of nearly 400 miles. On each of those journeys he was joined by his partner Kevin Vallely, who was to be included on this expedition as well. But just days before the start an illness in the family forced Vallely to pull out, leaving Zahab to run the desert solo.

Caught in the rain shadow of both the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coastal Range, the Atacama Desert is considered the driest place on Earth. The region averages just 1mm (.04 inches) of rain per year, and many areas have not seen rain throughout recorded history. One study suggests that river beds in the Atacama have been dry for more than 120,000 year, which gives you an indication of what Ray will be up against over the next few weeks.

You can follow his progress at AtacamaExtreme.com where he’ll be posting daily progress reports and updates from the field.

Spanish climber sets new speed record on Kilimanjaro

Kilian Jornet, a Spanish mountain climber and endurance athlete, set a new record for the fastest climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro earlier this week, making his way from the base to summit, and back again, in just 7 hours and 14 minutes. The previous record for the climb was held by Tanzanian Simon Mtuy, who made the round-trip journey in 8 hours and 27 minutes.

Standing at 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and a popular trekking destination amongst adventure travelers. Most hikers who go to the summit take six or seven days to complete the trip, which means Jornet was moving at a pace of roughly one days worth of climbing per hour. A pretty impressive feat no matter what the trail conditions are.

Jornet set out on his record-breaking attempt at 8AM local time on Tuesday and reached the summit just five hours and 23 minutes later. Running past the famous Uhuru Peak sign, he immediately started back down the mountain, finishing up an hour and fifty minutes later.

Kilimanjaro is famous for its five climate zones that begin in at the base on the savannah, which gives way to cloud forests and then marshlands. From there, climbers proceed up into high alpine desert and finally arctic conditions at the top. Jornet had to not only deal with those changes in climate along the way, but also large fields of rock left over from the last time that the volcanic Kilimanjaro erupted.

Upon reaching the finish line after his record breaking run, Jornet was greeted by the previous record holder who embraced the man who just shattered his old mark by an hour and thirteen minutes. I guess even he was impressed by this amazing display of strength and endurance.

[Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim via WikiMedia]

The Festy Experience offers live music and outdoor adventure

Are you looking for something to do this Columbus Day weekend? Do you enjoy outdoor fun and live music? Then you’ll definitely want to check out the Festy Experience, a two-day long camping festival that is scheduled to take place on October 9 and 10 at the Concert Grounds at Devil’s Backbone in Nelson County, Virginia.

Over the course of the weekend, there will be two stages with live music playing from 1 PM to 1 AM each night. A host of bands will be on hand to help keep the party going, and local breweries will be serving up their fine libations. But music festivals are a common occurrence across the U.S. and what sets the Festy apart from the rest is that it also throws some outdoor adventure into the mix.

In addition to this being a camping festival, those in attendance can also take part in several popular athletic events. For instance, the 15th annual Blue Ridge Burn is a 5 and 10k trail race, sponsored by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. That foot race takes place on day one, while the second day of the Festy brings the Devil’s Backbone mountain bike challenge which will push riders to the limit with tough climbs and heart-pounding drops. There will also be a climbing wall on hand with a variety of routes for beginner to advanced climbers, as well as other activities for the outdoor crowd.

Tickets for the event are still available, but they are going fast. The two-day tickets include a campsite and access to both music stages as well as the outdoor events. Single day tickets are available as well allowing you to pick and choose which day you’d like to participate. With summer now officially coming to a close, it is time to have some fun in the autumn air, and the Festy seems like a great way to do just that.