Kolarbyn: Wild Sweden


The strapline 'Sweden's most primitive hotel' may not immediately ingratiate potential holiday makers with the eco-lodge Kolarbyn but there's much to be said for shunning modern life in favour of a more primitive existence. The collection of charcoal burner's huts in the Swedish forest takes you right back to basics with no electricity or even running water, just the trees, the lake and the quiet.

I initially came across Kolarbyn when I was searching for something along the lines of the Treehotel. A quick google search for treehouses in Sweden turned up the eco-lodge huts at Kolarbyn. Admittedly the huts are firmly planted on the ground but they have a rustic, hobbit-like appearance which really appealed. Having travelled to Stockholm frequently for work I was very familiar with Ryanair's curious ideas of what constitutes a Stockholm airport so was thrilled to see that the lodge is in fact located within easy reach of Vasteras; the wilderness being far more accessible than the Swedish capital from that particular Ryanair dropoff.


Once we arrived in Kolarbyn the relaxing effect was immediate. As recommended I switched off my phone, no texts, no social media. I foolishly turned it on the first day only to receive a call asking if I'd be prepared to do a television interview commenting on Katie Price's latest wedding dress. The phone stayed off after that.

The lack of utilities isn't as bad as it sounds - drinking water comes from the spring, a stream provides running water for washing up and brushing teeth and the composting toilet is more luxurious than those you find at the average festival. It also comes complete with a picture of the king of Sweden (so you can look at the king while you're on the throne).


Firewood, an axe, candles, matches and cooking equipment are provided and for a charge you can also have access to the Förråd (store) which is stocked with fruit juice, eggs, muesli, jam and other provisions. Blackened iron kettles and utensils reference the iron-working industry for which the original charcoal production was used, and have a rustic simplicity which in the woodland setting brings to mind a Beatrix Potter illustration.


The huts are a very simple A-frame construction covered in mounded earth with a heavy door which lifts on and off. Crooked chimneys draw from stone fireplaces with smoke hanging in the trees, adding to the fairytale feel of the place. Wild blueberries, strawberries and mushrooms complete the picture. The adjacent lake comes complete with a kayak, floating sauna and pontoon for diving, and serves for bathing although the back to basics idyll of Kolarbyn is very much about cleansing the mind in places other hotels can't reach.



Images: 1. Claudia Degalau  |  5. Mikaela Larm  |  6. & 16. Skogens Konung  | all other images Francesca Muston

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Francesca Muston has spent the last 10 years travelling the globe for the fashion trend forecasting business WGSN. A regular in the world's fashion capitals, her role demands an eye for the quirky and unusal, from cafes and hotels to shops and street fashion, always watching for the beginnings of the next big thing.