Mountain region in central Sweden
The province Värmlands Län forms the southwestern part of central Sweden (Svealand) and stretches along the Norwegian-Swedish border and the foothills of the Scandinavian Mountains with its forest- and lake-rich landscape.
In the northeast, Värmlands Län borders Dalarnas Län, in the east Örebro Län and the southern border is formed by Västra Götalands Län as well as Lake Vänern as the largest lake within Sweden and in the whole of Western Europe.
Today's province is almost congruent with the historical landscape of Värmland and stretches from north to south over a distance of about 250 kilometres. The greatest width from west to east is about 180 kilometres.
The northern part of the province is sparsely populated and presents itself as a true wilderness with dense forests and thousands of lakes. Topographically, northern Värmland consists of a low mountain range landscape characterised by the foothills of the Scandinavian Mountains (Skanden), which are on average 350 metres high. Some mountain peaks reach heights of over 500 metres, including the 701-metre Granberget in the municipality of Torsby as the highest mountain within the province.
The landscape in the southern part of Värmland consists of a mixture in which small flat plains alternate with numerous softly modelled hills whose heights mostly remain below 50 metres. Along the shores of Lake Vänern, the landscape is characterised by numerous bays and archipelagos with thousands of small islands.
The largest watercourse within Värmland is the river Klarälven, which flows completely through the province from north to south. In the north of the province, the river is still pristine and meanders leisurely through an almost untouched forest and mountain landscape along a stretch of about 90 kilometres. Between the winter sports resort Branäs and the village of Edebäck, about 70 kilometres downstream, you can let yourself be carried along by the river on raft tours lasting one or more days and follow the tradition of timber rafting, which was still actively practised on the Klarälven until the 1990s. At the end of its journey, the Klarälven flows into Lake Vänern, with the arms of its estuary shaping the urban area of the provincial capital Karlstadt, located on the northern shore of Lake Vänern.
Activities in Värmland
Apart from the Klarälven river, Värmland offers countless opportunities for all kinds of outdoor activities on and near water, due to more than 10,000 lakes that cover about 20 percent of the province. Even more abundant than water is the forest in Värmland, which covers about 70 percent of the land area. Criss-crossed by hiking and cycling trails, there are many opportunities to explore nature, both on day trips and during tours lasting several days, and to meet beavers or one of the rare white moose, which are almost exclusively found in Värmland. In addition, there are more than 200 nature reserves, such as the huge Glaskogens Naturreservat, which show nature from its most untouched side.
Värmland also offers enough opportunities for an active holiday in winter. From snowshoe hiking to ice fishing, sledding or cross-country skiing, the winter sports areas in the north of the province offer sports hotels and ski slopes of varying degrees of difficulty. Another winter highlight in the region is the annual Rally Sweden, the only race of the World Rally Championship to be held in winter.
Despite the countless opportunities for outdoor activities, cultural and historical sights in Värmland are by no means neglected. There are more than 200 local museums scattered throughout the province that keep local cultural history and traditions alive, followed by numerous picturesque historic churches.
In Sunne you can follow in the footsteps of Selma Lagerlöf and visit her farm Mårbacka, where she was born and grew up and where she lived again after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature until the end of her life.
The history of the province of Värmland back to the beginnings of human settlement in the Stone Age is presented by the Värmlands Museum in Karlstad. When it comes to art, the art hall Sandgrund in Karlstad and the Rackstad Museum in Arvika show lots of interesting works by various Swedish artists. Scandinavian design at your fingertips is offered by the traditional linen weaving mill Klässbols Linneväveri, which supplies the Swedish royal family with high-quality home textiles and where you can also look over the shoulders of the weavers at work.
Värmland in figures
With a land area of around 17,500 square kilometres, Värmlands Län is the eighth largest county in Sweden. It is inhabited by about 283,000 people and the average population density of 16 inhabitants per square kilometre is well below the Swedish average. More than half of the inhabitants are concentrated in the municipalities directly bordering Lake Vänern, while the municipality of Torsby, for example, which is the northernmost and by far the largest municipality in the province, has a population density of less than 3 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The largest city in the province with around 65,000 inhabitants is the provincial capital Karlstad on the northern shore of Lake Vänern. It was founded in 1584 at the instigation of King Charles IX, although its predecessor under the name Tingvalla had already been an important trading centre since the Viking Age. The picturesque city centre is a result of the reconstruction after the last big city fire in 1865. Afterwards, the historic city centre was rebuilt, whereby the streets were laid out unusually wide to prevent flames from spreading to opposite buildings in future fires.
With a population of around 19,000, Kristinehamn on the north-eastern shore of Lake Vänern is the second largest town in the region. The old harbour town for the transhipment of iron from the northern mining and smelting regions existed under the name Bro as early as the 14th century. In the 16th century, it was initially intended to be the provincial capital of Värmland, but in the end Karlstad was chosen. It was not until 1642, under Queen Kristina, that the city regained its present name and city rights.