03 Otterbäcken - Mariestad, Vänerleden
After Otterbäcken, about 10 km of cycling awaits you on the old country road, interspersed with sections on a gravel cycle path (which will be asphalted during 2022) that runs parallel to road 26. After cycling for 3 km on the cycle path, you will reach Kvarntorpet with the Sjöhagens Fotogalleri photo gallery. You will pass several attractive choices of accommodation such as Villa Ekenäs, private rental cottages and cabins, and Askeviks camping, with its campsite and cabin rental, a great sandy beach for bathing, a café and a restaurant.
Canal locks and freshly smoked fish in Sjötorp
When you reach Slussvägen Road, you will have just 1 km left to cycle before you arrive at the locks in Sjötorp. You can spend a whole day here, watching leisure boats make their way up or down through the eight locks and you can eat ice cream in one of the cafés or savour freshly smoked fish. There are plenty of restaurants in Sjötorp, so you can simply take a seat and enjoy what they have to offer. If you’d like to stay the night, accommodation is available at Sjötorps Vandrarhem youth hostel, the Pensionat Kajutan guest house, cabins at the Kanalkrogen restaurant and the Jugesh Vandrarhem och Rum youth hostel.
Alongside the Göta Canal for a while
From Sjötorp, the cycle route runs alongside the Göta Canal for about 10 km. The Göta Canal is one of Sweden’s most popular destinations and attracts about 3 million visitors per year. Lyrestad, 7 km from Sjötorp, is home to the Hamnmagasinet local heritage museumwith three floors displaying everything from a telephone collection and farming tools to an old village store. The area also offers minigolf, a café, a pizzeria, a good ICA supermarket, parking for motorhomes, a guest house and a bed & breakfast.
Norrkvarn’s area of locks, a further 3 km along the canal, includes a hotel with a quality restaurant on the jetty: Norrqvarn Hotell & Konferens. They also have cabins shaped like giant tree stumps and mushrooms to spend the night in, as well as a mini canal for children, where they can splash around and play with boats.
Cycle onwards for 4 km and you will reach a country road. If you’d like a detour, cross the road and continue along the Göta Canal. You will pass several locks, and after about 1 km will arrive in Hajstorp, where there is a café and youth hostelas well as quality handicrafts for sale and a museum showing what the everyday life of a farming family was like 100 years ago. If you want to continue on the Vänerleden cycle route, turn right instead and follow the country road for about 2 km to Fredsberg. You then follow winding country roads through farming and forest landscapes and pass Färeds Kyrka, a medieval church from the 12th century.
You cross the E20 road at Hasslerör, from where you will have a cycle path to ride on directly alongside Vänern to Mariestad. If you follow the cycle path into the town centre itself, you will pass the restaurant Emils Restaurang, ice cream kiosks, the guest marina, padel courts, a bustling harbour community, harbour kiosks, motorhome parking, adventure golf courses and the Sill & Dynamit and Bojjen restaurants, both recommended in the White Guide.
Mariestad, one of Sweden’s best preserved 18-century towns
Mariestad offers a range of accommodation, and while you are here you can stroll in the pleasant old town area Gamla Stan, visit museums and art exhibitions, hire a kayak with which to explore the coast, or join a tour boat on an excursion into the Vänern archipelago. Here, you are also close to several superb spots for bathing and fishing. Gamla Stan is one of Sweden’s best preserved town centres with buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. The cathedral, which started to be built in the 1500s, stands tall amidst wooden buildings and cobblestone streets. Mariestad’s tourism website includes an information brochure that you can use when you explore the town yourself. In summer, you can go on guided town walks.