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Waking up in a treehouse
The first light of the day streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the treehouse as the wood around us awakens. I fold back the covers of the big wooden bed, careful not to wake Jurrien, and step onto the porch with bare feet. A little nuthatch is climbing a pine tree next to the treehouse and out of the corner of my eye, I catch a black squirrel darting between the branches. From up here, the water of the lake on the edge of the forest looks velvety smooth. The wooden houseboat, another of the unique stays on the property, is turning ever so slowly on its anchor. I’m yearning for my morning cup of tea, but to get it we’ll have to make our own fire down on the forest floor. So I stand with my hands on the sturdy wooden railing for a bit longer, breathing in the cool forest air.
Meet the owner
Naturbyn consist of a patch of forest next to a lake in the south of Värmland County in West Sweden, where owner Thomas Petterson started building unique stays in nature about twenty years ago. ‘I’d done a lot of traveling, often with a Lonely Planet guide in my hands, and had been to some amazing off-the-beaten track places where I could really reconnect with nature. When I finally went back to Sweden to put down some roots, together with my wife I decided to create such a place right here in the forest.’
naturbyn’s unique stays
Over the years, Thomas built an impressive array of green stays at Naturbyn. There are a couple of simple wooden cabins — all with green roofs, wooden furniture, a wood stove, and a big, comfortable bed — and there’s a large, open shelter for group stays. But what really makes this place special are the unique stays: two houseboats on the lake and two treehouses – one about five meters high (16 feet) and the other ten (30 feet). All four are equipped with a comfy bed, wooden furniture, a paraffin lamp and candles. None of the cabins have electricity, plumbing, or running water, but that only adds to the experience. On the property you can find spring water to drink straight from a little crook, several fire pits for cooking, compost toilets, and a wood-fired sauna with a hot tub. It’s back to nature, but with a fair bit of comfort, as Thomas says.
What it’s like spending a day at Naturbyn
We’re visiting at the start of autumn and it’s a bit too chilly to begin our stay with a swim, so we grab one of the free canoes to explore the lake instead. We paddle out to the floating hut Dass Bååt, which looks amazing. It’s only because we’ve slept on some truly epic boats plenty of times before (we’re Dutch) that we chose the tallest treehouse for our stay — but if you’re looking for blissful solitude or a romantic getaway with some more privacy (away from the other cabins), definitely check out the houseboats on Naturbyn’s website naturbyn.se. The floating huts have their own cooking areas plus private composting toilets — if you’re staying in one of the other cabins, you’ll have to use the shared facilities in the woods.
The Swedish county of Värmland is dotted with lakes and Naturbyn lies at the very northern end of one of the larger ones. Close to Naturbyn, the water is surrounded mostly by forest, but a bit further south there are some lake houses and fields as well. We don’t paddle the full length of the lake, which by our guess would take a couple of hours, but we do find a little dam built by beavers!
cooking on an open fire
Before driving up to Naturbyn, we did some grocery shopping in the nearby town of Långserud. When the last sunrays hit the tip of the trees, we head back to the camp in our canoe to start making our dinner. As the summer season has ended there are fewer guests and Thomas told us not to expect anyone else until tomorrow. So that means we get our pick of the fire pits. It takes some time to get the fire going, but that’s no matter because we have a couple of beers to drink while we wait, enjoying the smells and sounds of the woods around us.
There are pots and pans available for cooking, but we choose to use the cast-iron skillet and grill some veggies, corn, flatbread and (veggie) sausages. Even though it’s a bit tricky to cook evenly over an open fire, everything tastes delicious. The corn especially: it’s sweet, smoky and juicy. When darkness starts to descend, we make our way to the 10-meter-high treehouse Sehr Scjhönn, which is perched on the top of a little hill in the forest. Inside, we light the candles and quickly get under the covers. The treehouse creaks a little in the wind, but we hear nothing else: the nearby main road that’s the cause of some car noise during the day has turned completely quiet.
The next morning it’s a bit chilly again, so we decide to make two fires: one for coffee and tea, and the other in the wood-oven of the sauna by the lake. After a breakfast of slightly stale cinnamon buns, the sauna has heated up. We strip down to our bathing suits — because the new guests will be arriving soon, but you can also choose to go nude — and ladle a big spoon of water onto the hot stones on top of the wood-oven. Steam fills the sauna and it doesn’t take long for us to warm up. When we’re starting to feel toasty, we step outside, run to the wooden jetty and jump in the ice-cold water of the lake. It’s the best feeling in the world, what a way to start the day!
Booking and how to get there
Naturbyn is open from May 1st to October 1st every year. If you want to go in the high season (summer), it’s smart to book well ahead. Prices for a stay start at 1.995 SEK (195 euros) per night for two people, with a minimum stay of two nights. For a set of linens and towels you pay 200 SEK (20 euros) extra p.p. The easiest way to book is through Naturbyn’s website, where you’ll also find the current prices: naturbyn.se.
Värmland County borders Norway and as such, Naturbyn is actually closer to Oslo in Norway than Stockholm in Sweden. From Oslo, it’s about a 2-hour drive, from Göteborg on the west coast of Sweden it’s 3 hours, and from Stockholm on the east coast of Sweden it’s 4 hours. It’s possible to arrange a pick-up from an airport, nearby train station or bus station with Thomas. You can arrive from 3pm on the day of your stay and someone will be there to welcome you and show you around (there’s no check-in, so you’ll have to communicate your arrival time beforehand). There’s no check-out either, but you’re expected to leave around 12pm on the last day of your stay.
If you’d like to discover more of West Sweden, we’ve created a series of articles in Dutch for Lonely Planet NL with some of the best adventures in the region, from building your own raft to meeting the king of the forest: 4 keer op avontuur in de bossen van Värmland.
Tips & Tricks
• Since Naturbyn is all about going back to nature, there’s no wifi. You’ll most likely have cell phone reception (we did), but we recommend logging off for the best experience.
• There’s also no electricity at the property, so if you have devices to charge, be sure to bring a power bank or solar charger.
• One thing we didn’t realize before our visit was that Naturbyn is located quite close to a main road (E18 connecting Oslo and Stockholm). This means you’ll hear some car noise on the property, especially during the day. We got used to it quickly and it really doesn’t take away from the amazing back-to-nature experiences Naturbyn offers, but we do think it’s good to note, so if you go it won’t be a let-down.
• There are shared eco toilet facilities in the forest at Naturbyn, but I found it a bit scary to have to climb down the little hill from the treehouse by myself at night (or to have to ask Jurrien to come with me), so I sneaked into the nearby bushes for a pee before bed instead. If you’d rather have a toilet nearby, book a forest cabin close to the shared eco toilets or a houseboat, which has a private eco toilet.
• The eco toilets were pretty easy to use: there’s normal toilet paper and you just have to be careful to pee towards the front and do the other business towards the back, because that’s how the composting toilets work, separating the fluids from the solids.
• To stay at Naturbyn you have to be at least 18 years old.