STF Kolarbyn Eco-Lodge – Sweden’s most primitive hostel
At Kolarbyn, neither electricity nor running water will disturb your wilderness experience. Here, you can happily fall asleep in front of a crackling fire and awake to beautiful birdsong
The hostel is a collection of twelve charcoal-burner huts located in the middle of a spruce forest. The environmentally friendly hostel has been built from natural materials, and a percentage of the revenue coming into STF Kolarbyn goes straight to a range of projects that support the preservation of the environment and historic places of interest. Each huts houses two bunks for sheepskins and sleeping bags. All the huts have a wood stove and use wood chopped by the guests themselves. Even blueberries can be picked off the roof of the hut. Close by are endless possibilities for enjoying the outdoors life, including fishing lakes, hiking trails and barbecues.
Locals have used the site for charcoal burning for over 400 years. Here, forest workers built small rustic huts to sleep in during their winter work, with logging and burning charcoal for iron production. There have been several generations of huts on this spot throughout the centuries, and although the huts in use today are only about 20 years old, they are constructed in the traditional style.
The present-day Kolarbyn was re-established in the winter of 1996 when enthusiastic villagers from Skinnskatteberg decided to build a collection of traditional forest huts by the shore of Lake Skärsjön. The idea was to create conditions for people interested in charcoal burning to practice their techniques in the way it had been practiced in the region for centuries. Charcoal burning is a traditional method for producing charcoal, which was used in the Swedish iron industry, and often referred to as the foundation of the present Swedish economic welfare. The genuine Kolarbyn charcoal site would enable practical knowledge as well as preserving cultural traditions and folklore to be passed on to future generations.
In the late summer of 2004 the daily operation of Kolarbyn was passed on to Marcus Eldh, who was soon to launch Kolarbyn for the public in cooperation with the Swedish Tourist Association (STF). Since then, Kolarbyn and the nearby village of Skinnskatteberg has seen thousands of visitors from over 75 countries. Kolarbyn has rapidly gained a reputation abroad, having been included in the book’Unusual Hotels of the World’, been featured in travel magazines and newspapers, and seen by millions of people on television and travel websites. In 2010, Kolarbyn was passed on to the new manager Andreas Ahlsén.
The eco-lodge offers a variety of activities, including survival and bushcraft courses, bushcraft, and options to combine with award-winning safaris from Wild Sweden.
(Images courtesy Vastmanland Association of Local Authorities and County Council. Image of lakeside sauna © Lasse Modin, image of Margareta Lodge © Mikaela Larm)