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At this Swedish ecolodge, the guests do all the work

Claudine Zap
Compass
March 31, 2014

Worried that you have a tech addiction? Wild Sweden’s Kolarbyn Ecolodge may be a good place for a truly unplugged vacation.

The Swedish ecolodge is completely DIY and off the grid: no running water or electricity here, so best to leave your iPad at home.

Guests stay in rudimentary cabins with no heat and are expected to collect their own water, cook their food over an open fire, and — especially in winter — chop a lot of wood to keep the flames going. All this starts at about $71 per night.

It isn't the Ritz, but it does appeal to some. Kolarbyn attracts about 1,000 guests a year, according to its founder, Marcus Eldh. About 1,000 more come for the day to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

"People come because it is unique, genuine and back to nature," Eldh told Yahoo Travel.

Some enjoy roughing it so much, they return for more, Eldh said. "People who come for the first time often stay one night. Next time, they stay longer."

That's even after visitors wake up on their wooden beds, chop wood for the fire, get the flames going, and then boil coffee in a pan for a simple morning cup of joe.

Want a shower? Go jump in the lake, or wash off in the stream. Bathrooms are in an outhouse or behind the nearest tree.

It's not easy living. But it is scenic. The lodge is in the Bergslagen forest, near the town of Skinnskatteberg, a two-hour drive from Stockholm.

When visitors are not performing manual labor, they can enjoy finding beaver or moose on nature walks, swimming in Lake Skärsjön, and learning what it's like to live with natural light.

"Guests are not used to the natural daylight and darkness," Eldh said. Although summers in Sweden are light all night long, for the rest of the year, "it gets very dark once it gets dark. No light pollution around."

Depending on your point of view, that's either a welcome break or the plot of a horror movie. "Guests realize how much electronic equipment they are dependent on," he said.

Kolarbyn opened to tourists in 2004. "Some people want to do something different and to have a great adventure," Andreas Ahlsén — Kolarbyn's current manager, who is also a wilderness guide — told Yahoo Travel.

Half the guests are from Sweden, he said. The rest have hailed from 76 different countries around the world.

One satisfied customer dubbed it "Sweden's most primitive hotel" on TripAdvisor. Another user gave it a five-star rating, while noting, "Obviously, this place isn't for everyone" and calling it "so, so, so incredible."

Just don't plan to send out a lot of selfies while chopping wood.

Follow Claudine Zap on Twitter: @zapkidd

 Click below for a video of Kolarbyn Ecolodge.