Make time to explore the High Coast in Sweden!

Nordic nature is probably the greatest attraction for people who visit the region Västernorrland in Sweden and the environment in the High Coast is very special. First step to appreciate what we see and explore is to understand what are we standing by.

With Explore Höga Kusten we share informations about the High Coast World Heritage by driving you step-by-step through its foundations.



Whatever the weather and time of the year, a walk along the High Coast's seashore is always spectacular and a great outdoor experience. Alternatively, you could try sailing to out-of-the-way locations for great coastal walking. Spring and summer is the ideal time to visit this heritage coastline. You couldn't imagine a more inspirational place to sail, look and listen.

A boat allows you to see and to step out onto some of the most spectacular shoreline in Sweden. With a waterside base at weekends for example, Höga Kusten can be a fantastic place for day boat owners, who prefere a style of sailing in contact with natural surroundings. If you want to venture outside to explore the coast, your boat can take you pretty much anywhere.

If we take the weather out of the equation and get to understand that we could go to the sea all year round, instead of just four/five weeks a year (if you have got a wet or warm suit, it doesn't matter whether it's raining, sunny or windy), we'll discover there is always something we can do, so... make time to explore!


If living by the sea is something you can only dream of... we hope the photo gallery we started in the High Coast images section inspires you;  to walk, sail, paint or simply sightsee the Höga Kusten!

photo: © Key Strategic AB


Docksta Havet Bookshelf: see our flip brochures of the High Coast

Take inspiration from our High Coast Tips!

Nordic Walking



Höga Kusten

Discovering the High Coast: Seaside Impressions
Sailing the High Coast: Dockstafjärden





Docksta Havet AB

Address: Hamnen 10
87033 Docksta - Sweden
+46 (0)76 3136628

see enlarged map on Google >


The High Coast (Höga Kusten) / Kvarken Archipelago world heritage site

2000: The whole High Coast area was inscribed on the World Heritage List and granted World Heritage status. The area has the largest land uplift of its kind in the world, which was a key reason for the designation of the High Coast as a World Heritage Site.

HK_2082.gifThe High Coast (Sweden) is located on the west shore of the Gulf of Bothnia, a northern extension of the Baltic Sea.
The area covers 142,500 ha including a marine component of 80,000 ha, which includes a number of offshore islands.
The irregular topography of the region - a series of lakes, inlets and flat hills rising to 350 m - has been largely shaped by the combined processes of glaciation, glacial retreat and the emergence of new land from the sea. Since the last retreat of the ice from the High Coast 9,600 years ago, the uplift has been in the order of 285 m which is the highest known 'rebound'. The High Coast site affords outstanding opportunities for the understanding of the important processes that formed the glaciated and land uplift areas of the Earth's surface. (Font: UNESCO - More info at

In July 2006, the Kvarken Archipelago was inscribed on the World Heritage List, as an extension to the Sweden's High Coast (Höga Kusten). It is the first UNESCO's Natural Heritage Site in Finland. Together, these two areas form a complementary geological complex featuring land uplift unlike anything found elsewhere in the world.

14a.gifThe Kvarken Archipelago (Finland) numbers 5,600 islands and islets and covers a total of 194,400 ha (15% land and 85% sea). It features unusual ridged washboard moraines, "De Geer moraines", formed by the melting of the continental ice sheet, 10,000 to 24,000 years ago. The Archipelago is continuously rising from the sea in a process of rapid glacio-isostatic uplift, whereby the land, previously weighed down under the weight of a glacier, lifts at rates that are among the highest in the world. As a consequence of the advancing shoreline, islands appear and unite, peninsulas expand, lakes evolve from bays and develop into marshes and peat fens. This property is essentially a "type area" for research on isostasy; the phenomenon having been first recognized and studied here. We congratulate Finland with the inscription of Kvarken on the World Heritage List! (from: Nordic World Heritage Foundation - Newsletter August 2006)
Photo on the left: Tuukka Pahtamaa ©

Land uplift in the Kvarken is very intense and the archipelago is constantly changing shape. New islands emerge from the sea, bays are transformed into lakes and shipping lanes become shallower. Since the land surface increases by a hundred hectares a year, these changes can be noticed during one generation. See more about "The Kvarken Archipelago - a World Heritage" at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment website. And here is the link to The Kvarken region picture gallery. But don't miss to visit The Kvarken Nature Guide!
Both High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago are inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criterion viii: "to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features".

They are also legally gazetted as "protected landscape/seascape" of IUCN management categories.

The distance between the areas is 150 kilometres.

See also: The Kvarken Archipelago and The High Coast World Heritage Site at


The marine realm of the High Coast

The Marine Realm

HK8c-449.gifThe biological character of the High Coast's marine environment is a consequence of several major controlling influences such as: brackish waters of very low salinity; the most sharply contoured submarine topography in the Baltic, extending to depths in excess of 200m close inshore; little tidal influence, with shifting water levels determined mainly by changing weather conditions of air pressure and wind; and seasonal ice cover.

Natural environments have undergone dramatic changes since glacial times, passing through marine, brackish and freshwater conditions. The resultant mosaic of shallow, sheltered embayments and deep, open waters provides a range of habitats for a mix of marine, brackish and freshwater species, low in species diversity but high in population numbers for some macrofauna species. Some species are relics of earlier periods, and others are at the extremes of their latitudinal and environmental limits. For the most part, however, the marine biota are described as being typical and representative of that found throughout the Baltic, rather than special or unique.


The special feature of the marine realm, imparting the greatest scientific significance, is that it represents the submarine extension of the topographical continuum of landscapes undergoing isostatic uplift.

Continual elevation of the land results in inlets becoming progressively cut off from the sea, transforming them into estuaries and ultimately lakes (some of which retain their name as bays). Meanwhile, shorelines are constantly reshaped, new islands are born offshore, and others become peninsulas as they unite with the mainland. The terrestrial influence progressively extends seawards into the Bothnian Sea. This process has major effects for the associated plants and animals that must constantly adapt to the changing environments. Thus, the nearshore marine area constitutes an integral part of the ongoing geological evolution of the High Coast and, as such, it is an important natural component of the entire property.

Although the 56% of the size of the High Coast site is marine, only 2% of it is protected: only 15 km2 of the 800 km2 marine component of the area is under protective status.
(Font: UNESCO - World Heritage Nomination - The High Coast (Sweden) - Addendum to 1999 IUCN Technical Evaluation)

HK_3505.gifThe High Coast's terrestrial fauna is typical for the region, but the range of marine habitats provides for a mix of marine, brackish and freshwater species. These are low in diversity but high in populations for some of the macrofauna, some of which are relicts of earlier periods, others at the extremes of their latitudinal and environmental distribution (Dingwall, 2000). All are tolerant of the varying salinity of the brackish water, which off the High Coast ranges between 3 and 6 ‰. There is a major sill across the bottom of the Kvarken Straits at about 25m. Species numbers decline abruptly at the Gulf’s entrance from the Baltic and continue to decrease northwards - from 41 fish species in the Baltic to 20 species in the Gulf and only 6 in the Bay of Bothnia. The consequence is that the northern part of the site is near the northern limit of several species. Two northeastern Atlantic seals are present in the waters off the High Coast, the ringed seal Phoca hispida and the grey seal Halichoerus grypus. The latter occurs in greater numbers, although there are no suitable haul-out areas for the large gatherings of grey seals which are found in the Northern Quark Archipelago and south of the High Coast.

HK_3500.gifSaltwater and fresh water fish species regularly occur and reproduce along the High Coast within shallow and deep-water areas of the Archipelago. Warm-water species found in shallow waters include perch Perca fluviatilis and roach Rutilus rutilus. Cold-water species of fresh and salt-water origin are the white fish Baltic herring Clupea harengus, salmon Salmo salar, four-horned sculpin and eel pout Zoarces viviparus. Immigrant species include sprat Sprattus sprattus, cod Gadus morhua (VU) and European flounder Platichthys flesus.  Fish are only found in deeper waters in the summer. Shoreline fauna species include the acorn barnacle Balanus improvisus, the common mussel Mytilus edulis, the coralline Electra crustukenta and thefreshwater snail Theodoxus fluviatilis. Shallow water crustaceans include the amphiopods Gammarus zaddachi, G. oceanicus at its northern limit, G. salinus, Pallasea quadrispinosa, a relict species primarily found in fresh water and Corophium volutator. Several snail species are foundin the mid-archipelago zone: Paludestrina jenkinsi, Theodoxus fluviatilis, Lymnaea peregra and Bithynia tentaculata. The benthic fauna of the deeper waters is dominated by a small number of species. These include the isopod Saduria entomon, the amphipod Monoporeia affinis, the Baltic mussel Macoma bathica, a few semi-pelagic opossum shrimp species (Mysidae) and the common sea snail Liparis liparis. (Font: UNEP-WCMC)


What is "World Heritage"?

The High Coast was inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage list in the year 2000.

HK_2528.gifWorld Heritage are the cultural and natural sites that are the heritage of humanity. The safeguarding of these sites is the shared responsibility of all. The World Heritage Convention for the protection of the World's Natural and Cultural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and has been ratified by 183 states. There are 830 World Heritage worldwide.

"A World Heritage site is a place of natural or cultural interest which is so valuable that it is important for the whole of humanity. It is a place, site, environment, or object which provides unique testimony to the history of the earth and of mankind. Once inscribed on the prestigious World Heritage List, it is guaranteed protection and care for all time. Sweden has thirteen sites on the list."

This definition is from Riksantikvarieämbetet - The National Heritage Board, the agency of the Swedish government that is responsible for heritage and historic environment issues. (More info at )


Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

The overarching benefit of ratifying the World Heritage Convention is that of belonging to an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth.

The States Parties to the Convention, by joining hands to protect and cherish the world's natural and cultural heritage, express a shared commitment to preserving our legacy for future generations.


Heritage and development

HK_3674.gifIt is widely recognised that environmental sustainability corresponds with social and economic prosperity. Environmental degradation is by the World Health Organization directly linked to negative health and development impacts. This is especially the case in poorer countries, where the burden of ecosystem impairment much stronger affects communities that depend on local resources, without the financial abilities to offset the degradation of ecosystem services.
The Convention encourages the States Parties to involve local communities in planning and management of properties. Successful protection of heritage depends on the ability to provide opportunities and benefits to the communities within and surrounding the properties.
The intention of World Heritage sites is to feature natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value as well as best practice management plans that may function as models for other protected areas.


The Criteria for Selection

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself.

(More info about UNESCO's World Heritage mission and the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972 at


Höga Kusten: the world's highest uplift of land

Sweden was entirely covered by inland ice around 20,000 years ago. The High Coast was the area where the land surface was pressed down the most by the vast, three-kilometre wide glaciers.

From Riksantikvarieämbetet (The National Heritage Board), the agency of the Swedish government that is responsible for heritage and historic environment issues, here below is a complete description of the isostatic uplift that was the key reason for the designation of the High Coast as a UNESCO's World Heritage Site


The High Coast has the highest uplift of land in the world after a period of inland ice.

The land arose from the sea after the ice melted 9,600 years ago. Gradually, plants and animals inhabited it. Humans settled the area and made an impact as well. The serene and peculiar landscape features sweeping mountain lines, steep cliffs over the sea and creeks that meander between the islands.

HK_3637.gifSweden was entirely covered by inland ice around 20,000 years ago. The High Coast was the area where the land surface was pressed down the most by the vast, three-kilometre wide glaciers. As the ice began to melt, the land began to rebound, and return to its original position. That is the basic explanation of the nearly 800-metres land rise after the peak of the latest Ice Age, called Weichel.

The area is a unique example of how geological forces have drastically altered a landscape in a relatively short period of time. Special phenomena are hemispheric hills with moraines and caps of woods marking the highest shoreline, 286 metres above present sea level. There are also offshore banks reaching up to 260-metres.

There is a varying plant- and animal life on the land and in the water. For example, there are different forest types, different types of coniferous clumps and rare deciduous trees such as hazel, lime and elm. On the cliffs toward the north, you can find exotic alpine species such as the tufted saxifrage, alpine clubmoss, alpine lady's mantle and the three-leafed rush as well as the unusual plant "strandtraven," which only exists on the High Coast.

HK_3.gifThe relatively quick land uplift has affected the conditions for human life along the shoreline. There are remains of human settlements and continual human activity during a period of 7,000 years, within a distance of 3 kilometres from the present-day shoreline. The shorelines of different eras contain remains of dwelling-places and human traps from the Stone Age, Bronze Age cairns and burial mounds from the Iron Age, as well as piers and house foundations from previous millennium.

The High Coast was inscribed on the World Heritage list in the year 2000. The motivation of the World Heritage Committee: "The site is one of the places in the world that is experiencing isostatic uplift as a result of deglaciation. Isostatic rebound is well-illustrated and the distinctiveness of the site is the extent of the total isostatic uplift which, at 294m, exceeds others. The site is the "type area" for research on isostacy, the phenomenon having been first recognised and studied there." (Font: Riksantikvarieämbetet - More info at )
Photo above: Västernorrlands Länsstyrelsen ©