Orsa is the story of a poor farming community that turns into a wealthy locality. It is today the seat of Orsa Municipality and has a population of around 5.300 inhabitants. It is a part of the community around lake Siljan, a larger lake that Lake Orsa is connected to. The Siljan area also includes the towns of Mora, Rättvik and Leksand.
A Short History
Orsa was for a long time a poor community of peasants, mostly surviving on farming. Until the 17th century, the Swedish king required most of the young men to join the army. The inhabitants were to feed the local soldiers.
The cooperative production of grindstone began to give an addition to the population’s incomes. This resulted in further suffering and as Carl von Linné noted in 1734, the men rarely lived longer than 20, 30 or 40 years and the few elderly men consisted of tailors and shoemakers instead of the miners. The problem for the men was that the dust from the stone production destroyed their lungs.
The development of the locality started with the railroad, which was established in 1894. The railroad became the new centre instead of the church and it attracted many workers as well as industrialization. This together with the growing forestry industry gave Orsa the possibility to acquire one of the most modern fire extinguishers of the time. The irony was that the fire extinguisher had been lent to a exhibition in Gävle at the time of the fire of 1901. Even with help arriving from Mora, whose firefighters travelled by train to Orsa, the fire devastated many of the locality’s older buildings.
You can find more about the history of Orsa on the homepage of Orsa Municipality (in Swedish)
Things to Do and See
The area has a long history and there are both historical and modern sites of interest when exploring this part of Sweden. Also remember that the nature is never far away.
Orsa Skans is a Sconce, a kind of fortification, that was constructed in 1657. Its purpose was to defend Sweden from possible Norwegian attacks from nearby Härjedalen. There are still signs left of the old fortification, such as mounds and trenches. Its significance declined after the war with Norway and the annexation of Härjedalen and it was finally abandoned in 1686.
Orsa Hembygdsgård, the local heritage open-air museum, is along the E45 and includes several historical buildings from the area. Here you can learn more about the local culture and history.
Orsa Grönklitt is a ski resort located a bit north of the locality. It is a medium-sized system of slopes for alpine skiing, with 13 lifts leading to 23 slopes. The altitude difference from the top to the bottom is 145 meters. There are also several cross-country skiing trails in the area. Hiking and mountain bike possibilities are endless during the summer.
Orsa Rovdjurspark, the predetor park, is located at Orsa Grönklitt. It was previously known solely as a bear park. The park was established in 1986 and covers an area of 325 000 square kilometers. This is the largest park of its kind in Europe. The list of animals, all predators, includes the brown bear, the Kodiak bear, the Eurasian wolf, the Eurasian lynx, the wolverine, the Eurasian eagle-owl, the polar bear, the Siberian tiger, the Persian leopard, and the snow leopard. The park is on the slope of a mountain, so be prepared for some uphill walking.
Located a few kilometers north of the locality is the grindstone museum. This is a mainly an open-air museum showing the local mining history. It is located in the small village of Mässbacken. You can also find the 3.5 kilometer long hiking trail Slipstensleden here.
Orsa Lake / Orsasjön
The locality is on the shore of the Orsa Lake. Not far from the centre you find both beaches and other spots for water activities. Fishing is also a possibility, but do remember to get the correct permit.
How to Get Here
Flights: The closest airport is Mora–Siljan Airport (MXX) located 23 kilometers away. It connects the area with the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) for connections around the globe.
Car: Orsa is located along the E45 a bit north of Mora.
Train: You might have to wait a long time for the train.
Bus: There are regional buses connecting Orsa with the surrounding area.
The driving distance from 5 major Swedish cities, according to Google Maps:
Stockholm – 317 kilometers (3 h 48 min) Gothenburg – 490 kilometers (6 h 5 min) Malmö – 708 kilometers (8 h 22 min) Linköping – 391 kilometers (5 h 3 min) Kiruna – 1101 kilometers (13 h 26 min)
Find out more about other destinations in Sweden by visiting our page Exploring Sweden