A two-hour drive northwest of Stockholm is Dalecarlia, probably the most stereotypically Swedish region of the country. The landscape of this region 175 mi/280 km northwest of Stockholm straddles the fertile fields of the south and the harsh Arctic north, and more than two-thirds of it is covered with forest. This area, often referred to as Dalarna, is home to several midsummer festivals; if you attend, you'll find locals dressed in traditional costumes and dancing around maypoles.

The provincial capital, Falun, has been a center of industry for more than 1,000 years. The Falun Copper Mine dates to the 13th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take the underground tour of the mines: There are a museum and several nice restaurants on the grounds. The village of Sundborn, home to famed Swedish artists Carl and Karin Larsson, is a 15-minute drive from the mines. A guided tour (in English) of their home is available daily May-September.

A 30-minute drive northwest of Falun is the outdoor amphitheater of Dalhalla, a former limestone quarry. If you have time, catch one of its summer operas or concerts. Another 30-minute drive northwest will take you to the small village of Nusnas (near Mora). It's the headquarters for the production of the brightly painted, carved wood horses that are practically a Swedish national symbol. You can load your suitcase with factory-priced pieces.

If you're in the area in early March, don't miss the Vasaloppet, one of the world's most famous cross-country ski races, which commemorates the escape in 1520 of Danish troops from Gustave Ericson, who would later become King Gustav I of Sweden. Audiences line up along the entire route from Salen to Mora to watch skiers from all over the world.

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