The crane dance Lake Hornborga

Nature experiences

At the southwestern end of Lake Hornborga you will find the Visitor centre called the “Hornborgasjön Trandansen”. An information and viewing point has been built here for visitors to see the amazing crane dance that takes place in this area every spring. The site attracts thousands or even tens of thousands of cranes every year, which are viewed by more than 10 times as many visitors from all over the world. The fields look like an undulating grey sea of birds almost constantly on the move and with familiar trumpeting sounds. For us at Valle Camping, the V-shapes in the sky and the loud trumpeting of the cranes are a very dear sign of spring, which we welcome our guests to see.


At the Lake Hornborga Crane dance visitor centre (Trandansen) there are viewing points, huts, some souvenir sales and coffee. The place is suitable for a car trip and if you want you can bring your own coffee to enjoy the sight and sound of all the dancing cranes.

During the crane season there is a charge for cars, but the fee goes to a good cause – feeding all the cranes who flew in to dance. During the peak crane season, you may also encounter birdwatchers here who can provide information about the bird life and crane dancing at Lake Hornborga.


Although the cranes can appear as early as the beginning of March, we usually expect them to be in the area from late March to early April, but the site is of course available for bird watching all year round. There are also plenty of cranes (up to 9,000) to be seen in the Lake Hornborga area in September as they head back to their wintering grounds in southern Europe. However, the cranes do not congregate in the same places in autumn and you may have to go to other places around the lake to see them. Since they always spend the night in shallow water out in the lake, a good time to look for them is at dusk.


Lake Hornborga is only a few kilometres from Valle Camping (as the crow flies), but the cranes are at the other end of Lake Hornborga and it takes about 20 minutes to get there by car (25 km). By bike, it’s a one-and-a-half hour trip one way. If you want to take a break halfway, you can stop at Naturrum Hornborgasjön. An information centre about the nature and wildlife of the lake and the project that has been going on for many years to restore Lake Hornborga. Around the lake there are also several other parking areas, birdwatching towers and hiking trails to explore.

Directions to Naturrum Hornborgasjön and Trandansen


Like the rest of the landscape around Valle Camping, Lake Hornborga was formed when the ice sheet retreated 10,000 years ago. The area was then a sea inlet in the future west coast of Sweden and excavations in the area have shown that people have lived here ever since. This suggests that there was plenty of food in the form of wild animals and fish even then.

The melting icebergs had formed large recesses in the ground (which today form the lakes in the area) with surrounding ridges of gravel, creating the undulating landscape.

As agriculture in the area grew in the 19th and 20th centuries, farmers lowered the water level of Lake Hornborga several times to reduce the risk of flooding and to make room for more farmland. This led to the lake more or less disappearing towards the middle of the 20th century and the former lake largely consisted of a swamp where reeds, trees and other plants covered the area.

At the end of the 1980s, the Swedish Parliament decided that the lake should be restored to the bird lake it is today. It took many years to complete, but today it is considered one of Europe’s most important bird lakes.

Hornborgasjön is a shallow lake with surrounding wetlands, which provides good conditions for a very rich plant and animal life with a variety of plants, insects, fish and other animals. Common fish in the lake are pike, perch, tench and roach.

The abundance of food attracts a wide variety of birds and there can be up to 50,000 birds at the lake at any one time. Some of these are really rare and endangered species, such as the black-necked dipper. Other bird species to be found here include nightingales, sea eagles, swans, brown marsh hawks, thrushes, yellow warblers, greylag geese and laughing gulls. A real mecca for birdwatchers, but the lake is probably best known for its cranes.


The crane is called Grus grus in Latin and is Västergötland’s landscape animal, but there are 15 different species and cranes can be found in a variety of places around the world, from Asia and Australia to Africa and North America.

Cranes are long-legged and long-necked migratory birds that grow to about 1.2-1.3 metres tall with a wingspan of as much as 1.8-2.25 metres. Males generally grow slightly taller than females, and cranes weigh around 5 kg. Their plumage is mainly grey but the neck and wingtips are black and there are white areas, for example, on the top of the head. The red patch on the head is not feathers, but a wart-like patch of skin that the crane can influence in colour and size using the muscles of the neck. Ringing has shown that cranes can live to be at least 18 years old.

There are cranes that come in the spring and then nest at Lake Hornborga, but the vast majority of cranes that show up at the lake are cranes that only nest here for a few days on their journey to a bog or marsh further north (perhaps Värmland, Härjedalen or Dalarna) from their winter stopover in Spain or France. Many cranes take the opportunity to mate during their break at Lake Hornborga and in spring the spectacular mating dance can be seen here.

The fact that the cranes chose to rest at Lake Hornborga is related to the fact that there were plenty of potatoes left in the soil around Dagsnäs and Bjurum. As potato cultivation in the area has declined, the cranes have been fed barley to prevent them from feeding on other crops.

Read more about Lake Hornborga (Hornborgasjön) and the crane dance on the county administrative board’s website