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Landscape

Truth be told, the best thing about Sweden is its natural beauty. To really appreciate this country’s charms, you have to leave the city behind. Whether that means sailing across an archipelago to visit a lonely island or trekking along a kingly trail through the northern wilderness just depends on your preferences – why not try both? Hiking, camping, cycling, skiing, skating, boating, fishing and foraging for mushrooms and berries are all major Swedish experiences, and it is easy to get in on this from just about anywhere in the country.

Head in one direction long enough in Sweden and you will likely meet an archipelago. You will find them off the north, south, east and west coasts. And even in the middle of Sweden – which if you follow these series about Sweden, you will see more in detail; the hidden archipelago in the middle of Sweden.

They’re centers of Swedish cultural heritage and natural beauty, with a laid-back lifestyle and numerous nature activities. Many Swedes have summer homes on these islands.

There are roughly 24,000 islands in the Stockholm archipelago alone. About 150 are inhabited and most of the islands are accessible only by private boat.

The largest are accessible by public ferry and make a good day trip with options for lunch, hiking and swimming in crystal waters — if you don’t mind skin-prickling temperatures.

Gotland and Öland, Sweden’s largest islands, situated off the east coast, are also worth a visit.

Hallands Väderö off the southwest coast is a nature reserve and home to some of the most threatened species in Europe, including rare beetles.

The Sami

The northern part of Sweden is home to the indigenous Sami people, whose traditionally nomadic lifestyle is built around reindeer herding. Sami culture, including handicrafts, homes and villages, methods of transport and style of cooking, is one of the many things a visitor can become immersed in while spending time in Lappland: spend a night or two in a Sami reindeer camp or take a dogsledding tour. You can have a meal in a Sami restaurant or pick up some handmade Sami woodwork or leather goods to take home as a souvenir.

Svea Viking, a tour boat built in the style of a viking ship, at Skeppsbron in Stockholm (Алексей Решетников)

Vikings & History

Ancient rune stones poke up out of the grass in parks and forests all over Sweden; huge stone-ship settings and unobtrusive burial mounds are almost as common. Walled medieval cities and seaside fortresses are regular stops on the travellers’ circuit. Viking ruins and the stories surrounding them are very much a part of the modern Swedish landscape, and it’s easy to feel as if you’re walking through history when you wander around the country. Several Swedish museums and guides do an excellent job of explaining that history in fascinating ways.

Today in Sweden…….

Exploring Sweden by car is easy — the roads are well maintained and traffic jams are rare. Just be prepared to meet the occasional elk or moose.

Sweden is also bike friendly, with an extensive network of cycle paths in and around towns as well as marked cycle routes around the country.

Fika

The “fika” is fundamental to Swedish culture. As a verb or noun, it loosely means “coffee break” or “pause” and if you enjoy sharing coffee/tea and pastries with friends or family, you will love many opportunities to “fika.”

A good fika cafe is always close at hand in Sweden. It offers pastries in a beautiful garden and is renowned not only for its fika, but its idyllic surroundings.

Midsummer

Midsummer is the most important celebration of the year for many Swedes. Midsummer always take place on a Friday between June 19 and June 25 when locals celebrate the longest day of the year. This is what comes after being kept in the dark all winter…..

Many towns and villages arrange public Midsummer dances, where folk musicians play as people dance around the Midsummer pole that’s been decorated with flowers and leaves gathered in the woods earlier that day.

This is the time to sample traditional Midsummer foods, such as pickled herring and new potatoes and to fika with traditional fresh strawberries and cream.

Folklore has it that if a young woman picks seven different flowers and lays them under her pillow on Midsummer’s night, she’ll dream of her future spouse.

For family and Children

Sweden is an excellent place to travel with young children.

Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum and has a unique collection of historical buildings, a children’s zoo with Nordic animals, an aquarium, play areas and an amusement park — an excellent place for visitors to celebrate Midsummer, Easter and other festive occasions.

Sweden is such a beautiful country and it’s about time to let the world know about it!

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