With its medieval towns, sandy beaches and curious rock formations, tranquil Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic, is a favorite holiday spot. Visit the Swedish sunshine island.
Gotland is an island of gaunt rocks, forests, wild flowers, cliffs and sandy beaches, blessed with more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the country. Swedes naturally flock here for their summer holidays.
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Gotland was created over thousands of years as the animals and plants of the ancient Siturian sea slowly sank into the sediments that was to become the limestone platform of modern Gotland. Million-year-old fossils and the island’s monumental sea-stacks (raukar) can still be found on the coast.
A UNESCO Heritage Site
In the Viking age the island was a busy trading post. Visby, the principal center of population, later became a prosperous Hanseatic town. Great stone houses were erected, churches were founded and a city wall was built. Today, 3 km (2 miles) of the medieval limestone wall remains virtually intact, interspersed with 44 towers and numerous gates. It is now a UNESCO world Heritage site.
Limestone has created one of the island’s major attractions – the impressive subterranean tunnels and stalactite caves of Lummelundagrottan to the north of Visby, which should not be missed. Dress warmly as it’s 8C (40F) inside. Above the ground, you can enjoy the Lummelunda Tree Park.
The Island of Sheep
About 50 km (30 miles) north of Visby lies Fárö, the ‘island of sheep’. Take a ferry to the island from Fárösund and enjoy sites such as Gamlehamn, a medieval harbor, and the ruins of a chapel to St. Olaf. You can also see one of Gotland’s most bizarre shaped raukar, ‘The Camel’, and visit the beach of Sundersand. After you have been here a little while, you will understand why Fárö was Ingmar Bergman’s favorite place.
Sweden’s most primitive horse, the Russ, has lived in the forests of the island from time immemorial. The name Russ comes from the Old Norse hross, and it is thought that the horse is a descendant of the wild Tarpan. You can see them only 123-126 cm (40-52 inches) tall, around the island.
92 medieval churches
Wherever you travel in Gotland, you’ll come across at least one of its 92 medieval churches. At Romakloster in the center of the island, there is a ruined monastery from the 12th century. There are many other relics of the past, including runic stones and burial mounds. If you reach Gotland’s southernmost tip, you’ll see some of the most impressive raukar on the island.
The Swedish Sunshine Island, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top) Photo: Visit Sweden