The largest island in the Baltic Sea is one of Sweden’s most attractive travel destinations. Amid the historic and natural attractions of Gotland, almost 100 medieval churches are packed into an area the size of Long Island.
From a historic Viking Age town with UNESCO recognition to miles of tranquil coastline and trails, Gotland has long been a favorite of Swedes for their summer vacation. For international travelers, Gotland has something to offer no matter when you visit.
The island’s main town Visby is rich in Viking Age history and today protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walled town is perfect for simply wandering and absorbing the medieval atmosphere of what was once one of northern Europe’s most influential cities.
Walking tours are available to dig deeper into the history, but history buffs have other options too. The delightful octagonal towers of Visby cathedral catch the eye, as does the Gothic revival altarpiece inside. Try and catch one of the intimate summer concerts if you can.
The majority of Viking Age silver coins found in Sweden were found in Gotland. The island has also turned up Roman riches and Bronze Age jewelry, all serving to highlight its historic importance. Much of this is on display along with the stories behind the finds at Visby’s Gotland Museum, a must-do for anyone visiting the island.
Visy’s food scene is highly regarded, with local restaurants primarily making use of the island’s numerous farms and of course, the bounty provided by the ocean.
The beaches of Gotland
Scandinavia is not exactly known for its beach vacations, but the sandy beaches of Gotland are one of the best places to give it a try. Temperatures in the otherwise cold Baltic Sea get warm enough to swim in the summer.
The long, sandy beach between Sjaustrehammaren and Ljugarn on the east coast is backed by a pine forest, while the shallow water off Tofa beach on the west coast is a good choice for families.
Enjoying the Gotland coastline
There’s much more to the seemingly endless coastline of Gotland than just beaches though. Sea kayaking is a popular activity in and around the sheltered bays, with guided trips available for those inexperienced at kayaking in ocean conditions.
One of the most recognisable features of Gotland is the impressive limestone sea stacks, created by natural erosion during the last Ice Age. Known as raukar, these natural sculpture fields can be found all over the island, but the most impressive are on the north coast of Gotland and on neighboring Fårö.
Made entirely from limestone rock, Fårö is a smaller island off the northeast coast of Gotland, accessible via a short, free ferry ride. Acclaimed director Ingmar Bergman spent decades of his life here, a fact celebrated in the island’s Bergman cultural center.
Sudersand on Fårö is considered to be one of the best beaches in the country. The added benefit of a restaurant, beach bar, mini-golf, boat rental and campsite help make the area a great choice for a family break.
Getting to Gotland
Most people travel to Gotland by ferry. Regular services run from both Nynashamn south of Stockholm and Oskarshamn in Småland. Both crossings take approximately three hours.
If you prefer to fly, SAS runs a year-round service from Stockholm Arlanda to Gotland, with Ryanair and Norwegian operating a summer service. Braathens Regional Airlines operate a route from Stockholm Bromma, while Finnair serve the island from Helsinki.