Sweden: Land of the midnight sun and the midsummer party; of action-packed cities and vast wilderness areas; of ABBA and IKEA. Featuring a rich history that stretches back beyond the Vikings, warmly-welcoming people and some of the most spectacular landscapes anywhere on Earth, we think this country of many contrasts deserves a spot on every travel wish list – and here’s why.
The public’s right to access nature in Sweden is protected by a law known as “Allemansrätt”, also known as “Freedom to Roam”, which means that everyone has the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski or camp almost anywhere, with the exception of private gardens, near houses or on cultivated land. Many hundred kilometres of hiking and cycling trails make it easy to explore almost every corner of the country, so your ability to explore its mountains, coastlines and islands is limited only by your time and energy.
With more than 97,000 good-sized lakes and more than 2,000 kilometres of coastline studded with thousands of islands, Sweden is heaven to explore by water. Whether you choose to spend your time exploring the islands of Stockholm’s archipelago by kayak, cruising the Göta Canal from Stockholm to Gothenburg aboard an historic canal ship, or retreating off the grid to a secluded lakehouse, there are plenty of options for enjoying the great Swedish outdoors while messing about in boats.
Almost a quarter of Sweden’s total land area falls within the region known as Lappland – an area of pristine natural beauty which is home to the indigenous, nomadic Sámi people. Reindeer-herding is the central element of their traditional way of life, which you can experience during a visit to Nutti Sámi Siida: a camp located near the village of Jukkasjärvi. The camp offers a selection of activities including reindeer feeding, reindeer-drawn sled rides and the chance to learn about Sámi culture during a traditional, fire-side meal.
Since 1989, Jukkasjärvi has also been the site of the famous Ice Hotel, which is constructed afresh every winter from blocks of ice taken from the frozen waters of the Torne River. Try your hand at ice-sculpting, venture out into the snowy wilderness on a snowmobile tour and take advantage of the clear winter skies to marvel at the Northern Lights.
History buffs will find plenty to entertain and enthral them in Sweden, whether it’s walking the cobbled streets of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, learning about pre-industrial life at Skansen open-air museum or delving into the story of the nation’s most treasured pop icons at ABBA The Museum. For Viking enthusiasts, a visit to the village of Birka, on an island in Lake Mälaren near Stockholm, is a must: once an important centre for trading, today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological site where you can learn first-hand about the Viking way of life.
One of the best ways to understand a culture is to sample its cuisine, and Swedish cuisine runs the gamut from the sublime to the… less palatable, shall we say? Tender reindeer stew with a side of tart lingonberry jam, meatballs served with mashed potatoes and a creamy sauce, and sweet rolls flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom are among the highlights. Lutfisk (dried cod which is soaked in lye before cooking, and served with boiled potatoes and white sauce), blood soup and salt liquorice feature among the more challenging Swedish gastronomic delights. Love them or loathe them, each speciality delivers an authentic insight into Swedish culture and heritage.
Mark Twain once wrote, “happiness is a Swedish sunset”. If you want to experience this state of Scandinavian bliss for yourself, talk to your personal travel manager today.