Live the experience
The island of Gotland, Sweden
Escape the crowded beaches down South and try a Scandinavian road trip with the family. In the Baltic Sea, the Swedish island of Gotland offers a complete change of scene and a milder climate.
Escape the crowded beaches down South and try a Scandinavian road trip with the family. In the Baltic Sea, the Swedish island of Gotland offers a complete change of scene and one of the sunniest climates in the country.
It’s only a 45-minute flight from the Swedish mainland to Gotland, and yet, on Fårö, its tiny northernmost island, it feels like the end of the world. The light is raking, quasi-supernatural. On the beach at Langhammars, the limestone monoliths ( rauks) create a jagged, organic landscape and the same haunting atmosphere found in films by Ingmar Bergman, who shot several of his masterpieces here.
The ferry’s foghorn blasts out, announcing its departure from the port of Nynäshamn, south of Stockholm. Taking the boat instead of the plane is more economical and much more fun for the children. The three-hour crossing starts in the restaurant; we join the impeccable queue formed by the Swedes, waiting in orderly fashion for their Gotland meatballs and cranberry sauce. Down in the hold, our camper is chock-full of familysize tent, sleeping bags, cookware and notebooks ready to be filled with memories.
We dock at Visby. Founded in the year 897, the “city of roses and ruins” is encircled by towers and a 3.5-kilometre-long wall now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The kids race down the narrow lanes searching for medieval features. After stopping for a coffee and a saffranspannkaka (i.e. a saffron and cream pancake), an island speciality, we head for the botanical gardens, where the fragrance of roses, mulberries, figs and magnolias, all in blossom, fills the evening air.
Wild camping, night one: in Gotland, as all over Sweden, people are allowed to camp for 24 hours on somebody’s land, in the countryside or on the beach (as long as there is no warning sign forbidding it). Since many of the sites chosen are nature reserves, respect for the environment is important. Well-kept composting toilets are often found, which makes the whole camping experience easier.
The road south resembles the backdrop to a Scandinavian fairy tale. Little wooden houses gradually turn into larger and larger, more and more beautiful farms. Fields covered in wild flowers are dotted with black sheep and windmills. Driving north along the eastern side of the island, we sometimes see signs with the word Loppis on them. It’s worth stopping, because it means someone is having a car boot sale and who knows what bargains can be found? Through the van windows, the terrain then becomes paler, drier and rockier. We pass though industrial towns with limestone quarries and lunar landscapes.
A ferry takes us to the island of Fårö. Along the road leading north, we stop for the children to play between fishermen’s houses and skeletons of wooden ships. Suddenly, a dazzling white sandy beach, scattered with shells and lined with clumps of trees, stretches out for miles before our eyes. The water is turquoise. Gotland owes its quasitropical landscape to history: millions of years ago, the island rubbed shoulders with the equator. The hunt for fossils is on: sharp eyes are sure to find some pretty ones. Ready to follow our trail?