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Did You Know…?

  • The Sami (or Lapp) people have their own parliament, located in Kiruna.
  • Sweden is host to the world’s longest cross-country ski race (56 miles).
  • Of the world’s 75,000 Sami people, 20,000 live in Sweden.
  • The state religion was Lutheranism from about 1540 to 2000.
  • There are 9,000 to 10,000 documented shipwreck sites on the Swedish coast.

A smorgasbord of choices

Great portions of Sweden belong to Mother Nature. It is a thinly populated land of mountains, forests, lakes and islands — countless venues for an outdoor holiday. To add interest, this was part of Viking territory, too.

But the Vikings have come a long way: Their heirs enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living. Swedes have embraced the modern, as seen in their glassware, crystal and ceramics, but preserve the historical city centers and small towns that charm foreign visitors.

And, of course, Sweden is known for the smorgasbord and the midnight sun. North Americans feel at home in the Scandinavian countries, where many have family roots and where English is widely spoken.

Sweden boasts one of Europe’s most beautiful capital cities in Stockholm, which is built on a series of 14 islands. Outside the cities, the countryside gives way to lush forests and agricultural land dotted with timbered farmhouses. These stunning natural assets combine with urban pleasures and a unique national character to offer a memorable vacation experience.

The Swedish people may appear distant, but that is just a natural reserve and dignity. Swedes welcome visitors and have done a great deal to encourage tourism.  Those who have read Strindberg’s plays, or seen an Ingmar Bergman film or listened to any of the Swedish rock groups already know a little about the breadth and variety of the Swedish personality.

As with the rest of Scandinavia, Sweden is popular with cruisers. However, the more venturesome travelers seem less enthusiastic about the destination. That is puzzling considering how many opportunities there are to enjoy relatively unpopulated areas of great natural beauty and to be involved in sports or other diversions.

Besides, for those interested in other cultures, Sweden’s far north is home to the Sami (or Lapp) people who welcome visitors for unique travel experiences.

Attitudes may shift due to the growing interest in ecotourism. The Swedes have long been careful of their pristine environment — the waters around Stockholm’s islands are so clean people can swim and fish in the city center — but Sweden is now making it a point to promote its green-travel credentials.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a sled journey behind a team of dogs or of reindeer. Guides will give you instruction on how to drive the dog or reindeer team yourself.
  • Go canoeing or kayaking on the waters of the 150-mile Dalsland Canal; camp along the way. Or, go diving, looking for wrecked vessels in Swedish seas.
  • Test your skiing and snowboarding skills at the Are alpine resort, which was host to the 2007 Alpine World Championships. Heli-skiing is an option, too, as are dogsledding and ice climbing. (Are is noted for its hard-partying after-ski scene.)
  • Try your hand at 14th century archery, cooking, fencing, handicrafts and jousting. For this, go to Salvestaden which recreates 1397 Kalmar, recalling the trading town that was destroyed in the 17th century. (The rebuilt Kalmar is nearby.)
  • Undertake a so-called top tour at the Arctic Circle. This involves a walk on cross-country skis of several hours up a mountain, then a long (but much faster) ride down.
  • Travel the wilderness by snowmobile. Follow clearly marked trails, and overnight in hostels along the trails.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Stay at the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi. The season runs from mid-December until the roof starts dripping, around the end of April. Or, go ice skating on any of many frozen lakes.
  • Sample a real Swedish smorgasbord. Plan to eat herring, salmon, Swedish shellfish (Swedish oysters come highly recommended), as well as some game, berries and mushrooms.
  • Bicycle on the towpath beside the Gota Canal, which links the Baltic to the North Sea. Alternatively, view the canal — which stretches nearly 120 miles and has 58 locks — from a passenger boat.
  • See the Northern Lights when you attend the Kiruna Snow Festival, in the land of the Sami (aka Lapp) people, in January. See snow sculpted into art. Watch reindeer racing.
  • Build a timber raft (or rent a ready-built raft), and float down a river on a one-day or multiday journey. Overnight in tents on moored rafts or on land. Fish from your moving island, and beware of a little whitewater.
  • Dress as a Viking, eat Viking food and help with chores that fit the Viking period, even learn a period trade. Stay for the day or overnight on site. You can do this through the summer months at Foteviken, a Viking village in the south of Sweden. Visits end with a huge Viking feast.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Shop in Sweden’s Christmas markets. The larger cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo have several. See the coronation of Lucia, the Queen of Light, in any one of these cities (the date varies by city). In Stockholm, take a boat to markets on islands of the Stockholm Archipelago.
  • Go fly-fishing for salmon, trout and grayling in any of several rushing rivers. Or, fish in calmer lake waters, or opt for ice fishing.
  • Attend a medieval festival, and there are several, including those in Sigtuna, Hova and Visby. Visby, on the island of Gotland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Visit the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm. Make that coincide with Walpurgis Night, when Swedes welcome spring with bonfires, choral singing and fireworks. Or, go to Skansen on Sweden’s National Day (June 6) and, effectively, celebrate with the king and queen.
  • Shop for a few specifically Swedish products, such as ceramics, glass and crystal, plus examples of traditional needlework and wood carving.
  • Watch your seasons, and visit Sweden to see the midnight sun (being certain to see midsummer celebrations) or, in winter, experience days up north when there is no sun.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult VisitSweden at