Sweden’s largest island is the country’s summertime secret; Swedes come here in droves to make the most of the balmy Baltic beaches. It’s fit for more than a summer fling, however: Gotland’s rugged landscape has year-round holiday appeal.
A dramatic limestone isle 90 kilometres off the Swedish mainland, Gotland is wild and cosy by turns, with wuthering moorland and jagged sea stacks for the photo album, and welcoming villages and a jolly little port, Visby, to supply the creature comforts. A major player in the Viking and mediaeval eras, the island is scattered with history: ancient barrows, stony ruins, Middle-Age houses and a glut of 12th- and 13th-century churches are found all over the flat green land, but today, you’re more likely to come across sunbathers, cyclists and golfers than seafaring merchants stopping off en route to Russia. Tofta and Hundfria Strands are the best and busiest beaches in summer, and Visby, a Unesco World Heritage city, is a cobbled fairytale town ringed with fortified walls, crowned with a triple-spired cathedral, and dotted with boutiques selling Gotland’s famous lambskins, and some superb seafood restaurants.
Gotland’s population (around 60,000) more than trebles between June and September, when sun-seeking Swedes flock over from the mainland to sprawl on the sands. October to April is cooler and rainier, but it’s still generally warmer than the rest of Sweden. Ferries become less frequent off-season too.