Sweden’s growing popularity with tourists is based on a wide-ranging appeal to all tastes, backed by important details like child-friendliness, excellent transport links, and a clean and safe environment. While well known attractions like Lapland’s Ice Hotel and the culture and nightlife of Stockholm get coverage in the international press, Sweden is bursting with world-class destinations and activities that have remained somewhat of a secret from the rest of the world.

People who know the stories of their immigrant ancestors or do some genealogy research know that the “landskap” (province) is an important part of the identifying information that traveled with those who left Sweden in search of a new life abroad.
Many of you have roots or connections to specific cities or regions in the old country. Sweden is divided into 25 “landskap.” These are geographical and cultural regions, and though they have no administrative functions, they remain historical legacies and are often part and parcel of a person’s way of identifying him or herself.
“He’s from Skåne,” we say. Aha, then we believe we know exactly how he is. “She grew up in Norrbotten, or Värmland, or Småland.” Ok, we immediately get a mental picture of the person depending on what “landskap” she is from.
A “landskap” was originally a small kingdom that gradually became more and more subjected to the rule of the Swedish king during the consolidation of Sweden, around 800-1000 AD. After Sweden was unified and a common Swedish monarch was established, these provinces were held as duchies.
We’ll focus on Sweden’s regions later this year to see what’s specific about each of them but would also like your input—on regions and cities, on memories, be it of food items, destinations or experiences. Please send your thoughts to editor@nordstjernan.com.
For now, we offer just one overview (there are so many) of what a person might encounter if they travelled the whole of Sweden.

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Take it from the top
Starting in Norrland, Sweden’s northernmost region which covers half the country and includes nine provinces, you have Europe’s last unspoiled wilderness and the Land of the Midnight Sun, which attracts travelers with a sense of adventure for any season wanting to get away from it all. This amazing landscape of dense forest, mountains, rivers and waterfalls provides ideal terrain for hiking, mountain biking and canoeing, plus other white-knuckle extreme pursuits. There is even mid-summer skiing at Riksgränsen. The 265-mile long King’s Trail, or Kungsleden, which is probably Sweden’s best hiking trail, winds its way through rugged mountain scenery including Kebnekaise, the country’s highest peak at close to 7,000 feet (2111 meters). The nearby – in Norrland terms – Sarek National Park, also above the Arctic Circle, is one of Europe’s oldest national parks and will challenge even the most experienced outdoorsman.
South of that is Höga Kusten (the High Coast, a Unesco World Heritage Site which is actually still rising following the retreat of glaciers from the last Ice Age), with lakes, fjords and a spectacular coastline on the Gulf of Bothnia. The Örnsköldsviks Museum at Örnsköldsvik has an interesting exhibition on local history and the history of the indigenous Sami people.
Closer to central Sweden in the Siljan area of Dalarna you can join the long list of international dignitaries who own a “Dalahäst,” Dalecarlian horse. This symbol of Sweden, which may have started out as a toy for children, is often used as a gift when Swedish prime ministers visit abroad (no, we’re not sure if President Trump has one but we know the Clinton’s Dalahäst was big and possibly still in the White House). Nusnäs, just outside Mora, is the only place where they are made by hand, and you can watch local craftsmen and women carving and painting these charming figures.
Continuing south and east to Stockholm, one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, you can see and do everything you would expect in a cosmopolitan centre, with the added pleasures of the huge and stunning archipelago. Among a long, long list of highlights, worthy of mention is the warship Vasa, which was once – briefly – the world’s most fearsome vessel, until the pride of the Swedish Navy sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Today it stands on display in its own museum, the most visited in Scandinavia.

Viking heritage
In Sweden’s lower third, the Baltic island of Gotland is home to hundreds if not thousands of prehistoric sites, including burial mounds, stone circles and hilltop fortresses. It was here that the biggest ever buried Viking treasure was found in 1999 – all 150 pounds of it. With long sandy beaches, desolate moors and towering cliffs, the island is Sweden’s most popular holiday destination and is served by eight ferries a day from the mainland during the summer season.
Cruises on the Göta Canal take you on one river, three canals, eight lakes and 66 locks between Sweden’s east and west coasts on what is billed “the Orient Express of waterway travel.” There on the west’s Bohusljän Coast, north of Göteborg, is perhaps Sweden’s most picturesque area with rocky islands and inlets dotted with pretty fishing villages of painted houses perched right above the water. The Bronze Age rock carvings at Tanum, in Bohuslän, have been described as a unique artistic achievement, depicting people, animals and boats from 3,000 years ago.

Quintessential Sweden
The Småland region in the south is quintessential Sweden, with its expansive forests dotted with red and white houses. The area is home to both the Kingdom of Crystal and Kingdom of Glass, each of which showcases local and national excellence in the respective arts.
The many glassworks that make up the Kingdom of Crystal blend traditional glassmaking techniques and tools with the best and latest in Scandinavian design. Glasriket, to give its Swedish name, is world-renowned for its quality and designs, and visitors can watch the glassblowers in action and pick up bargains from the well-stocked factory shops.
Småland is an ideal destination for families with small children with a number of theme parks including the wild-west themed High Chaparral, Boda Borg Adventure House, and Astrid Lindgren’s World, featuring many of the creations of Sweden’s most popular children’s author, not least Pippi Longstocking.

The beautiful south
Reaching Sweden’s southern tip, Skåne can boast some wonderful sandy beaches and rolling hills of green and yellow. It’s a destination for sun-seekers, and the beautiful trails and vineyards lure hikers, cyclists and foodies alike.
The region is also becoming a destination for golf tourism, with many of Sweden’s top courses along with great restaurants and excellent accessibility from the Continent. Just a short hop over the Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen airport, Skåne boasts more than 70 golf courses within a 90-minute drive, many offering packages to international visitors. Golfers seeking challenging and varied courses can play all year round. Five of the courses were ranked in the country’s top 10 by the Swedish edition of Golf Digest. The jewel in the crown of Skåne’s courses may be Barsebäck, which has been voted Sweden’s best golf course and one of the top 10 courses in mainland Europe or Falsterbo on the southern tip of the “Näset,” the “Falsterbonäset” peninsula.

Ulf Barslund Martensson