Gotland is Sweden's largest island, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Some 50,000 people live here all year. Together with some minor islands it forms the Gotland province, Gotland Municipality and Gotland County.
With a peculiar dialect, a glorious history and a scenery very different from mainland Sweden, the island has a spirit of independence.
Regions and minor islands
- Northern Gotland including Slite and Fårösund
- Central Gotland including Roma and Klintehamn
- Southern Gotland including Ljugarn and Burgsvik
- 1 Fårö — A smaller island just off the northern coast of the main island. Known for its high concentration of rauks and sand beaches.
- 2 Gotska Sandön — A national park island 40 km (25 mi) north of Gotland.
- 3 Karlsöarna — The islands of Stora Karlsö and Lilla Karlsö are definitely worth a day's visit, Stora Karlsö is one of the world's oldest nature preserve, second only to Yellowstone National Park. Situated outside of Klintehamn.
Gotland is said to be the homeland of the legendary Goths, who migrated through Central Europe sacked the Roman Empire during the 5th century AD. Medieval Gotland language has many similarities with the Gothic language, though there are no first-hand historical records that the Goths really came from Gotland. In its early history, Gotland was an independent kingdom and still today, the older generations do not regard themselves as Swedes - they are nothing but Gotlanders.
Gotland was a central location of the Viking Age of the 8th to 11th centuries. While the true Vikings (pirates or mercenaries) were not from Gotland, many people on the island were sailing merchants; farmaðr. During the Hanseatic period in the Middle Ages, Visby and Gotland was an important stop on the trade routes on the Baltic Sea. The island lost its role after a Danish war in the 14th century. One of the best-known events of the island's history was Danish king Valdemar Atterdag's ransom for Visby, where he demanded large amounts of gold and silver to spare the city from being burnt down. The written records are unreliable, though.
As the Hanseatic League lost importance, the Danes took control over the island for 300 years, ending Gotland's golden age. The Dano-Swedish wars of the 16th and 17th centuries gave Sweden the dominant power of the Baltic Sea, including Gotland. The island was a poor backwater until the late 19th century, as cement manufacturing, tourism and military presence gave the island a renaissance.
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman recorded many films on Gotland and the surrounding smaller islands, especially Fårö.
The island holds many medieval memories; old farmlands and more than 90 churches, all with different architecture.
The Gotland dialect is remarkable and is easy to recognize. Still, many islanders speak and understand English.
- 1 Visby Airport (VBY IATA) (just north of Visby). The easiest way to get to the city centre is by taxi. There is a special reduced price for travelling the airport-city centre. Approx. 10 minutes.
There are flights all year to Visby from Stockholm, Gothenburg and Linköping. During summer, there's also flights from Oslo and Ängelholm. A flight from Stockholm takes about 25 minutes, from Gothenburg about 50 minutes.
Destination Gotland runs ferries from Nynäshamn and Oskarshamn to Visby all year. You can also bring your car. This is the cheapest way to get to the island. The ferry takes about three hours. The harbour is in the very centre of Visby.
Gotland is a natural destination for boating on the Baltic Sea. Safe natural harbours are few if any, but there is an adequate number of guest harbours spread along the coasts, the most busy in Visby centre.
Several international cruise lines call at Gotland.
The easiest way to see the island is by car. There are several car rentals in Visby. There are also bus services from Visby to all parts of the island, but be sure to bring a time table before you leave Visby, since many bus stops are served only a few times per day. See Kollektivtrafiken and Resrobot (a search engine for all public transport inside Sweden).
Gotland is Sweden's largest island, but still only about 120 km from north to south and 50 km across, and with relatively short distances between different sites of interest. Most roads are paved and the hills are few. Therefore, cycling is an alternative to driving. Bikes can be brought from mainland on the ferry, or rented at arrival to the island (or later, if you go to a suitable location).
- Visby is on UNESCO's World Heritage list as an "outstanding example of a Northern European walled Hanseatic town which has in a unique way preserved its townscape and its extremely valuable buildings, which in form and function clearly reflect this significant human settlement".
- There are over 90 medieval churches on the island. Most of them haven't been modernised since the 15th century.
- 1 The Lummelunda cave (Lummelundagrottan), Lummelunda Lummelundsbruk (Approx. 15 km north of Visby), ☎ . It is open to visitors during the summer. A natural reserve that hosts one of Sweden's larges caves. You can also visit the nearby industrial heritage site "Lummelunds bruk", showcasing the largest millwheel in northern Europe The cave is 140 SEK for adults and 70 SEK for children. The millwheel is 20 SEK.
Fantastic rock formations (Raukar) are found along the island's coast. These natural sculptures are made out of lime stone and created as surrounding "softer" minerals have been eroded by the sea.
- 2 Asunden rauk field (By Slite in the north-eastern of Gotland). A barren island, connected to the Gotland mainland by a bridge, with a large rauk field.
- 3 Bjärge rauk field (Located on Fårö). The largest rauk field on Gotland.
- 4 Gamle hamn rauk field (Located on Fårö). Also contains a viking era burial field.
- 5 Hammarshage hällar and Holmshällars rauk fields (In the southern part of Gotland). Two nearby rauk fileds.
- 6 Hoburgsgubben (On the southernmost tip of Gotland). The rauk is said to resemble a human face in profile from the right angle.
- 7 Kyllaj rauk field (In north-eastern Gotland).
- 8 Langhammars rauk field (Located on Fårö).
- 9 Lergrav and Husken rauk fields (On the north-eastern shore of Gotland). Two nearby rauk fileds.
- 10 Lickershamn rauk field and "Jungfrun", Lickershamn (Approx. 25 km north of Visby). There is a minor rauk-field by the village Lickershamn. However, the rauk "Jungfrun", located some 500 meters from Lickershamn, is the largest rauk on Gotland.
- From Visby going south towards Klintehamn and Burgsvik. Nice coastal roads.
- From Visby going north towards Fårösund.
- Go cycling. Gotland is a fine destination for cyclists and popular with groups or families traveling by bicycle and staying in hostels or campgrounds.
- 1 Wild Horse Safari at Lojsta Hed, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours are at 10.00 and 13.00. The tour is about 2 hours. The "Gotland pony" or the "Gotland russ" is the oldest and only wild pony breed in Sweden. In the early 20th century the breed was close to extinction, wherefore the "Lojsta Moor" reserve was set up. Still today a herd of wild russes roam the moor. During the summer the reserve can be accessed during guided tours. 200 kr per person.
- 2 Blå Lagunen (On the northern tip of Gotland). An old limestone quarry turned into a pool, 500m southwest of the sea and 250m north of Gotlands largest lake Bästeträsk.
- 3 Hörte beach (Herta beach) (On the eastern shore of Gotland). A sand beach.
- 4 Ljungarn beach (On the eastern shore of Gotland). A long sand beach.
- 5 Sandviken beach (On the eastern shore of Gotland). A broad sand beach.
- 6 Smöjen (In northeastern Gotland). An old limestone quarry turned into a pool, some 250m from the ocean.
- 7 Sudersand beach (On the southern shore of Fårö). A sand beach.
- 8 Tofta beach (18 km south of central Visby). A long sand beach. Undeniably the most popular beach on Gotland.
- 9 Åminne beach (On the eastern shore of Gotland). A broad sand beach.
- The politicians' week, (Almedalsveckan) takes place in the Almedalen park in Visby during early July. All political parties and organizations meet for debates and seminars, most of it open to the public. Big media coverage.
- The Bergman Week is an event on Fårö in late June or early July celebrating the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who spent many summers on Gotland.
- Stockholmsveckan is a week of wild parties in Visby during mid-July.
- Medieval Week (Medeltidsveckan), a large feast during a whole week in the beginning of August every year. Visitors dress in medieval clothes while visiting the medieval market or the jousting tournament. The feast is concentrated to Visby, but arrangements are held on all of Gotland. 2018 will be the 35th anniversary. Visby is crowded during this week.
- See also: Nordic cuisine
Some typical dishes from Gotland are:
- Many types of lamb. A speciality is sheep's head (lambskalle), but it is quite difficult to find it in restaurants.
- Dessert: Saffron pancake (Saffranspannkaka) with whipped cream and dewberry jam (locally called "salmbär").
Visby and the resort towns have many restaurants. These tend to be crowded at summer.
- Gotlandsdricke - local alcoholic brew. Quite difficult to get in bars and restaurants - you have to know a Gotlander to get to taste it.
- Local beer: Wisby pils or Wisby Klosteröl.
Gotland is, like Sweden in general, a safe destination. Visby is crowded during summer, with elevated risk of pickpockets and drunk brawls.
The Baltic Sea can occasionally get stormy, and perilous for small boats.
- Nynäshamn located some 60 km (37 mi) south of Stockholm, it is one of the ports connected by ferry with Visby.
- Oskarshamn in Småland, the second port connected with Visby by ferries.
- Stockholm (Bromma Airport) is only 25 minutes away by plane.
- The Archipelago Sea in south-west Finland is two days away with a sailing yacht (150 nautical miles), over the Baltic Sea.
- Estonia; Sõru in Emmaste on Hiiumaa is 110 nautical miles away (Hiiumaa is Dagö in Swedish, because of the one-day voyage from Gotland).