Do you have a desire to see a unique landscape, do you love the sea and do you want to get away from the city, while at the same time your time and your purse are limited? Then the perfect solution is to go to Öland, sister island to the famous, sight-studded Gotland in the Baltic. Öland is often overlooked, since it is accessed by a bridge from Kalmar (island fans wrinkle their noses immediately at this), since there are no spectacular medieval city walls and since it is simply not as well known.
But there are distinct advantages:
It’s easy to get there and you don’t have to wait for an expensive ferry boat to leave.
There are buses from Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast, that will take you over the 6 km long, spectacular bridge, but nobody prevents you from renting a bike in Kalmar and pedal yourself over.
The island is smaller than Gotland. You are nowhere far from the sea. In fact, at any point it would be possible to walk to the coast, since this long and narrow island is less than 20 km wide at its widest. Going about on a bicycle is easy, since the island is rather flat, and in a few day´s time you will have covered most of the towns and villages in a very cheap and efficient way. (But yes, there are buses and of course you may take your own car). The manageable size will give you the satisfaction of having “covered” Öland and gotten to know it.
Since Öland is a favorite place for Swedish families to go, there are campsites, hostels and cabins for rent almost everywhere, and the first two alternatives are distinctly purse friendly. And since the tourists mainly will be Swedish where you choose to stay, you have an excellent chance at making new, Swedish friends.
The beaches are just as good as on Gotland (even better, some would say) and the water is just as cold. The beach of Böda on the east coast is Sweden’s longest sandy beach, and there is a huge camping ground and cabins for rent nearby. This is a paradise for the family with children. No need only to stay on the beach, though – on the north tip of the bay you’ll find a small steam train (remnants of a transport railway for timber) that takes you on a trip through a forest that is a part of an ecological park. Part of it is called the “Forest of the trolls” where the wind-sculpted old trees with ivy clinging to them are left in peace. Rare orchids, a guided tour through Iron Age sites and the possibility to stay overnight in an isolated cabin in the woods (they are called “Hermit’s huts”) are other attractions of the park. Want to know more? Go to the internet site (English available) www.
sveaskog.se/Jakt-fiske-och-friluftsliv/Besoksomraden/Ekoparker/Ekopark-Boda/ and read about the park or book your hut!
Nature, of course, is Ölands prime attraction. After exploring the north you might want to cross the Stora Alvar (Big Alvar, the word alvar meaning a soil type that is dominated by limestone and dry ground), a steppe-like landscape in the south. This heath is about 40 km long and 10 km wide, it has been and is used for grazing, and has evolved into a landscape unique in Europe. Shallow lakes and meadows full of orchids provide variety, and there are lots of birds. In the autumn this a famous resting place for cranes. This area has been used from the Stone Age on, and prehistoric graves can often be seen a distance away on the flat horizon. You could also visit one of the Iron Age defense structures called Fornborgar (ancient castles), used as refuges in times of war and unrest. The most famous, Eketorp , is situated on the Alvar and contains reconstructed houses as well as a museum. The best experience is actually to walk or to bike, leaving the road to explore whenever you see something interesting.
But there is more much more to visit on Öland. The main town Borgholm has an excellent museum that provides an insight into the archaeology of Öland, as well as the maritime history in later times. There are art galleries, magnificent old summer villas in wood and an old shipping storehouse said to be the oldest building on the island. Take a guided tour through the castle overlooking the town, or go to the royal summer residence Solliden south of Borgholm! Solliden is a relatively new castle, finished in 1906, and it looks more like a grand Mediterranean villa. You can visit some parts of the castle, and if you arrive during the time of the Öland harvest festival you might get a glimpse of the royal family, and certainly a very nice lunch in the café. The park is rightly famous, too.
What more? The two lighthouses, one at each tip of the island, are popular goals for visitors who want a spectacular view, and almost every small village is a nice place to stop for a stroll, a visit to an old church, some special archaeological site or just a pleasant break in idyllic surroundings. And should the children pester you for more mundane pleasures, take them to the Öland Zoo and Amusement park at Färjestaden (where the bridge from the mainland reaches Öland) to look at animals, splash about in the Water park or go on breathtaking rides, before you leave the island.