Every year, the Swedish royal family spends their summer vacation on Öland, Sweden's second largest island after Gotland. And unfortunately misses spring there, when hundreds of migratory birds and seas of wild orchids adorn Öland.
During the bathing season, there are beautiful beaches, of which there are plenty on the 137-kilometer-long Baltic Sea island. It has the most hours of sunshine in Sweden, cycling and hiking trails lead through diverse landscapes: large forests, flowering meadows, wetlands - and the Stora Alvaret.
This flat, summer-dry karst and heath landscape is considered the largest alvar area in the world, i.e. almost treeless land. With the surrounding areas, it is part of the Unesco World Heritage called Agricultural Landscape South Öland, which covers over a third of the island. Here vacationers discover a very unique animal and plant world, such as the yellow blooming Öland sunrose, which only grows here in the world.
Culturally, Öland has a lot to offer. Stone Age cult sites, Iron Age hill forts and medieval fortified churches give the Baltic Sea island a mysterious flair. In the ruins of Borgholm Castle, visitors experience more than 800 years of history, in the open-air museum Himmelsberga rural island culture, the Borgholm City Museum also shows archaeological finds.
Contemporary art is offered by the minimalist glass buildings of the Vida Museum and many galleries and studios: Because of its beautiful landscapes and lighting conditions, Öland has always attracted artists and proudly calls itself "Provence of the North".
They are Öland's landmarks: around 400 historic windmills dot the landscape. Once there were over 2000. Because on the island, whose main income was agriculture for a long time (and still is next to tourism), windmills were popular as a status symbol for farmers in the 1800s and practical because of the windy location. Those who could afford one for their own use, mainly wooden post mills or box mills (called tree stump mills here), but also a few dutch mills.
Many have been demolished, but hundreds of beautiful specimens are being cared for today, some of which are open to visitors. For example, the Jordhamn scouring mill, built in 1905 for grinding limestone, is now the only one of its kind in Sweden. Other highlights include the Dutch mill Sandviks Kvarn (Northern Europe's largest windmill), the 'mill king' Björnhovda Kvarnar (Scandinavia's largest post mill) and the impressive rows of five or seven mills at Lerkaka or Störlinge.
"Come to Solliden and enjoy the wonderful variety of flowers and plants!" - Carl Gustaf, King of Sweden, should accept the invitation: his summer palace, built in 1906 by his great-grandfather Gustaf V, is surrounded by a huge park in Italy surrounded style. The gates are open to visitors from the beginning of May to the end of September, and cakes are served in the “Kaffetorpet” café. Only the interior of the royal summer residence remains private.
The family then celebrates Crown Princess Victoria's birthday on July 14 with the Victoria Days, during the "Solliden Sessions" public concerts take place in the "Kaffetorpet", hundreds of onlookers and guests travel regularly.
But a visit to the castle gardens is also worthwhile in other ways. It was created in 1906 by the then Queen, who was also named Victoria. Inspired by the Italian villa of her doctor and friend Axel Munthe, she wanted a similar retreat with Mediterranean plants. The fact that these still thrive on Öland is a seal of quality for Sweden's sunny island.
Holidaymakers on Öland can of course enjoy fresh Baltic Sea fish. The island-typical specialty, however, comes from the field: Potato dumplings, filled with diced onions and bacon, served with lingonberry compote – they are called Kroppkakor.
Das Restaurant „Arontorps Body Cookies
Local ingredients, which are plentiful thanks to the mild climate, are popular in Öland's restaurants, for traditional dishes as well as Scandinavian-modern dishes. This is also the case in the “Hotell Borgholm”, which is recommended by the “Michelin Guide” for its refined cuisine.
You have to gasp up 197 steps to conquer Sweden's highest lighthouse - the "Langen Jan" (Långe Jahn), built in 1785 at the southern tip of Öland. But it's worth it: the view from the top is spectacular. The 41.6 meter high tower, whose beacon is still in operation today, is located in the Ottenby nature reserve, known for its rich birdlife.
140 bird species can be observed here, from the osprey to the oriole. Many visitors fall in love with nature and apply to volunteer at Ottenby Fågelstation to stay longer.
Not quite as high, but also worth the climb is the little brother of "Langen Jan" - the "Lange Erik" on the northern tip of Öland. After all, it towers 32 meters and has “only” 138 steps.
"The east coast of Öland is green and beautiful, but dangerous"
The Swedish bestselling author Johan Theorin (born 1963) loves the island where he has spent every summer since childhood - and made it the setting for his "Öland" thriller and the other three books in the award-winning Öland series. On his website, too, he celebrates above all the mythical and gloomy attractions of the sun-drenched holiday island - such as the east coast, where "many ships have been smashed by the waves over the years".
When wreck diving off Öland, vacationers can enter a mysterious world: sunken ships, submarines and airplanes are among the objects that can be discovered in the water. Perfect visibility, a fascinating underwater world with many interesting fish species and a good range of diving centres, schools and tour operators make Öland one of the best diving destinations in the Baltic Sea.
Bizarre, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.