Gotland is Sweden’s biggest island and also the favorite one for Swedes to visit during the summer. The reason why is because unlike Sweden’s mainland, it has an exotic vibe. It is described as Sweden’s Mallorca/treasure. And as a charming, idyllic place by other travel guides.
Gotland offers something for everyone. For those who are active and would like to explore the island by bike. For the spontaneous type who likes to drive around and stop wherever they please. Those who want to shop for Swedish handicraft or branded clothes. Maybe you like delicious food, the beach, birds, architecture, historical cities, local art or plants. Do you enjoy camping or would like to hire a cottage? But hotels are also on the menu, of course.
In this travel guide you can read about the places that are most talked about. And the places that are considered to make Gotland what it is.
It is possible to take the ferry to and from Gotland during these times. But please keep in mind to travel with responsibility. Such as keeping social distancing because of Covid-19, washing hands and staying home if sick.
- The translation of Gotland is goodland. Since “gott” in Swedish means good/delicious. Once upon a time it was also spelled with two T:s.
Visby is a hanseatic town and a culture heritage. The city is listed by UNESCO since 1995. The inner city may be most famous as the medieval town but the organization has origins from the Viking age. The ring-wall, church ruins, street grid and over 200 houses with its medieval brickwork is what gives Visby its medieval vibe.
The city is sometimes called “The medieval Manhattan” because it was an important center for trading during medieval times. Also because it is listed by UNESCO.
Even though the history of the city is present wherever you go. Visby is also very modern. Because of its shopping opportunities, the many restaurants, nightclubs and bars.
Some of the many things to see: the ring-wall, the cathedral, the ruins, the botanical garden, Gotlands museum, Fiskargränd (an alley full of roses during the summer) and Almedalen (that used to be the area for the medieval harbour, today a park).
The town is recommended to be explored by foot.
Medieval festival every year
Visby has a popular festival called “medeltidsveckan/medieval week” in august. When the city offers medieval markets, tournaments, fireshows and much more.
The nature reserve Langhammars
The most famous sea stacks can be found in “Langhammars”, a nature reserve located on Fårö. But they can be seen along the coast in any direction you travel.
What are sea stacks?
The sea stacks on Gotland may be what the island is most famous for. Sea stacks are made of limestone that has been shaped by erosion.
Sea stacks are worth seeing, not just because of their beauty, but because they are part of the world’s history. These natural phenomena were created millions of years ago, when what we today call Gotland, was a coral reef located at the equator.
- The first scientist to describe sea stacks through writings was Carl von Linne, he called them “giant stones”.
Explore Lummelunda Cave
Lummelundacave is said to be Swedens most spectacular cave. With thousands of visitors every year.
“Grottan Lummelunda” offers guided tours and guided adventures. The guided tour will take you 400 million years back in time. You will be able to see stalactites and fossils. Other guided tours/adventures are described below.
The little cave adventure tour
Wade in underground streams, crawl through cave passages. And float over deep water in tiny boats.
The big cave adventure tour
Get 500 meters inside the cave, to parts not many have been to. Get deep under the ground. Wade in underground streams, crawl through cave passages. And float over deep water in tiny boats.
The darkened tour
Walk alongside cave passages in the dark, with torches as the only light source. A different experience were you may feel your senses sharpen.
A safe and playful tour in the underground, with the company of a guide, of course.
The beach of Sudersand
Sudersand is a beach that yearly gets elected to one of Sweden’s top 5 beaches. It is considered to be the most beautiful beach on Gotland.
It is a good beach for families with children, since the water is shallow. And there is a big playground nearby. There is also gym, adventure, golf, pool, relaxation, sauna and woodbarrels, padeltrack in the area.
The gym offers activities like yoga on the beach, qigong, boot camp, swimming school, access to the tennis-court and the list goes on.
The sea stack area Hoburgen
Hoburgen is a sea stack area and an excursion goal, at the southest end of Gotland. The place is most famous for Gotlands famous sea stack called “Hoburgsgubben”. The sea stack looks like a man’s face from a certain angle. That is how it got its name, since “Gubbe” means old man in Swedish.
During summertime it is possible to eat at the restaurant, bar and cafe “Majstre”. The area is also a nice picnic place because of its view over the Baltic sea. Tourists come here to enjoy the landscape and the view.
You can get here by car or bike.
The island Stora Karlsö
Stora Karlsö is an Island and a nature reserve belonging to Gotland. It lies approximately 6 kilometres beyond Gotland’s west coast. You get here by boat from “Klintehamn”, which takes 30 minutes. A guided tour is included in the price, so when you arrive, knowledgeable guides will show you around. Tell you about the history and nature of the island. After the tour, you will be able to eat on the restaurant, visit the museum, swim or just relax.
The day trip to “Stora Karlsö” lasts for about 4,5 hours. But don’t worry, if you like the atmosphere, you could ask the hostel if there are rooms available for the night. If you know you would like to stay beforehand, it is possible to book that altogether with the trip. You could choose to stay in the lighthouse or at the hostel close to the beach.
“Stora Karlsö” is one of Gotland’s best excursion goals. Many people come here to experience the calmness of the island. Or to see the peculiar landscape it offers. With its mighty cliffs and dramatic nature. The island is also full of cultural history, fossils and tourist attractions considered to be odd.
Many birdwatchers choose to come here because of its rich birdlife. In June-July it is possible to see thousands of young birds jumping off the cliffs learning to fly.
Trips to “Stora Karlsö” are available for visitors from May-August.
The Island has left many traces of human activities, from the stone age until now.
- The island is one of the world’s oldest nature conservation centers.
- The island is declared as a national interest, not just for its outdoor life and nature conservation but also for its cultural heritage care.
The 92 medieval churches
No other province in Sweden has as many medieval churches as Gotland. Which has 92. Beyond that number, there are 3 abandoned churches. They are: “Gann”, “Bara” and “Gufjaun.”
To not have seen any church during your visit would almost be impossible, since there is one in every parish.
Cool to know
- The abandoned churches in Visby is spoken about as ruins. Churches located on the countryside are being called abandoned churches.
The peninsula Närsholmen
Närsholmen is a flat peninsula that lies 4km southeast of the church of “När”. It is also a nature reserve that offers nature and cultural experiences year round. Its rich birdlife makes it one of Sweden’s best places for birdwatching.
Here are things to do, like take a dip in the ocean, picnic, wander along the waterside, take walks along limestone beaches with sea stacks, kitesurfing. If you are into food there are culinary experiences too. You can find it at the restaurants located in “När”, “Burs” and “Ljugarn”. There is also a bakery, farm shops, a grocery store and a fish- smokehouse nearby.
If you can’t get enough, there are rooms to stay in at the lighthouse. The accommodation is called “STF Närsholmen fyr & logi”.
- In 1872, the light house was raised. Today, a notable building by the state.
Important to know
- Parts of Närsholmen are not accessible during the 15th of March-15 July. Because of birds laying eggs.
The nature reserve Ekstakusten
Ekstakusten is a nature reserve that stretches from “Djupvik” to “Hammarudden”. It is said to have Gotlands most amazing view. From here you can see the islands “karlsöarna”.
If you start from “Djupvik”, you will experience the nature reserve, Sweden’s most beautiful bike/car/trek route. And pass by various tourist attractions like: an old mill, the bunkers of the coast artillery, 2 fishing villages. The fishing villages are called “Djupvik” and “Kronvald”.
History of the fishing villages
“Kronvald” is a small fishing village that used to be bigger. The sheds are made of wood and are mainly from the 18th hundreds. It was here the danish king “Valdemar Atterdag” and his army got ashore in 1361, according to legends.
Many fishers during the 19th hundred decided to fish at “Djupvik” instead of “Kronvald”. Because the conditions there got better.
Most of the sheds in “Djupvik” were built between 1920 and 1960. Some from the beginning of the 19th and 18th hundreds.
- There are more than 200 fishing villages around the Gotlands coast.
Gotlands museum Fornsalen
Fornsalen is Gotland’s cultural- historical museum. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island. And the most visited regional museum in Sweden. Every year, about 350 000 people visit at least one tourist attraction the museum offers.
This is for you who are curious about the history, art, nature and cultural heritage of Gotland. Here you can see: silver treasures from the viking age, picture stones unique to this world, sculptures from churches, the hedgehog- girl from the stone age (a skeleton), medieval armors from the danish occupation 1361 and more. You can also deep dive to learn more about the coral reef which is the base of Gotland.
It is possible to spend an hour here if you are in a rush. But there is enough to see for you to take your time as well. It is also family friendly, since there is an exhibition and playground for kids.
The museum is open year round.
- The museum was founded in 1875.
Typical food on Gotland
If you want to try something typical for Gotland, choose a dish with lamb. Or try local flavors like ramson, truffle and kajp (wild onion). Try the saffron pancake with whipped cream and dewberry jam. It is a popular dessert. You can find the many restaurants at: Strandgatan, Wallers plats, Donners plats and Stora torget.
- Dewberries are blue raspberries called “salmbär” on Gotland.
How to get here
You can take the ferry to Gotland and Visby from “Nynäshamn” or “Oskarshamn”. The ferry is available year round and takes 3 hours. Book ferry at Destination Gotland.
How to get around
It is easy to get around on Gotland.
You can hire bikes in Visby or at other places. There are almost no hills here which makes the island bike-friendly. The cycle lanes are good and the distances short. It is a quick, easy and environmental way to experience Gotland.
You can do this at the airport, the harbour of Visby or at the many gas stations. The roads are few and there are many road signs to follow.
There are bus routes around the whole island.
Of course, there is much more to see and explore than these tips. And we all have different interests. So now that you know more about what Gotland has to offer, what are you interested of doing or seeing? Would you like to go by bike, bus or car? Or maybe just visit Visby for the weekend. The choices are yours. Have a magical trip.