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14 • Vacations


Spring 2018



This granite island lies 100 kilometres east of the rest of

Denmark, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Bornholm has

gentle landscapes of rolling hills and patchwork fields, laced

with 200 kilometres of hiking and biking trails. Five thousand

years of history are manifested in runestones and traces of

Stone Age occupation scattered across the island. Northern

Europe’s largest fortress was built here in the 13th century.

This is where the Danes themselves come to vacation, so

book ahead for June and July. It’s quintessential Scandinavia

in one island getaway.


Where the Atlantic and the Arctic oceans meet, and the Gulf

Stream finally fades, is a massive island archipelago known

as The Kingdom of the Ice Bear. Half way to the North Pole

from mainland Europe, Svalbard is an Arctic wildlife paradise.

Polar bears can be viewed in pristine wilderness – indeed,

there are more polar bears than people in Svalbard. Seven

national parks, and more than 20 bird sanctuaries and nature

reserves ensure a thrilling wildlife experience with guided

tours from the main settlement of Longyearbyen, or the

cruise ships that venture to these remote islands.


Take a walk on the wild side on Heimaey, the largest and only

inhabited island of the Westman Islands, a few kilometres

off Iceland’s southern coast. The earth is alive here, due to

70 volcanoes above and below the surface of the Atlantic.

Heimaey grew more than two square kilometres in 1973

when Eldfell volcano erupted, and a 15th island was added

to the group in 1963 when Surtsey erupted from beneath

the waves. Heimaey has an equally wild Viking history – the

sagas tell of a blood revenge massacre in AD 875. Today,

wildlife is the main attraction: whales, seals and seabirds

abound, and the puffin has become the island emblem.


Come to this mid-Baltic island between Sweden and

Latvia to immerse yourself in the Viking Age. Gotland

is Sweden’s largest island and boasts castles, churches,

runestones and, it is rumoured, trolls. It is also Sweden’s

sunniest island, with 800 kilometres of craggy coastline

and beaches. The largest town, Visby, is a UNESCO World

Heritage site. Scandinavia’s best preserved medieval

town has more than three kilometres of walls that enclose

wooden houses and cobbled streets leading down to the

medieval harbour. You can almost see the Viking longships

bobbing on the Baltic.


This archipelago lies in the Baltic Sea midway between Finland

and Sweden, and has been fought over by these two countries for

centuries. Aland is currently Finnish, but the people speak Swedish

and the islands have a high degree of autonomy, even issuing their

own postage stamps. There are more than 6,500 named islands but

few are inhabited – so there’s lots of scope to find an island to yourself.

Mariehamn is the main settlement and its Maritime Quarter is a rich mix

of traditional handicrafts, boat-building and even a smithy. The ruined

medieval castle of Kastelholm was once home to Swedish kings who

ruled the combined kingdom of Finland and Sweden.


Cool Islands of Scandinavia

By Chris Robinson

The Scandinavian countries are amongst the coolest destinations for 2018.

Each has islands which are easily visited, and may be the highlight

of your Scandinavian trip. Here are our recommendations.