14 • Vacations
DENMARK – BORNHOLM
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.
NORWAY – SVALBARD ARCHIPELAGO
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.
ICELAND – HEIMAEY ISLAND
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.
SWEDEN – GOTLAND
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.
FINLAND – ALAND
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.