Things to do
Three Swedish national parks showcasing nature at its finest
A flower-filled island outside of Stockholm, a beach paradise in the middle of the Baltic Sea and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with spectacular coastal views of the north – three national parks that exemplify the diverse landscapes of Sweden.
The 30 national parks in Sweden preserve the rich natural heritage that has helped shape the country’s nature-loving culture.
These three national parks all offer stunning scenery, unique wildlife and pristine nature – ideal settings for an unforgettable holiday:
Ängsö National Park – a floral paradise in the Stockholm archipelago
The coastal region of Roslagen, in the northern part of the Stockholm archipelago, is known for its natural beauty and abundant wildflower meadows. One of the best locations to witness this impressive floral display is at Ängsö National Park, a small island eight kilometres off the coast. In the early spring, white wood anemones blanket the ground, and a mass flowering of elderflower orchids occurs annually between mid-May and mid-June. In total, more than 400 species of wildflowers grow in the fertile meadowland and wooded pastures.
Ängsö was one of Sweden’s original national parks, established in 1909 to help preserve the region’s traditional farmland. The national park’s woodlands provide a welcoming habitat for a wide range of bird species, including the large sea eagles that shelter in the old-growth forest. To protect these winged inhabitants, much of the eastern side of the island is a bird sanctuary, closed to the public between early February and mid-August.
There are walking paths throughout the island and wet sections are equipped with wooden planks to make crossing easy. In the dry summer months, wheelchairs and prams can travel most of the paths. Overnight stays are not permitted on the island. However, there are grilling facilities, rest spots and toilets throughout the park.
Ferries operated by Waxholmsbolaget run daily from Strömkajen in Stockholm during the spring and summer months.
Gotska Sandön National Park – an island escape in the middle of the Baltic Sea
Gotska Sandön National Park has more of a tropical island feel than an islet in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The water is crystal clear, and the sand is powder soft, with beaches stretching some 30 kilometres around the rim of the island.
Gotska Sandön is characterised by its sandy dunes and dense green pine forest, with 60 km of hiking trails. A colony of grey seals calls the northern beaches home, and migratory birds flock to the island every spring. In addition to the impressive flora and fauna, the national park also offers a few cultural sights– such as the restored 19th-century village Fyrbyn, as well as an 18th-century homestead and four lighthouses.
In Fyrbyn, you’ll find the Naturum visitors’ centre and museum. You can even rent one of the old lighthouse keepers’ residences as overnight accommodation. There is a camping area where you can pitch your own tent or rent one. They also have two- to four-bedroom cottages on the site.
Despite being the most isolated island in the Baltic Sea (located 90 km from Sweden’s south-eastern coast and almost 40 km north of Gotland), Gotska Sandön is easily reached by ferry from Fårösund in Gotland or Nynäshamn in Stockholm. Ferries run regularly between late May and early September.
Skuleskogen National Park – a breathtaking landscape on the scenic High Coast
Skuleskogen National Park is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Höga Kusten (The High Coast). The dramatic landscape of this stretch of coastline – the world’s highest – was shaped by retreating glaciers nearly 10,000 years ago. Red granite cliffs rise high above sea level blanketed in dense old-growth forest, and tranquil lakes and unique geological formations add to the appeal of this popular destination.
Thirty kilometres of hiking trails wind through the park, at times taking you through the heart of towering pine forests, and at others bringing you to some of the most spectacular viewpoints on the coast. One must-visit attraction is Slåttsdalsskrevan, a narrow 200-metre-long crevice with 30-metre-high granite walls extending upwards on either side. The granite passageway is covered with vibrant green moss and ferns, and upon exiting, you’ll be treated to an incredible vista.
Camping and grilling are allowed in designated areas., There are many accommodation options in Örnsköldsvik and other nearby towns.
Skuleskogen National Park is located 500 km north of Stockholm. The nearest town is Örnsköldsvik, which can be reached by train from Stockholm, Sundsvall or Umeå. From there, buses run regularly to the various entrances of the park.