Swedish Islands

Swedish islands: Exploring the incredible Swedish archipelagos

How many Swedish islands would you imagine are peppered throughout the Scandinavian landscape? When most people think of Sweden, they imagine unique holiday celebrations, interior designers, and meatballs.

Few people realize there are more than 260,000 islands in Sweden.

Crucially, only a handful of the islands in Sweden are actually inhabited (less than 1000). The total area of all these mini islands only covers around 1.2 million hectares too, which is around 3% of Sweden’s total land area overall.

The unique structure of Sweden has a huge impact on the lifestyle and culture of the locals. Most Swedes spend their summers sailing and hopping from one destination to the next, checking out the hospitality of their neighbors.

If you’re planning on making the trip to Sweden yourself, you might be keen to learn more about the Swedish islands on offer first. After all, there’s a world of experiences waiting outside of Stockholm.

How many islands does Sweden have?

So, how many islands are in Sweden exactly?

At last count, in 2013, Sweden had approximately 267,570 islands, according to Wikipedia. Depending on where you do your research, there are some variations in what people identify as an official “island”.

One thing is for sure — Sweden is home to the largest number of islands worldwide. The two runners up, Finland (188,000), and Norway (55,000) are also from the Scandinavian region. With Canada, these four locations are leaps and bounds ahead of any other country for island life.

Most of the islands in Sweden are in Norbotten County, Stockholm County, or Vastra Gotraland County. Crucially, only 0.4% of the islands are populated, and most are considered too small, or not equipped to support a human population.

What are Swedish archipelagos?

Swedish archipelagos are specific groups of islands which fall under the same set of rules or jurisdiction. In Sweden, the Stockholm archipelago is the largest — it’s also the second largest archipelago in the Baltic Sea overall.

The Stockholm archipelago extends around 60km from Stockholm, following the Uppland and Sodermanland provinces’ coastland. The little islands off Sweden can be an excellent place to visit if you’re looking for a way to transform your vacation with some unique experiences.

Archipelagos in Sweden are often home to a host of fishing, sailing, and nature-loving activities.

Aside from the Stockholm archipelago, you can also visit the Gothenburg archipelago, or the archipelago of Ostergotland, on the west coast of Sweden.

Swedish Islands

How do you get to a Swedish island?

If you want to live like the locals in Sweden, island hopping is a must. Many families in the country prefer to stay at home for their vacation, exploring the Stockholm archipelago on the western coast.

Notably, while the Stockholm archipelago gets the most attention from travel companies and the media, there’s something to be said for the beautiful islands located outside of this region too.

For visitation purposes, the west archipelago in Sweden is generally the easiest to visit. This destination stretches from the Norwegian border to Gothenburg. For the most part, there are only two ways to get to one of the Swedish islands.

You may be able to take a small flight in some cases, but it’s rare to find a passenger plane to take you direct to an island, so a helicopter is more likely.

The most common way to visit a Swedish island is to take a boat. This way, you get to combine the fun of sailing in Sweden (something the locals love), without the cost of flying.

In some cases, you might even be able to use a self-guided kayaking tour, or a professionally guided kayaking adventure through some of the islands of the archipelago.

If you have your own wheels, it’s possible to drive to some of the islands mentioned above with the help of a boat. You’ll also be able to find a range of bus and ferry networks offered by Swedish public transport.

Get yourself a Vasttrafik travel card to save some cash. 

The best Swedish islands to visit

So, which Swedish islands should you be checking out?

1. Finnhamn

Enjoy the beauty and relaxation of the Stockholm archipelago at Finnhamn. This island represents the epitome of lazy Swedish summers. Though there’s very little to do in terms of activities, and no huge supermarket to shop at, you can spend your days simply walking around the stunning locations.

There’s only a single hostel on the island, so you won’t have trouble deciding where you’re going to stay, but you can find some self-catering cabins too. Ferries are available from central Stockholm with a travel time of around three to four hours.

Swedish Islands

2. Smögen

Feel like a spot of fishing? Smögen is the picture-perfect island designed for lazy morning strolls and amazing seafood snacks. The famous boardwalk is packed with shops and bars, attracting plenty of tourists during the Summer months.

Since Smögen is connected to the mainland via bridge, it’s easy to get to with a bike or car.

There’s also the option to take a ferry from Smögen to the nature preserve of Hållö, where you’ll find plenty of birdwatching opportunities and a youth hostel. There’s also a handful of hotels and small places to stay in Smögen.

3. Gällnö

If you’re looking for a quiet, dreamy location to relax for a day or two, Gällnö could be an ideal choice. About two hours from Stockholm by boat, Gällnö is a dedicated nature reserve, where you can explore pine forests packed full of wild deer.

Hop into a ferry from Stockholm to Gallno.

There isn’t a great deal of activities on offer at Gällnö, other than cycling and walking, but you can always take a dip at one of the sandy beaches in Summer. There are also beautiful cherry and apple orchards to explore, and the exquisite Gallno hostel for accommodation.

If you’d prefer, there are various wooden cabins available too.

4. Käringön

Available to reach by passenger ferry from Tuvesvik, the Swedish island of Käringön is completely free of any cars, so it’s great for getting away from city vibes. There are countless places to swim, relax, and explore nature, with beautiful trails.

You’ll also find a bathhouse with sunbathing areas for both men and women.

There’s a nude beach towards the southwest of the island, and a kid-friendly swimming spot elsewhere on the island. There’s plenty of places for eating and sleeping too, as Käringön is one of the few Swedish islands to develop a strong tourism scene.

For somewhere to stay, try the Hotel Käringön.

Swedish Islands

5. Gotland

With plenty of attractive accommodation options to choose from, Gotland is perhaps one of the most popular, and best-known Swedish islands. The region, surrounded by the Baltic Sea, is a stunning rural island offering sandy beaches, farm scenery, and wild seascapes.

Most people visit to check out the town of Visby, full of half-timbered buildings.

Back in the countryside, you’ll have plenty of chances to hike, swim, and bike to spend your time. Just try to avoid the island in late July, when rich kids come to Visby to party.

There are year-round ferry services to Gotland operated by “Destination Gotland”, from Stockholm, and Oskarshamn. Most routes take around 3-4 hours.

6. Marstrand

Officially regarded “Sweden’s sailing capital”, Marstrand is on the Western side of the country. There are always boats bobbing around in the water, and the island has a unique charm to it, with rows of terracotta-topped roofs.

Marstrand is unique because it actually spans two islands linked together by a ferry. There’s even an ancient stone fort on one of the islands.

For a historical experience, try staying in the Soldatens Bed and Breakfast or Marstrand Havshotel. You can get busses to Marstrand from Gothenburg, making it pretty easy to visit.

7. Tjörn

A huge bridge attaches the location of Stenungsund on the Swedish mainland to the island of Tjörn. This destination is usually particularly appealing to photographers and artists, thanks to its dramatic landscapes, and beautiful watercolor museum.

Sailors also like visiting Tjörn, mostly when the Tjörn Runt sailing competition is underway.

The main settlement of the island is located in Skärhamn, which includes the Nordiska Akvarellmuseet waterside building exhibiting regional and international artists. The Rjorn Express bus runs directly from Gothenburg and calls at Skarhamn too.

There are several holiday homes available where you can stay.

Swedish Islands

8. Öland

Covered in untouched beaches, beautiful seaside destinations and amazing culture, Öland is a must-see destination for local Swedish holidaymakers. The Öland island links back to the mainline with a single road bridge.

This is a top destination for caravan users, and it’s great for history buffs too, with a royal residence, a castle, and a UNESCO world heritage site featuring 5,000 years of history.

If you’re looking for somewhere comfortable to relax, there are plenty of places to stay in Öland, from beachfront camping destinations to beautiful hotels. You can also visit this region pretty easily with trains and planes from Stockholm to Kalmar, then a quick bus ride over the bridge.

9. Väderöarna

Otherwise known as “The weather islands”, Väderöarna is a series of 100 or so islands packed with raw, natural beauty. If you’re in search of true tranquility, these locations are generally more peaceful than the islands closer to the mainland.

Most of the islands are completely empty, so you won’t have to worry about any crowds.

There’s a guesthouse on Storo island you can visit for yummy food. However, it’s best to be prepared for wind and rain in this part of Sweden, as the weather isn’t always ideal. You can visit using small boats travelling from the north of Gothenburg.

10. Åstol and Dyrön

Situated close to Tjorn, Åstol and Dyrön are two islands off Sweden often visited in tandem. Both islands are completely car free, so you can get a glimpse of what remote Swedish living is really all about.

The main draw of Åstol is usually the food, with the Rokeri summertime restaurant and smokehouse churning out amazing meals.

Dyron is a place more suited to agricultural buffs, there are plenty of wonderful walking trails, a great harbor, and a sauna to visit too. You’ll also get some wonderful views of nearby islands from here.

You can visit either island by passenger ferry in Ronnang,

11. Holmön

Placed within the Swedish gulf leading to Finland, Holmön can be found within the selection of forested Swedish islands in Holmöarna. There are only around 80 people living here, and natural beauty is rife.

You’ll have beaches and forests to explore, hiking trails to challenge your muscles, and birdwatching opportunities too.

The main island of Holmön has its own boating museum if you want to check out some history. The ferries, connecting Norrfjärden and Byviken will get you there in no time. Plus, if it’s cold enough and the sea is frozen, you’ll also be able to consider using a snowmobile.

Swedish Islands

12. Klädesholmen

If you’re a fan of Seafood or want to explore the love of herring shared by the Swedish locals, Klädesholmen is the island in Sweden for you. This destination is reachable via a bridge from the Swedish island of Tjorn.

The picture-perfect spot used to be packed full of herring processing factories, but this isn’t the case today.

If you want to learn more about Sweden’s favorite fish, you can check out the local herring museum. You’ll also be able to stay at one of the most interesting hotels in Sweden — the floating “Salt and Sill”.

13. Visingsö

Drifting in the middle of the second biggest lake in Sweden, Visingsö used to be the home of official Swedish kings. Today, the island is partially covered in oak trees, which are less common in the Swedish forest landscape.

Back in the 19th century, stories say the Swedish navy planted hundreds of saplings to use the wood for boats. Today, the grand oaks are huge.

The Swedish island of Visingsö has more than enough historical sights and beaches for a few days of exploration, and the town of Gränna on the mainland is a great place to shop for candy. Check out the Visingsö Vandrarhem if you’re looking for a hotel.

Transportation is easy, with car ferries from Granna taking around 25 minutes to reach your destination.

14. Brännö

Brännö is one of the top car-free islands you’ll be able to reach using Gothenburg’s public transport network. You can borrow a bike outside of the ferry and head out to some of the delightful forest areas and swimming spots.

When it’s warm enough in the summer, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for a seaside picnic, with spectacular views.

The Branno Varv bed and breakfast is one of the top places to visit in the region, with a stunning garden and outdoor hot tubs. You can get here using a tram from central Gothenburg to get to Saltholmen, then take the ferry to the island.

Swedish Islands

15. Hallands Väderö

The eye-catching island of Hallands Väderö is located on the Bjare peninsula in Sweden’s west coast. This attractive nature reserve is home to beautiful crystal-clear water and white sandy beaches.

You’ll also have an excellent opportunity to do some bird watching here, with a large number of feathered friends to discover.

For some extra interactions with wildlife, take one of the regular 90-minute seal safaris leaving from Torekov, and head around the island beyond the seal colony. You’ll have a handful of places to stay when visiting Hallands Väderö, including a hostel and campsite, or a few rentable apartments.

Boats leave from Torekov to Hallands Väderö on a regular basis.

16. Gotska Sandön

For a truly adventurous experience, it’s hard to go wrong with a trip to Gotska Sandön. This beautiful sandy island is about 40km north of Gotland, and it’s also a protected nature reserve, where you’ll find stunning rolling dunes, pristine beaches, and seal watching.

If you’re a camping enthusiast, you can check out one of the designated areas for pitching a tent. Just make sure you’re following the basic rules for camping in Sweden.

You’ll also need to take one of the public ferries from Nynäshamn to visit, which only run at certain times of the year, between May and September.

17. Trysunda

Approximately 130km from Sundsvall, on the “High Coast” world heritage site, the Trysunda destination is the most beautiful island in Sweden according to many locals. This amazing region is brimming with beautiful wooden cottages, shallow pebble beaches, and more.

Although this Swedish island is one of the northernmost options on this list, it can still be quite warm in summer.

The Trysunda region comes with a few hostels and self-catering cottages you can rent, including the very affordable Trysunda Vandrarhem.

Exploring islands in Sweden

As you can see, there’s no shortage of Swedish islands available for exploration in Sweden, if you’re looking for a way to get outside of the mainland for some extra adventures. The Swedish islands listed above have something for everyone, so you’re sure to find a location to match your tastes.

Our best advice is to make sure you do plenty of research beforehand, so you know how to get to the region you want to visit, and where you’re going to stay.

There’s usually quite a number of ferries, busses, and other forms of local transport available around Sweden to help you explore both the mainland and the surrounding islands. There are also roads to a number of the islands mentioned above, which may allow you to visit using your car or campervan.

Just be aware some Swedish islands have no cars or roads at all, so it’s important to plan for a lot of walking and cycling in these spaces.

Don’t forget to check out the weather before you visit too. The most northern islands in Sweden can be quite cold during the winter months of the year, so you may need to wrap up extra warm.

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