Is there summer in Sweden? Why yes there is, and I experienced it firsthand two years ago. It may not have been hot but it’s warm and often it’s even sunny — especially in the South. While some Swedes go really far South (hopping on flights to the Mediterranean), many prefer to drive to the country’s southeastern tip, Österlen. Located in the fabled Skåne province, this region offers rolling hills of pristine farmland fringed by sandy Baltic beaches. The emphasis here is on life’s simpler pleasures, and that’s what’s made it a popular summer-cottage destination for decades. But if you’re eager to explore, as we were when we stayed with friends in the tiny village of Sankt Olof, there’s plenty to see and do.
The southernmost point in Sweden, Sandhammaren (see above photo) boasts an extremely long stretch of soft, white sand that tourism materials tout as the “World’s Largest Sandbox.” Regardless of the veracity of that claim, the beach sure does feel endless. “Sand Hammer,” as it translates in English, is considered by most to be the country’s best beach. The dark blue Baltic Sea felt surprisingly warm when I dipped my toes in but, alas, I still felt too chilled by the air temperature to venture a swim. I did, however, enjoy exploring the beach’s grassy dunes, which offer an excellent spot for picnics.
Sweden has its own version of Stonehenge, Ales Stenar, which means Ale’s Stones. This mysterious megalithic monument made big news earlier this year when they unearthed a 5,500-year-old tomb. While little is still known about these 59 massive boulders arranged in a 200-foot oval (said to be in the shape of ship), one thing is certain: whoever set up Ales Stenar chose a spectacular setting. It’s about a 10-minute walk uphill on a trail through bucolic farmland (hint: those barbed-wire fences are electric to keep in the cows) to get to a windy clifftop with stunning views. Once you reach it, you just wander and wonder.
The best-preserved medieval castle in Scandinavia, Glimmingehus looks like a massive stone box just sitting in the lush fields. It’s rather empty inside, but you can still enjoy an English-language tour to learn about the history. If you’re travelling with children, you’ll appreciate the small building onsite full of blocks so they can build their own towers.
Glimmingehus is actually a Danish castle, as it was completed in 1506 when Skane was still part of Denmark. It wasn’t until 1658 that the region was transferred to Sweden as part of the Treaty of Roskilde. Geographically, Österlen is much closer to Copenhagen than Stockholm—two-hour and six-hour drives, respectively.
Everything is coming up roses in the charming fishing village of Kivik. Much like England, the rainy climate has resulted in beautiful flowers, and this house-proud community loves its gardens. Walking along the rose-lined streets and taking in the traditional architecture is a real treat for anyone who’s looking for that quintessential Swedish town.
Right on the harbour, you’ll find Buhres Fisk, an outstanding restaurant that ships its smoked fish all over Sweden. Scandinavia’s culinary movement has indeed arrived in Österlen, taking advantage of unrivalled fishing and produce. Delicious fruit and vegetables are found all over the region but apples are the star here, as Kivik provides much of the country’s apples. Every September, Kivik celebrates the golden fruit with a large festival, Appelmarknaden.
Note: This story originally appeared in Travel + Escape.