Stockholm, Sweden © Holger.Ellgaard
Crisp and clean, the tranquil Scandinavian country of Sweden offers a variety of experiences within its elegant and sophisticated cities, its picturesque medieval villages, coastal island archipelagos, peaceful lakes and forests and the icy tundra of northern Lapland.
The capital city, Stockholm, encompasses 14 islands on the shores of the Baltic Sea. It is a high-tech city with a small-town feel, filled with top class restaurants, pulsating nightclubs, cosy pubs and a full array of performing arts venues. Best of all, nearly everyone you meet is fluent in English. Few visitors to Stockholm can resist an excursion to discover the offshore islands: the Stockholm archipelago offers some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Europe, and can be enjoyed from the city on a day cruise.
The west coast of Sweden, with its delightful fishing villages, is the place for gourmets, especially seafood lovers, while those digging for history will be fascinated with Uppsala, the ancient Viking city where the newest buildings date from the 18th century. A really novel excursion is a visit up north to the Ice Hotel, sculpted from ice every winter in Lapland where the Sami people enjoy showing visitors their way of life, centred on their reindeer herds. Meanwhile, way down south, Smaland (literally meaning small lands), has been christened 'the Crystal Kingdom' in honour of the famous glassworks that exist there in places like Orrefors and Kosta.
Sweden is an enchanting country, not as cold as one might imagine despite its situation in the high latitudes, and is well worth exploring whether along the meticulously maintained roads or on the extensive high-speed train system.