Stockholm’s famed archipelago covers 80 miles of scenic islands stretching out from the capital.
Locals love to brag that there are 34,000 islands — but they must be counting mossy little rocks, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in that figure. A hundred of them are served by ferries, providing Stockholmers with many ideal island escapes.
The local name for this expanse is “Skärgården” — literally “garden of skerries,” unforested rocks sticking up from the sea. That stone is granite, carved out and deposited by glaciers.
The archipelago closer to Stockholm is rockier, with bigger islands and more trees. Farther out (such as on Sandhamn), the glaciers lingered longer, slowly grinding the granite into sand and creating smaller islands.
With thousands of islands to choose from, every Swede seems to have his or her favorite.
However, no matter which island (or islands) you choose to explore, the best way to experience the archipelago is to simply stretch out comfortably on the rooftop deck of your ferry. Enjoy the charm of the lovingly painted cabins as you glide by on the way to your destination…
Our destination was Utö Island, one of the islands farthest from Stockholm.
Some of the scenes on the ferry journey to Utö Island:
At times the passage between the islands is so narrow that one could literally reach out and touch an island on either side.
The operators of the ferries are incredibly skilled:
Arrival at Utö is anti-climactic. The ferry pulls up alongside a tiny wooden dock, disgorges its contents to the few small buildings representing the island’s main town, and is quickly on its way again.
In the town are a couple of restaurants, a grocery store and a place where one can rent bicycles.
On the hill above the town is an abandoned medieval iron mine:
Water has filled in the mine shafts from which the iron ore was extracted:
Mining is no longer a part of the economy on Utö Island. Today’s economy revolves around tourism, agriculture, some logging and, as I would discover, one large employer on the island.
One of the logging operations on Utö:
There are hardly any vehicles on Utö Island aside from the aforementioned bicycles and these unique motorcycle/tricycles:
Renting a bike is a good way to get around the island. The ride between the two most distant parts of the island isn’t more than thirty minutes and the exercise is good. By the way, the road in the picture below is the main road on the island:
Overnighting on the island really lets you get away from it all and enjoy the island ambiance. The Velvet Rocket staff spent several days here.
The cabin we rented was just off of this section of Utö’s main road:
A farm across from where we stayed:
A typical home on Utö Island:
No matter where you stay, you are never far from the shoreline…
This fishing operation can be found at the bottom of the island:
This is the shoreline at the opposite end of the island:
For some reason this is a restricted area. However, there is nothing and no one to stop you from visiting this section of the island:
If one does not find the top or bottom of the island appealing, one can simply follow one of the many side roads that inevitably lead to interesting spots:
Spots such as this beach:
And nice scenery:
But, some other roads lead to something rather different. A lot different.
Even when The Velvet Rocket attempts in good faith to have a “normal” vacation, it seems that such a thing is an impossibility…
Part 2 is here.