Throughout Europe, the Scandinavian nation of Sweden is famed for its splendid natural offerings. Though somewhat more developed and sophisticated than its two land neighbors, Norway and Finland, its beauty is no less magnificent. Sweden is home to approximately 150,000 islands, 100,000 lakes and a very steep mountain chain that serves as the country's western border with Norway. Its eastern edge is made up of a very long coastline that runs along the Baltic Sea. Ideal for active vacationers seeking beautiful nature and fresh air, Sweden – which is the roughly the size of California – has 29 national parks. Fishing, skiing, rafting, golfing, and hiking are all popular with visitors and locals alike.
Most of Sweden's population resides in coastal areas of the arable South. As travelers venture north, Sweden becomes increasingly awash in enchanting woods, forests, rivers and lakes. Many go to experience some of Northern Europe's most dazzling, wild scenery. In the northernmost part of Sweden, primarily north of the Arctic Circle, an indigenous Arctic group of people called the Sami reside in a cultural region called Sápmi (which also comprises parts of Finland, Norway and Russia). From late fall to early spring, northern Sweden beckons thousands who have dreamt of experiencing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).
months also draw many tourists hoping to put the country's unusually-sunny summers to good use by enjoying its multitude of national parks, outdoor activities and festivals. Sweden's island-rich capital city of Stockholm has approximately 6 hours of sunlight a day in January; in July it has 18 hours a day. As you climb north towards the Arctic Circle (and beyond), those sunlight hours increase in the summertime. The town of Kiruna for example has 24 hours a day of sunlight in July! This phenomenon is often referred to as the Midnight Sun in Scandinavia.
Sweden's legendary scenic waterways and complex canal systems also deserve a mention. The historic Göta Canal, which was constructed in 1810, is one of Sweden's best tourist attractions. Another more recent feat of Scandinavian engineering (2000) was the Øresund Link, a bridge-tunnel construction which connects the Swedish city of Malmö (and therefore the entire Scandinavian Peninsula) with Continental Europe – specifically with the metropolitan area of Copenhagen. As the bridge is used for both cars and trains, it's easy to pair Sweden with Denmark if you're traveling by rail or car. And because of the vast cruise and ferry options, it's also convenient to combine Sweden's capital city of Stockholm with other Nordic and Baltic capital cities like Oslo, Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
Largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö