July 6, 2013

Visiting the Archipelago- What to Consider!

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
This article is a bit of a repeat from an earlier one... but it is because I run into the same problem every summer with visitors. Visiting the stunning Stockholm Archipelago (Skärgården) is on the top of the list for most visitors to Stockholm during the summer. They want to take a boat ride, experience the picturesque vistas they have seen in pictures, walk around on an island and maybe take a swim or have lunch.
Photo by... me! Taken from the back of a Cinderella boat.
Unfortunately, what most visitors don't realize is that it takes time and a bit of planning to really experience the true beauty of the archipelago. Almost every day during the summer, guests come to me around lunchtime and say that they want to see the archipelago. I ask "tomorrow?" and they answer "no... now!". Herein lies the problem. Your options are greatly reduced when you get too late a start in the day and/or give yourself too little time. In other words? Do a little research, have a plan and then have the appropriate time to spend on what you want to see/do.
A map showing a few of the 30,000 islands!
The archipelago is vast and is made up of more than 30,000 islands, stretching out into the Baltic Sea. The nature changes visibly the further out you get... with the vegetation becoming more and more sparse. In the outer archipelago you have small rocky islands and little red cabins flying the Swedish flag (which most people have seen pictures of). To get out to this area, it is a 2-4 hour boat trip, depending on the boat and which island you are travelling to. Put that together with time on an island and the return trip and you get a full day excursion! You have some great places to visit out here... like Grinda, Finnhamn, Sandhamn and Möja. You can either choose to take regular ferries (Cinderella) or a set tour to Sandhamn. Just remember that the further out you go, the less time you have to spend on the island you choose. There is also the option of doing a "thousand island cruise" where you get to visit three islands.
Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
If you only have a short time in Stockholm, and can't afford to spend a whole day in the archipelago, then you can take a short tour of the inner archipelago. This is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours and you do have the option of dining onboard! This tour, however, doesn't let you visit an island. To do this in, say, an afternoon... you can visit one of the islands closer to Stockholm, like Vaxholm or Fjäderholmarna. There is also a company called Waxholmsbolaget which runs commuter boats out to different islands and is a great choice if you want to visit less crowded islands. Visit their new offices at Strömkajen.
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The islands mentioned above are just a few of the thousands you can visit! Looking to put together your own itinerary? Check out the archipelago tourist agency's website or visit their offices on Strandvägen (currently closed). Otherwise you can also visit the good people at the Stockholm Information Center or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk directly with me. Many of these islands have hotels, B&B's or guest cottages... so you can combine a stay in the archipelago with a city weekend in Stockholm!

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