Sweden has such beautiful scenery and charming towns that it's hard to pick out the best. Travelers come from all over the world to see Sweden's far-reaching coasts and Arctic glaciers, but many tend to stick to the places they're familiar with or have read about in guidebooks.
The Scandinavian country is home to so much more than Gamla Stan and the ABBA Museum, and it keeps some of its most gorgeous attractions so secret that some native Swedes don't even know about them. Here are the top 10 hidden gems in this extraordinary country.
The tallest mountain in Sweden is Kebnekaise, which also happens to be the tallest in Scandinavia outside Norway. Kebnekaise is located in the Scandinavian Mountain range in Lapland, a province in northern Sweden that is very sparsely populated.
There are two peaks to the mountain--a northern and southern peak, and the hiking trails approach from the east and west. The eastern trail crosses a glacier and is very difficult for inexperienced climbers, but the western side is better for most of the public. You'll see some beautiful panoramic views, and because Kebnekaise is so isolated, few travel here.
You may have heard about other stunning treehouses before, but Sweden's Treehotel is unmatched in its closeness to nature. The Treehotel is located near the village of Harads, in the far north of Sweden, and once guests check in at the lodge, there is a short trek to the hotel itself.
Choose from seven different rooms, all with their own unique theme, like the Bird's Nest or the Mirrorcube. Each cabin is built in its own clump of pine trees in the Lule River Valley, where guests can escape and connect with Swedish nature.
Also in Lapland is Jokkmokk, a small town that embodies everything you could imagine about northern Sweden. In summer, Jokkmokk is truly the land of the midnight sun, and in winter, it becomes an enchanting winter wonderland.
Jokkmokk is famous for its winter market, where the indigenous Sami people sell handmade crafts and goods. It's a huge event for the Sami, and visitors to it will get to experience the unique culture of northern Sweden-- if you can handle the Arctic temperatures.
7 Gulf of Bothnia
The Gulf of Bothnia is the northernmost stretch of the Baltic Sea. Reaching across the east coast of Sweden to the west coast of Finland, most don't realize that this expansive coastline is so stunningly beautiful. Many tourists only visit the gulf via cruise ship, but you could also do a road trip along the coast on the E4 highway, the best way to see the coast.
Discover quaint villages, urban student towns, picturesque archipelagos, and of course, endless rugged coastline. The best part? Because it is such an underrated tourist destination, you'll have it all to yourself.
Grundsund is a fishing village on Sweden's west coast, about an hour and a half north of Gothenburg. It's as authentic a fishing village as you can get, with houseboats and fishing boats rubbing shoulders. Its colorful cottages make it look almost like a painting, and it's all perched against the cool blue sea.
If you're visiting Gothenburg, Grundsund makes a perfect day trip, or you can get closer and stay in Uddevalla, which is a 45-minute drive away. This secret hideaway deserves to be a popular travel spot, but for now you can enjoy it crowd-free, and feast on some of the freshest seafood in the world.
5 Gothenburg Archipelago
The Gothenburg Archipelago is a hidden attraction just off the coast of Sweden's second largest city, dotting the coast like jewels. The archipelago is divided into northern and southern sections, both of which are easily accessed by a ferry from the mainland.
You'll notice that cars are not allowed on the southern part of the archipelago, which helps preserve the islands' natural beauty. But it doesn't mean that you won't be able to thoroughly explore the islands without your car-- they're perfect for walking, biking, and boating.
If you're looking for a less crowded city than Stockholm or Gothenburg, try Västerås in central Sweden. Located on the shores of Lake Mälaren, Västerås' medieval roots will transport you through the centuries to Old Sweden.
Although the old center of the city was rebuilt after World War II, you can still soak in the history at the ancient burial site, Anundshög, or wander a reproduction Viking settlement, Frösåkers Brygga. The most charming of Västerås' neighborhoods, though, is probably Kyrkbacken, which missed the city's revamping and managed to retain all its old allure.
You probably wouldn't even notice the tiny village Nysäter on a map, but you shouldn't miss it on a trip to Sweden. This town of about 150 people is located in Värmland County, near the border with Norway in central Sweden. It is home to a small shop, a school, and a Viking museum.
Viking enthusiasts should mark their calendar off for August, when the village hosts a huge fair and market, complete with demonstrations and talks about Viking culture and the area's Viking heritage. There is even a reproduction Viking ship that can be rented out for a trip on the Viking trail.
2 Kalmar Castle
Kalmar Castle is noted for its extraordinary location, built on the Kalmar Strait in the Baltic Sea. It was a historically strategic position in defending the Swedish border from Denmark, and could also hold the area against pirates. First built during the 13th century, the current structure was a creation of the Renaissance era.
Today, you can see exhibitions, take guided tours at the castle, and revel in the expansive views of the strait. Each room in the castle is decorated to represent a time, place, or event, with meticulous attention to detail paid to historical accuracy.
Halland County is home to unspoiled natural coastline, and the chill collective attitude of the region is perfect for surfer culture. Summer is undoubtedly the best time to visit Halland, when the beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and watersports. Tylösand Strand is one of the best beaches in the country, with camping and cottage rentals just beyond the sand.
Beaches not your thing? Explore Halland's quaint towns, like the capital Halmstad or romantic Varberg. There are plenty of historic sites and museums for culture lovers, and you can still experience the county's natural sites without a trip to the beach if you happen to visit in winter.