Just outside of Stockholm are a series of islands making up the Stockholm Archipelago. People who have both the time and inclination can explore the idyllic islands, discover Viking gravesites, wander through quaint fishing villages and admire sturdy former palaces.
Ask a local how many islands comprise the archipelago and you will get answers anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 but realistically, there are probably about 24,000 islands that provide a buffer from the open waters of the Baltic Sea. It’s understandable that city residents will gush about the wonders of the islands, they are both close at hand, and readily accessible by regular ferry services and organized tours for visitors.
Of course, the islands get their greatest number of sun worshippers during the long summer days, but the weather is usually appealing in the spring and the fall, It is said that even in winter, when the islands are quiet and peaceful, with a dusting of snow, the scenery is astonishing.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
There’s so much to see and do in Stockholm itself that we didn’t want to spend a day on the water travelling through the archipelago unless the weather was ideal for this time of the year. We kept watching the weather forecasts, hoping for a sunny day, and to our surprise and delight our last day in Sweden was blessed with sunshine.
We’d read about the public ferry that travels from the dock near the Grand Hotel and makes its way to Vaxholm and then on to Finnhamn, a 900m-long island, covered in trees, two and a half hours away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. We packed a picnic lunch for the day, knowing that we wouldn’t be back in Stockholm until after dark, planning for the possibility of not being able to eat on the ferry. The ferry ride alone would eat up five hours of the day, but from the sounds of things, it would be well worth the trip.
When we arrived at the ferry dock there were a few other people waiting to make the trip; the boat would certainly not be overcrowded and we would have space to sit on the outside deck. As we boarded, a crew member asked us our destination, and then told us that if we planned to travel all the way to Finnhamn, we would have to stay overnight as there wasn’t a ferry back in the late afternoon. We hadn’t realized that there were fewer ferries on a Sunday in the late autumn.
We learned that we could still travel to Vaxholm, just a short hour away, and have the option to return by bus if we wanted to. The island is connected to the mainland by bridges and was popular with the city’s elite during the 19th century. It’s situated near the gateway to the archipelago, and has a hulking fortress just across a narrow stretch of water.
Staying overnight was not an option, as we were booked to fly to Helsinki the following day. We stepped on board, bought our tickets and sailed out of the harbour, admiring the parts of Stockholm that we hadn’t had a chance to visit. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and we even decided to pose for a photo of the three of us. A young couple travelling from Colombia kindly offered to take the photo after I took one of them.
The trip was over before we knew it and we stepped ashore in a quaint little harbour almost completely deserted. Vaxholm is usually overrun with tourists in the summer months, so we were delighted to find it quiet and sleepy. We roamed the streets admiring the displays in the shop windows and snapping photos of the cottages here and there.
When we decided to stop for a coffee and dessert before taking the bus back to the city, we were surprised to find the café closing for the day. It was already 5:00pm and things shut down early on the island. It was disappointing not to have a latté, but we had made contingency plans by bringing along some sandwiches and fruit, so all was not lost.
We were delighted to learn that our daily transit pass covered the cost of the bus back to the city, so we decided to make our way to the famous Ice Bar Stockholm. It was probably best that we were back in town before dark. It had been a lovely trip on the ferry, and it only whetted our appetites for a return trip to Sweden to see more of this amazing archipelago. After all, there are only 23,999 more islands to explore.