Looking for a new summer destination? If you want to go somewhere only a few travellers know about, try the remote and secret island of Fårö in Sweden. Until the 1990’s, the entire island was off limits to travellers.
But not any more! Relax, pet a sheep, go to the beach, add a rock to the stone walls indulge in the locally produced food – and see an existentialistic Swedish film. Fårö means Travellers Island, so what are you waiting for…
Scandinavian people always go south for summer holidays. But a couple of years ago, we decided to go north. I didn’t really know that much about Fårö before hand, beside that this was the place were the great Swedish filmmaker Bergman lived and worked. Also that Visby on the nearby island of Gotland is an UNESCO site. Reason enough for me! Luckily, the weather gods was kind to us, and it turned out to be one of the best family trips ever.
Here’s what to see, where to eat and sleep and how to get there:
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Fårö is a very small island, so there’s only a few sights, but they are all worth it. The main cultural sight is the Bergmancenter (has its own section further down) and the main natural site is something called “Rauker”.
These stone formations are unique to Fårö and Gotland and are best seen at Langhammer at the northern part of the island. The formations are caused by erosion during the ice age. The surrounding area is great for climbing and exploring, so grab your camera and head for the sunset.
SHEEP & STONES
If you are interested in sheep, here’s a great study case.
A lot of people thinks the island is called Fårö, because it means Sheep island, but it’s probably from an old Nordic word “far” meaning to fare (yes, Nordic has influenced English through the Vikings). This makes the island’s real name: travellers island! So know you gotta go!
If you are not into sheep… add a stone to the stone walls or gates surrounding the fields.
Fårö also has a church, but the ones on Gotland are more interesting, and a lighthouse as well, but it’s not exactly UNESCO material.
You can also just hang out at the beach (make sure the weather is good). You won’t find too many tourists, so it’s not like a day at the beach on the French Riviera…
There’s a fantastic long beach – Sudersand Beach – just on the spot near a camping site.
The main reason we went to Fårö was Ingmar Bergman. If you haven’t seen a movie by the Swedish auteur, you should immediately close my article and see one of his existentialistic masterpieces. Maybe try “Through a Glass Darkly” filmed on the beach with the Rauks. My favourite film is “The Seventh Seal” from 1957, where an old Templar knight plays chess with death – in B&W of course…
Bergman lived and worked on Fårö for 40 years. The Bergmancenter displays exhibitions about his work, a cinema and a library. There’s a shop with films and t-shirts. We bought both.
It’s Bergman Week at the end of June with a lot of activities and always an international filmmaker as a guest. If you aim for this event, just make sure you have a place to stay well ahead.
Bergman had several houses (something about wives and maids) and 4 of them are now used as artist residency. The one on the beach is off limits, but you can drive by some of the others – if you like me are a fan.
For some reason, Bergman’s museum isn’t a children’s favourite, but right next to it is Fårö Museum – a small local historical museum. Here you can learn more about sheep and stones.
There’s a café named after one of his film, which is nice and has a something to eat and drink and ice cream. Which leads me to the next theme:
WHERE TO EAT
One thing that was even better than I imagined was the food. Locally and organic grown produce everywhere.
Our favourite place, close to where we stayed, was the Fårögarden Restaurant. They also have a B&B. The make “Gotlandic Mediterranean food”. Breakfast in the morning sun on one side and dinner in the descending sun on the other side.
Even closer to our lodgings was the Vinor Krog serving sea food and good wine.
Also near by is the Carlssons Café and Restaurang with decent pizza. Considering you don’t really have that many options, it could be way worse. Most kids prefer the pizza place, but you can luckily convince them of the other spot, since right next to is the miniature golf court. So you can sit on the porch drinking wine, while your better half and kids play. Works like a charm! I think we played 5 times in a couple of days. For some reason, that never gets old with him.
Further south is the quirky Kutens Bensin & Creperie Tati. We stopped for a drink, but they weren’t open yet. But it looked great with a view of the water.
WHERE TO SLEEP ON FÅRÖ
Hotels is not the main type of lodging – it’s camping.
I’m not really a camper, and my son hates it, but we still spent 3 nights in Sudersand Camping. The facilities are good and you can rent anything from a villa to bring your own tent. We took the cheapest option very close to the beach. That was a good call. You will have to buy a camping card, but it’s not that expensive. Remember to decide if you want a camping spot with a plug.
Closer to the more expensive cabins is a small playground (my son seen jumping on their playground above) and a swimming pool. But for a completely low key trip, our site was best.
HOW TO GET TO FÅRÖ
To get there you take a small ferry from Gotland – it takes about 15 mins. To get to Gotland you can fly, but I recommend taking your car with you. I do not think there’s much car rental in Gotland.
We drove from Denmark to Oskarshamn and took a large ferry – it took about 3 hours. You can also take the ferry from Nynæshamn near Stockholm. Otherwise if you arrive by plane, go to Stockholm, rent a car on mainland Sweden and take it on the ferry.
Of course, you’ll also have to go to the main island Gotland for Medieval family fun in the Swedish summer city Visby. Want a more easy accessible island, but still stay off the grid? Then Go to the lesser-travelled East side of Crete & do as the locals!
Do you know a secret island?