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Southern Öland

Southern Öland
The Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland is a site that has been in agricultural use since prehistory. One of its main features is the Stora Alvaret, a so-called "limestone pavement", a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil. A great assortment of vegetation is found here including numerous rare species.

The best known early paleolithic settlement of the area occurs at Alby, where excavations have revealed vestiges of wooden huts around a prehistoric lagoon. Evidence of later ringforts abounds including the most well known site at Eketorp. Later, about 800 to 1000 AD, various Viking settlements appeared on the fringe of the Stora Alvaret.

Visit August 2014

I drove to Öland from Karlskrona, which takes about 1.5 hours. The bridge from the mainland to Öland was fairly busy with tourist traffic, lots of caravans and campervans. The north of the island is said to be a popular holiday destination. I had come for the south of the island of course, as that's where the WH lies. The core zone however comprises about 1/3 of the island, so just after leaving the bridge and turning to the right I started seeing WH signs.

I had no clear plan what to see, did not know what to expect of it either. "Looks like Holland" is not why I came all the way down here for a Saturday. But already from the beginning there were lots of cute little windmills by the side of the road. They are much smaller then their Dutch counterparts. 62 have been preserved, though none of them are in use any more.

Another iconic sight in Öland are the bronze age and iron age burial sites. Just as the mills, they are conveniently close to the main road southwards down to Ottenby. Every site has a small parking lot and an information panel, most of the time in Swedish, German and English. The most impressive burial site that I visited was the Gettlinge burial ground, which is an example of the "stone ship" burial custom where stone slabs surrounding a grave are laid out in the outline of a ship.

After an hour or so (including several short stops) I reached the southernmost town, Ottenby. From there I went to the best known sight in Öland, the Eketorp fortress. It has a large car park and even a souvenir shop. Entrance costs a whopping 120 SEK (13 EUR). They probably use all that money to pay the actors in the open air museum, which covers the inner area of the fortress. The ring-shape of the fortress is the most interesting part, from afar it looks like an amphitheatre. It's mostly a reconstruction though. I was done with it in 10 minutes.

The southern tip of the island is covered by the Ottenby Bird Reserve, which surely is the prettiest area of all. It's a popular stop for migrating birds, and today also for itinerant birders. Dozens of them where scanning the bird crowds via their telescopes or heavy cameras. The number of larger birds such as the barnacle goose is certainly impressive. The reserve also holds a large lighthouse and a restaurant where I had my (again expensive) lunch.

There are some short walks that start from this area, but unfortunately it had started to rain. So I just drove back northwards again, to the bridge. I made one last stop on the way, at Vickleby alvar. This is one of the zones where the typical Stora Alvaret landscape is preserved. I walked around for a bit on this flat grassland and met some grazing horses.

I am a bit puzzled why some other reviewers declare this as one of the most interesting WHS in Sweden. It might be because there's little competition, Sweden cleary lacks any outstanding sites. Having now visited 12 out of 15 Swedish WHS, my vote for best Swedish site would go to Falun.

Click here to see more of my photos of Southern Öland


Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
When I read guidebook's review on Oland, I was curious with their wordings "haunted beautiful", the words that in my opinion a very strange way to summarize certain place; however, I could not agree more with the wordings they chose after I saw this place. From the historic city of Kalmar, I rented a car and drove to Oland, while most of tourists turned left to the north part of the island for beach and cultural villages; I easily decided to turn right to the opposite direction where the World Heritage Sites located, the agricultural landscape of Southern Oland.

At first the flat landscape of farmland was quite Dutch nostalgic with many windmills, large red farmhouses and light forests, then the landscape changed to green hill with stonewall and many impressive standing stone of Viking tombs against the misty sky that made mystery or maybe spooky aura, a landscape that not so Swedish at all! After the strange farmland area, I was at the Stora Alvaret, a large limestone plain; the area looked very dry compared to other area on the island. The stone plain was full with dry savannah-liked grass with some bush and wild flowers, another odd landscape of this island. I continued to finish my trip at Ottenby which was the most southern spot of this island. The area was the desert landscape of peat, hundreds of moss covered rock and Baltic Sea that were merged together into some kind of a weirdly bog wetland that was really disassociated from the rest of the island and maybe the rest of the world.

On the way backed to Kalmar, I felt that the beauty of this island started to haunt me with its many curiosities I saw. Southern Oland had its unique charm and mystery, I was not sure that this was the result of some chemistry effect from limestone and sea or not, but the air and the beam of light on the island were indescribable. Anyway Southern Oland really surprised me; although I did not understand or comprehend the value of agricultural landscape which UNESCO used when inscribed this place, but at the end this place was one of my favorite places in Sweden, and a very enchanting World Heritage Site.
Date posted: August 2012
Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
In my 2 weeks in Sweden, this was the most interesting WH site I have come across. The landscape of the Stora Alvaret is unique and fascinating, like nothing I had ever seen before. A barren limestone plateau, it covers the southern half of Öland and combines many historic sites with unique natural features (I think it should be a mixed WH site). Driving or cycling is probably the best way to explore Öland, but public transport is also an option. I took the bus from Kalmar (a great city by the way, with a fantastic castle and a nice old town) across the impressive Öland Bridge to the pretty port of Färjestaden. From there I went to Eketorp, an interesting Iron Age fortification that is today a major tourist attraction. Next I went to the Ottenby Nature Reserve on the southern tip of the island, which features a wide range of habitats for migrating birds - and I also climbed Scandinavia's tallest lighthouse there. I thought this was the most interesting place I saw on Öland. Taking the bus is a bit complicated, because even in summer, they don't run very often, but with a bit of planning, it works out fine, and many interesting landscape features can be admired just as easily from the bus.
Date posted: August 2011
John Booth (New Zealand):
There are several buses that cross the bridge from Kalmar to Oland. I took a #103 bound for Ottenby, and returned on a #105. Along the way I passed several ancient earthworks, stone walls and circles and a number of old windmills while crossing the flat arable landscape. At Eketorp I visited the castle and then the Ottenby Nature Reserve near the lighthouse.
I stopped off at Gronhogen for lunch and to inspect a windmill and some walls and earthworks near the harbour, but there was nothing by way of explanation of what they represented.
Date posted: May 2010
Gatis (Latvia):
Although the words (I mean the description of the monument) are there, they do not say anything. You should see the immense alvar yourselves - incredibly flat limestone plateau of Southern Oland. I hope, they included also the fairytale Midlandsskogen (Middle Earth Forest) with the misterious Ismantorps borg - strange, abandoned limestone city with seven gates. The city is located in middle of this huge beach and oak forest.

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Site info

The Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland
Country: Sweden
Inscribed: 2000
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (4) (5)
Category: Human activity, Cultural landscape

Site history:
2000 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:
»Öland Tourist Office

In the news:
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Related links:
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Related Forum posts:
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Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Dry Stone Construction . Vernacular architecture .
Lighthouses . Windmills .
Animal Migrations .
Baltic Sea . Isostatic Rebound . Straits .
Bronze Age . Neolithic age . Palaeolithic and Mesolithic .
Human Activity
Experimental Archaeology . Irrigation and drainage . Royal Hunting Grounds . Viking settlements .
Individual People
Carl Linnaeus .
Religion and Belief
Fortified religious buildings .
Built in the 7th millennium BC .
Works by Nobel Prize winning authors .
World Heritage Process
Continuing Cultural Landscape .

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