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Perched on top of Europe, Swedish winters can be harsh but hearty cuisine and larch wood saunas quickly warm those frosty fingers. The northern lights compensate for the short daylight hours in spectacular style. While Stockholm's bars buzz with a fresh-faced vitality, the indigenous Sami people continue to live among the caribou and windswept arctic hillsides of Sweden's far north. Balmy summers are spent camping in the outdoors or enjoying the waterfront cafe culture of Gothenburg or Malmö.

Cities

Elegant baroque buildings soar above you as you explore the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan while bohemian artists' cafes and bookshops stretch along the hilly streets of Södermalm, just two of Stockholm's many islands. In Gothenburg, thrill seekers shriek with joy riding the roller coasters at Liseberg before exploring the magnificent archipelago lying just outside the city. In Jokkmokk, you can experience Sami culture or wander between the elegant 13th-century merchants' houses in the ancient Hanseatic city of Visby.

Countryside

Take a gentle bicycle tour through southern Skåne's gently undulating hills or venture into the Arctic Circle in untamed Abisko National Park. Sailing boats crisscross thousands of narrow straits in Sweden's Bohuslän Coast (west coast); join the locals as they come here to marvel at the phosphorescence that lights the sea by night. A ferry trip to Ängsö National Park will take you to a land where ancient oaks stand tall over meadows of wildflowers.

Eating and Drinking

Whether you are dining on rich reindeer meat with a sweet lingonberry jam in Kiruna or tangy inlagd sill (pickled herring) in Skåne, you will find Sweden's cuisine (husmanskost) to be a distinctive mix of fresh flavors. Dine on fusion cuisine in cosmopolitan Gothenburg and Stockholm, or traditional dishes such as gravlax (dry-cured salmon) on crispbread with a warming mug of glögg (mulled wine). Commonly drunk at parties before Christmas, it is knocked back to hearty cheers of "Skol!"

Mountains and Lakes

Hikers flock to conquer the mighty Kungsleden (King's Trail). For more than 300 miles, the route snakes through the Scandinavian Mountains and Sweden's magnificent wilderness. The mountains are also home to the world's most northerly ski resort at Riksgränsen, while Åre is fast gaining a reputation as a world-class spot for skiing, mountain biking and climbing. Warm clothing is essential for the ice fishermen huddled over Västerbotten while the osprey on Lake Mälaren can simply fish au naturel.