40km (25 miles) E of Kalmar, 470km (292 miles) S of Stockholm

When we first arrived in Öland long ago, we wondered why so many Swedes left it for America. Obviously, life in the 1800s was rough here, and locals simply could not make a living, so they set out for such places as the Dakotas and Minnesota, states in America they found closer to their own style of living, at least in climate. During that mass exodus in the 19th century, the Baltic island lost a quarter of its population. Many émigrés, however, returned here to retire. That's not surprising, considering how beautiful it is, with its sandy beaches, its treeless alvaret (steppe) covered with wildflowers, its bird life, and its profusion of windmills silhouetted against the summer sky.

One of Europe's longest bridges, nearly 6.5km (4 miles) long, connects Kalmar with Öland. At 140km (87 miles) long and 16km (10 miles) wide, this is Sweden's second largest island but its smallest province. Beaches run along both coasts, and there is only one town, Borgholm, a summer retreat. The royal summer residence is at Solliden. To rent a summer house on the beach, get in touch with the tourist office.