AccessFerry services: throughout the year by Gotlandslinjen from Oskarshamn (about 4.25 hours) and Nynäshamn, 55km/34mi south of Stockholm (about 5 hours); booking through TT-Line.Air services: flights by the Swedish domestic airline Linjeflyg from 30 airports in mainland Sweden; the flight from Stockholm to Visby takes only 35minutes.Situation and characteristicsGotland, 125km/78mi long by up to 55km/34mi across, is the largest island in the Baltic. It lies some 90km/56miles from the Swedish mainland, and is separated from the island of Äland to the southwest by a channel 55km/34miles wide and up to 200m/650ft deep.Gotland has a large number of important ancient monuments, including the famous town walls of Visby and 92 churches, none of them built after 1350. For some centuries the island was an important center of Baltic trade, and as a result frequently came under foreign rule. Tourism is now one of its principal sources of income.TopographyGotland is a limestone plateau lying at altitudes of between 20 and 30m (65 and 100ft) with no lakes, rivers or valleys of any size, since water seeps away quickly into the soil. Along the coasts are long sandy beaches alternating with sheer limestone cliffs. Characteristic of the coastal scenery are the strangely shaped free-standing crags known as raukar (singular rauk). The glaciers of the Ice Age have left their mark in the shape of numerous erratic blocks of gneiss, granite and porphyry.Thanks to its mild climate the island has a varied and abundant plant life; even orchids flourish here. There are large expanses of grazing (sheep-farming) and arable land, but just under half the island's area is covered by forest. Drilling for oil began about 1980.HistoryGotland with its capital Visby was for many centuries an important staging point on the trade route between Asia and Europe. Until the beginning of the 12th century the trade remained firmly in the hands of the Gotlanders, who had established trading posts at Novgorod (northern Russia) and elsewhere; but as the trade grew in importance it came to be increasingly controlled by Germans and Russians. In 1161 the Gotlanders were granted a license to trade with Germany, and in 1280 Visby and Lübeck entered into a defensive alliance against piracy, which was later joined by Riga. Visby's predominance in Baltic trade was broken in 1293 when the Hanseatic League resolved that Novgorod should trade only with Lübeck. Further difficulty was caused by conflicts between peasants and townspeople.In 1361 the island was conquered by the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag (betrayed, according to legend, by the lovesick daughter of a Visby goldsmith), and four years later it fell into the hands of pirates. In 1398 the pirates were driven out by the knights of the Teutonic Order, who in 1408 sold the island to Eric of Pomerania, ruler of the united Scandinavian kingdoms. In 1449 it returned to Danish hands. Unsuccessful attempts to conquer the island were made by the Swedes in 1524 and by Lübeck a year later. In 1645, however, it was assigned to Sweden under the treaty of Brömsebro. Thereafter there were two further periods of foreign rule - from 1676 to 1679 by the Danes, in 1808 for 23 days by the Russians. Little remains of the island's former splendor.
Round Gotland Race
Sailing regatta around Gotland is held in July.