Sweden is a land of incredible contrast. Home to a vast array of landscapes - from the dense pine forests and craggy mountains of the north, to the rolling hills and glossy golden beaches of the south - the gap widens even more when you take the country's urban centres (home to 84% of the population) into account. The seven major cities, which include Malmo, Gothenburg and the capital, Stockholm - each have their own distinct character, compelling histories and wildly varying architectural styles. Despite these differences, urban Sweden tends to be stylish, modern and sophisticated, while the countryside offers simpler pleasures for those in search of peace and tranquility. Much of Sweden is forested, and there are thousands of lakes, including the large stretches of water between Gothenburg and Stockholm. The border with Norway is home to the spectacular Skanderna (Scandinavian) mountain chain, while in the far north you'll find wonderfully bleak Arctic tundra - here it's possible to see the Northern Lights. Running through this remote part of Lapland, the long-distance trail of the Kungsleden or 'King's Trail' extends for 440 kilometres from Abisko in the north to Hemavan. The northern part of this maintained track runs as far as Kebnekaise and provides an excellent summer trekking route, as well as a classic hut-to-hut ski tour in the winter. In winter, Abisko is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.


Sweden is one of a group of countries in Northern Europe (with Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland) known collectively as Scandinavia. With a land mass totalling around 450,295 sq km, Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe and the largest of the Scandinavian bloc. Sharing land borders with Norway to the west and Finland to the northeast, the country also has 3,218 km of coastline, much of it on the Baltic Sea. What remains faces the Gulf of Bothnia - a chilly stretch of sea, shared with Finland. To the south, Denmark is another near neighbour and is directly linked to the southern Swedish port of Malmo via the Oresund Bridge. With a population of just over nine million, most of whom inhabit the cities and the south, the vast majority (78%) of Sweden's enormous tracts of land are forested, while another 8% is covered in water. In the far north, Sweden's portion of Lapland extends well into the Arctic Circle, with the northernmost outpost of Swedish civilisation to be found in the tiny Lappish town of Treriksroset on the three way border between Finland, Norway and Sweden.

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