Landsort is the very southernmost island in the magnificent Stockholm Archipelago. This unique and breathtakingly beautiful seascape of more than 30,000 islands, islets and skerries spreads out in a huge fan shape with the Swedish Royal Capital Stockholm as its base.
With its strategic position, the island of Landsort has held great importance in Sweden’s maritime history. No one knows how long the island has been inhabited, but it is first mentioned in writing in the 13th century, as a fishing outpost. In the 1500s, under King Gustav Vasa, Landsort is referred to as a sea pilot station in service of the Royal Navy. The sea pilot station is still in operation, and is thus one of the oldest in Sweden. The famous lighthouse, first mentioned in the 1400s, and built in stone in its present shape in the 1600s, is also one of Sweden’s oldest and most historically significant. Actually, Landsort is really the name of the lighthouse and the sea pilot station, while the 4,5-kilometer long, 700-meter wide island is formally named Öja. Its word of mouth name however is Landsort. Landsort is a highly scenic island with a unique flora featuring a wide variety of rare orchids and other botanically interesting species. The island has long been known as an important site for watching migrating birds. The birdwatching station on the island, which is also used for scientific purposes, was opened in 1988.
Another famous feature is the great labyrinth laid with stones on a cliff, most likely by fishermen in ancient times. There are similar labyrinths on many archipelago islands. Their purpose was probably to give luck to fishermen who passed through the labyriths for good fishing and safe sailing in the hazardous waters. Nobody knows how old this labyrinth is, but the pattern dates back over 3,000 years.
Landsort’s current resident population is around thirty. In summer time, this number is substantially increased. Most of the summer residents are ancestors of Landsort sea pilots and other oldtime inhabitants of the island. Tradition runs deep on this island. The sea pilot station in Landsort currently employs nine seapilots, guiding ships throughout the Stockholm Archipelago and Lake Mälaren waters, where navigation is tricky.
Landsort can be reached year around by boat from the town of Nynäshamn, sixty kilometers south of Stockholm and accesible by commuter train. A visit to this island is an excursion to a strange and wonderful miniature world of tremendous beauty, historic ambiance and an intriguing hint of mystery where the least you could imagine being is just an hour from a major city.
Text: Claes Britton