Small is beautiful    

Bearing in mind that by some accounts the name of this county derives from the word bleke, referring to still waters, the Swedish Tourism Trade Association's description of Blekinge as "small-scale, enchanting and beautiful" pretty well sums it up.

Visitors will find a great variety of landscapes in a compact area: stately beech forests and delightful oak-clad hills; thickly wooded islands no more than 20 kilometres from deep spruce forests with rugged rock formations and small, dark lakes; gentle streams (occasionally swelling to wild torrents) flowing through valleys of great natural beauty; farmsteads, hamlets and villages set among fields, meadows, moors and pastureland, and a long coastline, puckered with inlets and often clad in deciduous forest, with magnificent views over the glittering sea and archipelago.

Blekinge is very much a maritime county: it is specially proud of its archipelago – Sweden's most southerly, comprising a thousand or more wooded islands, rocky islets and skerries – and of its capital Karlskrona, a Baltic port and a World Heritage site described by UNESCO as "an exceptionally well preserved example... of a late-17th-century European planned naval city". Founded in 1680 and built on a series of islands – and often described as "a miniature Stockholm" – the city is also noted for some fine Baroque architecture.

One way or another, Blekinge offers visitors a wealth of sandy beaches and sheltered coves for swimming, and an array of attractive guest harbours, from Hasslö in the west to Utlängan in the east.

According to Blekinge Turism, the local tourist authority, "the nature of Blekinge changes character three times between the northern part and the southern coastline": from highland forests dotted with lakes and ponds, to a somewhat milder climate favouring lime trees, maple and hazelnut trees, to the shoreline, where beech, walnut and chestnut trees flourish. Inevitably, perhaps, the county is a contender for the title "Garden of Sweden".

Naturally enough, too, fishing is excellent in the sea and in the county's many lakes, rivers and streams: the Mörrum river in particular has been well known for its salmon fishing for hundreds of years. Canoeing is another inviting activity, particularly in the inland network of lakes connected by canals.

Festive music
A major annual event in Blekinge is the Baltic Festival, a free music festival held in the historic port city of Karlshamn in July and one of Sweden's largest such events, when the city is bursting with singers, jazz bands and samba orchestras in the courtyards and in the streets and the air is fragrant with flowers in bloom. With its food stalls and street market and warm summer breezes, there is a sense of fun in the air and hundreds of smiling faces in the streets, leading festival organizers to describe the event as "a second Rio".

In general, Blekinge is said to benefit from a mix of Swedish and Danish culture. Blekinge needlework is a popular speciality, together with traditional woodworking and a unique black granite which is quarried in the western district of Stenbärarland. Blekinge's "konstrunda" is a yearly countywide art exhibition, and the "Sweden Rock Festival" by the sea in Sölvesborg has been an annual fixture since 1998.

Sölvesborg itself is well worth a visit at any time: typical of the county, it's a cosy small town of narrow winding streets, pretty houses and an interesting castle, with its roots in medieval Denmark. Nearby are the large beech forests of Ryssberget, charming fishing villages and beautiful white beaches on the peninsula of Listerlandet... not to mention the legendary island of Hanö, "Pearl of the Baltic", allegedly frequented by dragons in the dim and distant past.

Photo: Tommy Gustavsson, Region Blekinge
Photo: Tommy Gustavsson, Region Blekinge
Aspö island

Photo: Tommy Gustavsson, Region Blekinge Photo: Tommy Gustavsson, Region Blekinge Photo: Tommy Gustavsson, Region Blekinge
Tjärö in the skerries Jämshög church Olofström