However highly you value your own geographical knowledge, unless you happen to have been there it is highly unlikely that you will have heard of Sweden’s Koster Islands. Don’t worry; many Swedes are blissfully unaware of this rarely visited pair of tiny dots off their country’s west coast. Roughly halfway between Gothenburg and Oslo, the small community of around 300 inhabitants have lived in relative isolation although the secret of the islands’ beauty is starting to spread.
The two islands, North Koster and South Koster, are easily accessible on foot. No place on the islands is more than a gentle walk from the coast and with the islands virtually car-free walking and cycling are the most popular ways of getting around. The two islands are linked by an automated electric ferry taking passengers across the 58 metre stretch that separates them (a slightly longer swim than the length of a full-size swimming pool, although maybe a few degrees colder).
Visitors typically come to the Kosters to enjoy the pure outdoor environment, although the abundance of fresh seafood is also a draw. South Koster provides ample opportunities to walk and explore its many paths, with waterfalls, woodland and beaches. North Koster is smaller still and it has a more wild appearance, with heather-clad moorland its main inland feature. If you’re staying overnight you should pace your exploration of the islands very gently. Walk too far or too fast on your first day and you might cover everything in one go.
One of the main highlights of a visit to North Koster are the island’s lighthouses. These were constructed in the mid-1800s but after several ships ran aground they were deemed to be in the wrong place to be effective. Surprisingly they were too high, meaning that the sea mist and fog would block out the light. The derelict structures lay dormant for over 100 years until a programme of restoration was recently undertaken. The newly functioning lighthouses are now a popular draw for visitors to the Kosters.
A relaxing visit to the tranquility of the Koster Islands can be easily combined with a city break in either Gothenburg or Oslo, with easy rail connections from both cities to Strömstad, from where a 45 minute ferry takes you to the islands.