Gotland – Biking the Coastline

The island Gotland has two very distinguished features. It is an important military strategic island for the Baltic sea. And it is a summer paradise for the rest of Sweden.

I went there to round the island clockwise along the coast. It went well… I had great weather, sunny and hot all week. Sometimes painfully hot, it’s not always easy to find shade unless you wanna sit in the shrubs. I did not finish the whole circuit, I had to give up after reaching Burgsvik due to “pain in the ass”. A day or two more and the circuit would be closed. I spent five days, most days 70-80 km (the km are slower on hiking trail and beaches)

The Gear
I used my Surly Straggler which I think is the perfect bike for this trip. It’s sturdy, hardwearing but still faster and more camping friendly than a mountainbike. Two small rear pannier bags, 10L each. A frame bag, top tube bag and a handlebar bag. I packed minimalistic; just the clothes I needed, a shirt and pants and a wind jacket for the evenings, food for 2 days, a thin sleeping bag, hammock and tarp, alcohol stove and some miscellaneous stuff. Is was essential that I could carry the bike up steep hills and over fences. I found places to hang my hammock every night but the last, luckily it works as a tarp as well. I would use a hammock again, there is a lot of places to set up a tent. But it’s harder to find nice spots near the ocean unless you sleep on the actual (rock) beach. The same route could of course be done with a mountainbike, but a hybrid or a regular city bike is something I would not recommend for this route. That being said, it’s really easy to find nice roads that works for any bike. I brought my bike from home, very easy: the commuter train to Nynäshamn allow bikes, and the ferry charge 5€. There’s alot of bike rental places in Visby, but if you can – use your own bike. Or rent a nice bike and camping gear in Stockholm if you are visiting from another country. Bring tools for fixing puncture and other things, do not expect to find a bike mechanic on the countryside.

Surly Straggler. Gotland

The Route
I had looked up other people biking around Gotland, some did it along “Gotlandsleden” which is mostly asphalt and not always along the coast. That was not my idea of a nice time. I found one track that followed the coastline a bit better. My mantra was, keep turning left and follow the coast. It worked fine, but I did cheat and used my phone with Guru Maps with Hitta Friluftskarta which helped me sometime. But the maps can also fool you, alot of singletrack and gravel roads are not on the maps at all. Plus most areas on the coast is hard packed rock beach which works surprisingly well to bike on. It’s not fast and it’s a bit bumpy, and stones fly around (don’t use your carbon bike) but it’s fun. I had two places where I had to bushwhack to get through, just short distances so it was fine. From Visby just head north along the coast, keep turning left 🙂 If you are up for some carrying of your bike, follow the marked trail Klintekustleden. A nice hiking trail with some longer stairs but you will be rewarded with some cool singletrack. Same on the east coast, a marked trail called Östkustleden. Don’t be too anxious about looking at your map/gps/track and don’t give up too easy if the trail looks rough. Sometimes a gravel road leads down to the ocean, along the coast and then just turns in to a trail which suddenly disappear, but if you struggle along the beach for a while a new trail (almost always) will appear!

The Food and Water
There is hardly any natural water sources on Gotland, the lakes and streams all run through farmland and there are always better alternatives. Most commercial camp ground have water for their guests. Fill water at restaurants and cafés. Worst case scenario you just ask at a random house or farm. I drank when I filled water and had one 600 ml bottle on the frame and a 1,5 litre pet in a pannier bag. I looked for places to fill the big bottle after lunch. I’ve tried to mark on the Google Map for biking Gotland where water can be expected to be found so you can plan a bit ahead. I did the lazy camper style and ate lunch at a café or restaurant every day. It was totally worth it, I could carry less food and less water throughout each day. Resupply when you need, you will pass a store each day if you bike more than 60km.

The Nature
All Swedes going to Gotland always say “it’s like going abroad”. And it’s true, Gotland feels like the best from everysummer destination on a compact island. The weather is generally better than the rest of Sweden, and they brag for tourist about the highest amount of sunny hours on the year. Gotland as a few different types of areas that I have different opinon about. The farmlands: often deciduous forest, mosquitoes, harder to bike along the coast. The pine beaches: my favorite, Rocky beaches and small pine forests or small clusters on the beach. Klintkust: A coastline with steep rock along the shore, sometimes with a rocky beach underneath. You will see a lot of rabbits, sheep, cows and birds. Guaranteed a few eagles and thousands of sea birds. If you are an ornithologist seek out “Fågelskyddsområden” follow the rules of the area but expect to see some interesting birds.

The Highlights
Do not miss Furilden, Smöjen, Klintekustleden or the coastal trail south of Herrvik.

The Alternatives
If you want to travel lighter, faster and have more fun on the singletrack and gravel – I think it would be possible to eat on cafés and restaurants all the time, and sleep in hotels or bed and breakfasts. It would take some planning to book accomodation. But that would be a really cool trip. Fast and Light.
I skipped the small island Fårö north of Gotland, just because I have already biked the coastline there. It’s even easier, I think I could see the sea all the time when I did that trip.

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