Just outside the bustle of Sweden’s capital city is another world waiting to be explored. The Stockholm Archipelago — with its quintessential Swedish cabins, endless waterways, and overflowing abundance of natural beauty — is made up of more than 30,000 islands across 650 square miles. The Stockholm Archipelago is a portal into the very heart of Sweden, where the national dream of having a little red house on a rock by the sea is embodied to the core. If having your own little summer home here isn’t in the cards, try exploring the region by spending a night or two at one of these idyllic island retreats.

Harö Natur, Gummerholmen 

harö natur glamping hut, stockholm archipelago sweden
Courtesy, Henrik Trygg

Although it is glorious in the sun, when the gray mist Sweden is known for rolls in, Harö Natur feels straight out of a Nordic Noir mystery. But this idyllic place to lay your head is anything but austere. Harö Natur’s rugged beauty, luxe glamping huts, and indulgent restaurant will keep you wanting more. A stay here feels quite luxurious thanks to the architecturally interesting A-frame style glamping huts with picture windows that extend to the ceiling so you can fall asleep counting the stars. Simple in nature, the glamping huts have everything you need — cozy beds, warm duvets, space heaters for extra chilly nights, and notably, electricity. A spacious guest suite located near the shared bathrooms is ideal for families, and the room romantically placed on the floating dock, where you can watch wild swans swim by in the morning, is a favorite pick for couples. The small sauna on the water, a hot tub near easy access to a cold plunge in the Baltic Sea, is how you should spend your evenings here. You’re far away from the noise of the city, but Harö Natur’s restaurant will make you wonder if you’re not still in Stockholm. Dinners include a nine-course feast with modern interpretations of Swedish classics like chanterelles and toast, pickled herring with dill and potatoes, cod with västerbotte cheese and lobster sauce, and skagen, a specialty served often at New Years, that’s a symphony of shrimp with homemade mustard and mayonnaise with fresh dill and caviar. In the summer, a wood-burning pizza oven cranks out pies for lunch and dinner.

Smådalarö Gård Hotel & Spa, Smådalarö

smadalara gard hotel and spa,stockholm archipelago
Courtesy, Smådalarö Gård

One of Sweden’s largest spa hotels, Smådalarö Gård is a welcome slice of luxury if you’ve spent days kayaking, hiking, or camping (even glamping) in the archipelago. Set within a grand estate that dates back to 1810 when it was built as the private home of a wealthy sea captain, Smådalarö Gård has enjoyed a reputation as a weekend retreat for Stockholmers (it’s an easy, under an hour, drive from the capital) since it first opened in the 1990s. A significant renovation and addition in 2021 helped reinvigorate the hotel and reaffirmed its significance on the map.

Today, with 110 guest rooms — many of which overlook the moody Hemviken Bay—a multi-pool, multi-sauna and steam room spa, and a restaurant serving modern Swedish dishes, there are few places that rival Smådalarö Gård in the area. Guest rooms are an appealing mix of old-world solid wood furniture with the light, sleek lines of Scandinavian bubble lamps, blonde wood floors, simple, white linen clad beds, and airy Juliette balconies. For those not staying the night, Smådalarö Gård’s spa is available for use with a day pass and even if you don’t opt for a facial or massage, you can easily while away the hours moving from pool to sauna to steam room to silent relaxation room. Don’t leave before trying (or taking home), the Kerstin Florian Turkish body scrubs that gently polish your hands and feet into baby-like softness. For those less inclined to spend the day in the spa, a nine-hole golf course and tennis courts are on the hotel’s grounds, and the Sandemar Nature Reserve is just a 10 km drive away. Guests of Smådalarö Gård are welcome to arrive by either boat or by car, but the grand reveal of arriving by boat, sailing through gray, misty waters to the dock of a steep staircase to reach the villa, is what will stay with you long after you leave.

Idöborg Glamping, Idöborg

 idöborg stockholm archipelago sweden
Courtesy, Henrik Trygg

A privately owned island just an hour and a half from Stockholm, Idöborg offers swoon-worthy glamping options as well as rental cottages for those looking for something a little more traditional. Arriving to the island you’ll immediately notice a large, white Art Nouveauvilla. Built on the highest point of the island back in 1909 by Gustav Pott, the owner of Stockholm’s Shoe Factory, the villa stands as a testament to the island’s enduring appeal over the decades. In the 1920s, the island in its entirely was purchased by Torsten Kreuger, a Swedish industrialist who earned a fortune through the development of a match factory. Today, Idöborg is still in the Kreuger family, although it operates less as a private estate and more as a welcome respite for those seeking time in the woods or on the water. Thanks to a large room built entirely of wood and glass, Idöborg is popular with yoga retreats and weddings. Idöborg’s restaurant, Strandbaren, is what cozy Swedish dreams are made of, with rustic tables, a wood burning fireplace, and candles to keep the whole place aglow. The large wooden deck blends into the sea which unfolds in a broad expanse. The real gem of Idöborg, however, is the sauna, which is particularly large and has a giant window looking out onto the sea. In true Swedish tradition, grab a beer and settle in. While here, make the trek to the nearby island of Bullerö. Once also privately held by the Kreuger family, the island is now a nature and bird preserve, with a small museum devoted to the Swedish artist Bruno Liljefors who once lived there. Bullerö is set to be included in Sweden’s new national park which will officially open in 2025.

Sands Hotell, Sandhamn

sands hotell, stockholm archipelago sweden
Courtesy, Sands Hotell

You might be surprised to find a distinctly modern hotel located at the far end of the Stockholm Archipelago, but the surprise will not be unwelcome when you arrive at Sands Hotell. Distinctly modern in feel with its glass accents and walls adorned in contemporary art, Sands Hotell also manages to feel quintessential Scandinavian thanks to its bright spaces, comfortable furniture, and embrace of its natural surroundings. Sands offers rooms and apartment-style suites that sleep up to six. All apartments are fully equipped with updated kitchens, yet also offer the comfortable service of hotel-like housekeeping. And if you don’t feel like cooking — this is vacation, after all —the hotel’s restaurant, Bistro Sands, serves a three-course evening meal as well as breakfast on the weekends. The dinner menu includes a sampling of Swedish delicacies that change by the season. In autumn, the menu turns toward reindeer filet, fresh chantarelle toast, cod loin, and blood grape sorbet. In winter, the hotel puts on a show with Christmas and New Year’s Eve dining extravaganzas. The hotel’s home — the island of Sandhamn — is known for its quiet walking trails, abundance of berries and mushrooms in the summer, as well as its fishing and kayaking, all of which can be arranged, with or without guides, through the hotel. In the cooler seasons, the sauna is the place to spend the afternoon.

Waxholms Hotel, Vaxholm

dining water view, waxholms hotelstockholm archipelago
Courtesy, Waxholms Hotel

Waxholms Hotel has been a lively and fashionable weekend gathering point for Stockholmers since it opened at the beginning of the 20th century. Although just under a half hour drive from Stockholm, Waxholms Hotel, on the bridge-connected island of Vaxholm, feels a world away. Thanks to its easy proximity from the capital, the hotel is a popular spot for meetings, but it is much more than its six conference rooms. Waxholm’s 42 guest rooms are spread across a century-old building overlooking the water. Unlike other spots in the archipelago, Waxholms is open year-round so you can enjoy the peacefulness of winter here when tourism slows and more  locals return for quiet getaways. Waxholms is designed for staying in and enjoying the warmth of the rooms and the mini spa, outfitted with an infrared sauna, jacuzzi, and treatment rooms for massages. We love that Waxholms has guest rooms for couples, families, as well as for single people, embracing the importance of some solo travel. Waxholm’s restaurant and bar are popular during the warmer months and the holidays. Mke a point of lingering over a long dinner in the glass-walled restaurant overlooking the water, and end the night at the hotel’s Augusta’s Bar, named for Augusta Karlsson who opened the hotel back in 1902. Although driving is the most direct route to Waxholms Hotel, you can also opt to fully embrace the spirit of the archipelago and arrive by boat from the Strömkajen ferry terminal in Stockholm.

Cover image, courtesy of Sands Hotel.