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South Öland island treasures

The agricultural landscape of southern Öland (Alvaret) is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the unique land use patterns of villages and land and the way in which it has been farmed and grazed for the past 5,000 years.

  • Gettlinge gravfält, UNESCO World Heritage site

Gettlinge gravfält, UNESCO World Heritage site

Five thousand years

The agricultural landscape in southern Öland is almost pancake flat and, in days gone by, divided into walled-off fields for arable land and open fields where sheep and cattle graze near the sea. The area is dotted with some 200 ‘linear villages’ (all villages face the road) and built according to a strict code.

What you experience here is 5,000 years of human settlement and what generations of farmers have had to do to survive. The areas here are called alvar (Alvaret); areas of very thin topsoil on a bedrock of limestone. The biggest one here is the Great Alvar (Stora Alvaret), a huge plain where trees and shrubs cannot take root. It may look wild and natural but it actually looks the way it does because of livestock grazing. Some very rare flora and fauna live in this man-made environment, among them 32 species of orchid.

To look out here for; the vast alvar plains, the linear villages, windmills and farmhouses.

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