Sweden

Driving Directions Sweden

Sweden is less mountainous than neighboring Norway, although the high mountain ranges that are such a dominant feature of the Scandinavian Peninsula extend across much of Sweden’s western boundary.

The highest mountains are in the north of the country, with Mount Kebhekaise (2,111 meters or 6,926 feet) reaching the most significant elevation. Glaciers occur at some of the higher levels.

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East of the mountains, there is a plateau region with the land sloping gradually eastwards towards the sea. The southern part of Sweden consists mainly of lowland plains interrupted only by an isolated upland area, called the Smaland Highlands, which reaches a height of 380 meters or 1,250 feet.

In the far south and southeast, there is a low-lying area called the Plain of Skane or Scania. Most of the population live in southern Sweden, the vast majority in cities, towns or urban areas.

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Among the most striking features of the Swedish landscape are the numerous lakes, numbering more than 96,000, which are a relic of the last Ice Age. In the lowland areas in the east and south, many lakes left when the ice retreated, and the largest of these are Málaren near Stockholm, Váttern to the south, and Vánern.

The country is crossed by numerous rivers and streams, the largest of which are used as a source of hydroelectric power. They include the Tome, Skellefte, Osterdal and Ume. Sweden is also fortunate in retaining many of its natural forests, which extend over about 60 percent of the country. These are mainly of conifers that grow below the treeline in all but the far north and south of the country, the main species being pine and spruce.

At higher levels, there are some scrub birch and willow trees that give way to moorland vegetation and then bare rock on the high mountain summits. The far north of Sweden lies within the Arctic Circle and contains the Swedish part of Lapland. Here, there are no trees but an Arctic/tundra type of vegetation with lichens and mosses and specialised plants that are adapted to a short growing season.

In the south, which is a region of farmland interspersed with woodland areas, deciduous trees are able to grow although some of the wooded areas have been cleared for farming.

The climate is relatively moderate in view of the northerly position of Sweden with considerable variations between north and south. In the south, the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerly winds have an ameliorating effect on temperatures but, farther north, the mountains, higher altitudes and proximity to the Arctic Circle block these influences. In winter, Sweden is affected by cold air from Russia and the east and temperatures, even in the south, are often below freezing. The northern part of the country within the Arctic Circle experiences two months of perpetual daylight in the summer and a similar period of continual darkness in the winter, with these effects gradually lessening towards the south. Because of its position on the eastern side of the peninsula’s mountains, precipitation is moderate in Sweden, except in the southwest and in the mountain regions, and rainfall is greatest in late summer and early autumn. There is considerable snowfall in winter, particularly at higher altitudes.

Swedes take pride in the natural beauty of their country and are a very environmentally conscious people.

Of considerable concern is the fact that a proportion of Sweden’s lakes and forests have been affected by acid rain caused by industrial pollution generated in the British Isles. Also, algal blooms off the southwestern North Sea coastline and the decimation of the seal population by a virus have been cause for further alarm. Environmental concerns are high on the agenda of the Swedish government. The country intends to close its nuclear power stations and is actively engaged in the research and development of renewable energy sources.

The best soils and most favourable conditions for agriculture are found in the south of Sweden. Most agricultural production is for the home market and Sweden is more or less self-sufficient in dairy products, grains and vegetables. Livestock rearing, particularly for the production of dairy produce, is the most important aspect of farming. The principal animals are cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep. Mink are also reared for their fur. Fields are intensively fertilised and cultivated to produce a range of different crops that include cereals (wheat, oats, barley, rye), sugar beet and vegetables, especially potatoes.

Sweden makes full use of its extensive forests to produce large quantities of cut timber for export and as a basis for its wood pulp and paper industries. Most of the mills are located on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and lumber is extracted from forests on the mountain slopes, with rivers being used for transport and as a source of hydroelectric power.

Sweden has an important marine fishing industry that supplies the domestic market. The most important species is herring but mackerel, cod, sprats and sea trout are also caught. Göteborg is the principal fishing port. In addition, there is a variety of freshwater species in good numbers in Sweden’s lakes and rivers.

Sweden lacks oil or coal reserves and is particularly dependent upon imported petroleum but it has fully exploited its potential for hydroelectric power, which supplies about 47 percent of the country’s electricity needs. A further 40 percent is provided by nuclear power, although the plan is to phase this out gradually. Iron ore, uranium, silver, lead, copper, gold and zinc are among the minerals that are extracted. Manufactured goods include paper, furniture, wood products, iron and steel, machine products, vehicles and vehicle parts, electrical goods, chemicals and textiles, as well as fine crafts such as glassware, ceramics, silverware and items made from stainless steel.

Sweden attracts many tourists each year and the country’s excellent road, rail, canal and ferry networks make it easy for visitors to travel to even the more remote parts of the country.

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