After a mere ten-minute boat ride from Bönhamn on the mainland, the steep sides of the tiny island of HÖGBONDEN rise up in front of you. Although the island can feel a little overcrowded with day-trippers in peak season (July to mid-Aug), at its best it’s a wonderfully deserted, peaceful haven. There are no shops – so bring any provisions you’ll need with you – and no hotels on the island; in fact the only building here is a former lighthouse, now converted into a youth hostel. It’s situated on a rocky plateau at the island’s highest point, where the pine and spruce trees, so prominent elsewhere on the island, have been unable to get a foothold; Högbonden’s flora also includes rowan, sallow, aspen and birch trees, as well as various mosses that compete for space with wild bilberries.

You’ll only get to know the special charm of Högbonden if you stay a couple of nights and take time to explore: a narrow gorge runs north–south across the island, and there are also forested hillsides and a shoreline where eider ducks glide by with their young. The views out across the Gulf of Bothnia are stunning; on a sunny day you could easily imagine you’re in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Wood-burning sauna

At any time, you can head for the traditional wood-burning sauna down by the sea, two minutes’ walk from the jetty (it’s signposted “bastu” off the island’s one and only path); you’ll need to book your slot with the youth hostel staff, who keep the sauna’s key. Afterwards, you can take a quick skinny-dip in the cool waters of the Gulf of Bothnia. The sunsets, seen from the boardwalk in front of the sauna, are truly idyllic.