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Öland’s world heritage

All of Southern Öland is a World Heritage site

An exquisitely beautiful landscape and unique cultural district stretch from Karlevi in the west to Gårdby in the east and all the way south. This area was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000. The justification is that the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland is fundamentally different from other places on earth. This is partly due to its limestone bedrock, mild climate and geographic location, which have resulted in unique conditions for life on the island, and partly due to the effect of Öland’s inhabitants on the district over thousands of years – since the Stone Age.

Successful interaction between man and nature

The words World Heritage probably make many think of beautiful places or buildings that need to be protected from the advances of mankind. But for Öland’s World Heritage site it is rather the opposite – here, it is the interaction between man and nature that needs to be protected and guaranteed. Take our beloved Stora Alvaret – it would not exist in its current splendour if man had not let the grazing animals shape it over millennia. Much of what may be seen as nature’s unspoiled beauty on Southern Öland is in fact the result of successful interaction between man and nature.

Modern agriculture with historic roots

Agriculture on Öland has always had to adapt to the special conditions on the island. But, as part of Sweden, it has also followed development. In the old days, the land was divided into so-called infields and outlying land. The infields were located nearest the villages and consisted of arable land and meadows. The outlying land, bare limestone soil and coastlands were used for grazing. In connection with the agricultural transformation of the 19th century, this division stopped on the mainland and in other places in Europe. The villages were redistributed and the farms located out in the countryside, and the outlying land was no longer used as agricultural land but instead began to be used for forest production. On Öland, however, the thin crust prevented forests, and the old land division was retained. This means that today, we can experience something as unique as medieval agricultural landscape cultivated using fully modern methods. This combination with continued grazing has also preserved the unique plant and animal life on Southern Öland.

 A visit today will benefit future generations

The World Heritage site Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland is a result of farming on the island by earlier generations. But the efforts of those who cultivate the land and let their livestock graze today are at least as important. It is thanks to them that this unique heritage can be handed down to future generations. But you can also contribute to this valuable work. By visiting this World Heritage site and enjoying food and drink from Southern Öland, you will be part of the ongoing interaction between man and nature.