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Östergötland can be translated as “the Eastern land of the Goths”, often just “East Gothland”.
The region has been inhabited since the Viking age, and used to have its own kings and laws in the past before it became a proper part of Sweden. It is assumed that the famous Beowulf came from this region of Sweden.
While Östergötland is not a very mountainous region (the highest mountain is just a bit over 300 meters high), it is nevertheless a very varied region, with agricultural stretches, parts of the Swedish Highlands, too many lakes to try counting, rivers, the famous canal, lush forests you can get lost in, and charming meadows. Hence the region is known for the many outdoor adventures you can have, many of them related to the lakes, the canal and the rivers. It is a popular activity to hire a canoe and just go for a trip for a few days. The region also boast one of the largest wildlife park and zoo in Scandinavia, and is also a great place for people who like visiting medieval towns. The region also has the second largest lake in Sweden.
Vättern is the second largest lake in Sweden, and also the fifth largest lake in all of Europe. The lake has crystal clear water, and because the water is so clean, most of the towns and villages get their drinking water straight from the lake (but for safety reasons the water is still processed before it goes to the households). If you are thirsty and next to this lake, then you can safely drink this water as no sewage at all is pumped into this lake, and the Swedish people are quite proud about the cleanliness around this lake. People are allowed to fish in the lake, but not with nets.
The Göta Canal is a popular body of water for all sorts of activities, and if you have the time and interest, you should go for a trip on the canal – maybe even for a few days in a hired canoe or kayak. The whole canal is 118 miles long, and you can travel all the way from Gothenburg to the Baltic sea (the canal also takes in the Vättern lake). The Caledonian Canal in Scotland is the sister canal of this one, because both canals have been planned by the same person (Thomas Telford), so if you ever traveled on both of the canals, you might find that there are some similiarities.
While the Kolmården Wildlife Park does not only have animals from Sweden, it is still a great place to learn about the original Swedish wildlife (while also enjoying animals from other parts of the world). The Kolmården Wildlife Park is one of the biggest of its kind in Scandinavia, and it is easy to spend a whole day there without getting bored.
There are many historic castles and churches that are open to the public these days but if you only have limited time, then you definitely should put Vadstena Convent Church and Vadstena Castle at the top of your “to see” list. In medieval times, Vadstena used to be quite important as a place of pilgrimage. The castle in Vadstena was built in the second half of the 16th century because the region needed a defense against the Danish, who tended to have an interest in East Gothland.
For a trip back in time, you need to visit Linköping. In the old town of this place, you can see what life was like around 100 years back in time. There are markets (all year round, even in winter), museums and even shops that were typical for that time of history. Depending on the time of the year, you will also be able to take part in various activities.
If you love the stories of Astrid Lindgren or used to love them when you were little, then you need to visit Astrid Lindgren's World as it is a place dedicated to her stories and her characters. In this theme park, the setting of the stories come to life, and different scenes from the stories are played every day.
East Gothland is home to the Swedish Air Force museum. In this museum, you can learn all about the history and importance of the Swedish Air Force, from the first steps that were taken (figuratively speaking) to the times of the World Wars, and to what role the Swedish Air Force plays in everyday Swedish life today.