Stora Karlsö

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Limestone cliffs and lighthouse on Stora Karlsö

Stora Karlsö is a small Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, situated about 6 km west of Gotland. It has an area of about 2.5 km² and is up to 52 meters high. Most of the island consists of a limestone plateau, bordered by steep cliffs along the shore. It is mostly covered with alvar, with many juniper bushes and some small groves of deciduous trees.

The island is mostly known for its rich birdlife and flora. It has large colonies of common guillemot (about 7500 breeding pairs) and razorbill (4500 pairs). In spring, there is an extraordinary number of orchids, mostly elder-flowered orchid and early purple orchid. There are also several very rare plants for Sweden such as Adonis vernalis, Lactuca quercina (called 'Karlsösallat' in Swedish), hart's-tongue fern and Corydalis gotlandica (the only endemic plant on Gotland).

There is evidence that Stora Karlsö has been inhabited since the stone age. During the Middle Ages there was a marble quarry, which gave the material for many of Gotland's churches. The island is a nature reserve, after Yellowstone National Park the oldest established protected nature area in the world. From May to August there are tour boats from the village Klintehamn.

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Coordinates: 57°17′1″N 17°58′19″E / 57.28361°N 17.97194°E / 57.28361; 17.97194