The Finnish archipelago on the west coast of the country is populated by more islands than any other archipelago in the world. Over 40,000 islands – from large inhabited ones to small rocks – form a beautiful marine area that is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. The archipelago belt resembles a labyrinth. Picturesque villages with wooden houses, old church buildings, a large national park with rich animal life, green pastures, mysterious forests and barren rocks form a varied landscape.
The best way to explore the archipelago off the coast of Turku is island hopping. Whether by ferry, kayak or bicycle from island to island, the decelerated life in the archipelago is like a journey into the past. Some of the country's oldest and most important historical sights are located in the archipelago – for example, three out of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located on the Finnish coast and the highest lighthouse in Scandinavia is also located on the Finnish islands.
Of course, the enjoyment of nature in the archipelago is not neglected. With its varied landscape and the immediate proximity of the sea and the large national park, hikers, cyclists and water sports enthusiasts are in good hands. A kayak tour to a lonely island with an overnight stay in the silence and solitude under the clear starry sky is especially beautiful. While camping, you can get to know nature in a very special way.
Naantali is located in the southwest of Finland, near the city of Turku on the Baltic Sea coast. The village was built around a Birgitten monastery with the name Vallis Gratiae (valley of grace), from which the Swedish name Nådendal derived. The Finnish name translates to Naantali.
Naantali is one of the oldest towns in Finland, today an important port and known to tourists especially for its picturesque old town with its wooden houses. Worth seeing is also the archipelago outside the town – this natural paradise attracts with peace, originality, fresh sea air and helpful inhabitants. The hidden jewel of Naantali is located directly in front of the old town, on the viewpoints of the Kuparivuori hills that offer a wonderful view over the islands.
A special feature can be found on the island of Luonnonmaa. Here is the Presidential Garden Kulturanta, which has been the summer residence of the Finnish president since 1922 and can be visited with a guide. Naantali archipelago and surroundings are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts: you can go fishing, take a boat trip, go hiking or cycling. Of course, the variety of the islands can be discovered especially well when you go island hopping. Nature preserves the islands' secret places and shows us how breathtaking the combination of sea, rocks and forests can be. An overnight stay on a lonely island should not be missed.
Pargas is located in the southwest of Finland, in the middle of the archipelago near Turku. The bilingual region, called Parainen in Finnish, consists of the inner and outer archipelago. The inner archipelago is located in the northern part of the region and comprises larger islands separated only by narrow sounds, while the outer archipelago in the south of the region consists mainly of barren cliffs. Here you will find Utö, Finland's southernmost all-year-round inhabited village.
To get to know the varied archipelago landscape, island hopping is, of course, a good option. Actively paddling, cycling, hiking and fishing you can get to know nature, culture in the old wooden towns with their churches and the people of the archipelago in the sauna. Historical highlights are certainly excursions to the island of Utö with the oldest lighthouse in the country, and to the island of Själö, the former place of exile for lepers.
Enthusiastic hikers should not miss a tour on the St Olav Waterway. This unique international project follows the world's first pilgrimage route from Turku to the Finnish archipelago and the Åland Islands, from Grisslehamn in the north of Sweden to its destination in Trondheim in Norway. The route is named after the Norwegian saint Olav Haraldsson.
With the wind in your face, the smell of the sea in your nose and the beautiful view over the small islands and rocks of the archipelago, you also have the opportunity to get off the beaten track. The most popular time for a tour on the archipelago ring road is in summer, in winter you have to turn around in Houtskär or Iniö – depending on which direction you started from – because then not all ferries go to the islands. On the way, you pass picturesque villages, national parks and the one or other lighthouse.