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Experience island hopping in the Finnish Archipelago

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Finland is often referred to as the "land of a thousand lakes". However, the Nordic country could just as well bear the name "land of a thousand islands". For there are more than 40,000 islands and islets in the archipelago off the south and west coasts. Medieval and military history, seafaring station and wildlife – the islands could not be more different and yet they are united by one thing: the wonderful nature and solitude of Finland.

The coast and the archipelago are not the part of the country that I would describe as typically Finnish – that would rather be the lake land in the west and the untouched nature in northern Lapland. Nevertheless, this area has a lot to offer: History and culture can be experienced here. Old ramparts, lighthouses and museums, unique birdlife and natural highlights, and, of course, the people who have always inhabited the islands and shaped coastal life, are attracting more and more tourists. An eventful journey begins.

Bengtskär lighthouse

Island hopping by bike

The island hopping is particularly suitable for a visit to these regions of the country. Known as a form of travel on the Greek, Canary or Caribbean islands, the Finnish coastal landscape can also be travelled in this form. Those who only plan a short trip can drive by car from island to island and stop at some highlights.

But I find it more beautiful to explore the area by bicycle. Numerous cycle paths along the coast and across the islands – connected by bridges and ferries – lure above all with a few altitude meters and varied experiences. Whether on the Archipelago Trail, King's Road or a nameless tour: Travelling like this is fun.

I am especially enthusiastic about the Archipelago Trail. From Turku it leads as the "Great Archipelago Ring Road" to the archipelago islands of the Archipelago Sea. It is only exhausting when the wind blows too strong, there are hardly any vertical meters. And the ferries, which take me from one island to the next, provide an additional break. I take my time on this cycle path. There is too much to see to race. The wonderful nature, the red houses, churches, museums or art galleries invite me again and again to a stopover. And one thing is for sure: I completely forget everyday life in the quiet seclusion.

On the Archipelago Trail

Thematic island hopping

When island hopping in the Finnish coastal region, you can also take a thematic trip in addition to a cycle path. How about exploring the history of war or discovering the traditional island life in the Archipelago? I'll be on my way right away!

Island fortresses of Finland

In earlier times, warlike attacks were often carried out across the sea. So it is not surprising that on the islands off the south and west coasts of Finland the ruins of various walls and fortifications can still be discovered. I was fascinated by these grey buildings as a child when I dreamed of living in a castle myself.

The most famous fortress island is probably Suomenlinna, just outside the gates of the capital. In the middle of the 18th century the ramparts and towers were built to protect the country. Also the island Vallisaari accommodates old fortifications and Lonna, the "little sister of Suomenlinna" was once used as a military base for minesweeping boats. Further to the east is the also famous Svartholma sea fortress in Loviisa Bay.

Russian fortifications were built on Örö, in the very southwest of Käsnäs in World War I. On the west coast near Rauma there is the fortress island Kuuskajaskari, which has a lot to offer with surveillance towers, trenches, shooting ranges and four cannons. One of the cannons is even still working, so be careful when discovering it!


Island life in the Archipelago

Life on the islands is certainly not always easy. Depending on the weather conditions and partly cut off from the mainland by ice, the winter is especially hard – or the transition period when the ice is not thick enough anymore to walk on, but too thick to travel by boat.

On Kaunisaari near Kotka I learn more about the way of life of the islanders in a museum and watched local works on handicraft stands and in art galleries. Near Porvoo are the Pellinge Islands, which have been inhabited since the 16th century and therefore have a lot to tell. In summer there are many different events taking place here, from a midsummer festival to boat races and agricultural flea markets.

Museum · Uusimaa

The Pentala Archipelago Museum

The Pentala Archipelago Museum area consists of fifteen different buildings. The oldest one is a ...
by Pirjo Räsänen,   Ellare Oy

Also on the island Pentala, between Helsinki and Espoo, I can visit an Archipelago museum. About 15 historical buildings give an insight into old traditions. On the big island Jussarö I can catch the atmosphere of the archipelago sea especially well. In 1891 a lighthouse was built on the island as an important base for the navigation of the seafarers.

Not to forget, of course, the Åland Islands: The location between Sweden and Finland has always given the archipelago a special position. The Swedish-speaking inhabitants live mainly in the capital Mariehamn. It has a mild coastal climate and is said to have the most hours of sunshine in the Nordic countries.

I have discovered a lot and will certainly return for another trip across the islands of the Finnish Archipelago Sea. For example a kayak trip to remote islands and an overnight stay in the wilderness I did not manage this time.

So what are you waiting for? Let's go island hopping to Finland.

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Outdooractive Editors User
Wiebke Hillen 
Updated: June 17, 2019

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