10 Finnish islands that are worth a visit in the world’s largest archipelago

3 minute read

Credits: Kaapo Valkeavirta

Finland has the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of over 80,000 islands off the coastline – we picked the 10 you can’t miss.

Seagulls flying over old boathouses, fishermen’s nets hanging on the walls, lively summer events and honest people living in harmony with nature: these are what you’ll find on the islands by Finland’s coastline, many of which are easy to access by car, bike or cruise boat. On the islands, you can enjoy a mix of peace and quiet alongside extraordinary culinary experiences and culture events.

These are the ten islands to visit – all just a ferry ride or bridge away from the mainland.

Kaunissaari, Pyhtää – “The beautiful island”

Credits: Kaapo Valkeavirta

Kaunissaari, which means “the beautiful island”, got its name for a reason; the island is renowned for its beautiful sandy beaches and traditional fishing village. Welcoming you to Kaunissaari is a view of the charming red boathouses that line the harbour. Visit the small archipelago museum located here, managed by residents, to immerse yourself in the islanders’ way of life, before sitting down for a meal by the sea at the Kaunissaaren Maja restaurant. Despite its small size, the island has copious activities for a visitor, including handicraft stalls, grocery stores, cafés and even an art gallery.

In summer, hop on a ferry from Kotka, located 130 kilometres east of Helsinki and easily reachable by bus or car. The ferry to Kaunissaari departs Kotka’s Kuusinen harbour up to four times per day. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes, see timetable at Finferries site. For overnight visitors, there are numerous accommodation options available.

Credits: Julia Kivelä

Pellinge islands, Porvoo – In the footsteps of Tove Jansson

Pellinge is a group of islands that have been inhabited since the 1500s, and today is home to an active community of almost 300 people. And we mean active: more than 120 events are organized on the islands during the summer, including a midsummer festival, a children’s day, an agricultural flea market, boat competitions and an ancient fire dance. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and shops, as well as galleries selling handicrafts. Many people are drawn to Pellinge because of the place it held in Tove Jansson’s heart, who created the Moomins and is Finland’s most beloved writer and artist of all time.

The Pellinge islands are served year-round from Tirmo by ferries that run multiple times per hour from early morning until late evening.

Credits: Juho Kuva

Suomenlinna, Helsinki – Inhabited Sea Fortress

The island is home to hundreds of people, it’s accessible all year round. Established in the mid-18th century as a fortress, today Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kids and adults alike love scrambling about the old walls, ramparts and tunnels, before stopping for a break at one of the island’s many cafés and restaurants. For beer lovers, Suomenlinna even has its own brewery, where you can taste a wide range of beers and ciders, plus seasonal specialties

Each of the six islands offer a variety of atmospheres, from a cheerful picnic spot atop a green hill with a view of the sea, to a tranquil evening stroll through the cobblestone streets of the city. During the summer, the last ferry departs at 2 am, giving you the chance to explore the islands in the light of the Midnight Sun.

It takes less than 20 minutes to reach the island from Helsinki’s main market square. Ferries run up to four times per hour.

Credits : AdobeStock
Credits: AdobeStock
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Pentala, Espoo – Living history

The Pentala island is a combination of marine nature, living history and culture, located close to the capital Helsinki. The island’s Archipelago Museum – comprised of 15 different historic buildings – is a window into traditional island life, from housing and working to the idle summer vacations of the city-dwellers. Pentala is a hiker’s paradise too, with more than half of its 130 hectares falling in a nature conservation where you can spot woodpeckers, deer and more Finnish wildlife. A picturesque 2.3 km-long nature trail takes walkers through the island, which is also home to a lake and a wild sandy beach.

You can reach Pentala in the summer months by a ferry from the Kivenlahti harbour.

Jussarö, Tammisaari – The ghost island

The large island of Jussarö provides a unique mixture of nature and industry; the contrast between unspoilt nature and the traces of human presence from the abandoned iron ore mine and former military training ground characterise the island. Jussarö is known as Finland’s only ghost town, a reputation that’s added to by the number of ships wrecked in the nearby waters. Over the centuries, the island’s iron ore deposits distorted compasses, causing many problems for sailors. Today, Jussarö is easy to reach and serves as a stop-over point for recreational sailors and a popular destination for travellers in search of mystery.

During the summer months, day cruises leave from Tammisaari/Ekenäs north harbour.

Credits : Hasse Pictures

Nauvo, Parainen – The archipelago trail

Nauvo is the first island on the Turku Archipelago ring road – or the last, if you’re coming from the opposite direction. It is an island community of 1 500 people, although the figure is misleading as the population multiplies manyfold in the summer. Go see the medieval castle and be sure to visit the guest harbor to taste the smoked fish and the stalls selling anything and everything the sailors might need.

Credits: Sara Terho

Åland – A Special (and sunnier) piece of Finland

Geographically, culturally and even politically, the autonomous Åland Islands are a special space.

Located between Finland and Sweden in the centre of the Baltic Sea, the Åland archipelago is home to some 29,000 inhabitants, approximately a third of whom live in the capital, Mariehamn. Åland has its own taxation system, its own postage stamps, its own flag and Swedish as its only official language. Åland even has its own climate: it leads the Nordic region in hours of sunlight per year, offering a milder coastal climate than its mainland neighbours.

It’s easy to get from one island to another thanks to the many bridges and ferries, and Åland’s roads are terrific for cycling holidays. You can reach Åland by ferry from Helsinki, Turku or Naantali, and there are a wide range of accommodation options available.

Credits : Daniel Eriksson / Visit Åland
Credits: Rebecka Eriksson / Visit Åland

Reposaari, Pori – Miniature maritime town

Some 30 kilometres from the town of Pori and connected to the mainland by road and rail, Reposaari is known for its sweet wooden buildings and Norwegian-style church. At only 3.5 kilometres long and half a kilometre wide, it is easy to explore the island on foot – alone or on a guided walking tour in the summer – or by bike. The deep and protected natural harbour of Reposaari has been an important base for marine traders and military expeditioners for centuries. The soil brought to the island for ballast contained seeds from foreign countries, so exotic vegetation blooms on the island in the summertime. In Reposaari, the era of classic sailing ships is still felt.

The idyllic island is accessible by bus, car and boat. You can camp overnight in the middle of nature or stay in an elegant floating villa.

Credits: Viivi Lähteenmäki

Kvarken archipelago, Vaasa – Island of the rising land

Feel like you’ve seen it all? Here’s something new: visit the Kvarken Archipelago and watch the land grow out of the sea (it may take some time though). The fast rate of uplift from this group of islands near Vaasa in western Finland has earned them UNESCO World Nature Heritage recognition. The rapidly advancing shoreline is emerging from the Gulf of Bothnia at about a centimetre a year. With its unique landscape of lagoons and islands, The Kvarken Archipelago is a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The bands and ridges of Kvarken’s emerging land are known as DeGeer moraines. Sheltered, shallow pools form between the moraines as they shift, becoming a home to red-throated divers, black guillemots and, in the spring migration, cranes and buzzards.

Kvarken Archipelago is connected by road to the city of Vaasa and can be reached by car in just 20 minutes. The islands are served by the towering Replot suspension bridge, the longest in Finland. There are several restaurants, and overnight guests can stay in campsites, cottages and hotels.

Another popular and unique place to visit in the Vaasa region is Bergö  a historical island only a 10-minute ferry ride away from the mainland. Read more about Bergö at Vaasa.fi.

Credits: Ann-Britt Bada

Hailuoto, Oulu – Birdwatchers paradise

Dunes stretching as far as the eye can see, the beautiful sea and idyllic fishing villages; with its many hiking trails, campfire sites and resting huts, the largest island in the Bay of Bothnia offers a wide range of opportunities to enjoy the natural world. There are several bird hides around the island for observing more than 300 species.

Hailuoto is also known for its culture. Artists started arriving in the area as early as the 1910s and today the island has a vibrant artistic and cultural scene. Summer in Hailuoto is known for events such as the Bättre Folk cultural festival, the Hailuoto theatre festival and the Hailuoto Musiikkipäivät music festival, all held annually.

Hailuoto can be reached by a ferry from the city of Oulu. In winter, when the sea is frozen, the island is served by an ice road instead.

Credits: Mariia Kauppi

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