Finland may be relatively small geographically (comparable in area to the US state California), but it is a nation with a vast array of attractions. Amongst these attractions are the Baltic islands which lie off mainland Finland’s coast.
Finland is home to almost one hundred and eighty thousand islands, as well as even more lakes and swamplands. The result of the melting of the last ice-age, Finland is literally made of islands, peninsulas, and isthmuses.
Almost eight hundred of Finland’s Baltic islands are more than a square kilometre in area, and most of these are permanently inhabited. These islands are a haven for unique culture which is disappearing from much of the mainland due to modern life.
A visit to some of these islands cannot be recommended highly enough for the tourist who loves the outdoors. Think fresh ocean breezes; peace, solitude and silence; myriads of sea birds; and a calm atmosphere evocative of being right on the very edge of the world.
Here are some Baltic island treasures well worth a visit:
Aspo is comprised of hundreds of tiny islands and skerries surrounding one larger island. It was once the home of pagan giants, according to legend. The earliest mention of Aspo dates to Danish trade chronicles from 1270; at that time the archipelago was much more populated than it is today. Serviced by ferry, Aspo village lies in a sheltered cove, and the island is a charming place to relax: stroll the nature trail, enjoy a sauna overlooking the sea at the bed and breakfast establishment, or go camping.
According to local history, a Swedish king living four centuries ago burned down ever tree on the island of Jurmo in order to eliminate the pirates who interrupted trade routes between Russia and Sweden. The island remains almost bare of trees to this day. It is five kilometres in length, but never more than one kilometre in width, and is a spectacular landscape. It is accessed by sea and a small pier and dock offer shelter to kayaks and boats. It is a perfect place for swimming, bird watching, rambling, and accommodations are either by camping or renting a small cottage from local families.
Visiting Noto is literally like stepping back in time. It is one of the area’s largest islands, and at one time was a very important hub. It has very few modern inhabitants, and appears very much as it did over a century ago. The chapel and many buildings date from three hundred years ago. Noto is a great place to go for walks, get amongst nature, and fossick through history. The island is basically run from the Backero bed and breakfast – so even if you decide to camp, get advice and supplies through them.
There are, of course, many other islands well worth a visit off Finland’s Baltic coast. Uto is Finland’s last inhabited outpost before the Baltic Sea and Europe’s mainland. It is a veritable feast for historians and shipwreck divers. Houtskar is part of the Jungfruskar Biosphere Reserve; heavily forested, the attraction here is to ramble in solitude through moss-covered landscapes picking lingonberries, blueberries, and mushrooms. One must also visit the Otterbote Bronze Age Settlement.
The best time to visit the Baltic Islands is during the summer months, to fully embrace the outdoors in this isolated and special corner of the world.