The Archipelago Trail – Island hopping in Finland
The Archipelago Trail is a 250 km long sea route that allows you to visit the beautiful Finnish archipelago even if you don’t know anything about sailing or boating. Today, The Archipelago Trail, or the Ring Road, is one of the country’s most popular tourist routes, which attracts around 20,000 tourists annually.
The ring road can be travelled either by car, bicycle or motocycle. If you’re feeling lucky, you can even try hitchhiking! Whatever the mode of transport, there are plenty of interesting cultural attractions which are worth exploring along the beautiful trail.
The whole Archipelago Trail can be accessed only in the summertime, as the ferry crossing between Houtskar and Iniö operates from the beginning of June to the end of August. If you haven’t got enough time for the whole ring road, the Small Archipelago Trail offers an alternative way to explore the archipelago along its 100 km long route.
To get you started, we listed some of the most interesting stopping points in the archipelago.
Idyllic farm house in Parainen – great choice for the first break
If you choose the city of Turku as your starting point of your trip, the first break is worth taking in Parainen at the latest. In the center of the idyllic old town you can find the former home of Fredrika Runeberg, the wife of Finnish national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. According to a legend, there has been an unlicensed pub in this same building serving alcohol as early as in 1694. The refreshing drinks and delicious pastries of the café can be enjoyed comfortably in the courtyard which has a nice playground for children. Right next to the museum, you can also find a small handicraft shop.
Address: Fredrikanaukio 2, Parainen.
Airisto Resort – meet the local sailors
Airisto Resort, which is located on the island of Stormälö in Parainen, has been a popular spot among the boaters for a long time. The area, known for its rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, is a good choice even for a longer a pit stop. In Airisto you can taste delicious sea food, spend time in cafeterias, have a good time in a child-friendly sandy beach or meet the local sailors in the harbour. The resort has also good facilities for many summer activities – including tennis, cycling, fishing and canoeing.
Address: Airistontie 700, Parainen.
The island of Seili – famous for its history
The island of Seili is one of the gloomiest places in Finland. Seili became a sanatorium originally in 1619, when the King of Sweden decided to set up a leper colony on the island. After the closing of the leprosarium in 1785, a mental hospital was situated on the island until 1962.
Nowadays, Seili is a popular travel destination which can be reached by a public ferry from Nauvo, Rymättylä and Parainen in summer. The most famous attraction in the island, the red wooden church, is open for visitors during the holiday season. While visiting the island you can also explore the nature of this mysterious island along the marked paths.
Walk Barefoot on a Nature Path
The Barefoot Path, located on the island of Korppoo, is an interesting art exhibition that focuses on environmental art. The exhibition invites the visitors to experience contemporary art that has been created to interact with the environment. Every year the exhibition explores the relationship between human and nature and investigates how nature impacts people. The theme of the 2017 exhibition is Traces. Take off your shoes and feel the nature!
Location: Österretaisintie 120, 21710 Pargas (close to Hotel Nestor)
Enjoy the sea views on a ferry cruise
Ferry trips along the Archipelago’s Ring Roads are one reason to visit the area. Along the Archipelago Trail you can travel by seven ferries and one bigger vessel. The durations of the ferry trips vary from a few minutes to almost one hour. All the ferries along the ring road are free of charge, except for m/s Antonia which operates between Houtskär and Iniö and m/s Östern which operates between Rymättylä and Nauvo.
Visit the stone church on the island of Iniö
Sophia Wilhelmina Church, the most famous landmark of Iniö, is a great choice for a short pit stop. When visiting the church, pay attention to the boat hanging from the ceiling and the famous brass chandelier from the 17th century. In addition to the church and the idyllic small village center, you really can’t get far from the sea in Iniö as there are a total of 700 kilometers of shoreline in the area.
Historical glory in a beautiful manor
The manor of Louhisaari, located in the middle of idyllic English-style garden, has been the most famous landmark of Askainen since 1650’s. The white manor belonged to the Fleming family for more than 300 years and then to the Mannerheim family for more than 100 years.
The manor, which is nowadays owned by the National Board of Antiquities, is open to tourists from mid-May until the end of August. On a guided tour you can admire the original furniture of the castle, the beautiful antique items and the legendary ceiling paintings from the 1660s. The castle has been originally designed for different purposes: the first floor was planned for the servants, the second floor for the master and mistress and the third floor for celebration. After completing the guided tour, you can chill out in the magnificent garden of the manor.
Address: Louhisaarentie 244, Askainen.
Naantali Old Town
You should not leave the archipelago trail without a walk in the beautiful old town of Naantali. The colourful houses and villas built in the 19th century reflect the fascinating stories of the past centuries. On a walk in a promenade you can admire the beautiful seashore or visit one of the many beaches of the area. While in Naantali, you can also spend an unforgettable day in the Moominworld or take a guided walking tour in Kultaranta, the beautiful summer residence of the President of Finland.
Things to remember before heading to the archipelago
- Accommodation for the trail can be booked on Gofinland’s website. The large selection of rental cottages include many alternatives from traditional island cabins to luxurious villas. Check www.gofinland.fi/en
- Before the trip, remember to check the ferry schedules and the locations of the harbours
- If you are heading to the Small Archipelago Trail, check out the schedule of m/s Östern which operates between Rymättylä and Nauvo
- The map of the archipelago can be bought in all the tourist information centres of the area
- For more information about the area, check the official site of the trail: http://www.saaristonrengastie.fi/en
Even if it’s possible to drive the route in just a couple of hours, you will get the most out of the spectacular sights along the trail by reserving enough time for the tour. Whether you are a sea lover or a landlubber, The Archipelago Trail is an excellent choice also for a longer holiday.
TEXT: JUHA KALAOJA
Juha Kalaoja is a geographer and photographer who likes to capture the beauty of the Earth to his photos. For more information, check out his homepage at www.juhakalaoja.com and take a look at his photographs at Fennevision.fi – suomalainen kuvapankki.