I must admit, before I revisited Scandinavia last year I had never heard of the Åland Islands. That is the wonderful thing about travel, no matter how much you do it, there is always a destination you have never heard of.
Some facts about Åland
The Åland Islands, all 6700 of them, are situated between Sweden and Finland, in the northern part of the Baltic Sea.
They constitute an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland with its own flag.
Åland has about 29,000 inhabitants and about 11,500 of them live in Åland’s only town, Mariehamn. The town was founded in 1861 and today it is the commercial and political centre. It is also Åland’s seat of government.
The things that make Åland unique are its unspoiled archipelago and the beautiful bedrock, worn smooth by glacier ice, that gets its red colour from the area’s rapakivi granite.
Did you know that Åland has more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Northern Europe between May and August?
Another of Åland’s distinctive traits is the midsummer sight of maypoles, colourful garlands and oldie world windmills.
My one day in Åland
A drive through forests along red-glowing roads with cable ferry trips and endless sunshine, and surrounded by sparkling seas, beautiful landscapes,
and the purest air and on to the island of Vårdö.
A visit to the Åland School Museum, in 1888, teacher Viktor Jansson of Vårdö erected the building that houses the school museum today. He taught and lived there until his death in 1895.
The old schoolhouse has now been painstakingly restored in its original 1900’s glory full of interesting school life.
Then on to northern most part of Vårdö with another wire ferry trip to the island of Simskäla. Currently Simskäla has about 25 inhabitants but numerous families settled on this group of islands in the late 19th century, when a new fishing method was introduced that made it possible for non-landowning families to fish in the rich waters. Such a peaceful place.
Here there was coffee and Åland pancakes waiting at Stormskärsguesthouse. The owners are a family with children who make up the very small community on the island of Simskäla. Åland pancakes are famous on the islands and in Finland too.
I’ve brought home a recipe to try and will post my version quite soon!
I was told that a previous President of Finland came here to Simskäla to escape her hectic political life. I could escape here!
The final highlight was a visit to the ruins of Bomarsund Fortress one of Åland’s most historical sites. Built between 1832-1854 by around 5,000 men (which was huge for Åland), Bomarsund played a big part in the Åland Islands becoming demilitarised because the fortress was home to the Russian army (Åland was part of Russia at the time) during the Crimean War.
A combination of British and French soldiers attacked and defeated the Russians paving the way for the islands to get rid of their military. The fortress is situated in the most beautiful area right above a huge lake.
I fell in love with the Åland Islands, they are definitely Finland’s fairy tale islands. I would have loved to have had a week to explore more of the other islands.
The people are friendly, the food and drink are top class and there are loads of activities to do but the main reason to visit these islands is to reconnect with nature.
These islands are beautiful, no matter where you are. In a word: GO!