The Åland Islands (or just Åland) is a group of approximately 6500 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, The islands form an autonomous region that is part of Finland. What makes the region interesting – apart from the autonomy – is that it is officially Swedish-speaking only. Rest assured, at some point we will write more about the fascinating history of the place, but today we will focus on the top things to do there. And in case you’re interested in pole dancing, you should definitely keep reading.
The Åland Islands: Where the Sunsets Are Stunning
Imagine a calm sea and a breeze that’s hardly there. Picture a Nordic night – you know, the kind where the sun sets around midnight. Close your eyes and imagine the buzzing mosquitoes and singing grasshoppers. Maybe you hear the waves rippling against the red cliffs that have been bathing in sunlight during an entire day. And then think of an amazing sunset.
Here’s a sunset for you.
The Åland Islands: Where the Distances Are Short
The Åland Islands may consist of many an island, but the population is relatively small. There is a total of 28,502 people inhabiting the islands. Most of them live on the main island, and there is even a town called Mariehamn. The distances are not always short – some people live far from the main island, but in general and for most people, one can see most of the island in one or two days. It’s a popular destination for bicycle touring. The small size of the place does not correlate with the amount of things to experience there. Golfing, fishing, cycling and camping are all popular activities. There are plenty of historical sites and the cultural events are many, especially in summertime.
Travelling to the Åland Islands is easy. You get on a ferry in either Tallinn, Helsinki. Turku, Stockholm or a couple of other ports in the Stockholm area. Depending on where you get on, the ferry ride will last anywhere between two and 11 hours. Due to EU regulations, ferries travelling between EU countries in the Baltic Sea need to make a pit stop at the Åland Islands in case they want to sell duty free goods. So, you can do some shopping as well. With about 2000 other fellow passengers.
Åland Islands: Where Tradition Is Always Close
This statement is based on personal experience, so take it with a pinch of salt. Many of the locals take their traditions very seriously. I think that the reason might be the special status of the islands. The language issue and the nature of the autonomy are indeed very important for the local identity. One of the main traditions is Midsummer’s Eve when people eat well, stay up late… and dance around a pole. This is the more traditional version of pole dancing…
The Åland Islands: Diving Into History
Swedish kings and duke, and the war of Crimea. Castle and fortress, and many years of a rich maritime history. For being such a small area, a lot of things have happened in this sleepy place. The Britons and the French fought Russians here, and once a Swedish duke imprisoned his brother in the Kastelholm Castle for some time. The League of Nations thought long and hard about the status of the Åland Islands after WWI when the people of Åland and newly independent Finland disagreed on territorial matters. Åland wanted to reunite with Sweden, but it was an international agreement that granted Finland the islands.
The Åland Islands: Where the Summer Days Are Endless
One of the reasons to visit the Nordic countries is the light summer nights. In my opinion, it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Some of my fondest childhood memories include going for a bath at 1 a.m. or taking a walk at 4 a.m. with the sun almost peeking from behind the treetops. It’s a very peaceful feeling, exploring the world in almost complete silence, with no artificial sounds, no people, no cars… adults can go skinny dipping if they wish! And in summer the world is so green, and it smells of fresh flowers.
So, in summary we recommend you to visit the Åland Islands if you’re passing by or if you’re planning a weekend trip from either Finland or Sweden. The best time to visit is definitely the summer – that’s when everything happens!