Stroll in the relaxing atmosphere of the Hirvensalo countryside, just a stone’s throw from central Turku, and enjoy several major attractions along the way.
Length: approx. 29 km (or approx. 21 km without deviations)
Duration: approx. 2 hours (at a gentle pace)
Difficulty level: Easy / Medium. The route includes some hills. If the ascents are a problem, an electric bike is a great and easy alternative.
Hirvensalo Island, located south of Turku, is the fastest growing residential area in Turku. Despite the busy pace of construction, the island boasts marine nature and idyllic countryside.
The journey begins with a free (if somewhat small) river cruise. After sailing across the river aboard Föri, the route takes you along the riverbank past the modern residential area of Telakkaranta. Along the route, there’s an old shipyard crane standing on the bank of the river, along with the elegant restaurant Crane 22, situated next to it. Having won awards for its construction, stop here and sit back with a meal or a glass on the terrace. Shortly after passing the crane, you slip through a tunnel onto Hirvensalo Puistotie road, which takes you to the Hirvensalo Bridge. The bridge offers superb scenic views in both directions. On the horizon, you can see Turku Castle as well as the Swedish ships coasting into the harbour in the mornings and evenings. After crossing the bridge, turn down the path to the right.
Moving past the Lauttaranta marina, to the left side of the path, you can see a small graceful statue of a woman. At the intersection of the Vanha Kakskerrantie and Toijaistentie roads, close to the waterfront, was once the studio of the sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen. The site is marked by the work from Juhani Pallasmaa entitled “Muistijälki (Memory Trace)”, which consists of Aaltonen's sculpture Muusa (Muse), surrounded by a steel frame. On the other side of the road, under the protection of a cliff, you’ll find Wäinö Aaltonen's red house and courtyard building.
A couple of hundred metres after the Aaltonen monument, from the left edge of the forest, a yellow house stands tall, like something straight out of a fairy tale. Life on a Leaf is a vibrant manifestation which, as the name implies, looks like the leaf of a tree when viewed from above. The house was designed by artist Jan-Erik Andersson and is privately owned.
Continuing on Pikisaarentie road to Särkilahdentie road, at which point you turn onto the road to Maanpää. This flat, open and quiet country road is easy under foot, despite missing a bike path. In spring and autumn, you can often see fields of cucumbers lining the road. In Seulu you’ll find Sipsalo farm, where Peter Kalm, a student of the botanist Carl von Linné, founded an experimental garden in 1752. The varieties imported by Kalm from America are known to have survived to this day. Sipsalo is now privately owned. Maanpääntie road is a dead end and the distance to the turning point is 2 km.
At the beginning of Häppiläntie, the bike path ends. However, the road is relatively calm, so you can still ride on it. As you hike uphill, the thriving Illoisten siirtolapuutarha area spreads out on the left. This is then perhaps the funniest part of the route. The next five miles the road meanders through the rolling terrain. As you travel up and down, the sea pops into view behind the fields here and there. As you pass through the rural landscapes, the city feels distant. On fast descents, enjoy the gentle speed but at the same time be aware of fast-moving deer - the island has them in abundance. At Haarlanlahti, the cycle path begins again, indicating that soon pedestrians will be back in the way.
At the roundabout in Haarla, turn towards the city centre and in front of the gate of Vastermaki Manor, take a detour onto the gravel road. About a kilometre away is the Friskalanlahti Bird Tower. From the tower, you can spot many bird species that thrive in the Friskalanlahti nature reserve. The scenery from the tower over the bay of reeds is well worth seeing.
From the bird tower, we return on a different route back to Kakskerrantie road. On the right side of Kakskerrantie, large herds of cows graze during summer and horses happily roam at the equestrian farm on the left. Shortly after, the Seiskarinkatu street, which turns to the right, takes you to St. Henry's ecumenical art chapel. The detour there is less than a kilometre from Kakskerrantie. The building itself is a magnificent work of art, with an exterior made from copper and the interior made from Finnish pine. The name of the building, “Ikhthys”, means ‘fish’ in Greek and reflects the appearance of the building but also Christian symbolism. Among other things, the art chapel organises art exhibitions and concerts.
From the art chapel, continue on the bike path along Pitkäsalmenkatu to Honkaistentie road, which leads you back to the Hirvensalo Bridge. About 100 metres before the bridge on the right side of the road is a plaque commemorating Wäinö Aaltonen's former residence. You will soon dive through a tunnel and turn sharply to the right, onto Hirvensalo bridge. The rest of the way from the bridge follows a comfortable and familiar route. After your energetic foray into the countryside, you can happily indulge in the delicacies of the cafes and restaurants along the River Aura.
Tip: Due to its varied terrain, the route is a good fitness trail. You can also traverse the route in a clockwise direction. The route is easily modified (such as by removing the gravel road sections) or combined with a tour of Kakskerta. During the summer season, the water bus runs between the city centre, Pikisaari on Hirvensalo and Ruissalo.
Text Veli-Matti Rissanen. Photos Veli-Matti Rissanen, Pekka Vallila and Visit Turku.
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