The Best Islands of Turku’s Archipelago x 7

Turku’s Archipelago begins in Turku and stretches all the way to Åland, comprising some 40,000 islands. Here we introduce you to just a few that we think are especially worth a visit.

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1Ruissalo

This classic island just outside Turku is particularly well known for its romantic natural beauty, its wooden lace villas from the Tsarist period as well as the Ruisrock music festival. Other attractions the island boasts include the Botanical Garden of Turku University, Ruissalo’s National Park, the swimming beach at Saaronniemi as well as the pea soup and doughnuts served every day at Honkapirtti. The nostalgia of the old boat-building industry is found at Ruissalo Shipyard events venue, where the popular Avelia (design business and café) and Sergio's Al Mare (authentic Italian pizzeria) are located. 

Ruissalo is accessible from the city via a long bridge but Turku’s Föli transport system also operates a waterbus that departs from the banks of the Aura. So set sail to Ruissalo!

2Loistokari

Out in the open Airisto Sea, about 30 minutes boat ride from the centre of Turku, you’ll find the little island of Loistokari, where a former lighthouse pilot once raised his family of 11 children. It’s been told that the children even learned to ride a bike on the island, so long as it was tied by rope to the flagpole.

Now you can head to the picturesque Loistokari on a summer evening cruise aboard the steamboat Ukkopekka. The nostalgic programme, lasting about four hours, includes dinner and dancing on the pier under the Airisto skies, surrounded by the warm embrace of the atmospheric archipelago.  

3Seili

Seili is an island that really appeals to our sense of drama. The island’s history is extensive, remarkable and chequered.

It all started in 1619, when the King Gustav II Adolf decreed that the island of Seili would house a leprosy hospital. In reality, Seili became a deportation island, a place from which no one returned. After leprosy disappeared from Finland, they began sending to Seili those deemed to be "crazy". The mental hospital was only established there in the 1900’s, with the premises now handed over for use by the Archipelago Research Institute of the University of Turku.

Nowadays, travellers can even stay amidst Seili’s beautiful island nature and enjoy dining at the island’s well-regarded restaurant Seili. Those interested should lookout for the lovely wooden church dating from the 1700’s.  

4Högsåra

When Finland was an autonomous Grad Duchy of Russia, the Tsar had a habit of vacationing in Turku’s Archipelago. Have a look for Högsåra’s Imperial Harbour, a reminder of when Alexander III used to spend summers on the island accompanied by his court at the end of the 19th Century.

Nowadays, Högsåra’s greatest temptation is maybe the Farmor's Café. This café-restaurant looks and feels like the home of your grandmother, with delicious treats such as the impressive cakes, where guests can cut a piece to their liking.

Högsåra is a short inter-island ferry ride from Svartnäs on Kemitö.

5Örö

The location of Öro Island is quite far from the mainland. You must first drive to the tip of the Kasnäs peninsula (1-5 from Turku) and then, when you have boarded the connecting ferry, you are then less than an hour away.

Awaiting you on Örö is a unique combination of natural beauty and the history of military defence – Örö was a fortress for the Finnish army right up until 2015. In addition to the large guns and barracks, the island holds charming nature, with meadows of heather (an exceptional sight for Finland), dream locations for butterfly enthusiasts as well as rare plants, from the Western Pasque Flower to Sea Kale.

The island operates two restaurants and a variety of accommodation options in the old barracks.    

6Utö

Like Örö, the island of Utö was also once used for military purposes, but where nowadays is perfect for a small vacation. Part of the island is still restricted and in use by the armed forces. The journey to the outer edge of the archipelago is about 4-5 hours from Turku, and aboard the connecting ferries is the perfect time to enjoy views across the most beautiful archipelago in the world, changing as you travel from luscious green to rugged serenity.

When on Utö, breath deeply into your lungs the limitless sea, heavenly sky and magnificent nature. Whilst there, eat and sleep in the hotel, part of which was once a former barracks. 

7Bengtskär

Bengtskär Lighthouse Island is Finland’s southernmost inhabited place – at least in summer. In winter, the barren lighthouse island doesn’t have much going on – and that’s a good thing.

A great tower of granite standing in the centre of the stormy seas, Bengtskär has an exceptionally dramatic history. Before the lighthouse was completed, the shallow waters around the islets were the tragic destiny for many ships. Completed in 1906, Bengtskär then became the scene of great battles during both World War I and II.

Today it is a thing of beauty, with the lighthouse – itself representative of the National Romantic and Jugendstil buildings – also accommodating visitors for day trips or overnight.     

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