Enjoy the best of summer on an Åland Island holiday

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2019)

Finland’s Åland Islands aren’t on most travelers’ summer holiday short-list. But if an Åland Island holiday isn’t on your list yet, maybe it’s time you discover these magical islands. (Of course, if it IS on your list, you’re probably wishing I’d keep this summer vacation escape a secret!)

View on arrival in the #Åland Islands - ExplorationVacation #Finland #visitåland #discoverfinland #summervacation

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Visit Åland for a perfect summer holiday

Summer is the perfect time for an Åland Island holiday.

To prove it, here are a few reasons to visit Åland this summer:

The Åland Islands are lovely

I’m a photographer, so I have a weakness for places with a subtle, ever-changing beauty. And the Åland Islands have lots of that. There aren’t any towering mountains or raging waterfalls, but who needs them when there is a whole archipelago of shimmering water, rocky shorelines, green forest, and cheerful red cottages to enjoy?!

Peaceful solitude abounds

In a world that sometimes seems too loud and too busy, a vacation in Åland offers a chance to slow down, unwind, and just relax. With over 6,500 islands, you can always find a place of your own!

But Åland also has a lively culture (however you define culture)

Of course, summer holidays in the Åland Islands don’t have to be about peaceful solitude. The islands also offer plenty of opportunities to join in a whole variety of activities. There is sure to be something for everyone, whether it’s shopping in charming Mariehamn, participating in old Swedish traditions, admiring the moves of visiting dance groups, or watching the classic cars parade by as the “old timers” roll off the ferry and into town!

There is a lot of history to discover

While these tiny islands might seem isolated, they were inhabited long before the Vikings arrived. Over time they have been home to fishermen and farmers, but the islands were also of strategic importance to the great powers of northern Europe. Once deep inside the Swedish empire, Åland became a Russian outpost. Today the islands have a unique status as an autonomous Swedish-speaking region of Finland.

Hints of that long and complicated history can be found throughout the islands. There are Viking grave sites, the ruins of a Swedish castle and a Russian fortress, an open air farm museum, and various maritime museums. All of them provide an engaging glimpse of life here in the past.

Fabulous local food and drinks

Åland is the perfect place to discover today’s Scandinavian cuisine. The Nordic countries have long moved beyond the bland food familiar to my ancestors – today’s menus abound with fresh local ingredients artfully blended and perfectly prepared. And, with its rich soils and agricultural heritage, summer holidays in the Åland Islands are filled with some of the freshest foods in Northern Europe.

Of course, great local food should be served with a great local beverage.  Stallhagen is the largest (but not the only) craft brewery in the islands and Smakbyn offers their own handcrafted spirits and liqueurs along with their outstanding cuisine.

Outdoor activities for everyone

Our summer holiday in the Åland Islands was limited to a long weekend, so we spent most of our time touring to see what the islands had to offer. (That and eating.) But there are plenty of activities for visitors with more time. The islands offer great options for hike, biking, swimming, paddling, boating, and more.

Not that you can’t just relax in the sun!

Plan your trip to the Åland Islands

The Åland Islands lie in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. While the archipelago includes 6,700 named islands, only about 80 are inhabited. And, with only 30,000 residents, there’s a lot of nature for visitors to explore.

Historically Swedish, these days Åland is an autonomous region of Finland. The islands are demilitarized and self-governing, with tight rules for property ownership. (You are really fortunate if you know someone with a cottage here.) The capital and largest city is Mariehamn, which is located on the largest island.

Åland is pronounced “o-land,” with a very soft “d” at the end.

The island’s Finnish name is Ahvenanmaa.

Getting to and around Åland

For a place that feels so isolated and that few people have heard of, it’s easy to get to the Åland Islands.

If you are planning a trip to either Stockholm or Helsinki, the Åland Archipelago is just a short hop away.

Money

Like Finland, Åland is on the Euro. Many businesses will also accept the Swedish krona.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Mariehamn, but less-so in other areas.

Language

Swedish is the only official language in Åland and is the first language of most residents. (The rest of Finland is officially bilingual, although Swedish is being becoming less common.)

Many people in tourist businesses in Åland also seemed to understand English. However, I understand some basic Swedish and was traveling with native Swedish speakers, so there might have been less use of English than it seemed.

Lodging

There are plenty of lodging options even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a cottage on the island.

Your first decision will be whether to stay within an easy walk of activities and dining in Mariehamn or further out – and how far out. There are lots of options if you have your own car, but there are also plenty of spots that can only be reached by foot, bike, or boat. And the car ferries can book up.

We stayed right along the harbor in Mariehamn at the Arkipelag Hotel.

The Arkipelag is located right at the edge of downtown, so it’s an easy walk to the main shopping area. It’s a casino hotel, but don’t be put-off by the casino – it’s well-separated from the hotel and my cousin turned her 10 Euros of complimentary play into €120! (The rest of us just played until our original €10 was gone.) With a pretty affordable upgrade, we got a room with a deck and a great view of the harbor and the classic cars parading by. It wasn’t fancy, but it was large, bright, and comfortable.

You can check reviews, prices, and book a room at the Arkipelag on TripAdvisor, Booking.com, or Expedia.

Resources

The Visit Åland website has a wealth of information for planning your trip to the islands.

painting of a rocky beach along the seaOther resources seem fairly limited. Land ownership is tightly regulated and most visitors are from the region.

English-language blog posts generally only cover the islands in winter, because that’s when they all visited on a press trip. However, while Visit Åland may want more winter visitors, a winter visit is going to be very, very different from a summer visit. It will be cold. And dark. And a lot of things won’t be open. But it won’t be over-crowded either. If you love winter, consider it. Otherwise, stick with warm weather travel.

Baltic summer itinerary

photo of a rocky shore along the sea with text

Open the door to find the perfect summer vacation in Finland's Åland Islands - ExplorationVacation #Finland #visitåland #discoverfinland #summervacation #alandislands

Open the door to find the perfect summer vacation in Finland's Åland Islands (painting) - ExplorationVacation #Finland #visitåland #discoverfinland #summervacation #alandislands

painting of a rocky shore along the sea

old wood door

painting of old wood door

Sailing in Finland's #Åland Islands on a beautiful summer day - ExplorationVacation #Finland #visitåland #discoverfinland #summervacation

rocky shore along the sea

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12 thoughts on “Enjoy the best of summer on an Åland Island holiday”

  1. What a perfect spot for an island summer vacation. I like that the island is both quiet and lively. I love peaceful mornings, and it’s nice to have things to do later on in the day or evening.

  2. When I was in Helsinki a few years ago there was an Aland “festival” on the harbourfront with singers, dancers and one of those decorated maypoles. I’ve been wanting to go to the Aland Islands ever since.

  3. Wow, the photos you’ve shared could be postcards! You’ve certainly got me interested. . .I’ll keep Aland Island on my future’s list!

  4. I have never thought of the Aland Islands as a travel destination but your post was so eye-opening, Cindy. These islands seem like paradise on earth. Would you recommend them as a good road trip destination?

    1. Well, paradise on earth would have no bugs, so I won’t go that far. But I think they are a pretty wonderful summer get-away. They would make a great stop on a Baltic Road trip, as they make a great stop-over between Sweden and Finland. That’s what we did, traveling by train in Sweden and Finland before/after our ferry/cruise to the islands and then continuing by ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn where we rented a car to continue touring in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It’s a lovely part of the world to spend summer vacation!

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