Hiking Åland Islands – The Basics
Åland Islands 1 Week Itinerary
Day 1: Kustavi-Jurmo
Another beautiful path is the one heading to the northwest of the island, a great sunset spot. We sat on the pink granite rocks under a multicoloured sky, next to three young girls with long blonde braids and freckles on their noses. The wind ruffled the surface of the sea, making the silver tone of the water shine even stronger. As the last rays disappeared beyond the horizon, I felt something behind me and turned around – only to see the auburn flash of a fox, heading for the forest.
Where to stay in Jurmo
Day 2: Jurmo-Lappo
From Åva to Torsholma we walked along the famous pink roads, on windswept bridges with views over tiny islands, shaded forests, boathouses with red paint peeling in the sun, and rested on rocks on the edge of the water perfect for a nap in the sunshine. The walk took about 7 hours and led us across several islands, each of them only a few kilometres long, past several summer cabins and through the village of Brändö, the largest in this part of Åland, just as sleepy as Jurmo was.
Where to stay in Lappo
Pellas Gasthem, offering stays either in the main guesthouse building located in a former school next to the frisbee golf course or in cabins right next to the harbour.
Day 3: Lappo-Vårdö
Where to stay in Vårdö
In Sandösund Camping, where else? Make sure you book the Hermit’s Cottage wayyyy in advance!
Day 4-5: Vårdo-Kvarnbo-Kastelholm
Kvarnbo and Kastelholm are both on Åland’s largest island, called ‘Fasta Åland’ (‘Main Åland’), the same island as capital Mariehamn. Once on Fasta Åland the landscape changes. Gone are the small islands and windswept bridges. Views are more rural, suburban even, as we proceeded away from the coast and across the island. We walked along the RN 2, with a lot more cars than on the small pink roads of the northern islands – luckily, cycle paths and other side lanes offered a chance to avoid the traffic (which anyway, was not really heavy).
From Sandösund, we walked across the islands of Mickelsö and Prästö, until we hit Fasta Åland. Shortly afterwards, we passed a really cool sight – the ruins of Bomarsund fortress, built during the period of Russian rule over Finland, and destroyed by the Anglo-French army during the Crimean war in 1854.
Bomarsund fortress was the largest construction ever to be built in the Åland archipelago – it wasn’t even finished when it was demolished, only twenty years after construction began. To get an idea of the size of the structure, we took a trail leading us around the ruined fortress, past its walls built with huge hexagonal pink bricks. Guess how long the trail was? 4 kilometers!
We hiked up to Nortvikstornet, one of the fortress towers, with a great view over Fasta Åland and the surrounding islands. A great vantage point, I thought – but probably not great enough, as the Russian garrison housed in the fortress lost the battle of Bomarsund.
As I mentioned before, the closer you get to Mariehamn, the less spectacular landscapes become, but on the other hand there are more things to do and see, and places to stop for a meal or a drink. Kastelholm makes for another interesting stop – it’s a recently restored medieval castle surrounded by a moat, with an interesting permanent exhibition about life in the area in the 15th and 16th century, when the castle had its heyday.
Not far from Kastelholm there’s Smakbyn, one of the most famous restaurants in the Åland Islands. We turned up too late to have dinner, but the menu did look delicious, a kind of modern reinterpretation of traditional Åland/Finnish/Swedish cuisine.
Where to stay in Kvarnbo and Kastelholm
These are easy to remember! In Kvarnbo, stay at Kvarnbo Gasthem, and make sure you ask Martin to show you his vintage bike and pinball machine! In Kastelholm, a good choice is Kastelholm Gasthem, a short walk from the castle.
Day 6: Kastelholm-Mariehamn
It was a far cry from the sweeping archipelago vistas and mustikka-picking bucolic moments of our early Åland Islands days. Yet, the final stretch of our hike still gave us some beautiful moments – like the sunny alfresco lunch at Stallhagen brewery, where we enjoyed homemade sausages and a selection of tasty Åland brews, or the moment when we walked into Mariehamn and glimpsed the four-masted silhouette of Pommern, one of the last sailboats to cover the Grain Race between Northern Europe and South Australia.
Where to stay in Mariehamn
Hotel Cikada, a midrange hotel with a ‘retro’ atmosphere (think 1960s holiday hotel!) a couple of streets away from the Pommern.
If you have any questions about hiking the Aland islands, feel free to contact us anytime!
We would like to thank Annica and Leah from Visit Åland and everyone we met along the way during our 40 days hiking across Finland.
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