Ice Age Action in the Kvarken Archipelago

Did you think the Ice Age survived only on history books and animated movies? Think again. The Kvarken Archipelago in Western Finland is the only place in the world where you can witness a geological process directly related to the Ice Age. Plus, in a little while you may be able to walk to Sweden. Sounds weird, right?

Finland is a country of superlatives. It has highest number of lakes in the world (188,000, can you believe it?) and the archipelago with the most islands. It is also a place of geological oddities, and perhaps the oddest of all was good enough to deserve recognition as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.

Why is the Kvarken Archipelago odd?

Kvarken Archipelago Water Lines
The land rising from the sea

The Kvarken Archipelago, not far from the city of Vaasa on the western coast of Finland, is a unique place in geological terms. To put it simply, the land there is rising. It is rising so fast that in a little more than 2000 years, there will be a land bridge between Sweden and Finland, turning the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia into an inland lake.

This process is a direct consequence of the Ice Age. When mammoths roamed the land and squirrels looked after their last remaining acorn, the Kvarken Archipelago area was where the ice was thickest. A three kilometer deep ice sheet pushed the Earth’s crust down, sinking it under the sea. Then the ice melted, and, like a spring bouncing back, the land started to emerge again.

Vaasa Kvarken Landscape
Soon a land bridge will join Finland to Sweden

The land is currently rising by about a centimeter a year. Not impressed? How about if I said that every year, the equivalent of 150 football fields of land rises from the sea? Harbours have to be moved periodically, and cabins built on the waterfront find themselves inland in a matter of years.

kvarken archipelago Old Bridge
Fishing cabins in the area

Not only it is odd, the Kvarken Archipelago is also beautiful. Imagine a shallow, indigo sea, peppered with islands, islets and rocky skerries, with birds of prey circling overhead and swans gliding in the waters.

Kvarken archipelago swan flying
A whooper swan flying over the archipelago

The action of the Ice Age produced a landscape that is unlike any other. Pushing it down, the ice sheet left the land scarred and ridged. For this reason, it is not rising all at once; it happens a bit at a time, an islet here, another there. The moving ice has pushed sand, clay, rocks and other detritus together, creating interesting moraine formations such as the De Geer moraines, which take the form of long and narrow strips of land.

Kvarken Archipelago De Geer Moraine
DeGeer moraines from above

The area is also very interesting in terms of wildlife. The land is shifting and changing constantly, affecting the habitat of local wildlife as a result; species move in as others move out. It is one of Finland’s best birdwatching sites, a particularly good place to spot white-tailed eagles.

Visiting the Kvarken Archipelago

The gateway to the Kvarken Archipelago is the city of Vaasa, linked to Helsinki by flights and trains and to Umea in Sweden by a ferry service (the northernmost ferry service in the world!). From Vaasa, it’s a quick half-hour drive to the village of Björköby, at the entrance of the UNESCO-protected area.

Vaasa Kvarken Fishing Huts
Fishing huts near Bjorkoby

From Björköby, it’s a great idea to begin your exploration from the nearby viewing tower that offers a view of the archipelago from above, allowing to get a bird’s eye view of the funny De Geer moraines and other strange formations.

Vaasa Kvarken Observation Tower
The viewing tower

Afterwards, it’s time to hit the waters. It is possible to join large group boats from Vaasa, but a smaller vessel is a much better way to explore the area, allowing you to proceed slowly and stop for wildlife-spotting. Kvarkenturer offers small bout tours most days in summer. The sea is so shallow that red and white markers have been placed in the water to guide boat captains towards the safest route.

Vaasa Kvarken island
A view from the tower

The Kvarken Archipelago is a popular location for summer cabins, small clapboard houses often painted red, with the obligatory sauna just outside. Most Vaasa families own a summer cabin that is passed on from father to son; people visit at weekends to go fishing, swimming or just to enjoy Finnish nature at its best.

Kvarken Scarecrow House
A summer cabin by the woods

We were guests of Visit Finland as part of the #OutdoorsFinland blog trip. All opinions are our own.

30 thoughts on “Ice Age Action in the Kvarken Archipelago”

  1. So I think I’m now watching Ice Age this weekend…lol. But seriously that is beautiful and I love the possibility of one day walking to Sweden-whaaaat so cool!

  2. This post was really fascinating to read. I love learning new things, especially when it relates to traveling, and I didn’t know any of this awesome stuff about Finland previously. How cool!

  3. Wow, I’ve never heard of a land mass rising! Here in my hometown of Norfolk, VA the city is actually sinking and they’ve brought in experts from the Netherlands to help with the increasingly worse flooding.

  4. How fascinating. I had no idea about it. Interesting that someday you can walk from Finland to Sweden.
    Hopefully I can see it some day. Would be awesome spending some time at a cabin in the woods.

  5. Hey John! Thanks for your comment. I have asked around and it’s hard to quote a price on a cabin as they vary a lot according to size and location. I’ll send you an email with some more details!

  6. This is just ridiculous, in a good way. It’s hard to imagine land rising like that, especially when you what you always hear about is that water is rising or the city is sinking (Venice). What a beautiful area of the world to explore, plus it would definitely be a feat to walk from Finland to Sweden. 🙂

  7. Looks like such a stunning place, and such an educational post too! Thank you for writing this it has really fuelled a desire to go there soon! It looks as if those cabins would be a perfect romantic hideaway for a week or so, especially with views like that!

  8. Wow, the Kvarken archipelago sounds fascinating- especially in a time when sea levels elsewhere are rising. It looks like a great place to reconnect to nature and disconnect from modern distractions. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!

  9. Beautiful place. Shame that climate changes might still be having an effect but I love how it appears unspoilt by crazy tourism. That make soon change once people wake up to its beauty though 😀

  10. I don’t think many people know even in Finland! But it’s so cool, and the nature is fab! Thanks for your comment!

Comments are closed.