Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea
A constant thought during the first half of the tour was whether we should go further north in Sweden and up around the Bothnian Sea or cut across to Finland. In Stockholm we decided that we had had enough of endless woods and that sailing through the Archipelago Sea would be more interesting. It consists of 20,000 islands, almost all uninhabited.
Our morning cycle to the ferry was the third damp day we’ve had since arriving in Europe, 27 days in. We camped in the woods beside the port and so had no problems arriving in time to catch the 9am ferry. We felt that Aland was less interesting than Gotland. It didn’t have the same quantity of historic towns, natural wonders and interesting countryside.
We did a three day tour up to the north end of the island, hoping to catch a view of some of the small archipelago islands. We didn’t, but we did swim in the sea for four days running.
I think the problem with islands is that the allure of being surrounded by sea is very strong but the reality is that you don’t really see it unless there is a coastal road or you go out of your way. We did our best to spend time by the sea and every evening we tried to find somewhere to swim and then wild camp.
We found a fascinating wood, the ground was covered in spongey, nearly white moss.
It was on the island that we met a Finnish farner who didn’t know English and so we resorted to communicating through gestures. He warned us of snakes by wiggling his arms, kids playing football by mimicking a goal and told us where the toilet was by… Well, you can guess.
Sailing through the islands was the most fun ferry trip I’ve been on. It cost €50 from the checkin terminal at Kapellskär, a port 70 miles north of Stockholm. It’s designed to be done as a cruise as well as a simple ferrying of people back and forth. So on deck there was a bar, music blaring out and lots of seating.
We sat on deck for the whole crossing so took photos of the multitude of islands and the endless expanse of sea. Vikingline was the company we sailed with from Stockholm to the Åland Islands and then to Turku, near Helsinki.
It is possible to sail between many of the larger islands, ferry services tend to run once a day or on demand in some cases. We decided to cycle around Mariehamn as going to smaller islands is impractical with bicycles and would also consume more time than we have.
Whilst the ferry trip was thoroughly enjoyable, it did have the negative impact of reaffirming my opinion that long cruises are not for me. I want to be out on dry land, exploring it, rather than stuck on a ship 20 hours a day and occasionally docking for a quick look around.
We arrived in Finland at 5pm, so cycled through Turku and camped just outside the city on one of the small islands. It’s roughly 150 miles to Helsinki, following the Kings Road, the old main road that goes through key villages along the coast.
The cycle tour so far:
England – Cornwall to Wales
Ireland – Winding Westwards
Ireland – Starting the Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland – The Wild Atlantic
Ireland – Causeway Coastal Route
England – Stopover in the Peaks
Netherlands – Bicycle touring through the Netherlands
Germany – Hamburg and Lubeck
Denmark – Reaching the Baltic Sea
Denmark – Exploring Copenhagen
Sweden – Cycling Southern Sweden
Sweden – Destination: Gotland
Sweden – Cycling to Stockholm
Finland – Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea