Recently I embarked on a journey across the Finnish archipelago trail to Uto island.
I’m always excited to visit new areas of Finland I’ve yet to discover and the season for visiting the Finnish archipelago is soon upon us so I braved the cold to see what there is to explore.
Utö is the southern most populated point in Finland and I’ll explain step by step how to reach the Uto island along the Finnish archipelago trail.
I’m excited to share with you my experiences as well as some information on how you can also travel around the Finnish archipelago trail.
First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the Finnish archipelago trail.
About the Finnish archipelago trail
(The map shows part of the Finnish archipelago trail)
The Finnish archipelago trail is a looping route that connects 25,000+ island communities around the Finnish archipelago by boat.
It’s possible to follow the route by foot or bicycle. (as well as by car or caravan/mobile home)
Cycling the trail is recommended and you can easily rent a bike in or around Turku.
You can find an online map of the Finnish archipelago trail Here. The website also contains a number of camping spots you can pitch your tent too. Very helpful resource.
Many of the boats that connect the trail are free of charge and funded by the Finnish government (apart from one small boat connection in the west).
You can complete the Finnish archipelago trail within 24 hours, but that would be rushing it.
It’s recommended to complete the Finnish archipelago trail over the course of a long weekend or a week, depending on how much time you have to spare.
(Pick a spot, park your bike, pitch a tent, sleep under the stars, easy!)
Bonus tip: Be sure to make use of the Finnish free camping law, where you can sleep anywhere on public land for free.
Bring along a tent and sleeping bag and sleep under the moonlight and stars after a long day of cycling.
I’ve put together a blog that goes into more detail regarding free camping in Finland: Backpacking around Scandinavia on a budget. Be sure to give it a read and get ready for the ultimate Finnish adventure.
How to travel to the Finnish archipelago from Helsinki airport
With Finnair you can now stop over in Finland for 5 hours to 5 days, which makes the Finnish archipelago a perfect stop over destination.
You can complete the Finnish archipelago trail in 1-5 days, which gives you enough time to explore a unique part of Finland.
(Direct from Helsinki Vantaa airport you can travel to Turku )
The moment I landed at Helsinki Vantaa airport a direct bus from the airport (no need to travel into Helsinki city) was ready to depart in 50 minutes to the city of Turku.
Turku is the gateway city to reach the Finnish archipelago trail.
Helsinki Vantaa airport is a super easy airport to navigate around, making this connection easy.
(Easy to get around Helsinki Vantaa airport)
Took me 20 minutes from flight to bus terminal which is located outside terminal 2 (follow the bus signs).
The cost of the local bus was €25.00 one way from Helsinki Vantaa airport direct to Turku. No need for advance booking as the bus rarely is full.
The bus journey will take around 2 hours to reach Turku city centre from Helsinki Vantaa airport.
You can check the bus time on Matkahuolto website, the national Finnish bus company.
Just a warning, you might have to switch buses in Espoo, depending on how full the bus is. However the bus driver will make this very clear and wait with you until the intercity bus from Helsinki centre arrives.
How to travel from Turku to the start of the Finnish archipelago trail
(Turku is one of my favourite cities in Finland.)
First off, Turku is a lovely city to explore in Finland. Be sure not to rush past if you manage to have enough time.
With the highest population of Swedish speaking Finns in Finland, the city has a whole unique lifestyle of its own.
Nothing like walking along the canal banks, jumping onto one of the boats that happen to double up as a bar and having a drink or two in the sunshine.
(Turku has much to explore. Thank you to Siri and Saara for being my models on the day!)
If you can, try to spend some time in Turku city before heading off to the Finnish archipelago.
Remember, you can rent a bike in Turku to use along the Finnish archipelago trail if you wish.
Best to have a chat with the local Turku tourism office.
Here you can also pick up a handy Finnish archipelago trail map too.
If you happen to be tight for time and plan to skip Turku or once you’re done exploring Turku, you can grab a bus to the Finnish archipelago.
This journey will take around 2 hours and the bus will depart from the same area as the bus you grabbed from Helsinki Vantaa airport to Turku.
You can check the bus time here on Matkahuolto website, the national Finnish bus company.
The cost of this bus will be €15.00 one way.
(The bus will even hop along these little boat bridges that connect the islands)
The bus to reach the Finnish archipelago will travel through Nagu island to reache Pärnäs port.
To travel to the island of Utö you will need to reach Pärnäs ferry port, which the bus will take you to.
On the timetable of Eivor there is marked in yellow to show which departures matches the Turku bus connections with the ferry.
The ferry does not leave before the passengers on the bus has boarded. It waits. So it is very safe to take the connecting bus from Turku to Pärnäs to head for Utö and the outer islands.
How to travel to the island of Utö.
(Why am I standing at Pärnäs port?)
OK, so why am I grabbing a bus from Turku to Pärnäs port? Great question!
Pärnäs island is home to where the boat will depart to Uto island.
If you wish to book a private boat to Utö island you are looking within the region of €400.
However, you can grab a state funded commuter ferry to the island of Utö for free! Yes, you heard me, it’s free! Awesome!
(I travelled on M/S Eivor on Wednesday at 07:30am from Pärnäs to Utö island.)
Ferry.fiis the go to source for finding boat times around the Finnish archipelago.
Here you can check what time and dates the boats will depart around the Finnish archipelago.
It changes throughout the seasons to match with demand, so do check well in advance to match your travel plans.
The boat to Uto island might be only running once every two days and could be departing early in the morning around 07:30am. Basically, you don’t want to miss the boat, be on time!
This is where it gets tricky as you want to match the bus from Turku with the boat departure to Utö island from Pärnäs ferry port.
I have a few suggestions for you.
Of course camping is free in Finland. You could pitch a tent in the forest close by to Pernäs ferry port and wait until the morning.
Another option is to sleep on the Ferry boat to Utö.
(The boat to Utö has 6 bunks, first come, first serve)
You can find a cabin on the lower deck that has 6 free to use sleeping bunks. The bunks on Eivor you can only rest in as the ship is cruising.
They are mostly used by the islanders heading back to the mainland.
If you can find a spare bunk you’re welcome to sleep on the boat for free.
If you would like to arrive in Pärnäs the day before departure, you could stay at a local B&B in either Korpo or Nauvo then travel the short distance to the ferry port and save yourself the 2 hour bus ride in the early hours of the morning.
Accommodation options in Nauvo
Before travelling to Utö island I decided to stay on Nauvo island the night before.
The plan was to get a good night’s sleep, then wake up early in the morning to catch the ferry to Utö island.
This worked out rather well and I decided to stay at hotel Stallbacken which was much closer to Pärnäs ferry port than Turku and was easy to get to in the morning.
What I like most about the Finnish archipelago is how you will quickly discover that almost all businesses located within the area are normally local or family run.
Hotel Stallbacken was originally a farm and recently beautifully converted into a hotel family stay.
In the morning the bread at breakfast time was baked the day before, it has a very welcoming, homely feel of a stay and that’s what I love about visiting these remote parts of the world that connection with the locals.
Got a real sense of history and culture from the dated pictures on the walls of what the area used to be like back when the hotel was a farm.
Was a great refreshing stay and was ready for the next day in the morning.
A journey through the Finnish archipelago to reach Utö island
(The ferry passes many islands along the Finnish archipelago to Utö island)
Perfect! By this point you should have made it onto the boat and you are knowing on your way to Utö island!
Let the adventure begin!
The journey will take around 5 hours. This all depends on how many islands the ferry boat will stop off at.
The ferry will pass the islands of Berghamn, Nötö, Aspö, Jurmo and finally to the island of Utö.
This depends on if the captain has been given a stop off or pick up request the boat may skip an island docking.
The captain will head around the boat at some point and ask what island you will be heading to so stay alert.
Then you can sit back, relax and enjoying this beautiful journey through the Finnish archipelago.
(Ready to start the journey across the Finnish archipelago)
(Docking at Aspö island)
(Amazing experience passing by all these small island communities along the Finnish archipelago)
(Arriving at Utö island. )
It may be a long journey, but the journey in it self is an adventure of a lifetime and a chance to take a glimpse into a unique remote world that I never knew existed.
Normally when you take the bigger Ferry boats to Stockholm you rush through the Finnish archipelago region to Åland island.
This much smaller commuter boat does take longer, but allows you time to sink it all in and visit small remote island communities along the way.
It’s amazing to think that generations of Finnish families have lived on these islands for hundreds of years and they wouldn’t want to live any other way either.
As a Londoner this is a complete contrast to where I was brought up and brings a fascinating insight into a unique way of life that the islanders of the Finnish archipelago have always lived.
Exploring Utö island and discovering the remote island life
(Utö island was completely isolated and disconnected from the outside world. I sort of admired that about the island.)
As the boat pulled into the dock we were instantly greeted by friendly smiles and wheelbarrows.
(Every islander and guest house has their own wheelbarrow, be sure to borrow the correct one!)
Utö doesn’t have any cars and visitors have to make do with wheelbarrows to transport baggage to and from their guest houses on the island.
At first I thought the smiles were for the new arriving tourists to the island.
I quickly learned that the ferry boat acts as a vital lifeline for many of the islanders to transport goods from the mainland.
In fact, if you fancy cooking something special you have to order a week in advance to make sure it arrives in time.
The ferry also acts as the Finnish postal service ever since the Finnish archipelago postal boats stopped their operations.
Many smiles were for the bird watchers who had promised the islanders that they would make them a handful of bird boxes as Finland has launched a national campaign to install over a million bird boxes around Finland.
Utö of course didn’t want to be left behind.
Utö is in fact the southern most inhabited location in Finland. You really do get the feeling that you’ve travelled to the edge of the earth.
In fact, I was quick to notice that I was indeed the only international tourist on the island for the duration of my stay.
I was also joined on the boat by four Finnish bird watchers who had been tipped off from an Utö island bird watching blogger that some new flocks of birds had just been arriving.
Armed with this new knowledge the bird watchers didn’t want to miss the rare sighting and took the first boat out in the morning.
Many bird watchers are brought to the island due to the local resident bird blogger and the unique types of birds that migrate to the Finnish archipelago region.
In total, Utö island has a population of 30 full time all year round residence.
I discovered this by counting the amount of post boxes that are all conveniently placed outside the local shop.
You will only find one grocery store on the island of Utö which is open for only two hours every day between 10:00-12:00.
You will have to be quick or you might end up being stuck with no food as you won’t find a restaurant on the island either.
However Hannas has a cafe called Hannas Horisont which can be opened on request.
The shop also acts as the central post office as well as a popular meeting place for locals to sit and have a coffee.
It was fun walking around the shop as it was very tiny but contained everything you could possibly need.
One thing you should do is pick up a local postcard as all letters sent from the island of Utö are given a special Utö island lighthouse postal stamp.
One for the big stamp collectors out there.
Walking around Uto Island
Follow me on a photo walk around the island of Uto.
I’ve put together a selection of my favourite photos from the island to give you an idea of what it’s like.
Hanna’s Horizon guest house
Hanna, who was born and raised on the island of Uto, runs a local B&B on the island called Hanna’s Horizon.
It’s always nice to stay with the locals in a home stay setting which Hanna has on offer.
Hanna also runs a cafe in the summer time with lovely views over the dock. The cafe also doubles up as a local gift shop with books and souvenirs from Utö island.
Utö island, shipwreck stories.
(Shipwreck memorial on Utö island)
(Many shipwreck stories to be told around Utö island)
The Finnish archipelago is covered with thousands of islands and this has caused some trouble in the past with international captains entering the surrounding waters for the first time.
Islanders have told stories of shipwrecks that have happened around the Finnish archipelago through generations.
Hanna gives guided tours around the island and is happy to tell the stories of many of the shipwrecks that have happened on the island of Uto.
Today shipwrecks are rare as Finnpilots that live on the island of Uto help to guide international ships through the Finnish archipelago waters.
The old wrecks, however make wonderful scuba diving locations if that’s your cup of tea.
Utö island lighthouse
(The Utö lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in Finland and was built in 1753)
(Hanna also does guided tours of Utö lighthouse.)
Utö lighthouse was first constructed in 1753 and is the oldest standing lighthouse in Finland.
Utö lighthouse is the iconic symbol of the island and used to be a community hub amongst the islanders due to its size.
You can even find a church on the top floor of the lighthouse.
If you would like to walk around the lighthouse, Hanna offers guided tours.
The lighthouse is still in operation and used today. You can’t go to see the light itself, but you can walk inside and learn some history with Hanna about the lighthouse of Utö.
Utö island sunset
(Stunning sunsets to be seen on Utö island.)
Be sure not to miss out on an Utö island sunset. Walk out past the lighthouse and onwards towards the southern point of the island where the shipwreck memorial is located and enjoy an Uto island sunset show.
Conclusion of Utö
(It doesn’t get more remote than Utö island)
Travelling across the Finnish archipelago trail is an experience that you have to witness for yourself.
It’s a whole different world out by sea, exploring this unique region of Finland.
The contrast in the landscape as you cruise past 25,000 islands with the sea beneath your feet is an unreal feeling to be surrounded by so much nature and isolation.
Grab a trail map, rent a bike, pack a tent and the whole region can be at your disposal to explore.
Visiting the island of Utö and travelling out to the southern most point of Finland was a real adventure and an enjoyable one at that.
I’ve only explored one section of the Finnish archipelago trail and can’t wait to discover more of the trail in the close future.
Thank you for reading
Thank you for reading my blog post all about my adventure to Uto Island and my journey across the Finnish archipelago trail.
I hope you found it useful and if you happen to have any questions at all, please feel free to comment below, send me an email or a Tweet (@traveldaveuk).
Always happy to help with travel planning to Finland.
All the best and happy future travels!
YouTube video of the Finnish archipelago and Uto island.
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(Follow, my SnapChat journey around Finnish archipelago and Uto island. Always snapping my travel adventure.)
Check out my Periscope around Utö island
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