Åland Islands is not the most common travel destination and many travellers have questions before visiting the Åland Archipelago. We have visited the Åland Islands in August 2019. In this post we would like to share with you all the things you need to know before visiting the Åland Islands.
About the Islands Geography
Åland Islands (Å read as ‘o’) or simply Åland is a very interesting spot on the map for many reasons. But before we dig into archipelago’s current and historical status, let’s talk about the geography.
The geographical position of the Åland Islands is right between the two Nordic countries – Sweden and Finland, in the northern top of the Baltic Sea.
The Åland archipelago consists of almost 7000 islands, some of which are just stone islets sticking out of the water. Not many islands are inhabited. The ones that are, have houses toping their surface – and boats tucked to the shore to reach the mainland. This is where real peace and quiet lives!
The population of the Åland Islands is about 29000 inhabitants.
Most of the population (about 90%) resides on the largest island of the Åland archipelago – Fasta Åland. The islands capital – Mariehamn is also located on the Fasta Åland.
About the Islands History
As we mentioned previously, Åland Islands is a very interesting case. One of the things you need to know before you visit the region is about it’s important strategic position, covering the entrance of the Stockholm port.
Due to this position, the archipelago has seen many wars and changes in power throughout the centuries – with Russia, Germany and Denmark being the most common invaders.
You can read about the brief history of the islands under this link.
In 1809 as an outcome of The Finnish War (1908-1909), the Kingdom of Sweden annexed the Åland Islands to the Russian Empire along with Finland. The semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland was established, which was in duty until the Russian Revolution in 1917.
In 1921 Finland granted the Åland Islands the autonomous status.
As of today the Åland Islands:
- are an autonomous province which belongs to Finland.
- are completely demilitarised.
- have their own Parliament, with the seating at the islands capital – Mariehamn.
- Åland Islands have their own flag
- They also have their own tax laws and internet suffix (.ax).
- The main spoken and written language on the Åland Islands is Swedish, meaning that street signs and al the documentation is done in Swedish.
- The main currency of the Åland Islands is, however, Euro. Due to Finland joining the European Union in 1995.
- issue their own stamps, which are quite valuable among the collectors. We used our chance and dropped a couple of the postcards into the local mailbox.
Best Time for Traveling to the Åland Archipelago
One of the most important things every traveller wants to know before visiting the Åland Islands, is about the weather and the best time for traveling to the archipelago.
We have been to the area in August and it was lovely. Generally speaking, the summer months of July and August as well as the autumn month of September is the most popular time for visiting the islands. This is the high season time, when the islands life gets very busy.
The shoulder months of June and October are weather dependant, but could be great for a more relaxed vacation. If you arrive in June, you will get a chance to see the ‘white nights’ the Nordic countries are so famous for.
The ‘midnight sun’ Midsummer festival takes place in June and is worth attending – it is one of the most important holidays on the archipelago. Read more about the Midsummer festival here.
But truth be told, Åland Islands are a all year destination – it simply depends on what you are up to.
In summer the main activities are hiking, fishing, kayaking and cycling. While in winter you can easily do the winter sports activities, like cross country ski.
The only thing to keep in kind, is that during the winter month many businesses like cafes and hotels, which are oriented on summer tourists close. So be sure to check for the opening times in advance.
Curious to see more of our trip to the Åland Islands? We have saved our Stories from the trip in our Instagram Highlights. Just click here.
As for the weather and what to pack when traveling to the Åland Islands:
During summer the weather is not going to spoil you with hot temperatures. When we were there in August, it was about 20°C throughout the day and about 13-14°C at night, which is a comfortable temperature for traveling.
Rain and clouds are a normal thing too. We were wearing jeans, t-shirts and sneakers, with a light jacket always at hand.
In winter the temperatures don’t get very low, usually staying between 0°C and -5°C. There are exceptions of course.
Since the Åland Islands are quite flat, it gets windy.
That is to say, in summer we’d recommend you bring a jacket and a warm sweater for the cooler days. Rainproof shoes and clothes are also a good choice.
How Many Days Do You Need to Explore the Åland Islands?
Another important thing to know before visiting the Åland Islands, is how many days are enough to explore the islands.
Many visitors arriving to the Åland Islands come on a one night stop-over during their cruise trip from Stockholm to Turku or and the other way around.
Although one day is enough to get to know the islands capital – Mariehamn – the islands have many other interesting spots worth checking out.
We have stayed 3 days and 2 nights on the islands, which was a good combination of rest and activities. It was a good balance for us. Since we have been traveling without a car and Max was 11 months old, it gave us the chance to explore at our own pace. Though we’d love to return to see more.
If you are keen on exploring islands in the details aim for 5 days or more. Åland Islands is the perfect peaceful holiday destination.
If you come with a car, you will be able to see the most of the Fasta Åland in 5 days and experience some activities with no rush.
The Travel Costs and Prices
Expenses probably pay the most important part of every travel. So we think it is fair to mention this point in our ‘know before you go’ to the Åland Islands post.
It will not come as a surprise to anyone who has already been visiting the Nordic Countries, but Åland is not a cheap destination, with prices similar to the ones in mainland Finland.
Sorry guys, there are no super bargain deals over there or maybe we are just spoiled by living in Germany.
To give you an example of what to expect, here are the prices we paid for goods and services when staying at the Åland Islands in August 2019. We kept the receipts, so no cheating:
- a cup of coffee in a cafe costs about 3.90 Euro
- a glass of beer – 7.50 Euro
- a cinnamon bun in a cafe is about 2.50 Euro
- we have paid 17.30 Euro for 2 cups of coffee and a sandwich
- to rent a bike costs 16 Euro per day, add 4 extra Euro per child seat
- a lunch meal is about 18 Euro per person
- 2 pack with avocado in the supermarket is 3.45 Euro
- a night in a hotels is rarely under 100 Euro (during the high season)
But honestly, costs shouldn’t stop you from visiting the traveling – you get much more than money can buy you in terms of education and experience!
How to Get to the Åland Islands
Most visitors arriving to Åland come by ship. It is easy and fast and you can turn it into a bigger adventure. Ferries and cruise ships are the most common ways for locals to travel as well.
Reaching Åland by Cruise Ship
There are several boat services operating in the area. We have travelled with Tallink Silja Cruise Line and were very happy with the service.
There are two Tallinks Silja cruise ships serving the route Stockholm – Åland – Turku.
We have saved our Stories from the trip in our Instagram Highlights in case you’d like to see how our cruise ride went. Just click here.
The journey with Tallink Silja takes about 6 hours from Stockholm, Sweden or Turku, Finland. It is a short and convenient ride. Please consult the operating hours under this link.
OUR TIP: The cruise ship sails between Stockholm and Turku, stopping at Mariehamn on the way to and back. If you take the evening ship from Stockholm init will reach the Åland late at night. It continues to Turku and reaches it early in the morning.
If you have time, we recommend you book the cabin and sleep on board all the way to Turku and get off when the cruise ship is on it’s way back from Turku. In this case you will get off around midday and won’t need to break your night sleep. We found it helpful, since we were with kids.
Reaching Åland by Ferry
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, there is a ferry operated by Viking Line Rosella, which sails between Kapellskär and Mariehamn 3 times per day. The ride takes 2.5 hours. Check the schedule under this link.
You need to know, that Kapellskär is about 1 hour drive away from Stockholm. There are buses serving the connection.
This is probably the most budget option of all.
Reaching Åland by plane
Aland capital Mariehamn does have an airport MHQ, but it serves only limited Swedish and Finish destinations.
Finavia is the main (and probably the only) operator, serving pricey flights from Helsinki and Stockholm.
Health Issues on the Åland Islands
This is important, so please read it carefully!!
Although there are no dangers or risks for your health when visiting the Åland Islands, but you need to know before you go, that
Åland archipelago is a high risk zone for tick-borne Encephalitis!!!
Please inform yourselves on how to take care in case you’ve been beaten and how to prevent tick bites. From our side we always cary a repellant and a tweezer and we have been covering our feet.
You will find all the necessary information under this link.
Moving Around the Åland Islands
To end our informational post about things to know before you travel to the Åland Islands, we wanted to mention the options of traveling around the islands:
- many travellers who are staying longer on the islands come by car or camper van – probably the fastest and the most convenient way to explore the area
- there are several buses driving around the Fasta Åland, connecting the settlements.
- renting a bike is another great idea to explore the Åland.
We hope that you found this post helpful and we wish you wonderful holidays on the Åland Archipelago!
We have been invited to try the services of the Tallink Silja Cruise Line and explore their destinations. All the opinions and thoughts in this post are our own and honest.