Located off the southwest coast of Finland, the Åland Islands are the archipelago of mountainous 6500 sparsely populated islands, which are rich in natural biodiversity, history, and sports activities.
Being split from mainland Finland physically, they have a unique climate and culture. Hence, there are plenty of things to see in Åland Islands.
Sandwiched between Finland and Sweden in the Baltic Sea, these autonomous islands are easily accessible by a beautiful ferry ride from Sweden or Finland.
From medieval castles to lavish hotels and foodie points, there is so much to explore for Åland Islands sightseeing.
Therefore, without further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Åland Islands.
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Top 10 Things to do in Åland Islands
Following the 1808-09 war, Russia started building this military structure as its defense over the Swedes in the westernmost corner.
When the Crimean War began in the year 1854, the fortress was still under construction, and a French-British naval force from the sea heavily bombarded it.
The Russians ended up with no choice but to surrender it within four days. You can now see the evocative ruins stretching for a few kilometers covering the road and facing the sea.
The excavated artifacts are displayed in the small Bomarsund Museum across the Prasto waters.
Read also: Top 10 Gorgeous Castles in Finland
This striking 14th-century castle is one of the great Åland Islands landmarks on the picture-perfect inlet, which is signposted off Rd 2. The walls are 3m thick made of red granite and keep towers are whopping 15m high. It is easy to figure out how it would have conquered Åland.
Exhibits present the archaeological finds and evolution of the castle, including a medieval hoard made of silver coin. You can also go for English language tours at 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday (included in admission) from June to the first week of August, and it lasts up to 45 minutes.
Gustav Wasa presents most of the extensions after the initial construction of the castle. Deposed in 1569 by an uprising, the mad king Eric XIV was moved from one prison to another on the Swedish kingdom.
He was shut up in a small chamber (according to tradition) in the Kuretorn keep and spent three months over there. The castle turned into ruins by a fire in 1745, and the only northern wing was survived.
The preserved boats are major attractions in this amazing museum when it comes to exploring the marine heritage of the Åland Islands. The center of attraction is its reproduction of a ship complemented with saloon, mast, cabins, and galley.
The museum is such a fantastic place to nurture the pirate within you, with a lot of ships in sea chests, bottles, and accouterments. There is a stunning four-masted merchant barque named Museumship Pommern, which is anchored outside. It has been reopened followed by restoration in the year 2019.
Saltvik’s annual Viking Market is the best tourist attraction in Åland Islands to explore the ancient Viking heritage here. It is a 3-day festival, which consists of drinking, feasting, and costumed merrymaking. Sailing on the original Viking ship is one of the best activities in Åland Islands.
It is one of the best places to visit in the Åland Islands. Mariehamn is the capital city with a population of only 11000 residents, around half of the population in the islands.
The harbor here is used to have the largest oceanic sailing ships in the world. And you can still feel the charm and influence of the sea when you visit the cozy capital.
It is located just a walking distance from the old port and offers cafes, restaurants, shops, museums, and beaches.
Kestelholm Castle is an age-old castle in Sund, i.e., around 25 km from Mariehamn. The castle started to be built in the 1380s when Finland belonged to Sweden.
A lot of Swedish royal personalities lived here in this castle during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries and it is among the five surviving Finnish fortresses with great architecture.
This castle was destructed in the 1599 civil war and by fire in 1745. It has been renovated for decades and played a vital role in the tourism industry in the Åland Islands.
Maritime Museum in the Åland Islands is a great plunge to soak in the maritime history of the islands. The exhibits in the museum consist of 150 model ships along with pirate boat dated back to the 1700s, complemented with crossbones and skulls. You can also explore the typical shipbuilding via different facilities to be built on original equipment.
However, the four-mast barque Pommern, which was built by Scottish, is the primary draw. It was used to sail to Australia in its heyday.
Currently, Pommern is being renovated, and you can visit only with a guided tour. You can visit the Maritime Museum all year round. You may visit around the picture-perfect Maritime Quarter around Mariehamn.
Read also: Top 10 Beautiful Islands in Finland to Visit
Biking along the islands
The short distances and exotic and flat terrain make these islands a paradise for a cyclist, especially if you are not going for exertion. You can hire bikes at several rental spots across the Åland Islands.
This is a great adventure and one the list of fun things to do in Åland Islands. However, picking up a bike from Mariehamn is not that easy when you get around its harbor. People are used to visiting the islands with spirit stoves and tents.
There are several opportunities for indoor accommodation and restaurants these days for more cyclists that are leisurely. You do not have to worry about getting lost because there are different marked routes for cycling across the islands. However, you may not find separate paths in remote parts.
An ideal Beach Destination
Åland Islands may not be the so-called beach destination to compete with Bahamas or Bali, but it has impressive and alluring beaches.
There are several beaches to visit with over 6000 different islands. You may visit Lilla Holmen, a sandy beach around Mariehamn. Also, sunbathe at the scenic Nabben Beach and enjoy swimming at Bomboleviken.
Taste some delicious Craft Beer
A group of beer lovers built Stallhagen, the largest and oldest brewery in Åland Islands in 2004. The modest aim of the brewery was to offer craft beer in the markets.
Since then, products started to be exported to Sweden and Finland. Your tour is not complete if you miss the chance of tasting the best craft beer in Åland Island, this must be in your list of things to do in Åland Island.