Aland islands in Finland

The Åland islands are situated between Sweden and Finland, in the northern part of the Baltic Sea. They constitute an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland with its own flag.

Forming an archipelago at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, there are 6,500 islands in the group, although many are just skerries, or rocky outcrops, that are too small to sustain any human habitation.

A total of 27,500 people live in Åland. About 11,000 of them live in Åland’s only town, Mariehamn. The town was founded in 1861 and today it is the commercial and political centre. It is also Åland’s seat of government.

Apparently, the Åland Islands have more sunshine hours than anywhere else in Scandinavia. In the summer it can get very hot so visitors tend to flock to the beach. The winters are comparatively mild by Scandinavian standards, although the sea sometimes freezes over and it is then possible to ice-skate all around the major town of Mariehamn, which was named after a Russian Tsarina.  This is a shipping town that is full of memories of voyages past. Here you can go on to the museum ship Pommern, to get a real feel for the hard life at sea.    

There are eight inhabited islands in the Åland Archipelago.  One of them, Kökar, has traces of a medieval ruined abbey to explore.  You’ll find more history at Kastelholm, the large 16th century castle in the middle of Åland’s main island. Gustav Vasa built the stronghold at a time when Åland lay in the middle of Sweden.

Eckerö is the most westerly point in Åland. This is where the ferries from Grisslehamn in Sweden dock. There is a rather magnificent Post and Customs House in Eckerö. It is an important building from a time when Eckerö was the terminal point in the Russian empire that stretched from Alaska in the east to Eckerö itself.

Åland is a place where people go to enjoy the outdoors, both in summer and winter.  When you are active during the day, it is normal to party at night, so Åland has enough bars and pubs to keep you so amused at night you’ll need to indulge in a physical activity the next day, just to sweat off the hangover.

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