Travelling through the archipelago ring road in Finland was one of the things on my bucket list for this year – I’ve been talking about it for so long but it’s only been this year when I actually had a chance to do it.
The area of Turku is known as the biggest archipelago in the world, with over 20 thousand islands and skerries spread between Turku all the way to Aland.
The islands are well connected through a network of roads and ferries that transport passengers, cars & buses between the islands and run even in winter. The ferries (with couple of exceptions) are free to use and so much fun to explore!
There are 3 different routes you can take the ring road, starting in the North, in the South or doing the shorter circle – I will share a more detailed guide with route stops in a separate blog post.
We headed off from Turku towards Kustavi to take the North bound journey as in previous years I’ve already explored the South – mainly Nauvo and the islands around Kirjais. Turku to Kustavi is about an hour drive.
If you’re thinking how much time should you take to explore the archipelago, it can be done in 2 days if you go for the highlights, but much better if you can explore it on slower pace and stay overnight in different islands (3 nights are ideal).
Kustavi is also called the Pearl of Archipelago and for a good reason – it’s one of the most gorgeous areas and the entrance to the archipelago. It’s a popular summer destination for locals – some of the most impressive summer cottages can be found here.
For us, it was just a quick pit stop in the Handycrafts village where you can see local artists workshops, kids can feed some animals & they have a lovely cafe in the old wooden cottage.
There is also a beautiful harbour and a few restaurants & accommodation options.
After Kustavi we took a short ferry ride to the next island to look for a place for lunch.
The ferries go back and forth so in most cases you don’t have to worry about missing one – the only exception are the longer ferry rides which do not go as frequently and around lunchtime, all ferries have a break for lunch.
Two lanes are always available – one for the locals who live in the islands and have priority boarding, and then the rest of the traffic.
We found this gorgeous restaurant by the harbour and had the most delicious lunch here!
Merideli Leonella is at the edge of the harbour with direct access to mini-golf, kids play area and sandbox, which means double points from any parents who can enjoy a meal in peace.
It was the only place we actually researched ahead of the trip, apart from the accommodation everything else was pretty much just a stroll to see what we can find.
Even though the weather wasn’t really playing the part, it couldn’t stop me from enjoying the beautiful scenery and serenity you can only find in the archipelago.
After lunch we took a stroll to the nearby church in the village of Iniö – it was completely deserted and looked like a majestic backdrop in some romantic movie (even the graveyard was beautiful!)
Quick shopping in the local mini supermarket and we were on the next ferry.
This was a very special one – they had a tiny cafe with no staff, only a notice that you can help yourself and just leave money in the tray.
If this isn’t a testament to the true nature of Finns, I don’t know what is – they are some of the most honest people I met! This ferry was a long one, took around 45 mins to get to our next destination and it was the only paid one – 10 eur per person.
We arrived in the island where we booked the accommodation – it was an old school transformed into a tiny hotel. It had plenty of 80s vibes, but unfortunately, the price tag didn’t reflect that, I felt that it was too pricey for what it was.
Our breakfast was in the school dining room and for a moment I felt like I’m 14 again and on a school trip (for that I’m really grateful lol).
Houtskar had a pretty cool harbour restaurant (Skagen) with live music, which we only found out on the spot, so we headed out for dinner there. The band was just doing their soundcheck, few boats have pulled in to enjoy the guest harbour sauna & shower and locals started gathering to watch the band.
Sun was just setting, there was a chilled Long Drink in my glass and my main course of Scandi version of fish & chips was coming up.
It was a gorgeous evening and I even loved the few drops of rain that wanted to remind us that it’s still Finnish summer in full force.
The next day we went to explore the area around the church and found the most charming boat museum – it was closed, but the scenery made up for it.
Finnish red-painted cottages on the backdrop of the sea lined with dense forest vegetation – just what you would expect this postcard country to look like.
There was a market on the Sunday morning that we made our way to, but we would have missed our connection to Korppoo, the south part of the Archipelago ring road.
The huge ferry that pulled in just had a freshly baked cinnamon bun that made the whole cafe smell like Christmas. People rushed in to snap them faster than the guy could take them out of the oven.
We enjoyed them with a cup of coffee while we explored the maps printed on the tables. Even at such grey weather, Finland can be really beautiful in its own merit.
This was my second time on the island of Korppoo (Finnish spelling, Swedish spelling is Korpo), on the first trip a few years ago, we only stopped for a quick shopping in supermarket & ice cream and playground break.
This time we ventured to the gorgeous old church that was lurking behind the trees and I was astonished how old it was.
The church dates back to the 14th century and features some well-preserved paintings on the walls and stunning interiors. The church is surrounded by a small graveyard and a few outer buildings.
After Turku Cathedral, this was probably the most impressive church I’ve seen in Finland (and there’s pretty more cooler ones to explore, see here).
From Korppoo it’s only a short ferry ride across the sea to Nauvo, where I left my heart a few years ago.
Nauvo captures the essence of Finnish coastal life in such a beautiful way, that it makes you want to look into buying a cottage there right away.
The weather wasn’t as beautiful as the first time I visited, and I’ve explored most of what it has to offer, so this time we only settled for a glass of bubbly to celebrate the end of our archipelago trip.
I hope you enjoyed the photo road trip as much as I did and if you ever venture to explore the Finnish archipelago, I would love to hear how you liked it!