On the edge
Spectacular shipwrecks, dramatic battles, and ancient ruins: welcome to the outer islands of the archipelago, a place where history has left a deep mark. Journey to the edge to discover extraordinary stories, set against an even more extraordinary backdrop.
Far south in the archipelago, so far, in fact, that Estonia is the next port of call, lies the lonely island of Bengtskär. Barely measuring two hectares, Bengtskär is a bare and barren rock that has been shaped by the crashing sea over thousands of years. While the island may be treeless, it is a popular place for migratory birds, hoping to take a breather on their long journeys.
Standing proud on Bengtskär is an imposing lighthouse, stretching some 52 metres into the sky. Built in 1906, the lighthouse is the tallest in the Nordic countries, which, needless to say, made the island a much sought-after prize in wartime. Attacked in 1914 and again in 1941, the lighthouse still bears traces of that last deadly battle, which claimed some 92 lives. Nowadays, the island is a place of tranquility, especially for the growing population of eiders, nesting in its cosy inlets.
Where to stay
Set sail to Bengtskär to spend a night in its historic lighthouse. Once part of the lighthouse keepers’ lodgings, the six rooms each have a spectacular view of the infinite sea.
When the name literally translates to ‘outer island’, it should come as no surprise that Utö is not exactly next-door to Turku, but that only makes the adventure all the more enticing. Renowned as a landmark amongst seafarers since the Middle Ages, Utö was the first place in Finland’s history to acquire a lighthouse. The original was destroyed in wartime, but its replacement, built in 1814, still guides ships safely through the island’s perilous waters today.
Owing to its valuable strategic location, Utö has had an intriguing history as a pilot station and military garrison. While there is no longer any military presence on the island, there is still a vibrant community, which takes pride in upholding traditions. Utö is also a popular destination for holiday-makers, drawn to the island’s enchanting landscape and leisurely lifestyle.
Where to stay
Make yourself comfortable at Luotsimäki, a bed and breakfast run by Hanna's Horizon. Just a two-minute walk from the lighthouse, join Hanna on a guided tour of this unique building during your stay.
Slightly further inland is the windswept island of Jurmo. Once a fishing village, Jurmo has an abundance of archaeological remains that point to a history reaching as far back as the 16th century. Among the mysterious ruins are a collection of four stone rings, or ‘monk’s rings’, which may be linked to grazing or even to campsites set up by fishermen and seal hunters long ago.
With its rocky shores and sweeping moorlands, thriving with heather and juniper, Jurmo is an awe-inspiring sight. It is also a perfect habitat for rare sea birds, which are spotted on the unusually flat island as they fly back and forth in spring and autumn. Part of the island belongs to the Archipelago Sea National Park and it is here birds build their nests in the warmer weather.
Where to stay
Stay in the Jurmo Inn on your journey, where you can choose from a basic room or a cottage, equipped with kitchen facilities and a sauna.