A little while ago now, I had a trip to the Åland Islands and it turned out to be one of the best in my life. I would go back in a heartbeat. Not just because it is a pretty special place, but because I fulfilled a lifelong dream there as well.
Åland is situated between Sweden and Finland and is an autonomous state that technically forms part of Swedish speaking Finland (described as an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland with its own flag). Confused yet? You can read more about Åland here.
Populated with around 27,500 people, there is the main town of Mariehamn which while I’m sure is lovely to visit, we didn’t spend much time there. Instead, we took our ferry directly from Stockholm to another part of the main island (there are 6500 of them!) and found ourselves a little cabin less than 50 metres from the water.
Apparently there are about 700 cottages to hire on the main island so you can choose a relatively basic one like we did or go all out for the luxury model. Either way, you have options.
Our location was perfect for a little get away. We were right on the water and looked out to this:
It was a pretty special location and the sunsets were amazing:
During the day, we spent quite a bit of time walking around the main island. It is a great place to discover on foot with a number of nature trails and what are called “long distance footpaths”. Either way, this is definitely one of the best ways to see the main island.
Another great way to see the island is by boat. You can hire kayaks and row boats (we opted for the latter) and I’m sure there are various options across different parts of the island. Another way to get in some great exercise and enjoy the phenomenal views all around.
I didn’t think the row-boat would be particularly difficult, but turns out, I’m not terribly coordinated. We didn’t get very far but it was lovely to look at the island from the water.
There were a number of smaller cafes on the island which we visited and there were also other places to eat out (you can find more information here). However, we visited the supermarket at the ferry terminal and decided to cook our own dinner and eat on the beach.
Turns out, that was one of the best decisions of our lives.
Earlier that week, there had been a lot of solar activity, and apparently what is a called a solar storm. Now, I’m no expert, but the benefit of this for us was that it made the Northern Lights visible as far south as Åland.
I had been wanting to see the Northern Lights since I had first heard about them when I was about ten or eleven. While the lights weren’t particularly strong this night, it was pretty special. Oh and did I mention it was my birthday? Best. Present. Ever.
Here’s how it happened: We were sitting on the beach with our little camp fire, staring into the flames and had been talking for hours. Luckily one of our friends, Kirsten, received a phone call causing her to look away from the flames and to the sky while she was speaking. It was at this moment, when Kirsten said seven words that changed my life: “Holy **** girls, is that the Northern Lights?” To think we could have missed them.
Unfortunately at that time I didn’t have the type of camera strong enough to capture the lights to do them justice, but it didn’t matter. The experience was amazing all the same. So if you’re somewhere the lights might appear, remember to look up once in a while, you never know what you might miss.
What pleasant surprises have you had when travelling?
The Healthy Globetrotter