Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Finnish summer bike trip on the Turku Archipelago Trail

Oh friends, it's about time we share some memories from our summer trip on the Turku Archipelago Trail. We had such an outstanding trip visiting Finland for the first time: We laughed so hard, saw several of the lovely islands and battled some pesky hills a long the trail and for the first time, we actually managed not to get into a silly sister fight or snap at each other ;)
We first discovered the Turku Archipelago earlier this year, when we were looking for places to visit in Finland. If you look closely on the world map you will notice a vast number of islands tugged nicely away in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland - these are the Åland Islands and Turku Archipelago. If you love exploring small isolated enviroments and untouched nature, The Turku Archipelago should be a place to consider as it consists of over 20.000 islands and islets. A network of roads and ferry routes offers the visitor a whopping 280 km circular trail (Main road 180/Ring Road) through the major islands. This is the Turku Archipelago Trail and it seemed like a perfect fit for us, supplying us with all the right ingredients needed for active vacation, camping and nature.
Illustation of the Southern part of the Turku Archipelago Trail // Picking up our rented bikes at Carfield Bicycle Rental in Turku
Active vacation was written all over this trail. It was obvious - bikecation combined with camping sounded like the only reasonable way for us to explore the archipelago. Going by car was an option too but why, we thought? So we could miss out on the summer breeze caressing our hair as we biked downhill? Or miss the nice sweats and the sore leg muscles after a long day of biking? NO WAY! NOT US! So we cramped all of our essential belongings into two bike bags each and left the city of Turku on our rented pedal-powered two-wheelers to spend the next five days bicycling the Turku Archipelago Trail. Bikecation of course has some limitations compared to vacation by car. You can only cover so many miles per day on that metal horse and your butt cheeks will eventually start hating on the bike saddle. We didn't care. It was all about the journey - no matter how slow it would take us to get somewhere.
Every so often we would jump off our bikes to get a closer look at the view or make small walks in the area
We both were quite excited for this trip. Just us two knuckleheads exploring the Finnish landscape; disconnected from the digital world and embracing everything nature had to offer us. We just wanted to get out there, see where the road would lead us and see what we could find. One can easily complete the entire trail of 280 km in a few days time. However, the Ring Road is traversing through the core of the major islands. This doesn't leave you much room to appreciate the ocean view, the sight to the neighbouring islands or even just the atmosphere of the more tiny and remote islands. It would be an awful shame to miss out on all of this. Instead of rushing through everything, we decided to take it slow and see how far we would get - carpe diem, as they say.
First ferry ride from Pargas to Nagu // After reaching the ferry harbor at Nagu we enjoyed a lunch break on top of the rocky cliffs with view over Kalven
In the five days we managed to cover almost half of the Turku Archipelago Trail: We started off in Turku and had our first night at Sattmark Kaffe & Safka in Sattmark (distance covered: 32 km). The popular tourist town Nagu was our next stop (24 km). We stayed there for two nights at Martha's Inn and made a day trip to the island of Högsar (2 x 11 km). After that we went to the island of Houtskär where we camped at Kittuis Camping & Caravan (30 km) and visited the village Hyppeis to see the red boat houses (2 x 15 km). Houtskär became the last island we stayed on before heading back the same way we came from. Saving the last great portion of the trail for another trip sounded much more reasonable than rushing through it all on the last one and a half day. Had we continued to complete the entire Turku Archipelago Trail, the holiday centre Saariston Lomakeskus on the island of Mossala would had been the ideal choice to set up camp instead of staying a night in Kittuis. The holiday centre is located very close to the Mossala – Iniö ferry, which is the next ferry inline to take one further on the Turku Archipelago Trail.
Free ferry from Korpo to Nagu // Reaching the campsite at Sattmark late in the evening as the sun was setting
The Turku Archipelago is definitely a place worth returning to and we have no doubt that we will do so one day. The list of places for us to uncover seems endless and more than often it was the little things that caught our eyes. There is something very enjoyable about slow vacation where you have the time to take everything in as you travel. Given more days a boat ride to a remote island would most certainly have spoiled us with the ultimate Archipelago feel. Since our The Nordic Journey began, we have really come to appreciate the outdoor life, the active way of exploring and how less goal fixated one becomes in terms of just getting from one destination to the next. It's more about being on the road instead of checking boxes off on a bucketlist. Our bicycle trip on the Turku Archipelago Trail reconfirmed this and gave us all we need for a sensational summer trip.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4
Shini & Michi - two knuckleheads on bicycles conquering the Turku Archipelago Trail one day at a time
// We used the official websites for Visit Turku and Visit Archipelago for research on our trip
// Several great articles about the Turku Archipelago can be found at Visit Finland
// Keep track on the ferry schedules and time your visit on the different islands