Turku Archipelago has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and we got to experience the beauty of it this summer. The truth to be told, I didn’t know it would be that easy to see the islands by car. We went around the 250 km Archipelago trail by car, staying for two nights along the way. It turned out to be the best trip I’ve made to Finland. So, if you love spending time in nature, island vibe, and good food, the Turku Archipelago trail is for you to explore!
Turku Archipelago Trail
Turku Archipelago consists of over 400 000 islands. I know, that’s a lot! There are two routes that you can follow by car or by bike. Saariston Rengastie (The Archipelago Trail) is the longest and main route, which we also took. With this, you get to see the most beautiful parts of the islands. There is also another route: Pieni Rengastie ( The Small Archipelago Trail), and this route is approximately 100 km long. It starts the same way as the longer one but cuts through the outer islands. And they are indeed the most beautiful islands in Finland. You can explore the islands by boat, car, motorcycle or by bike. Hiking is also of course possible too, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have weeks to spend there! In this post, I will tell everything from the driver’s point of view since that’s how we made the trip. However, if you choose to bike, the ferries are the same for cars and bikers.
1. Turku-Parainen: 25km
The Archipelago Trail starts at Turku Cathedral. From there, you continue towards Kaarina and to Parainen. There are not yet any ferries to take before going to Nauvo. Parainen or Pargas is a lovely town with cafes, restaurants, hotels, historic old buildings and beaches.
2. Parainen-Nauvo: 35-40km
From Parainen, you will continue the trail to Nauvo by ferry. Nauvo is the loveliest and also liveliest island of all of them. There are gas stations, shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and a popular marina with incredible views. So take your time in Nauvo, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
3. Nauvo-Korppoo: 40km
After Nauvo, the trail continues to Korppoo island. There is a restaurant, a beach, a supermarket, and a nature trail called the barefoot trail (Paljasjalkapolku) with some art pieces along the path. We didn’t stay in Korppoo but just drove through the island towards the next ferry.
4. Korppoo-Houtskari: 32km
From Korppoo, there are three ferries to Houtskari, crossing two islands. There is not much to see in these islands between Korppoo and Houtskari, so we drove straight through them because of the ferry timetables. We also wanted to spend a bit more time in Houstkari. However, the tiny island roads are lovely and idyllic! There are restaurants, a marina, a shop, a church, a beach in the village, and The Archipelago Museum with an outdoor boat exhibition. If you plan to stay in Mossala for the night (an island part of Houtskari), you should get everything you need from Houtskari since there are no supermarkets before Iniö.
From Houtskari, you can also take a ferry to Åland, an autonomous island part of Finland. You can have Åland included in your trip if you have more time to explore. Houtskar itself is known for its beautiful old houses and its food. I highly recommend eating at the marina and taste some local cuisine! There is also a viewpoint in Houtskari, where you can climb and see the gorgeous Archipelago from above.
5. Houtskari-Iniö: 10km
Mossala is one of the islands in Houtskari. It has a camping area, where we stayed, a restaurant, and a lovely beach. If the timetables say the ferry to Iniö leaves from Houtskari, it actually leaves from Mossala. It’s a bit confusing, I know. Between Houtskari main island and Mossala, there are two small islands. This ferry from Iniö is the longest one and takes about 1 hour. They also operate only every couple of hours, so be on time if you want to catch it.
6.-9. Iniö-Kustavi-Naantali-Turku: 85km
Now we are getting towards the end of the trail. Two ferries are operating between Iniö and Naantali through Kustavi and Taivassalo islands. Kustavi is also a lovely island with a viewpoint overlooking the sea and Jeremiah’s caves. These are both worth seeing. From Kustavi, you can also take a ferry to Åland.
Naantali is a unique town that is worth visiting, and especially the old town. We ended our trip there before heading home, and it was indeed a perfect ending for our memorable exploration!
Where to stay
There are several accommodations and hotels to stay along the trail. Note that most of the accommodations are already booked early in advance, so you have to be one of the early birds when booking an overnight stay. We chose to camp, so we didn’t need to book anything in advance. There are camping areas in Parainen, Mossala, Iniö, and Kustavi for camper vans and tents. We decided to spend the first night in Nauvo and the second night in Mossala. Nauvo doesn’t have an official camping area, but we stayed at the beach. Mossala Island’s camping area costs 15€ per one tent.
What to see
My favorite islands were Mossala and Nauvo. We stayed one night in Mossala, and it has a resort with a restaurant and a beach. Nauvo is a cute island with several restaurants, shops, boutiques, beach bars, supermarkets, and accommodations. It has the most services than any of the other islands. Other beautiful spots to visit are Houtskari and Seili island. To Seili, you can go by ferry from Nauvo. Cars are not allowed, but you can walk around the island. It has quite an interesting history with an old leprosy hospital. There is also an excellent buffet in Vartsala island with local and delicious food. You can go to Vartsala island from Kustavi.
Taking the ferries was the trickiest part of the trip. You have to plan your stays and follow the schedules because some ferries don’t run all day. Also, there are limitations on how many cars each ferry can carry. We only missed one or two ferries, but luckily they ran every 15 minutes or so. The lines can be long, so prepare to wait! You can find the timetables here: https://meritie.fi/aikataulut/ (note that they are subject to change). There are nine ferries all together on the trail, but we took 11 ferries because we went to see two islands off the main path. All the ferries are free of charge except the longest one between Mossala and Iniö, which costs 40€ per car.
Good to know – read this
Beware of ticks. There are a lot of ticks in the islands during the summer season. I carried an organic tick spray with (sure, there are tons of other options available, too), a small device that works with ultrasound, and tick tweezers. And we didn’t get bitten at all! However, there were ticks, and during the evening, we could see some crawling on the tent.
The Archipelago Trails are open for visitors from May until the end of August during the summer season. The ferry between Houtskär and Iniö only operates from mid-May to the end of August; the other ferries operate all year round. So start planning your trip already for summer 2022 if you want to go for the entire trail! You can go to some islands outside the summer season, but you just have to turn back the same way you came from. Also, boats operate to Nauvo only from Turku, so you can even make a day trip there during summer. Some hotels and accommodations are open all year round.
There aren’t that many gas stations on the islands. We filled our car in Parainen, and then the second time in Nauvo. That got us through until Naantali. This is good to keep in mind when planning to go by car. You can also do that trail the other way round, starting from Naantali and ending it to Parainen/Turku. There is also a gas station in Kustavi.
There are so many places to see around the trail, so if you want to get the best experience, it’s best to spend at least three days on the trail when going by car. Then you don’t need to rush that much, and you can fully enjoy the islands, beaches, and nature. You can also make trips to some of the islands off the trail by taking the ferry. Some islands do not allow cars to enter, but usually, these are possible to walk or bike around. But most of all, if you decide to go, make the most out of it and just enjoy the ride! It is truly a bucket-list destination.Connect with me