6 cool facts that you probably didn’t know about the Åland Islands

6 cool facts that you probably didn't know about the Aland Islands

If you had have asked me a few months ago if I knew where the Åland Islands were, my answer would have been a blank stare.

I had no idea they even existed. But as I started planning my trip to the Nordics, I was invited to check out some of the Finnish Islands, including Åland, with a bunch of other bloggers.

As Finland was still left uncoloured on my world travel map, I jumped at the chance to add in this new country.

In Stockholm, the early morning trip to the ferry terminal had me feeling a little sleepier than normal, but I wasn’t letting it dampen my mood. My jaw dropped as I watched countless islands of the archipelago float past, the ferry expertly weaving between them as we made our way from Sweden to Åland.

When we landed in Mariehamn, I took a great breath of the fresh air that smelled faintly of pine trees and sea water. We were standing in Åland’s capital – a small city nestled comfortably in the arms of the nature surrounding it.

I discovered that Åland is a destination for the neighbouring people of Finland and Sweden, who travel here for their summer vacations. But these tourists have no expectations of beaches and palm trees – instead, they come to relax in a place so serene that you could almost forget about the 7 billion other people out there.

Over the course of my 2 days in Åland, our guides told us a number of cool facts about our current location. Here’s a few that might inspire you to include Åland in your next Nordics trip itinerary!

Åland Islands, Finland

Eckerö, Åland

1. Åland is autonomous

While Åland is technically a part of Finland, it has its own parliament, flag, stamps, and license plates. It can pass its own laws in regards to health care, education, industry, and transport, but it still has to follow Finnish law for foreign affairs, criminal law, and customs.

If you decide that you want to buy a house in Åland, then too bad – there’s a law that states only residents can be in possession of property. Either you or one of your parents have to have been born in Åland, or you have to be a Finnish citizen who has lived in Åland for 5 years.

Swedish, not Finnish, is the official language of Åland, and all publication and documents sent to Åland must be in Swedish. Åland is also a part of the EU and the Nordic Council.

Åland Islands, Finland

2. it has 20,000 ISLANDS

There are 28,500 people in Åland, and there are 20,00 islands – which means that there is one island for roughly every 1.5 people! Only 6700 of the islands are named, and only 60 are inhabited, as most of them are small and rocky.

Many of the Åland people have summer houses on the smaller islands. Most of the time, you will have to own a boat to get there in the summer, or use a hovercraft or snowmobile to get to your island when the water freezes over in the winter.

Åland Islands, Finland

Klobben, Åland

3. You can camp basically anywhere for free

In Åland, there is a rule called Everyman’s right. It means that you can camp anywhere, as long as you don’t stay more than a few nights in the one place, don’t light an open campfire, and aren’t too close to a house on someone’s private property.

So this means that if you have a boat or a kayak and decide to go and explore one of those 20,000 islands in Åland, you can pack a tent, pick any spot to come ashore, and set yourself up for the night with only the local wildlife as your neighbours.

Åland Islands, Finland

Klobben, Åland

4. Every home has a sauna

The Finns are obsessed (and I mean really obsessed) with saunas. Instead of basking in the sun like those of us who live in warmer climates, they head to the sauna, usually after dinner, and regularly pop out for a cold shower or dip in the nearest lake.

This obsession means that every home has access to a sauna, whether it be a private sauna inside the house, an external sauna that is shared between neighbours, or a shared sauna for an apartment building.

Åland Islands, Finland

Sunset at HavsVidden

5. The local Moose go island hopping

Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to see one, but apparently the local moose have a habit of swimming between islands in their search for food.

So, when you decide to go camping on your secluded island which didn’t have a moose on it when you arrived, you may wake up to find a few rather large visitors wandering around.

Silverskär, Åland, Finland

Summer nights at Silverskär

6. most houses are the same red colour

There is a reason that most of the houses in Åland are the same red colour. The paint, named ‘Falu Red’, was made from copper found in a Swedish mine in Dalarna. The copper was oxidised to get rid of the iron, which produced a by-product called red soil.

It was discovered that the minerals in this red soil help preserve wood from rot, so they decided to make it into a paint and then started slapping it on nearly every house in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

Viking Line Ferry

getting to Åland via ferry

You can fly into Mariehamn from Stockholm or Helsinki, but arriving by ferry is the most popular choice. There are ferries that head to Åland regularly from Stockholm, Helsinki, Turku, and Tallinn.

There are two major ferry lines, Viking Line and Tallink Silja. I took both ferry lines throughout my trip, but preferred Viking over Silja as the boat was much less dated.

The ferry takes around 5 hours to get to Mariehamn from either Stockholm and Turku, which is the perfect amount of time to divide between taking photos from the sun deck and eating your way through the buffet. Who wouldn’t want to consume way too many desserts while effortlessly making your way between countries?

If you’re planning on taking kids then you’ll be happy to know there’s a kids club on board, but if you’re more into drinking the time away, then there’s a number of bar/nightclub/casino options for you.

*My trip to Åland was sponsored by Visit Åland / Visit Finland. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience!

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31 Responses to “6 cool facts that you probably didn’t know about the Åland Islands”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It really was a wonderful trip! We were lucky with the weather – I was so worried about all the rain that we’d had in Stockholm, but it disappeared the moment we left for Aland! 🙂

  1. Johan

    Just one correction. You CAN buy a house in Åland. But It then have too be on what we call “a planned area”, with some restrictions in size of the area and in placing along the shorelines. // Johan

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for your comment Johan, though I was told by our Finnish guides that foreigners can’t buy property at all unless they apply for an exception.

      • Robert

        Well, the Finnish don’t know about this rule either. I always have to inform them.

      • Ålänning

        Hi Ashlea!

        As an Ålänning, I would like to clarify this.
        If you move to Åland, you can easily get a permit to buy a plot of land (with our without house…) as long as:
        -It doesn’t border the sea
        -It isn’t bigger than 4000 m2
        -The plot doesn’t have shares in collaborately owned areas or gives right to fishing and hunting

        As an addition, if a plot of land which borders the sea is planned for permanent residency, one can also get a permit.

        So, people are very welcome to move here and become part of our wonderful society!

  2. Becky Thabet-Schulze

    I was an exchange student on Åland from Texas for a year and have always had difficulty explaining my “dot” to others. You have captured it perfectly. I can’t wait to share your article with others.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s a difficult place to explain because what makes it special it the natural serenity and the calm and friendly local people – you really have to be there to experience it for yourself! I’m so glad you had the opportunity to stay there for a while, Becky 😀

  3. Maria

    Wow it looks fantastic up there! I saw a brochure about the Viking ferry going through the archipelago when I was in Stockholm recently and decided I definitely had to go with that one the next time around 😛

  4. Jessica Cutrufello

    This is amazing. You definitely made me want to visit. So, when we get back to Stockholm, we’ll have to take the ferry and spend a couple nights there! Thanks for this 🙂

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You definitely should! It’s a gorgeous place to spend a few nights, especially if you’re really into nature 😀

  5. Jan Nordblom Hannum

    I have been there! My son & I travelled there exactly 6 years ago. My grandfather is from there & we toured his homestead. We were also blessed to meet our cousin. Her grandfather & my grandfather were brothers. It was an amazing experience in an amazing place!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, that would have been such a wonderful experience, Jan! There are many places in Aland that have an deep history, and it would have been extra special to find out more about the place where your grandfather grew up 🙂

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It is such an interesting place, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before! I highly recommend a visit 😉 Thanks Madison!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I hadn’t heard of Aland either until only a few months ago! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to explore them 😀 Thanks for your comment, Danielle!

  6. Chloe Logan

    I’ve never heard of åland–didn’t know it was autonomous, either! So is this counted as a “country” I guess, like how Monaco is sometimes counted as a separate country? Looks beautiful, too!

    Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s such an interesting place (and so very beautiful)! I’m not quite sure what the situation is in Monaco, but I imagine it would be something similar 🙂

  7. Mikael Stjärnfelt

    Hi Ashlea!
    So nice that you liked our islands.

    It IS possible to move to Åland AND buy property, even if you are not a recident. You can buy an apartment (conodo) or you can buy a house if it is located in an area with area planning. So certain restrictions apply and you have to seek a permit for buying land, not an apartment, but it´s not impossible. And of course – you can always rent.
    We very much welcome people to move here!

    The “everyman’s right” is not quite the same as i.e. in Sweden. It is not a written law… more a “customary law”. But, yes, you can move freely in the nature and pick berries and mushrooms. But, the camping part is a little tricky. Theoretically you SHOULD have a permit of the landowner to camp. But, since it’s almost impossible to know who to ask it is concidered to be OK if you are careful and don’t disturb or pollute. One night is usually ok, especially on a secluded island. However, it is recommended to primarily use official Camping sites.

    Getting here: there are more ferry companies. From Stockholm you can get to Åland in 4 hours, if you go by bus and ferry with Eckerö Linjen or Viking Line. From Finland there are also other options.
    And, of course, you can fly to Mariehamn from Stockholm, Turku or Helsinki.

    And, today we are over 29.000 people…! Yippeee!

    Welcome back!

  8. Hannes

    Nice article, but you forgot one very important thing.
    Since 1921, Åland has been a demilitarized zone.
    Åland is also called Peace islands.


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