My trip to Aspö and the Finnish archipelago was definitely one of the best summer cottage trips that I’ve ever experienced. It was super beautiful, we had the most amazing crew on board and on land, the weather was superb and what else? Good food and barbies (BBQ for those not speaking the Aussie lingo) every day.
The area has been recognized having significant culture historical value, representing the Finnish archipelago village living. When you get to the island, you can clearly see why.
The Finnish Archipelago
is situated in the Archipelago Sea which is part of the Baltic Sea. It consists of 40 000 islands or so, some bigger and some only tiny islets. Åland is the largest island in the region, and it is an autonomous area within Finland. Ahvenanmaa, as us Finns call it, is predominantly Swedish speaking, as the island used to belong to Sweden. Many islanders living in the Finnish archipelago speak Swedish as their mother tongue even though the area (and Finland on whole) is officially bilingual.
The biggest city on the mainland is Turku (the 6th biggest city in Finland) which is also the first Finnish city and worth of seeing on its own, for instance for its castle and the vibrant Aura River area.
This was my first trip to the Finnish archipelago though I had an idea what it would look like. But I have to say, it was even more beautiful. We say that Finnish people gather their strength from the forest. However, when I saw this landscape, I knew that to these seafarers the rugged scenery represented the same tranquility and force where to gain mental strength and well-being.
Aspö is a small island in the Finnish archipelago that belongs to the county of Pargas (its Swedish name and Parainen in Finnish). There lives only a handful of people, a dozen or less year round but during the summer months, it obviously gets busier.
Aspö has a small guest marina looked after by the Johansson family. This family takes good care of its guests, offering us a glimpse of the life of the islanders. The young Johansson, Johan, looked after us the whole trip and kept us company while telling some stories about the island. By the way, he also plays harmonics which the island is famous for. Together with his father and other relatives, they often play in the nightless nights during summer.
The island has everything you need for a few nights stay: a small shop which sells basic foodstuff, fresh bakery products, coffee, ice-cream, memorabilia from the island such as caps or t-shirts and let’s not forget about beer and cider – after all, when you are on holidays that’s kind of part of the deal. Delicious lax soppa (salmon soup that is) is cooked daily for the hungry sailors and you can also buy fresh fish that has been caught on the day.
We made superb white fish (European perch) fillets on the frying pan. It needs only butter, generous amounts of salt and pepper and that’s it! In addition, Johan was kind enough to offer us freshly smoked salmon. It was still very much warm when we got it. Oh, my, God! The best smoked salmon that I had ever tasted. It melted in my mouth. I don’t think I’m ever able to forget this. All other fish dishes might be insignificant after this, haha.
Anyway, so now we know that the food and drinking part is all good. What else is there? We are in Finland so obviously, sauna has to be included because it is a quintessential part of our heritage. If you are brave enough, you can go swimming in the sea but for fancy pants, there is an outdoor hot tub that can be booked in addition to the sauna.
Where to stay
If you have your own boat, the guest marina has room for 25 boats (10e per night, electrcity 5). You can book the sauna as well and use other facilities on the island.
We stayed in the lovely 50s house, called Klevars which holds about 12 people. You can book upstairs or downstairs or both together. It is a cute old house with a sauna and character. The front yard is big and good for sunbathing, playing the Finnish Molkky game, having a barbeque and anything else you could think of. From the sauna, you walk about one minute to the pontoon bridge to have a swim and this dock is exclusive to this cabin.
There is also a smaller cabin next to the guest sauna that holds 4-5 people. During our stay, there was a youth group camp staying in tents next to the church so I guess that is an option as well.
The church is the iconic landmark of Aspö. It is very strange that there is a church on an island which has only about 10 people! The original one was built 1905 but got demolished in a severe storm in the 1940s. It was rebuilt in 1955-56 by a group of volunteers from all around the world. Apparently, there is a mass twice a year, at Easter and Christmas. Some people have gotten married in the church and as mentioned, we saw a youth group camping around the church while we visited the island.
This trail takes you around the island, showing its rugged beauty. The Finnish archipelago nature is not so much about lush forests. Trees can be scarce and only the toughest plants survive in the smaller isles. There was plenty of marsh tea which gives a unique and earthy fragrance to its surroundings. The smell actually took me back to my childhood memories at my grandparent’s farm. So you see, to me, it felt even nostalgic.
When you get to the top you have a breathtaking 360 view over the island and to the sea. You can see the rugged isle and skerry beauty everywhere.
The nature path is fairly easy though I would leave prams home. There is one steep climb towards the end but there are ropes to help you through this short ascend. At this point, the scenery changes a bit. For a short while, you are in lush woods which reminded me of an enchanted forest.
Fishing & Kayaking
In addition to observing the splendid nature, both flora and fauna, you could also rent a kayak or book a fishing trip. Johan was kind enough to take us fishing and boy, was there a lot of fish! We dropped the fishnets the previous night and went to check the yield on the following day. The last time I did this I was an adolescent so it was a trip down to the memory lane, remembering the warm summer days and chilly autumn nights.
How to get to Aspö?
Would you believe if I told you that the ship, M/S Eivor takes you to Aspö for free from Pärnäs, Nauvo? It’s okay, I didn’t believe it either. But I checked it. You can find more info about the M/S Eivor here and the summer schedule is here. Bear in mind that the boat does not sail every day so you need to plan your trip around it.
Of course, if you are a boat owner, you are not constricted to the schedule and are free to sail here whenever you want. It can get busy though after the Midsummer when most Finns start their summer holiday.
Alternatively, you can book a taxi boat like we did. It took about 45 minutes compared to over 2 hours with M/S Eivor.
If you want to rent a cottage here or ask about any other services, you will find more info from Visit Aspö. May I notify you that this is not a sponsored post of any kind. I just truly enjoyed this place so much and would like others to experience it as well.
However, I would like to thank Antti who had rented the cabin, Johan, the native Aspö boende (local that is) for all his help, my friends Outi, Ville and others for the great company. Seriously, the best trip ever <3
If you want to read about my other favorite thing in Finland, check out this post about the best cafes in Helsinki.
Alternatively, if you are chasing the Northern lights or want to experience Lapland, have a look at this informative post on what to do in Rovaniemi, Finland.
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