Four reasons to go Island Hopping
When visiting Helsinki, one of the must dos is visiting the islands of the coast. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to go island hopping. Jump on the next boat and then hop on and off to your heart’s desire. Not convinced? Then here are four reasons why you should go island hopping.
The boats take a variety of routes between three islands; the small but charming Lonna, the famous fortress island Suomenlinna, and the recently opened nature island Vallisaari. The island hopping ticket gives you the freedom to sail as you see fit between the islands. The boats arrive regularly and the distances are short. However, the real freedom is in exploring the islands.
Suomenlinna is full of exciting tunnels and back streets to get lost in and on Vallisaari, though you are limited to the network of paths, they take take you deep into the forests where you’ll nd yourself alone with only the wagtail bouncing along in front of you for company. The islands all have recommended routes to walk, but, as is often the case in Finland, you also have the freedom to choose your own adventure and make the day just the way you like it.
From the moment the ferry squeezes out of the harbour, the spectacular views begin. Indeed, you’ll probably be reaching for your camera most of the day. As you head south, city sights appear all around you; the Helsinki and Uspenski Cathedrals, the new wooden Allas Sea Pool, the traditional red wooden buildings perched exposed on the tiny islands, the giant ferries gliding off to Sweden with the gangs of seagulls plunging into the water behind them, it’s truly fascinating.
On Lonna, a quiet footpath takes you around the island with great views north to Helsinki whereas arriving on the ferry into Suomenlinna you are surrounded by the great forms of the island, the vertical seawalls, cliffs and rocks, the high grassy banks and charming wooden buildings and bridges, it feels as if you were sailing into a port 200 years ago. Perhaps the greatest views are those of Valisaari which look south and east, over Suomenlinna and out to the twinkling sea and across the islands of the archipelagoes. Make sure to climb up to the spectacular walkway atop the Alexander Battery, it’s truly breathtaking.
Finland is a country of nature, the cleanest air, most lakes, huge natural forests, and these islands are no exception. The nature lover will perhaps be most excited about Vallisaari where years of prohibited access gave the trees and plants the chance to flourish and now the island is a verdant paradise. Remnants of its buildings disappear beneath the green as a thousand birds sing invisibly in the dense trees and the sea breeze shakes through the birch and aspen trees.
Because of the presence of rare species, many brought here unwittingly in bundles of feed for animals, the visitor is restricted to the paths, but excellent routes take you all around the island and you’ll likely not see more than a dozen people on your way. Though Vallisaari may be the jewel, Suomenlinna and Lonna both burst with green areas and wildlife, indeed any site left untouched abounds with wild owers and long grasses.
Each of the three islands is a great option for eating or just having a drink, and many places have outside seating with great views. And, many places have outside seating with great views. Suomenlinna has the greatest choice of restaurants and most parts of the island have some charming places to grab lunch.
Another great option is Lonna whose smart restaurant serves an excellent menu upstairs and also hides a bar/waffle diner downstairs. There is also a public sauna just a short walk away (best booked in advanced online). Vallisaari also has some restaurants/cafes, but perhaps best offers a place to have a picnic, with excellent sheltered picnic tables and toilets around the island for your convenience.