After 3 months of travelling through Asia and then four weeks of full-time working, it was time to go back to my beloved Nordics, an area of the world that I first explored from March to May last year, and it instantly became my favourite place to travel because of the beautiful and rugged nature, friendly people and endless hiking, biking and camping opportunities. I’ve decided that this summer, before I go to university at the end of August, will be all about the Nordics – and the first stop was the beautiful island nation of Åland, a tiny country in the Baltic Sea that I had missed when I was first travelling in the area.
Åland is officially a part of Finland, but is an autonomous region that is Swedish-speaking. The island nation consists of over 6,700 islands and has a population of just over 29,000. The islands are very flat with the highest point being 129 m. and are therefore a perfect destination for a biking holiday, which I haven’t ever tried before, but is something that I’ve always wanted to try. Because of the brilliant Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian “everyman’s right”, which basically means that everyone has the right to roam and camp wherever they want, as long as it’s not within 150 m. of a building and as long as nature is respected, Åland is also the perfect place for a camping trip. I invited my best travel buddy Steve along for five days of biking and camping through the islands.
To save time, I chose to fly into Mariehamn, the capital of the Åland Islands, which was a beautiful experience. It was a tiny flight with hardly any passengers, so I was able to move to the best window seat I could find in order to watch the stunning 45-minute show of the thousands of islands beneath us.
After a long day of travelling from my hometown in Jutland to Copenhagen, then to Helsinki and then finally to Mariehamn, I met Steve in the tiny airport in Mariehamn at 8.30 PM. For some strange reason, there was no bus at the airport to transport the flight passengers to the center of Mariehamn, which is about 5 km. from the airport, but thankfully, Steve and I got lucky and avoided having to pay for a taxi, when a nice airport security worker offered us a ride into town. She drove us to the only camping place in Mariehamn, which is located next to Tullarns Äng, a beautiful meadow by the ocean. But at 30 euros per night for two people in a tent, we thought it was way too pricy, so we decided to find a free camping spot in the meadow instead.
When entering Tullarns Äng, there is a sign in Swedish saying that camping is prohibited, but because it was getting late, we decided to do it anyways and set up our tent in a spot near the forest and a small pond, far away from any buildings, where we wouldn’t bother anyone.
After setting up the tent, we went for a little stroll to the beach. At 10.30 PM, the sun was just about to set, and we caught its last rays over the nearby harbour, and watched the sky turn orange. It was a beautiful sight and our first of many sunsets in Åland.
After a good night’s sleep, it was time to plan our next four days of biking through the islands. We made a route that we were both happy with taking us through most of Fasta Åland (the main island in Åland) and to 9 small islands all connected by bridge, and set off at midday after a visit to the tourist information center in Mariehamn.
It was nice to have both our accommodation and transport with us at all times. Whenever we wanted, we could get on the road and explore a new destination, and whenever we needed it, we could just put up our tent basically wherever we wanted. Our trip to Åland was an adventure, something new that neither of us had tried before. It was never about the destination, but about being on the road, exploring everything in this slow-paced way of travelling.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing the stories from our four days of biking and camping in Åland right here on the blog – stay tuned!