It was still early in the day when we decided to begin our 4th and last leg of the journey from Sund to Järsö and then finally back to Mariehamn, where we started our journey three days earlier. We actually had time to make it all the way to Järsö that afternoon, but we decided to save some of the journey for the next day, and have our first relaxing evening at our camp spot, which we had yet to decide where would be.
The ride from Kastelholm to Mariehamn was 23,5 km. long, and was the least interesting of all the routes that we had taken so far. Most of it was along the noisy highway, so we couldn’t wait to get to our – hopefully – peaceful camp spot. It took us a few hours to get to Mariehamn, and when we did, we stocked up on some food, before biking to the beginning of the popular Järsö Route, which we would be biking the following day.
We got lucky and found the most perfect spot on Espholm Beach, overlooking the island of Svinö. The beach even had toilet facilities, a table and a changing room, but unfortunately no shower, which I was dying for at that point. We set up the tent right by the ocean, and for the first time since our night in Tullarns Äng, we had the entire evening to relax, which we did by playing cards and eating snacks, while gazing out into the turquoise ocean.
The Järsö Route is a popular 20 km. scenic route on a road from the center of Mariehamn to the island of Järsö, which takes you through several small islands and follows the coastline throughout most of the journey. It had actually been recommended to us by a guy at the tourist information center in Mariehamn, who told us that it’s the most popular day trip from Mariehamn because of the natural beauty that is found along the route.
We spent a few hours biking the route, and had several picture stops and a stop at a tiny kiosk on Svinö, which is just a little detour away from the main road.
The Järsö Route was the perfect way to end our 4-day bike journey; of all the roads that we had taken on Åland, this one was without a doubt the most beautiful one.
When we arrived back in Mariehamn, we had a few hours left before having to return our rental bikes. We hadn’t seen much of the city yet, so we decided to bike around as quickly as we could in order to see everything on our must-see list.
We went to Badhusberget first, a 40 meter high hill, which is located in the outskirts of the city. The hill is said to have amazing views over Mariehamn, but we were slightly disappointed when we got up there, because most of what we could see were trees. The view wasn’t great, but it was still a nice, short walk.
From the hill, we could see half of the enormous Pommern ship, a windjammer built in 1903. Pommern is one of the Flying P-Liners, which were famous sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz. The ship was later used by Åland-born Gustaf Erikson to carry grain from Australia to England and Ireland until the beginning of the Second World War. Today the ship is a museum, and is the most famous landmark in Mariehamn.
We then biked back into the center and through the main street, Esplanaden Boulevard, an avenue which is beautifully lined with lime trees.
On a side road to the avenue lies the St. Görans Kyrka (St. George’s Church), the main church of Mariehamn, which was built in 1927 and expanded in 1959, making it Åland’s only mother church without a medieval background. Unfortunately, we were just a few minutes late to see the interior of the church, as it closed at 6 PM and we arrived at 6.02 PM…
We had half an hour left to explore before having to return the bikes, so we biked down to the Maritime Quarter, which is just a few hundred metres away from Östra Hamnen, where we rented the bikes from. The Maritime Quarter is a cozy place with lots of atmosphere, where the old boat building traditions are kept alive with typical red sheds, a boatyard, a smithy, a shipmuseum and a cozy café.
After returning our bikes, we walked back to the center, where we spent the next few hours before going to our camp spot. It was weird to be walking again after all of those days of biking, but the cozy center of Mariehamn is definitely best explored on foot. We walked through a lively flea market to a cobbled street with cafés on both sides. We were both feeling hungry and felt that we needed a reward for successfully completing our bike journey, so we sat down at Café La Strada and had the best pizza in the history of pizzas.
Earlier in the day, we had biked to the airport to find the perfect camp spot for our last night in Åland. I had a flight to catch early the next morning, so it made sense to stay near the airport. We found a beautiful spot in a open space in the forest a few hundred metres from the airport. When we returned to the spot in the evening after walking the 5 km. to get there from Mariehamn, we played cards and had some snacks while watching the sun set between the trees, before calling it a night at 10 PM.
The Åland bike journey has been a beautiful and memorable experience. I discovered a new way of travelling, which I really enjoyed. It’s extremely slow-paced, which gives you an opportunity to really experience the country instead of just driving through it all. I also loved the fact that we were carrying around our transportation and accommodation all the time, so we could just go wherever we wanted and sleep wherever we wanted. It’s definitely not the last multiple-day bike trip that I’ve been on. And it’s definitely not the last time I’ve visited Åland either. Despite being as flat as Denmark, Åland is absolutely beautiful and a place that should be explored by more adventurous people. At the moment, it’s an unknown destination to most travellers, but I’m sure it will change one day. Åland is too big a gem to be overlooked.