Turku’s winter archipelago: a chance worth taking

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In Turku’s archipelago, in summer you can see it all and in winter not a soul. Depart on a fishing trip with a wilderness guide or winter kayak trip or test out your cold-water survival suit. Memorable moments in the magic of the winter wilderness.

Turku’s archipelago is Europe’s largest and the world’s most prolific collection of islands, which the locals also claim to be the most beautiful. The purpose of this article is to prove that the archipelago is just as spectacular during the colder seasons. 

In fact, it’s well worth experience the archipelago nature after a busy summer season when there is no one else around. Whilst the vast nature is silent, the call from the natural world is still strong. Bed & Breakfast locations are available and hotels have plenty of space, with prices considerably lower than in summer.

Get more from your trip with a wilderness guide

Despite being enthusiastic, city urbanites might not know how best to move through nature. Where do you start, where do you go, what do you wear, what should you take with you? What if you get lost?

Of course, instructions for all these can be found online, but a better solution is to collect together a suitable group and hire a wilderness guide. With a guide alongside, even those familiar with nature will get more from the experience. Like the case with art, background information provides half the experience.

Aside from hiking, you can also move around the archipelago in winter by sailing or kayaking, depending on the level of ice. The Nagu Sea Kayak company in Nagu is one of the organisers of winter kayaking trips in the archipelago. 

On the Kemito Islands, NaturEffect wilderness guides and activity company provides a guided programme in the forests as well as the chance to spend a night in a tree, in a Tentsile hanging tent. Definitely something for the bucket-list, wouldn’t you agree?

  • 40,000 islands of the Archipelago Sea

    The Archipelago Sea is a region of the Baltic Sea, which borders Turku to the east, Åland to the west, Bengskär lighthouse to the south and to the Gulf of Bothnia in the north. The Archipelago Sea has around 40,000 islands and islets, making it the most prolific in the world. To locals and to sailors the area is often simply referred to as the Turku Archipelago.

    Although Turku is a world-renowned nature destination, it has been relatively spared the ravages of mass tourism, such as overcrowding, refuse and marginalised authenticity. Boaters love the Archipelago Sea, its idyllic guest harbours, local restaurants and cuisine, as well as the tranquil coves. Cyclists have also discovered the archipelago, with routes including the Archipelago Trail as well as the Coastal Route, which is new in 2018.

Try out some winter fishing

“When you know the right places a good catch is guaranteed. The climax of a great day is preparing the catch and cooking a fish supper on an open fire.”

One of the most popular activities with a wilderness guide is winter fishing, which is easy to try even if you’ve no previous experience. All equipment, from the winter fishing suits to all other necessities can be hired, and the guide will take you to the fish grounds. When you know the right places a good catch is guaranteed. The climax of a great day is preparing the catch and cooking a fish supper on an open fire.

Fishing used to be seen as a predominantly male hobby, but interest is increasing amongst women. This is good, because winter fishing combines nature, being present in the moment and an ideal way to enjoy local food.

Guided fishing trips, such as the Ladies Fishing excursion, can be booked with the Archipelago Booking of Finland

All Archipelago Booking of Finland winter services can be found here.

Fishing used to be seen as a predominantly male hobby, but interest is increasing amongst women. This is good, because winter fishing combines nature, being present in the moment and an ideal way to enjoy local food.

Some invigorating action

If some calming ice fishing is not for you, perhaps you want to jump to the ice yourself. For example, the Airisto Spa organizes cold-water survival for groups. In addition to having enormous fun, the survival training gives you the chance to practice the skills needed on ice, such as the safe way to fall into and get out of the ice.

The floating begins by dressing over the top of your own warm clothes, with the immersive suits, gloves and socks keeping you completely dry. Then comes the plunge, as under the instruction of a guide you fall safely into water and get accustomed to your new situation. Floating in icy water, whilst dry and warm, gives an amazing feeling of weightlessness. Whilst moving with all the equipment on might feel a bit clumsy, the bizarre experience is one you won’t forget.

The Airisto Spa organises a variety of fun activities on the ice, from daring speed to more cautious excitement. Activities include snowmobile safaris, hover crafting, quad biking as well as parasailing behind a snowmobile. If looking for a bit more tranquillity then why not try tour skating or kite surfing instead.

Recommendations on where to eat

Although Turku’s archipelago quietens down for the winter, some of the restaurants are open throughout the year. Here are few local tips:

Restaurant Hjalmars, located in the centre of Korppo, is housed in a building from 1935 entitled "Spirit House", constructed by Hjalmari Mäkelä who made his fortune as a smuggler. Now you can eat good, unpretentious food in a casual atmosphere. B&B accommodation is also found onsite.   

The parish town of Nagu, whilst very lively in summer, is serenely becalmed during winter. However, there are a couple of places to enjoy tasty food, including the relaxed pub Naffu as well as the archipelago-inspired French cuisine from L'Escale. Even though the wine list at L'Escale represents the old world there is always something special for wine enthusiasts. 

In Pargas, just a stone’s throw from the guest harbour, you’ll find Kamu. There the chef serves up simple, modern food from seasonal ingredients, sourced from local producers wherever possible. The dish named "Seasonal Fish" is exactly the sort of dish you would expect to be served in the heart of Turku’s archipelago.

In Kasnäs, just next to the spa hotel, you’ll find restaurant Kasnäs Paviljong, well known for its fish dishes. In winter, guests come to enjoy the seafood table and archipelago atmosphere, with many staying the weekend to enjoy the archipelago.

One of the more surprising places to eat in the archipelago is the Restaurant Kansakoulu and Lodge in Brännboda. This hipster-style venue on the Kemito Islands offers local food with a strong spirit of recycling all around. The fish of the day is always straight from the net. Why not stay the night in an environment where the bustle of city life is forgotten.

Story in cooperation with Pargas and Kemitö Islands.
Text by Liina Komi. Photos from Pargas and Kemitö Islands.

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