On my previous post, I did mention that I’d tell a bit more about our experiences while sightseeing around the main island in Åland. Besides touring around Mariehamn, the capital of the islands, we did also explore the main island a bit deeper, following the list of the main attractions provided by Visit Åland website. So, here we go: a short introduction to the main sights through my eyes.
The Geta mountain is located on the northern part of the island, around 30 minutes drive from Mariehamn. The main sight on the mountain is the red wooden lookout tower that raises some 20 meters up from the ground and offers a nice view over the island. Or at least would have offered, had the windows not been stained by birds.. The lookout tower was the first sight we ticked off from our list and I’m glad we went there first. The tower was not the most exciting thing ever, but the different type of scenery and nature did make the place at least a bit more interesting. The scenery and the nature is however very typical to the island, so you do not necessarily need to drive all the way to Geta just because of that. Since Geta did not offer much else, other than the tower, this would be the first sight to be dropped out of the must-see list if I had to pick one. Also, don’t be fooled by the name mountain – the highest point is only 107 meters above the sea level, so not much climbing here either.
This falls to the category ”Should’ve looked up more about it before visiting”. The ancient fortress of Borgboda is one of the most significant sights from the iron age in Åland. Like mentioned earlier, we used the Visit Åland listing of interesting sights as a guide on our tour and all I picked up from the description of Borgboda was “fortress” and “ruins”. So naturally I was expecting something big and amazing! After the 10 minute walk up to the gate from the road, I continued with determination along the path in the woods for quite some time before I heard Olli shouting at me from the distance, asking if I was going to keep walking for long. Well, at least until we see the ruins, I anwered. You can only guess what my reaction was when I heard him saying “there are no actual ruins, what you see here is pretty much what the ruins are, just like that sign you did not bother to read said”. Yup, I was getting quite close to a mental breakdown at this point… Yes, it would’ve been smart to read more about the sight in advance, or at least bother to stop for a few minutes at the gate, right there where the sing telling the history of the place was. Oh well, at least we got to spend some time in the woods. The best part of the visit was without a doubt the sheep we passed by on the way from the car to the mountain.
Kungsö battery hill
In Kungsö, you’ll find the ruins of a coastal battery built by the Russians during the First World War. Some small ruins are still present, but the biggest attraction is the lookout tower raising some 15-20meters above the ground. Unlike the one in Geta, this one has open walls, so the views are guaranteed to remain stain-free. And the views are just as nice. If I had to pick between the two towers, Kungsö and Geta, I’d go to Kungsö rather than drive all the way to Geta.
Sålis battery hill
Okay, this is a good one! Everything was just fine until we passed the Sålis 1km-sign. After that, there were absolutely no signs to be seen anywhere. Once we arrived to the spot where Google claimed the hill to be, there was absolutely nothing. Okay, rather strange, I thought. Visit Åland’s website did say we were a few hundred meters off the course, so we pointed the car towards the place where the hill was, at least according to the website. And nothing. Again. Seriously?! We were on the exact point the map pointed at! At that point, both of us were frustrated enough, so we gave up on the search and continued our way towards the next sight. So, I’d not recommend anyone to go to Sålis, at least based on our experiences.
Castle of Kastelholma
Yay, an interesting sight, finally! Located in Sund, the eastern part of the island, Kastelholma is competing of the best sight award with Bomarsund (next) on our trip. The castle was built on the 14th century and is actually one of the five still surviving medieval fortresses in Finland. The castle is located beautifully right next to the water. There are a handful of sheep on the castle grounds, some straw-roofed boathouses and other buildings, windmills and a traditional maypole, making the castle area a rather beautiful place. So yes, I’d definitely recommend visiting Kastelhoma when in Åland. Nowadays, the castle is used as a museum and you can visit there in exchange of a 6 euro entrance fee.
Bomarsund ruins in Sund, on the eastern part of the island, are spreaded around both sides of the road on the way to Hummelvik. Build in the 19th century, the fortress is the all-time biggest building in Åland. The fortress did have its own church, prison as well as bureaus. The main building did hold a total of 250 rooms, big enough to accommodate around 2500 soldiers in total, as well as over a hundred cannons. Sounds huge, don’t you think? And if you think “no” at this point, do bear in mind that this is on a rather small island in Finland, so things must be put into the right perspective! Only two decades after the fortress was built, it was bombed into pieces in the Crimean war (yep, talking about the one in Finland in the 19th century, not the crisis in Ukraine at the moment). Parts of the fortress can still be seen standing, and even though spreaded over a large area, the ruins still form an interesting place to visit. This was actually the last place we visited on the main island and I’m glad it was. Bomarsund, together with Kastelholma, were the best sights on the island without a doubt and made the main island much more interesting than all the other parts combined.
So in total, we sis check out six of the main sights on the main island of Åland. Visit Åland’s webpage did list also two other attractions, the Eckerö post office, and Lemböte ruins, but we decided to skip these. Instead, we did visit the Stallhagen brewery as it was so conveniently located enroute to Sund, as well as the Taffel (a Finnish potato chip brand) factory outlet.