The Small Archipelago Trail is a 120-kilometre route that showcases the gorgeous scenery of the Archipelago Sea. Sometimes known as the Short Archipelago Trail, it’s a circular route, so you can travel in either direction. The trail is particularly suitable for cyclists, but you can also travel by car or bus. It will only take a day if you’re driving (remember to take ferry schedules into account), but there is plenty to experience, so why not take your time, and spend a night in Naantali, Seili or Nagu?
Turku and Naantali: summer cities like no other
With its extensive range of services, Turku is a natural starting point. Turku is the centre of Southwest Finland and Finland’s oldest city, and the cityscape by the Aura River tells the story of its past eight centuries. Turku is a cornucopia of history, art, events, shopping, and restaurants, as well as the beginning of a 40,000-island labyrinth.
You can set out on the Small Archipelago Trail by road or by boarding the nostalgic steamship S/S Ukkopekka. It will take you past the wonderful villas on Ruissalo’s shores, and you can admire the idyllic town of Naantali, the first stop on the trail, from the sea before going ashore. Take time to explore the history of this old monastery and spa town at the church and museum, enjoy the seaside restaurants, and wander along the narrow alleyways between the wooden houses. Naantali is also known as the official home of Moominworld, so you should pay a visit to the Moomins. And, to really get into that relaxed holiday mood, book a spa treatment at Naantali Spa Hotel.
Seascapes, potatoes, and herring
From the centre of Naantali, the trail continues over Naantalinsalmi towards Luonnonmaa island, where you’ll find Kultaranta, the summer residence of the President of Finland. If you’re interested in seeing Kultaranta’s splendid garden, make sure to check visiting hours in advance. A few kilometres further inland, you’ll find Kultaranta Resort. Surrounded by a green golf course, the resort has a wide range of accommodation, restaurant, and relaxation options, as well as a beach for swimming.
A gorgeous seascape lays before you as you reach the Särkänsalmi bridge, after which the route will take you through the countryside of Rymättylä. Enjoy traditional archipelago cuisine at Pohjakulma in the village of Poikko, or stop in the centre of Rymättylä to recharge. Be sure to visit the medieval church here; its vast number of paintings are an impressive sight. Rymättylä is also famous for its new potatoes, and many locals love to enjoy them with herring. Some four kilometres from the centre, you’ll find Röölä, the old herring dock. Here, you can learn about local history at the traditional herring museum, Dikseli, or have a bite to eat at the seaside restaurant.
It’s about 10 kilometres from Röölä to the ferry jetty at Hanka. On this journey, the free Hämmärönsalmi ferry will take you from the island of Airismaa to Aasla in a couple of minutes. You can travel onwards from the Hanka ferry jetty to Seili, and then the centre of Nagu, with M/S Östern. This trip is subject to a fee and follows a schedule in the summertime. There is also an alternative sea route between Rymättylä and Nagu: the slightly longer Archipelago Line, which will take you from Röölä to Seili and Nagu on M/S Hamnskär.
The historic island of Seili and the lively centre of Nagu
Only those travelling without a car can explore the island of Seili. It’s famous for its interesting history as a hospital for people with leprosy and mental health facility. The wooden church still stands as a reminder of this past. Today, the island offers guided tours, accommodation options, and restaurant services for travellers.
The commuter ferry between Seili and Nagu takes roughly half an hour. Explore this summer paradise on foot: take in the hustle and bustle of the marina, experience the restaurants, beer gardens, and shops, and stop by the peaceful medieval church. Nagu was made for a summer holiday: why not sunbathe at Framnäs beach, rent an SUP board or kayak, or walk in the footsteps of a famous artist? The landscape painter, Victor Westerholm, spent his childhood summers here, and the Westerholm Path will take you on a journey through nature.
From the centre of Nagu, the Small Archipelago Trail continues east on the Saaristotie road. The ferry jetty is some 15 km away, but you should leave time to admire the scenery. You can see the round, rocky island of Kalven at the ferry jetty. The yellow ferry sets sail every 15 minutes, and carries passengers to Lillmälö in Pargas in around ten minutes, free of charge.
Gems of Pargas and Kaarina
After five kilometres or so, look to your right to see the lush Lenholm nature reserve with its ancient oaks, flower meadows, and bird-watching towers. A few kilometres ahead, make a stop at the idyllic yard of Sattmark, which is located next to the road. Here, you’ll find coffee, food, cottage accommodation, and nature paths.
On your way to the centre of Pargas, you’ll see interesting items by the Sementtitie road crossing that reveal the area’s long industrial history. Be sure to visit the viewpoint, which overlooks an open quarry, plunging 100 metres deep, and the industrial museum. You’ll find restaurants and cafes in the centre as well as Fiskis fish market and the distinctive ArtBank Gallery with its Salvador Dalí theme. It’s also worth stopping by the church and Old Town Malmen, which is filled with colourful wooden houses.
From Pargas, your journey will continue over the Kirjansalmi suspension bridge and towards the island of Kuusisto. You can admire the ruins of a medieval bishop’s castle here, or eat at the summer restaurant of Villa Wolax – both are a short detour from the main road. A bridge connects Kuusisto to the mainland, after which Turku is only ten kilometres away. The modern centre of Kaarina is also found along the way.
With so many services (and ferries, where you can rest your legs), the trail is perfect for travelling by bike. Tammiston Tila, Seili, and Villa Wolax have great services for cyclists, which have earned them the ‘Welcome cyclist’ label.
If you run into trouble along the way, you can find a self-maintenance kit at Pargas, Lillmälö ferry jetty, and Nagu marina as well as Hanka and Röölä in Rymättylä. If it suddenly starts raining, or you only want to cycle some of the way, you can hop aboard a Föli bus or use the Saaristobussi bus service. Check out bus schedules using Matkahuolto’s journey planner and follow lautta.net for water traffic.
Carfield Bike Rental has the most extensive bike-renting service in the archipelago, and 10Bikes in Turku has electric bikes for loan. You can also rent a bike from Visit Naantali and several tourism companies along the route. Ferries mentioned in this article are happy to take bikes, and buses are likewise as long as there is enough room.