travelling the seven parts of the world
Posts about Aland Islands
What, When, Why and How about Aland Islands
We arrived from Kapellskar late in the afternoon and spent one night in Aland Islands. It rained so hard it was impossible to fall asleep, but the following day the skies cleared, and we had a nice island hopping cruise. Overall, I was left with a positive view of the islands, and one day I'll probably return to spend more time here.
What are the Aland Islands?
The Aland Islands are Sweden in Finland, a leftover of Russian Imperialism. They have requested Sweden to annex them, but Sweden couldn't be bothered. Now they exist as a near independent state within Finland. The people speak Swedish, which is completely different from Finnish. Over the years the political correctness in Finland has gone so far that really nothing has ever been denied to Aland Islands, and I say good for them. When the Finnish parliament wants to address the Aland parliament, it must do so in Swedish. They have their own flag and vehicle license plates. They held a separate referendum when joining the EU, and Aland islands don't enforce all the EU rules, most visibly the VAT. Finland is not allowed to keep armed forces in Aland. In pretty much every way and form it is an independent country.
How to go there
One of the best ways to go to Aland Islands is by bicycle. While this requires you to be lucky as far as the weather goes, the landscape is a godsend to cyclists - nearly completely flat, very few hills, yet at the same time interesting and appealing. We saw several cyclists on the way, and they all seemed to be happy about themselves, though I have no idea how they would cycle through either Sweden or southern Finland, both are fascinatingly boring. It seems like leaving a car in Turku and going island-hopping with a bicycle from there is the best way to do it - on the ferries, you only pay for cars, cyclists go free.
If you are going by car, remember to read the fine print of the ferry offers. To take an island hopping ferry like the one displayed above, you have to stay 1 night in one of the smaller islands, or you will have to pay an outrageous price for a ferry ticket. If you are driving a caravan and not staying for a night, the price goes from outrageous to ridiculous. Camping doesn't count as accommodation, since it cost only like 10 euros, but I was able to convince the owner of the place to give me a receipt for the ferry anyway. That day I was the only person in the campground though (it was end of August, so the high season was over already), so don't count on it.
While the islands are in a different VAT zone, this did not pose any problems, at least on Finland's side. We smuggled 45 bottles of alcohol across this border (most bought in the EU, but how would they know, its not like I keep receipts), nobody checked.