Happy summer destination: Turku and archipelago
According to the World Happiness Report 2023, Finland tops the list as the happiest country in the world, claiming No. 1 spot for the sixth year running. And as anyone who has travelled in and around the city of Turku and the Turku archipelago can testify, the surroundings there put everyone in a good mood.
The Turku archipelago in Finland with its 40,000 islands is one of the most unique places in the world. The city of Turku is like a gateway to the archipelago, and Finns are probably keen to keep this place for themselves, helped by the fact that travelling there is no easy feat. The most beautiful way to arrive in Turku is by ferry from Stockholm, but there are direct flights to Turku from Riga and Stockholm; you can also get there from Helsinki by bus and train.
Arriving by land, the special features of Turku are not immediately apparent, for that you have to reach the city centre and the banks of the Aura river. In recent years, the city has developed rapidly, with the block of the Wärtsilä engine factory becoming a modern urban environment open to everyone. Also, the area of the former Kakola prison has been converted into a hotel, residential buildings, a bakery, a brewery and a restaurant.
When the beautiful spring and summer weather arrives, townspeople and visitors gather at the riverside restaurants, where early potatoes and craft beer provide taste symbols of Turku and the archipelago. You have to come here to experience these flavours yourself, because everything is eaten and drunk on the spot; the locals do not consider taking them anywhere else.
Hotels to stay in Turku:
Michelin recommended restaurants in Turku:
The Turku people’s lifestyle, which is different from the rest of Finland, is especially noticeable when driving around the archipelago. Time is estimated more by the weather than by the clock, and no-one is in a hurry. The old culture and customs are honoured, with one dinner cruise aboard the last steamer sailing in the area providing evidence of this: the S/S Ukkopekka takes passengers to the tiny island of Loistokari accompanied by live nostalgic dance music. It is more of a reef than an island and can barely fit a boatload of guests, and on the dinner table, the place of honour goes to the fish caught from the sea here and smoked on the spot.
The traditional dishes of the archipelago are also offered by the Pohjankulma restaurant operating in a former schoolhouse, which is located on the route from Turku to the archipelago, and a visit is definitely recommended.
For those exploring the archipelago by car, there are two ring roads: the small and the large. It takes a whole day to complete the small circuit with short stops to eat and look around, while you need at least two days to complete the big circle. Hyppeis and Nestor are suitable hotels for staying overnight and enjoying the food of the archipelago in the hotel restaurants. Bottengarn Resort offers the opportunity to rent a private island for you and your group for the whole week.
Doing nothing is the main activity in the Turku archipelago: it makes you happy, but requires thorough preparation.