The Helsinki Archipelago is a true hidden gem of Scandinavia. This cluster of islands, located in the Baltic Sea, is just a short boat ride away from Helsinki – making it an accessible and unique destination for tourists. The archipelago is made up of over 300 islands, each with its own distinct character and charm. Boasting untouched beaches, rocky shorelines, lush greenery and picturesque villages – the islands never fail to amaze.
In addition to their beauty, they also act as a sanctuary for wildlife. All sorts of birds can be spotted here including eagles and ospreys. These creatures find solace in the granite rocks and skerries that stretch out into the sea, away from the bustling big cities. For visitors to the Finnish capital, the best way to explore the Helsinki Archipelago is by taking a boat tour. There are several operators in the area but none quite compare with Helsinki Boats.
With Helsinki Boats, guests can choose from an Italian-style daycruiser or a luxury yacht. The daycruiser is an elegant vessel which can host up to five people (not including the captain). The trips can last anywhere between two hours to an entire day and they can be customized to fulfill your every desire. From cruising to secret islets, to landing on islands with a sauna, to wakeboarding on the back of the boat – the possibilities are endless.
The luxury yacht, on the other hand, can be chartered for up to 12 people and comes equipped with a kitchen, bathrooms, cabins and a flybridge. On this opulent yacht guests are treated to five-star lunches and dinners, and fine wine. Again, the journey can range in duration – from as short as two hours to as long as a full day. Whichever boat you prefer, Capitano Marco is at your disposal to create a schedule that you will absolutely love.
Marco has been in love with the sea since he was young and it’s a big part of his DNA. He has spent over 20 years boating in the Helsinki region, as well as in Lapland and further afield in Australia. Along with Karina, who is the superstar chef/VIP host, Helsinki Boats offers a personable and fun experience in the Helsinki Archipelago for your special event: private tour with friends, corporate cruise, wedding celebration and more.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Helsinki Archipelago, and would like to know the best places to visit, below we go into detail about what you can expect. Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Fortress of Suomenlinna, an array of spectacular islets that are often completely empty and cool barbecue locations to wop up delicious cuisine – the Helsinki Archipelago is a destination you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Best Places to Visit in the Helsinki Archipelago on a Boat Trip
The Fortress of Suomenlinna
The Fortress of Suomenlinna is a UNESCO Site that was originally built by the Swedes in the mid-18th century, but was later used by the Russians and Finns as a military stronghold. Today, the fortress is home to museums, art galleries, and restaurants, and visitors can explore its historic walls and tunnels. The fortress is known for its waterfront views, old architecture and scenic trails – making it a must-see on any boat trip to the archipelago.
Pihlajasaari is one of the closest islands to the mainland but by no means does it feel that way. The island, which is connected into two via a bridge, is nothing short of a nature-lover’s paradise. It offers the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with its small collection of pristine beaches, hiking trails and wooded areas. Summer in particular is a busy time for the island when Helsinki residents come over to go camping and swimming.
Isosaari has been described as the ‘Pearl of the Open Sea’ and it’s easy to see why. Just a 40-minute boat ride from Helsinki and you find yourself on a quiet little island, transported far away from all the worries of the world. For such a small place, it packs a punch: two beaches to stroll along, saunas to relax in, picnic spots to enjoy lunch, and a golf course (believe it or not). And to cap it off, you can even spend a night in a tent here.
Vallisaari was only opened to the public in 2016, so it still retains much of its untouched charm. Before then, the island was used for military purposes and this history can be seen in the form of fortifications dotted around the land. More than military history though, Vallisaari now functions as a thriving tourism hotspot where travelers (domestic and international) can soak up the tranquil greenery and stay in eco-camp treetents.
Pentala’s main drawcard is its lake situated in the middle called Lake Pentalanjarvi. Visitors to the island can follow a nature trail that takes them to the lake for stunning views and photo ops, and to Diksand Beach after. It starts from the Pentala Museum area. The team at Helsinki Boats often come to Lake Pentalanjarvi as part of their all-day boat ride on the daycruiser. Pentala can be included on the tour as you see fit.
Tips for Visiting Helsinki for the First Time
- Embrace the ‘Sisu’ Culture: Sisu is a Finnish concept that characterizes the national character. It means inner strength, resilience, stoicism, tenacity and never giving up. Finland is regarded as one of the happiest countries in the world and this Sisu mindset might explain why. Be sure to meet as many locals in Helsinki as possible and learn what makes them tick. You will then be able to bring a little bit of Sisu back home with you.
- Try Traditional Finnish Food: Sampling some of the traditional dishes – such as reindeer meat, salmon soup and Karelian pastries – is a must-do on your trip to the Finnish capital. Being surrounded by the sea, it’s natural that varieties of fish make up a large part of the local diet here. You can head to the food markets in Helsinki to taste the freshest seafood produce and to the award-winning restaurants for a bit of foodie innovation.
- Relax and Unwind in a Sauna: The saunas of Helsinki are much more than tiny hot rooms to sweat in. They are massive complexes filled with not only wood-fired saunas but swimming pools and restaurants as well. There are dozens to choose from in the city itself and a couple of unique ones located in the Helsinki Archipelago too. As mentioned before, Isosaari island has a sauna or two where you can regain some much needed peace of mind.
- Explore Helsinki’s Design & Street Art Scene: Finland is famous for its innovative thinking and nowhere is this more prominent than in the architecture of Helsinki. Travelers can check out the Design District and Design Museum for a deeper look at the city’s aesthetic. Or they could marvel at the street art murals and creative graffiti. If you are an avid Instagrammer, then these colorful spots will surely get you tons of likes.
- Take a Boat Trip and Swim in the Baltic Sea: Whether it be summer, autumn, winter or spring – swimming in the Baltic Sea is an absolute bucket list activity when in Helsinki. The waters may be chilly outside of summer, but it’s a quintessential Finnish experience. Book a luxury yacht or Italian-style daycruiser with Helsinki Boats to enjoy your dip in full privacy. They have a perfect 5-star rating with hundreds of satisfied customers.