Have you ever wondered where the sunniest place in Finland is?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s not Lapland, it’s actually this small island nestled on the outermost area of Finland’s archipelago.
Right at the edge of Finland’s archipelago with the tourism motto of “Finland Starts Here” they couldn’t be more right.
Utö is the place where our love story actually started. This magical island, farthest away from the mainland of Finland was the first place Tuomas and I went to when we met each other in person for the first time in 2017.
That’s why Utö will always hold a special place in my heart.
Utö Island provides you with a relaxing and almost tropical atmosphere during the summer months and breath-taking chilling scenery in the winter months.
If you find yourself needing a break from all the commotion in Turku then Utö is definitely the place to go for that relaxation.
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About the Utö and Finland’s Archipelago
The first inhabitants of Utö were sheep since the island of Jurmo, an island that neighbors Utö, was using Utö to raise lamb.
Then in the 12-13th century, the Swedish king appointed ship pilots to the island in order to navigate ships through the seas.
The pilots of Utö island are very significant figures even to this day.
They help many ships navigate their way through the islands so that they are able to transport goods to and from Finland.
Without the pilots, the island would no doubt continue its long legacy of shipwrecks that have occurred throughout the centuries.
So if scuba diving old shipwrecks is your thing then you must add Utö to your bucket list.
The most notable shipwrecks are the Draken and the Park Victory shipwrecks.
I was amazed when I first learned about the Park Victory shipwreck as it was a ship from Newport News, Virginia, a city I lived in while attending University.
It’s little historical moments like this that make the world seem far more connected than we ever imagined.
Not to mention it helped me feel more connected to Tuomas as he is from Utö and I am from Virginia.
How to Get to Utö Island – Take a 2-Day Trip to Utö Island from Turku
Utö is truly at the end of the archipelago and makes for a great 2-day trip from Turku city center.
The best way to get there is by taking the Archipelago Bus (Saaristo Bussi) from the Central Bus Station located off of Aninkaistenkatu right next to the Sushi buffet and Hesburger.
The sushi place is pretty good and affordable, it makes for a great lunch before your adventure to the archipelago.
Alternatively, you can purchase your ticket directly from the bus driver and it costs around 15 Euro.
The bus ticket you’ll want is from Turku to Pärnäinen.
You can buy bus tickets here for the Archipelago Bus at Matkahuolto
Tips for Scheduling the Bus
When planning a trip to Utö Island you will need to check the schedule from Meritie’s website so you can board the M/S Baldur.
The M/S Baldur is completely free, so if you don’t want to stay on the island you can always enjoy the views of the outer archipelago as it takes you all the way to Utö and back on select days.
On the schedule, the yellow highlighted areas are the ones that have a connection with the bus; this means the M/S Baldur will wait until the bus arrives.
*Important to note* There will be no mention of the connection on the bus’s website, Matkahuolto, so the bus you’ll need is the bus that will be in Pärnäinen just before the ship leaves.
You can find the most recent ferry schedule here on Meritie’s website
Utö Island Frequently Asked Questions
When I first visited Utö with Tuomas in 2017 I had so many questions, to me the island seemed remote and cut off from everything.
It actually kinda scared me because this was the first time I was meeting him in person, and you know how us Americans like to make unnecessary horror movies about the most innocent things in Europe.
So before we went I needed him to answer all my questions so I can feel more at peace with going to an island at the edge of the outer archipelago.
How Do I Pronounce the ö With the Two Dots?
First off, how do you even pronounce the name of the island of Utö and what’s with the o with two dots?
Let’s start with the ö, the two dots above it are called an umlaut. In this context the ö is Utö means island whereas the Ut means out, hence the area being called the outer island.
You would pronounce the word (ewh-toe)
So I know that might not be the most accurate phonetics but it’s the trick I used to help me pronounce it and my Tuomas isn’t complaining about it.
What’s the Weather Like on Utö Island?
Utö island is in the heart of the Baltic Sea, which means weather here is going to be windier than on the mainland.
Even in June Tuomas and I had packed some long sleeve shirts and rain jackets with us to shield the wind.
If you plan on visiting in the summer make sure to bring both shorts and jeans as the temperature can vary between 70-80°F (20-27°C).
The weather on Utö starts to cool down towards September and will reach temperatures below freezing around the end of December until February.
When Is The Best Time to Go to Utö?
Utö Island and the Archipelago in general are seen as tourist destinations in the summer months May-August. It’s also during these months that the M/S Baldur Visits all the Island more frequently.
Throughout the months of May-August Utö island is at its busiest and you will see a lot of happy Finns enjoying the summer and getting their much missed vitamin D.
The peak of the season will be from late June to early August. If you want to enjoy some more privacy during the summer, Tuomas recommends visiting the island in early June or late August.
If you plan to go to Utö Island in the months of December to January I recommend giving yourself extra time to get to and from the island.
The M/S Baldur schedule isn’t as frequent and requires the assistance of another ship to break through the ice.
Alternatively, if you are into birdwatching, spring migration is a great time to come to Utö Island to see the Terms and other species in the area.
To find out more about birdwatching in the archipelago I recommend website BirdingPlaces
What Should I Pack When Going to Utö?
Whenever Tuomas and I are planning a trip to Utö Island we buy our groceries before we get to the island.
There is a grocery store on Utö island where you can get fresh bread, fruits, vegetables, frozen stuff, pretty much everything you can find in a regular grocery store.
Fun fact, Tuomas actually used to work in the grocery store during a summer
Bear in mind that there will be limited selection on certain brands so if it’s something you know you will definitely want to have then be sure to pack it with you.
Another good rule is to have a good pair of walking/hiking shoes. Utö Island is home to gravel roads, big stairs, even bigger rocks, and lots of cliffs.
Just expect there to be a lot of uneven terrain when walking around Utö Island.
Are There Any Restricted Areas on Utö Island?
While visiting Utö island you will notice some areas that are restricted to civilians, including the people who live on the island.
The areas that are restricted will have signs around it, the primary areas being around the military bases and the land alongside the trails as it is part of the wildlife conservatory.
The wildlife restrictions are in effect from May to August when the birds are nesting, however, I really wouldn’t recommend walking on these areas during the “off season”.
7 Charming Things to Do on Utö Island in Finland’s Archipelago During the Summer
Part of Utö’s charm is that life on the island happens at a relaxed pace.
While on Utö you can expect to take your time enjoying the slower pace that living on an island in the outer archipelago brings with it.
Tuomas’s family has a summer apartment on the island of Utö, and wherever we need a change of scenery or just want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Turku we head to Utö.
When you think of Finland, your first thought might be of all the beautiful snowy landscapes, frolicking reindeers, and even Santa Claus.
If you haven’t heard anyone talk about the magical Finnish summers then let me be the first to tell you about them.
The summertime in Finland is unlike any other. Despite being so far north the Summertime here feels somewhat tropical. Especially in the outer archipelago.
On Utö you can see the trees swaying, hear the birds singing their beautiful tunes, and witness the never-ending sunset from the midnight sun.
Just this alone makes spending a few days on Utö Island breathtakingly magical. Honestly, the whole outer archipelago is just beautiful to see during the Summer.
Here’s what you can expect when visiting the island of Utö during the Finnish Summer.
You’ll start by noticing the gentle breeze flowing through the island, wondering if you should pull out that sweater you packed or just enjoy the feel of the breeze on your skin and try to soak up as much sunshine as you can after the dark winters in Finland.
As you get comfortable with the temperature, which is slightly cooler than the mainland, you walk around the island seeing the picturesque red houses that the nordic countries are known for.
Go to the Hannas Horisont Cafe
After you have unpacked and settled in on Utö Island, it’s time to explore the island. Your first stop should be to the center area, where both the grocery store and Hannas Horisont Cafe are located.
Both have limited hours so you need to make this your first stop to check the schedules of places.
When Hanna’s Cafe is open, you can expect to be greeted by the most outgoing Finn I have ever met in my life. Hanna’s personality is so bubbly and full of life, and she loves to talk about the Utö and her family’s history on the Island.
She will also entice you to try her homemade desserts, which you absolutely must try. She makes mouth watering Finnish Pancakes (pannukakku) and Rhubarb Pie with homemade whip cream. I have tried both and have never been disappointed.
The cafe also doubles as a gift shop where you can find plenty of Utö themed decor and pieces to bring home with you.
Psst If you would like to learn how to make your own tasty Pannukakku from the comforts of home and learn some Finnish at the same time then you should check out HerFinalnd’s Baking Magic Course.
See the Lighthouse
After enjoying Hanna’s tasty desserts, make your way up the hill to see the pride and joy of Utö Island.
The lighthouse you see was actually rebuilt in 1814 after it’s initial build in 1753.
The lighthouse had to be rebuilt because of the War between Russia and Sweden between 1808-1809 in which during this time Finland was still a territory torn between the two countries.
Hanna, the owner of Hannas Horisont cafe, does tours for the lighthouse in Swedish, English, and Finnish.
If you have time to do the tour, then please please don’t miss it. I want to go back and do it again!!
The insides of the lighthouse will instantly take you back into time when the lighthouse was in full force and not the automated system that’s in place today.
During the tour Hanna will teach you all about the history of the lighthouse and the island.
There is even a church on the top floor, which has been known to make for a jaw dropping wedding venue.
To find out more about Utö lighthouse tours you can check out Hanna’s website here.
Check Out the Chapel
After spending time enjoying the scenery of waves crashing into rocks at the bottom of Utö Lighthouse, find the main pathway and start walking through the residential area of Utö.
After you have made your way past the charming residential homes you’ll find a mesmerizing white church with grey slate tiles.
The chapel was originally built in 1909.
Pastors only visited the island once during the fall and once during the springs. They would make special trips out to Utö for wedding ceremonies and baptisms, but not for funerals.
During these trips, pastors would check to see the citizens of Utö’s reading level and general knowledge of the bible.
The chapel also holds the Park Victory Memorial which was shipwrecked on the island in 1947.
Hanna’s grandmother was around during that shipwreck, and if you ask her about it she is able to tell you her grandma’s accounts.
I don’t want to give any spoilers because I truly think that story should be told by Hanna.
Find the Draken Star
Continue down the path to the right of the church and you’ll find yourself at the entrance of a wildlife protected area that you are allowed in as long as you stay on the trail.
Follow the trail to the end and climb up a few smooth rocks and there you will find Draken Star.
The Draken Star is a memorial to the crew of the Draken shipwreck in 1929. Part of Utö’s dark history is the number of shipwrecks this island has had to witness throughout the years.
The Draken shipwrecked about 200 m from the cliffs, the inhabitants of Utö were unable to do anything to help the crew as the waters were raging and unwavering.
Two men from the crew attempted to swim to the Island and only one of them survived. From there, the people of Utö put up a wooden cross and a star to show the other crewmen the fate of the two who had attempted to swim to shore.
It was two days later that the raging sea had finally calmed down enough to rescue the other surviving crewmen from a nearby inlet.
Shipwrecks are far and few between nowadays as the island is home to ship pilots that guide vessels through the rocky waters.
If you stay up late enough you may see these pilots escorting cargo ships to Finland.
Explore the Bunkers on the Island
After you have visited the Draken Star, start to search around the rocks and you’ll find abandoned bunkers that were used during many wars of Utö like the Crimean War and Finnish Wars.
When looking through the bunkers next to the Draken Star you will be able to see the barracks that Tuomas and I guess that they were used for sleeping shifts but we really don’t know.
Then there are bunkers next to the Havshotel Restaurant that will give you a great view of the horizon and the sea, which we probably used for the same reasons, to look out for incoming ships and vessels.
Be careful of going through the bunkers as they are home to lots of spider webs and can be really rocky.
Grab a Meal at Utö Havshotel Restaurant
Depending on what time you arrive on the island you will be able to grab lunch or dinner at the Utö Havshotel Restaurant.
The restaurant provides you with scenic views of the Baltic sea. Tuomas and I ate her for dinner and can say that everything on the menu is absolutely delicious.
There isn’t a set menu for the Havshotel Restaurant due to most of the ingredients being seasonal and what is available. They will typically have vegetarian, fish, and beef options available.
You can find out more about Utö’s Havshotel here on their website
Go to Sauna then Jump into the Baltic Sea
If there is one thing you absolutely must experience during Finnish summer it would hands down be going to the sauna and then jumping into the sea.
Utö’s Havshotel has a sauna right on the edge of the sea where you can enjoy this Finnish tradition.
I was skeptical the first time I did sauna and the sea in Finland. I was afraid that the water would be too cold for my ocean loving self.
Growing up I spent many summers in the Atlantic Ocean so I thought the Baltic Sea would be freezing even in the middle of summer.
After jumping into the sea from the sauna I realized how wrong I was and how much I enjoyed this experience.
The way the crisp water hits your skin after sweating everything out in the sauna just makes you feel so light and free.
Of course you can’t just do it one time, you must repeat this process at least 2 more times to fully enjoy the experience.
You can sign up for the Sea Sauna here on Utö’s Havshotel’s website as well as some of the other services they provide.
Where to Stay Utö Island?
Whenever Tuomas and I go to Utö we stay in our family’s summer home, this is a huge thing in Finland, everyone has a summer cottage or Mökki that they can go to when in need of an escape.
There are some families that may rent out their cottages on Utö in the summer to Air BnB, you can always check there but it’s not always guaranteed.
More guaranteed places to stay would be the Utö Havshotel, the primary location of the Army Garrison on the island. The army withdrew from the island in 2005 and the Utö hotel was created in 2007.
A lot of the hotel kept the charm of the Army barracks, so staying here is literally taking a step back in time.
You can find accommodations for the hotel here by visiting the Utö Havshotel Website
Another great place to stay is at Hanna’s B&B, you can find the accommodations here on her website.
Make Utö Part of Your Finnish Summer Dream
Utö and the Finnish Archipelago are without a doubt the best place to visit in the Summertime.
So thankful that Tuomas took me here the first time I came to Finland, as it really opened my eyes to the beauty of Finland’s summertime magic.
I also love Utö’s rich history and wouldn’t have been able to share all of this with you if it wasn’t for Tuomas.