Walking to Sweden: Finland’s Kvarken Archipelago

By Cacinda Maloney

Vaasa, Finland map

Vaasa, Finland map

Arriving in Vaasa, Finland, I was ready for an adventure and Finland does not disappoint. Vaasa is the gateway to the western side of the country.  This is where the narrowest part of the Gulf of Bothnia is connected to Finland by their longest bridge, the Replot, in the Baltic Sea.

The Replot Bridge near Vaasa, Finland

The Replot Bridge near Vaasa, Finland

I am about to jet out to a tiny spatter of islands (only 5600 of them!) where the Finn’s and Sweed’s take their summer holiday’s in tiny cottages. This has also been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Kvarken Archipelago. They weekly trek out here to get away from the big cities, as here, one can only ponder life, and well, of course, take a world famous sauna and jacuzzi or two!

Kvarken Archipelago, Finland

Kvarken Archipelago, Finland jacuzzi lid

The Kvarken Archipelago is one of those yet unknown places in the world, that was once covered in a mile thick sheet of ice ten thousand years ago. Since the ice glaciers are retreating, the land is now literally rising up from the sea and a new land mass is made at a rate of one meter every century!  The joke out here is that one day they can all walk to Sweden!  Well, at that rate, maybe in 2000 years!

It is late summer and the waters are cold, as we button up our blue and red jackets that were given to us from the men at the dock, I notice that they have built in life supports inside to create a fashionable life jacket. Honestly, that is one thing I love about the Finnish people, they are so stylish and use design experts to create such functional clothing.

We start the early morning in Björköby, where the boat rides over to the island are waiting and soon enough, I begin to wonder off, as the photography in this area is fabulous. There are picture-perfect reflections on the waters with tiny boat-houses all painted in some shade of red and yellow. There is also a viewing tower here that is worth the climb for an overview of the islands, so don’t miss that.

Village of Björköby, Finland

Village of Björköby, Finland

Village of Björköby, Finland

Village of Björköby, Finland

Village of Björköby, Finland

Village of Björköby, Finland

Soon we were loaded into our private boat and jetted across the sea, with wisps of water landing on my face, I quickly zipped up my jacket around my neck and braced myself for the best photo opportunities I could find.  I could hear the noisy shouts of the Black guillemot seabirds and chill bumps began to appear on my skin.

The Kvarken Archipelago is gorgeous, as you can imagine and is also considered a protected area, although there are selected islands where these summer cabins are located.  We are on our way to one of these islands to stop at the dock and have a Finnish picnic and coffee. The cabin we stopped at was a private cottage and we piled out onto the dock to take a look. While there, we wandered the islands a bit and then sat to have typical Finnish Oltermanni cheese, Hapankorppu sour crackers, and hot coffee. I went back time and time again for that cheese, which was of a most delicious variety and the crackers were so good that now I wish I had bought a package to bring back to the States with me.  Soon enough, we packed up again and jetted back to Björköby.

Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

That evening we made our way to Kalajoki, where I was delighted to find one of those magical places in the middle of nowhere! Being so far from the cities, usually things begin to change and the expectations are lowered for the chance at gourmet food, but this place was right on target and could not have been more tasty. Although family owned and run, the menu was perfect with a start of a local berry cocktail.

Berry drink at Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

Berry cocktail at Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

There is a Finnish tradition of berry picking, the food store of Mother Nature and I believe they have perfected the usages of berries here. Berry picking is a part of the lifestyle, culture and culinary traditions in Finland, as we quickly found out on our many treks in the woods of Western Finland. The berries were readily available on almost every path we took.  There are about 50 different wild berry species in Finland found in the marshes and woods and we picked many, including Tyrni (Finnish) or Sea Buckthorn (English name).

Local berries in Western Finland

Local berries in Western Finland

The meal at Pihvitupa Steakhouse was complete with a perfectly cooked steak (medium rare, of course) and sliced cheese potatoes, with a berry crème brûlée for desert.

Creme brûlée at Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

Creme brûlée at Pihvitupa Steakhouse, Kalajoki Finland

For me, it was the quintessential dinner with a great atmosphere and wonderful company! So if you are ever in the region, look up this restaurant, it is well worth a visit.  Afterward, we ended the night by taking a long walk on the beach.  My day in Western Finland was perfect!

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be a guest of VisitFinland as part of their series called #OutdoorFinland.  All opinions, of course, are my own.



  1. Sofie September 21, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Love the colors in the picture with the houses. It’s an image I immediately link to Scandinavia, although I must admit I haven’t been there… YET!:)

    • Cacinda Maloney September 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Yes, me too about the color of the Scandinavian houses! Go, soon!

  2. stephanie September 23, 2014 at 7:51 am

    These homes are so beautiful. I hope to be able to travel to Sweden one day soon!

    • Cacinda Maloney September 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

      They are actually in Finland, the pun of the title was that one day you could walk to Sweden! in 2000 or so years!

  3. Diana September 23, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I will be in scandinavia and Finland next week!! Unfortunately, I won’t have enough time to visit outside iof Helsinki. Wonderful pictures.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 23, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Very cool! Well, I am sure you will enjoy Helsinki as well.

  4. Vanessa September 24, 2014 at 6:17 am

    You had me drooling at the local cheese and crackers! I absolutely love all things berries and I think I would fit in right at home in Finland. I’m discovering more and more savory dishes using berries and it’s nice to try them with more than just dessert.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Yes, the food was awesome on this trip!

  5. Tonya September 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I’ve wanted to visit the Scandanavian countries since I was a little girl! Love the gorgeous orange buildings against the blue sky and water. Lovely.

  6. Katherine Belarmino | Travel the World September 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I love all the red buildings! We got to try sea buckthorn in Denmark.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Very cool! It is quite unusual for us Americans to try such fresh treats!

  7. Micki September 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    The Kvarken Archipelago is absolutely beautiful! And you’re right; I hadn’t heard of it before, but I’m so glad you went and took all of those gorgeous photos!

    • Cacinda Maloney September 26, 2014 at 6:46 am

      Gosh, thanks, you are making me blush!

  8. Dorothy September 25, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Great post, thanks! Happy trails!

  9. Nicole September 26, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I love the quaint feel of the town (and who can say no to a delicious creme brulee!)

    What was your favourite berry?!

    In Russia, I noticed a lot of skin care brands using berries as part of the ingredients so they’re not just delicious to eat. 😉

    • Cacinda Maloney September 26, 2014 at 6:45 am

      Good question, I am not sure, they were all so good!

  10. Elena September 26, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Love the colors and serenity. Looks like a place where I could go and easily get lost in the tranquility.

  11. Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats September 26, 2014 at 3:57 am

    This area of Finland looks very beautiful and the food tasty. We are hoping to have the chance to visit next year!

    • Cacinda Maloney September 26, 2014 at 6:44 am

      It was wonderful! Do go if you get a chance!

  12. Cathy Sweeney September 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Until recently, Finland hadn’t been on my travel radar — at least for the near future. But the more I read about it, the more I’m eager to visit sooner rather than later. Fab photos of the boats and villages.

    • Cacinda Maloney September 29, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks Catherine, that means alot, coming from you!

  13. Sharon Blomgren October 1, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Cacinda your photos of Finland are so yummy from the colorful boathouses to the berry creme brûlée! I am dreaming up our next destination.. thanks for the inspiration!


    • Cacinda Maloney October 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      It is dreamy!! You will certainly enjoy it and thanks for the compliment about my photos!

  14. Lily Lau October 26, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Your photos have so beautiful colours… I love them, seems like that archipelago was always sunny! 🙂

    • Cacinda Maloney October 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you so much, and yes it was sunny!

Comments are closed.