Every summer one can spot many boats from all over the Baltic Sea region and even further navigating in the Finnish waters. The majority of the visitors come from Sweden – our dear westerly neighbor – but there are many boats from Southern Baltics as well. And although smaller in numbers, it is always delightful to see quite a few yachts from the North Sea area making their way up north every summer. If you are planning a trip to Finland, here are 5 must-see stops on the way from the North Sea to Finland, to help you enjoy not only your sail in Finland but also your trip there. The stops are listed from south to north.
The distance from Kiel or from the Danish straits to Finland is about 450-550 nautical miles depending on the route. However, with some well chosen stopovers, the Northern Baltic Sea is not that far away!
1. Ystad – Inspector Wallander’s home town
For those who have read Henning Mankell’s famous Wallander novels, Ystad – located in the Southern Sweden – is a definite must-see destination. The tourist office organizes guided Wallander-themed tours and one can even download an app for a smartphone for touring the most important locations, which are familiar from the number of Wallander books and films. Although portrayed in the novels as perhaps one of the most violent places in the world, in real life Ystad is a picturesque little town with an interesting history. So even if Inspector Kurt Wallander’s adventures are not filling your bookshelf, Ystad is a definitely place worth visiting.
During the middle age, Ystad was an important port city in the Hanseatic league with active connections to Denmark and Germany. One can see these influence in the architecture, and the city has kept well its medieval roots and atmosphere up to this day.
2. Bornholm — a green island in the middle of the Southern Baltic Sea
Bornholm is located just some 30 nautical miles southeast from Ystad. If heading north, the northern part of the island is especially good place for a stopover. Approaching Bornholm’s northern tip is an unforgettable experience: the silhouette of the Hammerhuis fortress ruins over the hills is visible from a good distance and when sailing closer, one starts to see the green hilly coastline, raising steeply from the sea.
When visiting the island for the first time in spring 2010, we stopped for provisions in Allinge, which is a popular harbour in the northern Bornholm. However, it was still pre-season and the harbour was almost deserted. The case would have been a bit different in July, when the harbour is every night fully packed with boats.
My second visit to Bornholm was in late July 2011, when we stopped in Hammerhavn, located in the western side of the northern Bornholm (we had sailed past this interesting looking harbour a bit over year before). Hammerhavn is a great small harbour in the nest of green hills and there is a nice, forestry path from the harbour to the Hammerhus castle ruins. On the walls of this fortess, one can absorb information about the interesting history of this island, or just sit down to enjoy the magnificient view over the coastline to the Southern Baltic Sea.
3. Northern Öland — the land of the Sun
From Bornholm one can take a direct offshore route and pass Öland from the east or take a more sheltered westerly route via Kalmarsund, which offers a lot choices for mooring both on the Swedish mainland or on the long island of Öland.
Öland has a special place in our hearts; we visited the island twice in 2011, and both times found the summer there. Especially on our way back home in early August, the hot and sunny weather felt luxurious after many days of sailing in the rainy and windy southern Baltics. Our experiences could be just a coincidence – or maybe not, since the northern part of the Öland is statistically the sunniest region in Sweden. Therefore, the island is also popular among vacationers. There are also some great beaches on the east coast of this long and narrow island.
Bicycle is the best vehicle to explore the great nature on this island. One can even tour the whole island along the well marked Ölandsleden-route. On the west side of the island, the route goes near the coastline and offers great views to the Kalmarsund and its lonely Blå Jungfrun island. One can also find a few rauk (limestone) formations in the west coast of Öland, although they are not as big as the ones on Gotland and Fårö.
4. Visby — a medieval city which does not sleep
Gotland is the second largest island in the Baltic Sea, and is a popular sailing destination and the island’s ‘capital city’ Visby is also a popular stopover port in the middle part of the Baltic Sea. The distance from northern Öland is about 50 nautical miles.
I have visited Visby only once with a sailboat. That was at the end of the June in 2010, which was an exceptionally warm summer in the Baltics. I remember sitting on the old medieval stone wall, which encircles the city, and enjoying the beautiful view to the glittering sea. Especially when the weather was so great, one could have easily thought of being somewhere in the Mediterranean — it is definitely not a typical North European view!
Visby is the best preserved medieval-city in Scandinavia and it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also a legendary sailing destination with a harbour right in the heart of the city. It is a little wonder, that during July, it is a busy place and one can find boats from all over the Scandinavia and Northern Europe. There are a lot of nice restaurants and the night life is lively during the summer season.
5. Fårö — a far away island
Fårö is a small island located just less than a mile northeast from Gotland. The distance from Visby is about 40 nm. While the majority of the boats sail to Visby, on Fårö one can find more peaceful and original atmosphere of Gotland. It feels almost like time has stopped beating in Fårö. The island is scattered with old stone fences, which were built to keep the own sheep from mixing with the neighbor’s. Also traditional grass-roofed houses and windmills are a typical sight on the island. Sheep farming has been and still is an important industry on Fårö; a sheep is also pictured in the island’s flag.
There are some great long sand beaches on Fårö: Sudersand in the south is the most popular among the vacationers. However, the white rocky beaches around the island offer great scenery and walks as well. Gotland and Fårö are also known for rauks (limestones), which are rock formations caused by erosion. Perhaps the best known rauk area is Langhammar, located in the west coast of Fårö. Langhammar was also the setting for Ingmar Bergman’s film Through a Glass Darkly. This famous Swedish film director was the most famous resident of the island for forty years.
From Fårö one can take a direct route to Finland or make a detour via Stockholm archipelago. The shortest distance from Fårö to Finnish Utö is about 160 nautical miles, which is the longest offshore crossing when taking this route.
Majority of these stop overs are also listed in my previous article “Top 10 sailing destinations in the Baltics“.