The Baltic Sea is an unique area located between the Baltics and Scandinavia. It is one of the largest brackish inland seas (i.e. mix of salt and fresh water) in the world. For a sailor, this area offers unique cruising with plenty of islands and sheltered waterways.
What I most like about the Baltic Sea area, is the diversity of the nature. When sailing from the south towards north, one can experience a totally different landscapes and sceneries — for example, from the long sand dunes in the south, to the barren, rocky islands and higher landscape in the north.
It is impossible to put these such different areas in order, so I decided to list our favourite places from north to south. This first blog post lists the first five sailing areas and the second part will follow shortly!
And I would like to add, that we have not sailed round the whole Baltic Sea yet, so there is probably something essential missing. So feel free to comment and suggest new places, which you think, should be included in the list.
1. Höga Kusten — the High Coast of Sweden
This area on the Swedish side of the Bay of Bothnia offers the highest and perhaps the most scenic landscape in the whole Baltic Sea area. The nature in the High Coast has been affected by the latest glacial period, when the land masses were depressed by the weight of a huge glacier. After the ice age, the land started rebounding and is now rising at rates that are among the highest in the world.
Also the highest island in Sweden, Mjältön is also located in the heart of the High Coast. In addition to the beautiful landscape, there are many picturesque, red painted fishing villages, where one can enjoy the calmer and more tranquil atmosphere than in the south. Here is more information about the High Coast.
2. Northern Åland archipelago — the last wilderness of the Baltics
Åland is an autonomuos, demilitarised region of Finland. It consists of about 6 700 islands, but only 65 islands are inhabited and 90 % of population lives on the main island. Due to the legislation, it is difficult (or impossible) to own real estate in Åland for people who do not have the right to domicile in Åland. Therefore, there is significantly fewer summer houses, than in the archipelagos of Turku or Stockholm, and the area has been kept in its natural state to a greater extent. This is especially true in the northern part of the Åland archipelago, which is one of my utmost favourite places in the whole Baltics.
The largest islands in Åland are forestry, but the shoreline and outer islands are rocky, since the area is mostly open to the winds from the Baltic Sea. One special characteristics of the archipelago is the Åland’s bedrock’s red granite, which is especially visible along the coastline and on the islands.
3. The Archipelago Sea — 20 000 reasons to visit
There are over 20 000 islands in the archipelago of Turku alone. Many of those are small, uninhabited barren islets. Of the larger forestry islands, many are inhabited and have picturesque, small fishing villages. The fisherman tradition is still living in the area, and some of the islands are inhabited all year round.
Many of the traditional fishing villages are located in the southern Archipelago Sea, which consists of the intermediate and outer part of the archipelago. In the intermediate part there is more open sea compared to the inner archipelago, but the outer islands and islets give shelter from the waves of the northern Baltic Sea. For a sailor, this offers an amazing cruising area with a lot of choices for mooring. One can basically spend a lifetime sailing here, and still find new anchorages. Examples of the most popular islands are Aspö, Helsingholmen, Berghamn and Björkö.
4. Stockholm — the city built on fourteen islands
Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the north, Stockholm is built on fourteen islands, connected by 57 bridges. Thus, the sea, the archipelago and boating are very present and visible in the capital of Sweden. Approaching the city on a busy summer day is an experience: large cruising ships, hundreds
of small and large sail- and motorboats, ferries and Waxholmbolaget’s connection boats are all navigating the same waterways.
The location of Wasahamnen guest harbour is ideal for visiting Stockholm: it is within a walking distance from the city center, but located on a beautiful Djurgården-island, which is a city park consisting mostly of parkland and forrest. There is a direct ferry connection from Djurgården to the beautiful Stockholm Gamla Stan, the old medieval city center. The ferry runs until late at night and seeing all the lights of Stockholm at night from the sea on way back to the Wasahamnen is a great experience!
5. Fårö — a far away island
Fårö is a small island northeast from Gotland, which is a popular holiday destination for Scandinavians. While the majority of the boats sail to Visby on Gotland, 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 neighbour’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 in 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 also the most famous resident of the island for fourty years.
See also: Top 10 Sailing Destinations in the Baltics – Part II