Kvarken Archipelago: Finland’s unique world heritage site

Published 17 July 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Adjacent to the archipelago is the culturally rich seaside city of Vaasa.

Around the Kvarken Archipelago in Finland you will find both unique nature with its special island life and cozy towns close to culture and history. The archipelago has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its special nature shaped by the last ice age.

Finland has the largest archipelago in the world with more than 80,000 islands. Along the coast there are many beautiful towns, villages, sights and most of all beautiful nature. If you don’t have your own boat, you can easily hop on a (sometimes free) ferry to travel around the islands.

Finland’s scenic archipelago also includes the rocky Kvarken Archipelago, which together with the Swedish High Coast is a World Heritage Site. The Kvarken Archipelago is Finland’s only natural heritage site on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and there are numerous sites and tourist destinations to visit.

Experience unique post-glacial nature

The Kvarken Archipelago has a unique nature that has been described as the best place to experience the land uplift of the last Ice Age. In the Kingdom of Stones, you can see labyrinthine landscapes of moraines rising from the sea and forming new foundations over the course of a lifetime. A good starting point is the World Heritage Gate, which offers a free overview of the archipelago. You can also play the escape game Kvarken Sea Animals.

There is a lot to do in the archipelago, and in many cases you can get there by car. It is also possible to get to the islands by boat and there are also opportunities to take a World Heritage cruise to see as much of the unique nature as possible. You can also canoe, bike or walk on the many hiking trails.

Photo: Antonio Caiazzo/CC BY-SA 2.0

The historic city of Vaasa

Nearby is the city of Vaasa, where culture and history mix with activities and entertainment. From the city center you can reach the sea in a few minutes and if you feel adventurous you can rent a kayak or jet ski. Take a ride around town on the Lilliputti city train and for a truly Finnish experience, book a floating sauna boat.

The city has many museums and Old Vaasa offers unique historical sights. It has been determined that the land rose from the sea about a thousand years ago, which is of great importance to the history of the area. The city was founded in 1606 by King Charles IX and developed around his massive stone church.

To get from Vaasa to the Kvarken Archipelago, you can cross Finland’s longest bridge, the Repolot Bridge, which is 1045 meters long.

Svedjehamn from the Saltkaret lookout. Photo: AleGranholm/CC BY 2.0

Summer in the port

If you want to experience the archipelago together with culture, we recommend a visit to Svedjehamn. Here the red boathouses follow the moraine and frame the small port town in an idyllic summer environment. If you want to experience the archipelago on foot, you can follow the 3.5-kilometer-long Bodvattnet nature trail. Visit the Salteriet café in the harbor, built in 1920 and used as a fish salting plant until 1989.

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