municipality of Åland, Finland

Vårdö is a municipality in Åland, on the northern route between mainland Åland and mainland Finland. It was on the Great Post Route between Stockholm and Turku.

Understand Edit

Boathouses in Västra Simskäla

Vårdö has a population of some 450 on 100 km2 (39 sq mi) of land and 470 km2 (180 sq mi) of water, down from around 1,000 around the turn of century 1900, but slightly increasing in the 2000s. Most live on the main island, which is the fifth largest of Åland, and a few nearby islands. In the heydays, also many minor islands were inhabited; better nets had caused a spike in herring fishing.

The former parish village Vårdöby (Vårdö and Sund are now one parish) is at the main crossroads of the main island. The biggest village, with grocery store and bank, is Vargata, 1.5 km west of the church. Other villages include Pellas 2 km north, Listerby 2 km south, and Grundsunda 4 km south of the church, and Simskäla on Östra Simskäla, across a ferry connection (10 km + 1 km + 1.5 km). The villages are small and many live scattered around elsewhere.

Nearly half of the population gets their income from agriculture, fishing or forestry; the percentage was the second biggest among Finnish municipalities in 2015.

Get in Edit

The ferry quay for the northern line

From the Finnish mainland, the main connections are via Mariehamn (straight-forward: cruise ferry from Turku) and via Kustavi and Brändö (a tad shorter, over several islands, with two long small-ferry passages). Connections from most of Åland (and from Sweden) join the road from Mariehamn. For the routes via Kustavi and via the Archipelago Sea, see also Archipelago Trail.

The nearest airports are in Mariehamn, Turku and Stockholm.

The road from Mariehamn comes in via Finström, and Bomarsund and Prästö of Sund. A free cable ferry connects Prästö with Töftö of Vårdö (departures each 10 or 15 min in daytime, as needed most of the night; passage 5 min), which in turn is connected by bridges to the main Vårdö islands.

Norra linjen (the northern route) of Ålandstrafiken connects Vårdö with the archipelago municipalities of Kumlinge and Brändö, and Kustavi in Finland Proper (ferry passages 35 min). There are also other ferries between Brändö and islands of the Archipelago Sea. There might be a bus connection from Turku to Osnäs in Kustavi or to Kustavi centre (see Matkahuolto).

From Osnäs there is a 35-min ferry passage to Åva in Brändö, then a 22-km drive across Brändö (a bus or taxi is available for some arrivals, perhaps to be ordered in advance), and a 2.5-hr ferry passage from Torsholma in Brändö to Hummelvik in Vårdö, 3.6 km south-east from the church.

Ängö and Bussö in the south-west are connected to Lumparland by cable ferry (as needed, with pauses, nightly services must be ordered). Bergö in the south is served by ferry from Långnäs in Lumparland. There are no direct connection to the rest of Vårdö from these islands (but by private boat).

The cable ferries are free, while the ferry on the northern route and the one from Kustavi are free only to pedestrians. In the Ålandstrafiken parlance, Simskäla is "archipelago", while Töftö and the main Vårdö island are not.

By bus Edit

There is a bus connection from Mariehamn by Ålandstrafiken, mostly several daily services, twice a day in summer weekends. The buses from Mariehamn connect to the ferry departures and arrivals in Hummelvik twice or thrice a day, driving through most of the main island. In weekdays they drive to the Töftö ferry a few more times. The Simskäla ferry is served by shared taxis twice daily (book in advance: +358 18 47742), combining with the bus services.

By yacht Edit

From Österhamn in Mariehamn, you come in via Lemströms kanal and Lumparn (max draft 2.5 m; check bridge arrangements in the canal). From Västerhamn or the sea you could also sail between Lemland and Föglö (you might want to check the bridge height between Töftö and Vargata).

From the east there is a fairway from Houtskär and one from Iniö, going south of Torsholma of Brändö and north of Kumlinge, and one from Kustavi going north of Åva of Brändö and between Enklinge and Kumlinge. The fairway along Skiftet between the main basin of the Baltic Sea and the Sea of Bothnia (and Uusikaupunki) crosses these. From the Sea of Bothnia you can come via the coast of Geta of the Åland mainland or along the coastal route via Skiftet.

Get around Edit

The channel between West and East Simskäla

On the main island, you can get around by car or bike; the distance by road between the farthest points of the main island is 10 km, while the distance by road from Mickelsö in south-west to the ferry to Simskäla in the north is 20 km. The buses from Mariehamn can be used (see Get in), but they are sparse.

There is a ferry from the road of the main island to Östra Simskäla, as needed, with some pauses; +358 45-7379-8869). Östra and Västra Simskäla are connected by bridge. The road across the Simskäla islands is 6.5 km long.

For islands not connected by bridge to the above mentioned ones, you need a boat (when the sea isn't frozen over). There are some businesses providing taxi boat service.

By taxi Edit

See and do Edit

House of the writer Anni Blomqvist
Harbour bay of "Stormskäret"
  • 1 Vårdö kyrka. Medieval "grey stone" church, built ca 1520–1550 and extended in the 18th century. The interior is mostly of newer date.  
  • School museum.
  • Great Post Route. The Great Post Route between Stockholm and Turku, operated from 1638, when the postal service was started in Sweden, to 1910, is marked through Vårdö, from Båthusviken west of Vargata and Hullvik north-east from Vårdöby (and also e.g. for a leg in Taivassalo). There is a memorial by the shore in Hullvik. The route is also commemorated by a early rowing and sailing competition between Grisslehamn of Norrtälje and Eckerö. The post was brought forward by locals, year round, and many lost their lives in storms and in the ice.
  • 2 Väderskär (Stormskäret) (in the far north). A novel series by Anni Blomqvist telling about the life of a poor fisher family was made into a nationally famous film in 1975. A new version – the most expensive film ever made in Swedish in Finland – is being shoot in 2023 and will have its cinema première early in 2024. Blomqvist lived on Simskäla and based the plot on real events. The filming location, the small island Väderskär (more or less synonymously called Stormskäret, "Storm skerry", in the novels and the film) is often visited and you may be able to get a guided tour telling about the background, Blomqvist and the films.

Buy Edit

There is a grocery store and a bank in Vargata.

Eat Edit

Drink Edit

Sleep Edit

View from an inn room, with a windmill and morning mist

Lodging Edit

Camping Edit

Backcountry Edit

Go next Edit

Most visitors are en route either to the Åland mainland or to the Finnish mainland. You could visit the small archipelago communities of Kumlinge or Enklinge on your way east. Westwards, the fortress ruins of Bomarsund (in Sund) are certainly worth a stop.

This rural area travel guide to Vårdö is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!