There are many islands you can visit around Helsinki, the Finnish capital. In this story, I am happy to introduce you to the most mysterious one: the Vallisaari.
Our journey to the island starts at the market square, where you can jump on board a ferry, which will take you to Vallisaari in approximately 20 minutes. The island welcomes you with a hiking path and beautiful sceneries. From here, it is all about nature!
Vallisaari has been a military island for an extended period and has opened to the public just in 2016. The southern part of the island is still closed. Please keep in mind that going there is forbidden under threat of penalty. You will notice signs with this notion all over the island. There is also a possibility you might find remainings of explosives. Do not get scared, and do not take them as a souvenir! Just let them be and call 112. Respecting nature, and for your safety, you should only use the hiking trail. Making an open fire or sleeping overnight is strictly prohibited. Keep all that in mind and your journey will be safe and pleasant.
Since it was closed to the public in its past, Vallisaari has a well preserved and diverse nature. It is a non-spoiled gem and it is located so close to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. There are around 400 plant species to discover, and the island is home for 1000 species of butterflies. Vallisaari is connected to another island, called Kuninkaansaari, which is translated as “King’s Island.” It was named after a Swedish King in the times when Sweden ruled over Finland. Kuninkaansaari is even more reserved and is a great spot to get further away from people.
All in all, there are two hiking trails: one path on each island. The one on Vallisaari is 3km long, and the one on Kuninkaansaari is 2,5km long. Since they are both so short and pleasant to walk, I usually combine them into one hiking experience. There are toilets on both islands and places for a picnic, with tables and benches. To complete your date with nature, there are two beautiful viewing points. You will encounter both of them following the trail through Vallisaari, the island you arrive on. The first one is right opposite to another local attraction: Suomenlinna island. You can see Suomenlinna fortress from aside, noticing its sharp relief and its cozy small lighthouse on the edge of a rocky shore.
I like to have a break on the rocks of the seashore nearby and just watch ships and boats passing by. Another viewpoint is going to be on the platform of a historical sight, the Aleksander Battery. This one is much higher and offers a beautiful view as far as the Helsinki city center.
On Kuninkaansaari, you can discover few tunnels behind old doors, as well as a small sandy cove, where you can swim in summer. When walking through tunnels, don't forget your flashlight, it can get rather dark.
Wandering through Vallisaari, you can find a bar, a restaurant, and few cafes, including a small and cozy ice-cream cafe. Don't hesitate to try some interesting flavors they have to offer, like a fancy 'long ice cream drink.' There is also a possibility for a mini-golf outside the cafe. The name of this place is "cafe Paja," you will find it quickly just following the walking path around the island.
As mentioned before, you can not camp in Vallisaari, and the island also does not have any hotels. However, there is still one unique way to sleepover on the island: the Tentsile Experience EcoCamp. It is a series of hammocks hung in the trees. This option is available only in summer, and you should book your hammock in advance.
Now, there are reasons why I call this island mysterious. First, being a military island and then staying shut from people, it would be weird if no spooky legends were haunting these trails. The first and most significant one is a legend about the Headless Colonel of Vallisaari island. The story says he was hanged on one of the trees near Aleksander Battery, and now you can meet a headless soldier on these hiking paths. Small billboards around the island will remind you about such legends through cute comics. That is, indeed, an innocent way of telling such scary stories. Another fact, bringing a tiny bit of creepiness into the island’s image, is that the bats just love this place! There are five different species of them wandering around and resting in small caves over the islands. Well, somebody should keep ghosts company, so why not bats. It even sounds appropriate.
Most people come to Vallisaari for hiking and picnics, but you can easily make it a spooky adventure, or a small cafe tour. Even in high season, these islands are still quiet and not that touristy, which makes them a great place to keep calm and carry on wandering.
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