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Åland Archipelago
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Introducing Åland Archipelago

Little known beyond the Baltic, this sweeping archipelago is a curious geopolitical entity that belongs to Finland, speaks Swedish, but has its own parliament, flies its own flag proudly from every pole, and issues its own national stamps.

There are over 6000 islands, although many of these are small mounds of granite rising centimetres above the sea. Indeed, the islands are all so flat that few eminences top 100m above sea level; Ålanders won't be voting for global warming at the next elections.

This flatness, however, makes the islands ideal for exploration by bike. The main island (Åland) is connected with those around it by bridge and cable ferry, while, northeast and southeast of here, the archipelago islands are even more rural and remote: on places like Kökar you could easily think you have stepped back in time to a Viking village. Throughout Åland, traditions such as the Midsummer celebration bear a marked local character.

More than elsewhere in Finland, Åland has a very defined holiday season. From Mid- summer until the end of July, the islands are full of Swedes and Finns enjoying the summer break cycling and camping. Consider visiting in May or September, when you'll have the islands to yourself. Outside these months, very little is open; the winters are wet and gusty.

Åland is easily accessed from both Sweden and Finland, and Mariehamn, its spread-out and tranquil capital, makes a convenient stop between the two.