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Turku & The South Coast
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Introducing Turku & The South Coast

The southern coast of Finland extends west and east from Helsinki in two roughly equal stretches: one ending in a finger of land jutting into the Baltic towards Sweden, the other coming up short at the Russian border. For much of Finland's history it was the arena for these two powers to flex their muscles at each other, and this coastline, with its important harbours and fortresses, saw a good share of the action.

To this day the coastal settlements are a curious mixture. Kotka, an important industrial port, is near Hamina, whose quaint citadel shape gives it the feel of a quiet military museum. Hanko, on a peninsula, boasts luxurious tsarist villas, but was the scene of desperate fighting against the Russians in WWII. Nearby, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only artillery some of the peaceful Swedish-speaking seaside towns have ever seen is the starting gun for the annual regatta.

The whole coastline is a cartographer's nightmare. Speckled with thousands of islands and islets in a series of archipelagos, it is popular yachting territory and accessible by cruises from all the main towns along this coast.

The most enchanting places to visit on the south coast perhaps sound like unlikely attractions. A series of historic ironworks have been converted into beautiful rural retreats, with millstreams sparkling alongside the forge buildings, which these days are anything from museums to design shops. In the west, Fiskars and Fagervik stand out, while in the east, little Ruotsinpyhtää is equally beguiling.

This stretch of coast is the Finnish section of the Kuninkaantie, or King's Rd, a marked tourist route extending from Bergen in Norway to St Petersburg.