Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kaunissaari Island

A 2-hour boat ride off Helsinki in Sipoo is the island of Kaunissaari. The small island is only about 2 kilometers long and 800 meters wide. The island is a veritable sauna paradise as a trip to Kaunissaari is included in majority of sauna tours. If one wishes a great “first” time sauna experience inclusive of a plunge into a pool of cold water, a Kaunissaari trip is a must. Managed by the local Recreational Park, the sauna facilities were first established in 1959. The park covers about 100 hectares of land and around 790 hectares of water.

Kaunissaari literally means beautiful island, and indeed the name is justifiable. The quaint fishermen‘s village affords a view of the quiet and peaceful lives of its inhabitants as exemplified by their buildings and way of life. The island’s landscape of rocky shore is unique and has remained intact and unchanged for centuries. The island is sometimes referred to as the gem of the Eastern Gulf of Finland. Distinctly native to the islands are the fenced-in plots, boat sheds, landing stages, seaside storehouses and numerous gardens.

Rocky shore of Kaunissaari island
Photo by Pöllö, Wikimedia Commons

The Kaunissaari Island can be reached by boat from Kotka (Sapokka), from Pyhtää and from Vuosaari. The boat ride is from 1 to 2 hours. If you are touring Helsinki in a campervan, park your motorhome at any of the 7 motorhome parks in and around Helsinki and hop on a boat ride to Kaunissaari.

The beaches and rocky shores of Kaunissaari offer a wide range of activities for guests. For one, the beautiful sights in the islands serve as great photographic subjects. The water surrounding the island offer great fishing opportunities. Locals and international tourists are attracted by the possibility of a great catch. Fishing is allowed without the need for permits. The island also affords visitors the opportunity to camp or trek on the nature trails on the island.

The best time to take a tour of the island is during the summer months. There are boats at Sapokka Harbour right in front of the Maretarium Aquarium that ferry visitors to Kaunissaari 2 to 3 times a day. Starting in the middle of May and ending on mid September, boat rides to Kaunissaari from Vuosaari are available too.

The island of Kaunissaari is about 22 kilometers off the shores of Helsinki. The wind could suddenly blow without warning even on a warm summer day so it is best to take a wind breaker or warm jackets when going to the islands.

There are restaurants and cafés in the island. Note that the salmon pastries sold in one of the food shops is quite delicious and should be tasted. There are freshly smoked salmon sold at storehouses near the seashore. If you wish to know more about the island’s history visit the museum. A quiet and unhurried stroll in the quiet village is akin to a stroll in a fairy tale setting of charming wooden houses on wooded trails against a backdrop of the blue sea.

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