ALAND ISLANDS, SWEDEN / FINLAND
Why go? The Aland Islands do it their own way. Adrift in the north Baltic Sea, this cluster of 6,500 outcrops is ‘an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland’. It even has its own stamps and its own flag. It’s also the place to have a proper Scandinavian summer stay. Rent a cottage by the coast on the main island, Fasta Aland – itself, only 50km north to south – and make the most of the long days. Cycle to 14th-century Kastelholm Castle; hike the three-day 63km Sadelin trail, which wends via primeval forests and ancient burial grounds; and explore capital Mariehamn’s maritime heritage. Or kayak with sea eagles around the uninhabited atolls – the safe, isle-scattered Foglo area is ideal for beginners.
When to go: June-August is high season, when temperatures can reach the mid-20°Cs and most Finns/Swedes visit; around this time it’s light from 3am to 10pm. May and September are quieter options. Winters can be cold (-10°C).
How to go: The fastest ferries leave from Grisslehamn or Kapellskar (both Greater Stockholm; 2hrs) and Turku (Finland; 5hrs). Flights to Mariehamn airport leave from Stockholm (30mins), Turku (30mins) and Helsinki