Travel Diary: Summer Vacation Part Two – Koli, Korpo and Utö

More time to recharge, exercise and enjoy good food as well as some exciting summer adventures. My second week of summer vacation took me to both North Karelia and the archipelago in Southwest Finland. Most importantly I had the chance to spend time connecting with nature – spotting butterflies and seals, hiking the hills of Koli and admiring the rocky Archipelago Sea.

Sweaty Times in Koli

Although extremely hot, summer in Koli was beautiful.

I remember summers in Finland when there’s been barely one day with temperatures over 25 degrees Celsius. The summer of 2021 has been insane! There’s been an endless heat-wave persistently hanging over Finland for about a month now. Some regions, like the archipelago in Southwest Finland, stayed cooler for longer, but eventually the heat spread everywhere.

Koli in North Karelia was no exception. It was over 30 degrees the three days we spent there and not even the slightest breeze to help stay cool. The amount of horseflies and mosquitos was staggering – in other words no chance of sleeping with the cabin door open.

Butterflies and Biking

Apart from the heat and the bloodthirsty insects Koli was just as dreamy and wonderful as always.

Visiting in July, during the height of summer, is magical. Even though it’s not that much further up north than Helsinki there’s a significant difference in how bright it is during summer nights. It never gets dark! Yes, it kind of makes sleeping more challenging, but it’s also pretty fascinating and special to see.

The summer is short, but intense. Thousands and thousands of different flowers – from fireweed to daisies and bellflowers – blossom almost at once. These flowery meadows attract swarms of pollinators. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many butterflies and bees at once!

The heat sucked a lot of energy, but we still managed to hire a pair of fat bikes and climb some hills before heading to the beach for a quick dip in Lake Pielinen.

Seal-spotting in Korpo

After Koli and a few nights at home in Espoo we headed towards Southwest Finland again. We spent a few nights at my family’s summer cottage in Korpo and I was so excited to spot a seal twice! Perhaps it’s the same seal I keep seeing or else there are suddenly lots of them. Five times during the last twelve months! I really need to get a better camera to get some photo evidence.

Korpo also provided more workouts on the pier, good food as well as sauna and swimming in the now super warm sea (seriously, over 25 degrees – can’t remember when it last got that warm).

Baldur Adventure

As Baldur journeys further and further out into the archipelago islands grow smaller and smaller. Far out there’s only the open sea and the occasional skerries and rocks.

On Saturday we took the ferry from Korpo to Nagu to catch M/S Baldur. Baldur is a ferry to the outermost archipelago islands in Southwest Finland. It still amazes me that it’s actually completely free– as a passenger you don’t have to pay anything to travel with Baldur! Of course nothing is really free, I mean we pay taxes for these kinds of services, but still – pretty cool if you ask me.

Baldur shuttles from Nagu to Nötö, Aspö, Jurmo and Utö and back. Utö is Finland’s southernmost inhabited island. It’s pretty much as far out in the archipelago as you can go. Utö was also our final destination.

The journey from Nagu to Utö takes about five hours with Baldur. As it was super hot we kind of looked at it as a nice archipelago cruise, enjoying watching all the archipelago islands Baldur stops at as well as the nice, cooling breeze.

Picturesque Utö

Utö lighthouse was built in 1814. It’s Finland’s oldest still functioning lighthouse.

Hopping off Baldur and seeing Utö was so exciting! I hadn’t been to Utö in about 15 years and a lot had changed. For example the hotel we stayed at, Utö Havshotel, didn’t even exist back then.

However it was nice to see that most things remained the same. The tiny grocery store was still as cute as ever, the houses and cobblestone streets still felt like something out of an Astrid Lindgren children’s book and the near-360-degree sea view was just as breathtaking as before.

We spent the evening exploring the tiny village and checking out the famous red-and-white lighthouse. Later we had dinner at the newly opened Meriklaari bar and pizza restaurant.

I was so looking forward to seeing the sun set into the sea. But to my great disappointment there was no sunset as it started raining. Well, I guess we’ll just have to return some other time.

The Mighty Sea

Around 30-40 people live on Utö permanently making it Finland’s southernmost inhabitated island.

The next morning we had some time to continue exploring the island. This time we headed towards the southernmost part of the island (Kesnäs) to watch the powerful waves crash into the cliffs and check out some remnants from Utö’s time as a military base.

After noon it was time for Baldur to head back towards Nagu and we hopped on together with quite a big crowd of fellow visitors. The journey back to Nagu was sweaty and frankly just slightly anxiety-inducing what with the growing crowd of people as more and more people piled into the ferry with every stop. Guess it’s going to take some time to get used to crowds again.

After five hours on Baldur it was time to hop into the car and continue back home to Espoo. Back to work for a few weeks again before the final part of my summer vacation.


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