In theory, the island of Jurmo shouldn’t be a very attractive place to visit, let alone live on. However, there’s something oddly appealing about this harsh, weather-beaten island surrounded by choppy waters and treacherous rocks. In all its ruggedness, Jurmo is a truly beautiful and fascinating place. As if enchanted Jurmo continues to rise from the sea, reshaping its own shoreline year after year. Pirate stories, delicious food, interesting creatures and rare species – Jurmo seems to have something for everyone. Here’s all you need to know to plan your visit to this magical island!
Kingdom of stone
Photo: The persistency of this tree is admirable. Although it looks as though nothing should be able to grow here amongst all these stones, somehow – as if defying all logic – this tree stands tall.
Stone upon stone upon stone. Never in my life have I seen such mind-boggling amounts of stone in one place. There must be billions – gazillions – of stones, all water-worn and polished over centuries until their surface has become silky smooth, almost soft to touch. My eyes land on one. Nearly snow-white with a touch of bronze it sparkles like diamonds as the sun hits its shiny surface.
As a kid, when we came to this island by sailboat, I used to imagine the sparkling parts were tiny diamonds. Although the only diamonds found have been imaginary, these stones do seem precious in a way. Holding one has an instant calming and soothing effect. Formed as a result of the Ice Age, these stones also display the unimaginable force of Mother Nature.
Illustrating the effects of the Ice Age
Photo: The billions and billions of stones visitors can admire on Jurmo have been polished over centuries until their surface has become silky smooth.
If you look at Jurmo on a map, you’ll notice the island is elongated, with two narrow ridges and a wider centre in the middle. One might even imagine it like a gigantic sea monster ominously rising from the sea, with its long neck towards Northwest and its slightly bent tail towards the Southeast.
Fairytales and mythical creatures aside, it’s a scientific fact that Jurmo is rising. Slowly, but surely, the island is inching its way up, peeking higher and higher above the sea level.
This is a result of the Ice Age that once held all of Finland under its icy grip. Once the heavy masses of ice started to melt, the land the weight had pressed down for so long, slowly started to lift. This is called post-glacial rebound.
Jurmo is growing with an impressive speed. Since the 1950’s Jurmo has grown 30 hectares, continuously reshaping the shoreline of this seemingly enchanted island.
Still looking at the map, you’ll notice how the long and narrow island stretches for around five kilometres from northeast towards southwest. This is the same direction that Salpausselkä has. Salpausselkä is a ridge system, a terminal moraine formed by the huge ice masses pushing forth debris, like stones and gravel.
Jurmo is actually the outermost visible part of this ridge, before it dives down under the sea. This is why Jurmo looks like no other archipelago island, with all these insane amounts of stones.
Harsh punishment for pirates
Photo: The votive ship in Jurmo’s chapel brings to mind the legendary pirate story the island is known for.
Although this nearly treeless island might look uninviting and uninhabitable, it’s been populated for centuries – perhaps even a thousand years. The first official mentions about the island of Jurmo are from 1540, but archaeologists are pretty certain it’s had permanent residents since the 13th century. With plenty of fish and seal, Jurmo was an ideal place to populate.
Back in the days, the islanders weren’t very nice people – at least not if you believe pirate stories. Legend has it, that the people of Jurmo would earn their living from piracy, taking advantage of the notoriously treacherous waters surrounding the island.
Photo: Did you know that in the Swedish language there are over ten different words for islands of different sizes? Describing the surroundings around Jurmo the archipelago vocabulary can be put to good use: the area is dotted with skerries and islands of all imaginable sizes.
By lighting fires in strategic places, islanders would lure ships to navigate towards dangerous rocks. Once shipwrecked, the islanders would proceed to take whatever valuables they could find.
At this time Finland was a part of Sweden. According to the legend, Gustav Vasa (king of Sweden 1523-1560) had enough of the islanders’ pirate ways. He ordered his men to burn down the whole island and kill everyone on it. This is the reason, according to the legend, why there are almost no trees on the island. After this the king ordered the island to be repopulated, this time with peace-loving people.
In another version of this story the islanders were captured and transported to Sergel’s square in Stockholm, where they were then executed.
Isolated island life
Photo: Throughout history, fishing has played an important part in everyday life on the island of Jurmo. In recent years tourism has been a growing source of income.
For centuries the island people lived fairly undisturbed. Fishing and seal hunting were important parts of life. Without water and electricity and so far out from the mainland, islanders had to be able to provide for themselves.
Although there’s electricity today, and the Internet makes everything seem closer than it is, life on an island is still very different from the urban lifestyle many of us are accustomed to.
Contrary to many archipelago islands, nearly all of Jurmo’s houses are concentrated around one little centre, forming the village of Jurmo. Around ten people live on the island permanently.
When to visit
Photo: Getting lost on the island of Jurmo is highly unlikely as there’s only one road.
In contrast with many other archipelago islands, Jurmo is easy to visit all year round. Depending on what you’re after, any of the four seasons might be best for you.
A visit during late autumn, winter or early spring will certainly illustrate the hardships that life so far out from the mainland presents. With merciless winds and storms pounding the cliffs with foaming waves you’ll get a taste of what island life is at its toughest. For some, this is by the far the most interesting time to visit. Gone are the tourists and summer guests and you probably won’t have any difficulty finding accommodation.
Spring and autumn is the best time for bird watching. During spring and autumn migrations Jurmo is one of the best places to spot birds in the whole archipelago. An impressive 315 species have been spotted on the island.
Note that the southwest end of the island is closed from the public during 15th of April until the 31st of July in order to protect migratory birds and breeding. If you specifically want to visit the southwest part of the island, make sure you plan your visit accordingly.
Summer season – July in particular – is when the island bursts into life. During peak season around 80 boats dock or anchor by the guest harbour every night and all island accommodation is fully booked months in advance. In other words, if you wish to stay the night during summer season, make sure you plan ahead. Way ahead.
To see the heather bloom, forming mauve-coloured carpets over the open landscapes, make sure you visit during late summer or early autumn.
Photo: M/S Eivor leaving after having dropped off passengers by the guest harbour on Jurmo.
Jurmo is an island located in the Archipelago Sea in Southwest Finland. It’s one of the southernmost islands of Finland with only the island of Utö being further away. Jurmo is positioned more or less halfway between Stockholm and Helsinki – 190 kilometres from Helsinki and 198 kilometres from Stockholm. Jurmo is located 80 kilometres southwest from Turku.
There are actually two islands in Finland called Jurmo. In addition to this one in the Archipelago Sea there’s an island called Jurmo in Åland. Bare this in mind while planning your visit and make sure that you book your accommodation at the right island.
Photo: Although the cold wind might make it easy to forget, make sure you protect your skin from getting sunburned if you’re sitting out on the sundeck on M/S Eivor.
An astonishing 20.000 visitors come to Jurmo every year, according to some estimates. Most of them arrive aboard the large ferry M/S Eivor. This connecting vessel can fit almost 200 passengers and transports both visitors and staple items to the outer archipelago islands, including Jurmo. Travelling with Eivor is completely free of charge. You just hop on and hop off.
Eivor leaves from Pärnäs (Pärnäinen) on the island of Nagu (Nauvo). There’s a large parking space that can be used free of charge. Pärnäs can also be reached by bus.
The timetables vary depending on season, but for example during high season there’s one ferry leaving towards Jurmo and one coming back almost every day of the week. This means that if you feel that a few hours on the island will suffice, you don’t have to stay the night.
If you’re travelling outside of high season, make sure you tell the staff that you’re travelling to Jurmo or from Jurmo, so they know to stop there.
Although the ferry ride takes around 3,5 hours it doesn’t get dull. As the ferry glides further and further out towards the sea, part of the charm is watching the islands shrink smaller and smaller, until there are just a few small rocks jutting out of the sea.
Photo: During the 1960’s some twenty to thirty boats would arrive at the harbour during the whole summer. Today, thousands of people come every year, the vast majority with the ferry.
Jurmo has a guest harbour with room for around 80 boats. There’s a sauna as well as outhouses available.
Coordinates are 59.8259 °N and 21.6020°E.
Eat, sleep and toilets
Photo: It would be an impossible task to count all the bottles in this bar!
In case you’re not travelling by boat and wish to stay the night, there are several options. There are a handful of smaller and larger cabins. In total the cabins accommodate up to 24 people. More about these cabins and booking in Swedish and Finnish on this website.
In addition to this Jurmo Inn have two types of accommodation that sleep up to 9 people in total. More on Jurmo Inn in Finnish here.
With accommodation for just a handful of people and up to 20.000 people visiting the island every year, the accommodation is often fully booked. Make sure you plan ahead.
The same goes for the island’s only restaurant. Don’t assume they’ll be able to fit you, call ahead a day in advance and make sure. The island is famous for its delicious smoked fish that you can sometimes also buy by the guest harbour.
In addition to the restaurant, there’s a café and bar called Kaffela. This place is worth visiting even if you’re not planning on buying anything. It has the most impressive bottle collection I’ve ever seen. Sharing the same space with Kaffela is a small store selling some staple items like oatmeal and water as well as snacks like cookies and granola bars. How well stocked the store and café are varies depending on season.
Photo: The small store by the guest harbour sells staple items and souvenirs.
On the island, toilet equals outhouse. Outhouses are available by the guest harbour, behind the Iurima exhibition. They’re red and black and have a seal logo in front. They usually have toilet paper, but it might be smart to have some with you just in case. There’s no sink – wash your hands in the sea.
How to explore
Photo: Start by checking out the Iurimaa exhibition or the Jurmo Nature Information Hut (pictured).
Although there might occasionally be some businesses organizing tours to Jurmo from the larger islands during summer season, the main way to explore the island is independently.
There are some occasional signs pointing towards some of the main sights, but other than that you’re pretty much on your own. This is why I highly recommend starting with the Iurimaa exhibition, the Jurmo Nature Information Hut, located conveniently within eyesight from the ferry dock and guest harbour. At the hut visitors can learn about the nature on Jurmo, about the Ice Age and how it shaped the island, about archipelago life then and now as well as learn about the ways this unique landscape is being protected.
There are also several different maps of the island with the most important sights. Snap a picture of the map and you’re good to go!
Remember that what on the map appears to be a short distance might feel a lot longer. Walking over the shingle beaches is quite hard work. A good pair of shoes is essential.
What to see
Photo: Hold on to your hat! Climbing to the top of Högberget is often a windy adventure.
After the Iurimaa exhibition I recommend heading over to Högberget nearby. As the Swedish name suggests, this is a high rock. Although high is perhaps exaggerating a bit, it “towers” 17 metres over sea level, which isn’t that much. However, I guess it’s all about perspective, as 17 metres on an island that is super flat suddenly seems a lot higher than it sounds.
Climbing up to the top will give you an excellent 360 ° view over the island. You’ll see the tiny village with all the houses huddled up close together, the heather heaths and the seemingly endless stony shoreline stretching far in the distance.
From Högberget you can continue along the main road towards the village. You’ll probably be greeted by a gang of alpacas – a peculiar sight so far out in the archipelago.
The white-painted wooden chapel, built in 1846 is also worth visiting if you’re lucky enough to find it open. If not, you can peep through the window.
Continuing further east from the chapel you’ll find some mysterious ancient remains. The so-called Monkrings – four stone circles – are some of the most famous and studied archaeological remains in the Archipelago Sea. These four circles, located in the terrain on the east side of the island, have continued to puzzle visitors for centuries. What was the purpose of the circles and why were they made?
One theory that was put forth as early as the 18th century suggests the rings were made by monks visiting Jurmo from the nearby island Kökar on Åland. The stone circles might be remains from ancient shelter used during fishing or seal hunting trips.
Ticks and snakes
If you’re visiting Jurmo during summer, there are two creatures to look out for – ticks and snakes.
As is the case all over the archipelago region there are ticks on Jurmo. Although small and seemingly harmless, ticks can potentially be very dangerous. In Finland there are two tick-borne diseases to look out for. One is Lyme disease (borreliosis) and the other is tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).
There’s no reason to panic or avoid the archipelago, but it’s important to be aware of these little parasites. Before going to bed, make sure you check for ticks. The longer an attached tick goes unnoticed, the more dangerous it potentially gets. Remember that the tiniest ticks can be so small you barely see them.
Snakes enjoy the stony landscapes of Jurmo. Finland has one poisonous snake – the adder. Thudding your feet against the cliffs as you walk is usually enough to scare away these slithering creatures.
It is highly unlikely and unusual to get bitten by an adder, but if this happens make sure to seek help as fast as possible.
Is Jurmo for me?
Jurmo is not your average tourist destination and it’s definitely not suited for everybody. The island is not for you if you exclusively travel in a five-star manner. If you can’t face a day without a wide selection of restaurants, plumbing or showers, then this is probably not the place for you.
Furthermore, this is not the typical Instagram-pretty destination, so if you’re only looking for the stereotypical picturesque Instagrammable locations perhaps you might want to head somewhere else.
Jurmo is a great destinations for those who:
- Love exploring unique environments.
- See beauty in ruggedness and harshness.
- Find odd and unique places to be more interesting than the typical tourist destinations.
- Are outdoorsy and love nature and amazing scenery.
Here are the most important facts in a nutshell:
- The island of Jurmo is located in Southwest Finland in the Archipelago Sea.
- Jurmo is part of the former municipality of Korpo.
- You can reach Jurmo by ferry or by boat.
- The ferry, called M/S Eivor, transports passengers throughout the year for free.
- The ferry ride to Jurmo takes around 3,5-4 hours.
- There’s accommodation on the island, but make sure you plan ahead and book in time. The same goes for the restaurant.
- Camping is allowed in the designated camping area near the guest harbour.
- Bear in mind that the Southwest end of the island is closed from the public during 15th of April until the 31st of July
- Wear good shoes: if you wish to explore more than the guest harbour and village don’t wear flip-flops or high heels.
- As there’s barely any shelter from wind, a good windbreaker is smart to bring along even in summer.
- Remember to keep the fragile archipelago environment tidy and make sure you don’t litter.
- Respect the fact that people actually live here and remember to act accordingly, for example when visiting the village.