photo © Visit Finland / Udo Haafke
Tourism Pargas & Pargas Guide
Snugly situated in the heart of the Archipelago Sea that separates the historic city of Turku and the autonomous Åland Islands, the town of Pargas is comprised of hundreds of islands both big and small, and incorporates the original municipalities of Pargas, Nagu, Korpo, Houtskär, and Iniö.
A wonderful tourism destination of itself, Pargas also makes up a good deal of the much-loved Archipelago Trail, a well-appointed route that has become one of the most popular cycling holiday locations in Europe, also very popular for motoring vacations. Best described as a network of roads linked by ferry crossings, the Archipelago Trail can be from 125km to 250km long, depending on the route chosen by the explorer.
The Pargas region is one of unparallelled natural beauty, its fauna and flora often unique in Finland. The Archipelago Sea in which it lies covers over 5,500 sq km, with over 10,000 islands and skerries as well as being home to the Saaristomeri National Park, one of two national parks in Finland to be awarded PAN parks certification as a protected wilderness area.
Pargas is an ideal holiday destination for nature lovers and those who enjoy the numerous water activities available here, such as sailing, diving, kayaking and fishing. The region also provides ample opportunities to enjoy golf, horse-riding, cycling, hiking and birdwatching, among others.
Pargas also has a plenty of sights worthy of investigation, and a rich cultural history that can explored in the many museums and old churches scattered through the islands. For example, visitors to Art Bank Gallery in Pargas will discover the Salvador Dalí Private Exhibition, which presents stunning Dali sculptures, furniture, paintings and other pieces of Dalí.
Accommodation options in the archipelago town of Pargas are as a varied as they are many. Whether you want to stay in a luxurious hotel or spa, a cosy Bed & Breakfast or Pension, get close to nature while camping, or enjoy the privacy of a traditional Finnish cottage or seaside villa, Pargas has the perfect fit. The boating community is particularly well tended to, with a choice of over twenty guest harbours in the archipelago to pick from.
Pargas, Houtskär, Iniö, Korpo, Nagu and Iniö:
Pargas (Parainen) holds the distinction of being the only town in Finland that is totally surrounded by water, and is famous for its lime works and ginger biscuits! A popular tourist destination, it has services all the year round, with excellent hotels, holiday villages, a holiday island, and numerous cottages available. The guest harbour is located in the centre of the town and has its own mini-golf course.
Visitors can get to know the history of Pargas in the District Museum, the Industrial Museum, and indeed within the narrow alleys and streets of Gamla Malmen, the old town. There are ferries and cruises available that allow further exploration of the islands and bays, where you can play golf on the Archipelago Golf Course, or visit the numerous stone and wooden churches. The Art Bank Gallery in town is the surprising location for a fine collection of pieces by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí, while the Sjöfartshuset maritime exhibition details the regions long relationship with the surrounding seas. Not far from the town is Sattmark where you will find the popular new Sattmark and Lenholm hiking and nature trails.
The next town along the Archipelago Trail is Nagu (Nauvo), an ever-popular tourist destination comprised of two main islands and some 3,000 smaller islands and skerries, accessible by ferry from Pargas. The accommodation options for visitors to the islands of Nagu include a top class hotel in the harbour town, countryside guesthouses, quaint B&Bs, traditional Finnish cottages for rent, and farm stays.
While in Nagu you can visit the medieval stone church, the Gytta District Museum, and Fagerlunds Tractor Museum. At Studio Hippoglas you can see glass being blown, or arrange a glass blowing show, or check out the current exhibition showing in Lanterna Gallery. Visitors can also take the Eivor ferry to Utö island, where the first lighthouse in Finland was built in 1753. There’s a thriving village there with a number of historic buildings and a museum.
Of particular interest in Nagu is the island of Seili, an historic place of exile where King Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden ordered a leper hospital to be built in 1619. When the last leper there died in 1785 the hospital continued on, catering exclusively to female patients until it closed in 1962. The wooden church on the island was completed in 1733, replacing the older church from the St. George Hospital in Turku which had been moved there in 1624.
Situated in the middle of the archipelago, Korpo (Korppoo) is the ideal place from which to explore the delightful Saaristomeri National Park by water taxi, or even by boat. Most of Korpo’s population are settled on the islands of Kyrkland and Norrskata, as are most of the sights and services. There are two hotels to choose from, as well as a few bed & breakfasts, rental cottages, and Villa Walldén.
Korpo’s main attractions include the old stone church which was built in the 15th century, and Korpoström Archipelago Centre, a centre for science, art and culture which also operates a guest harbour, a restaurant, and a new hotel with excellent views over the sea. Not far from the centre visitors will find the lookout tower on Rumar which has a Solateria and affords the visitor some wonderful views of the National Park. Also worth visiting: the wooden church of Norrskata, the chapels of Aspö and Jurmo, the lighthouse on Utö which is the oldest in Finland, the District Museum of Korpo, Korpo Market, and the Archipelago Museum.
Houtskär (Houtskari) in the outer archipelago is a delightful combination of lush, forested islands with rocky skerries. One of the main tourist areas in Houtskär are the islands of Jungfruskär which are among the most beautiful in the Saaristomeri National Park. Once a prohibited military zone, today they are fine hiking grounds, with excellent nature trails to explore. On the main island visitors will find all the facilities they could need: fine restaurants and cafés; accommodation in B&Bs, a holiday village, guest harbours, or rental cottages; and cultural attractions in the District Museum and the Boat Museum. In the village of Näsby there’s a modest Archipelago Museum which includes a small windmill, a restored dairy, and a period home. Just outside the village the Järvis Observation Tower provides excellent sea views.
The fifth of the towns that make of Pargas is Iniö, the smallest of the municipalities with a population of around 250, but with a shoreline of close to 700km! Its natural beauty has made it a popular holiday destination for decades, with a number of unique sights to enjoy, including the Sofia Wilhelmina Church, named in 1801 for the newborn Swedish princess, with the barque Maria, a votive ship, and its unusual chandelier. The old village nearby is very picturesque, and there is a windmill and sawmill on Åseholm worth a visit. Norrby and Keistiö provide fine guest harbours, while there are village harbours at Söderby, Jumo and Åselholm. At Villa Tomtekullen in Keistiö you can see exhibitions of nature and archipelago photography by Janne Gröning.