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Helsinki: Day Trip to Former Military Islands Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari


Two secret islands, Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari in Helsinki archipelago, with historical military structures and untouched wild nature were opened to the public in May 2016. On these mysterious hidden islands it totally feels like stepping back in time to the old days a couple of hundred years ago.Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_06Vallisaari_helsinki_20Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands were formerly used for military purposes by the Finnish Defence Forces and since then have slumbered for decades, remaining almost in original state. With plenty of unspoilt wild nature the islands offer a chance to enjoy diverse flora and fauna topped with well-preserved military fortifications, tunnels, caves, historical buildings and spectacular sea views.Vallisaari_helsinki_08Vallisaari_helsinki_22Vallisaari_helsinki_16Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands located between Santahamina island and Suomenlinna sea fortress make a perfect day trip destination as it only takes 20 minutes to get there by boat from Helsinki Market Square. So far the islands can be explored along marked trails only as there are still vast uncleaned areas with explosives and dangerous items.Vallisaari_helsinki_03Vallisaari_helsinki_17The history of Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands is fascinating, but sad. Both islands used to be closed military areas and have a long military history since the 17th century. The islands have a large number of well-preserved fortifications, batteries and casemates particularly from the 19th century, when the Russian empire built a chain of fortifications. After the independence of Finland the islands were handed over to the Finnish Defence Forces, and even though the buildings and structures were outdated, they were used to store guns and explosives. In summer 1937 a vast explosion took place on Vallisaari island and 12 people were killed. Due to the depressing events, there are still plenty of explosives left around the islands.Vallisaari_helsinki_09Vallisaari_helsinki_01Vallisaari_helsinki_10

Vallisaari Island

Vallisaari island is about the same size as the neighbouring Suomenlinna Sea Fortress but a lot less crowded. Only the narrow Kustaanmiekka strait separates Vallisaari island from Suomenlinna island.Vallisaari_suomenlinna_helsinki_01The southern part of Vallisaari island is still closed to the public because some of the structures and fortifications are in very poor condition and there are lots of explosives left. Here you can go for hikes through the woods along marked trails (Alexander Tour 3 km), explore historical fortifications and enjoy a picnic by the water.Vallisaari_helsinki_11Vallisaari_helsinki_19Vallisaari_helsinki_picnicFor long Vallisaari island was completely left alone and nature took over. Today wild nature meets history in a unique way and Vallisaari island is the most diverse nature destination in Helsinki Archipelago. The varied natural environment including forests rich with herbs and bird life resemble a mosaic. Also foxes, hares, roe deer and raccoon dogs reside on the island. After sunset badgers crawl out of their dens, bats and eagle owls take wing. Lush green vegetation and beautiful wildflowers in all possible colours are everywhere on Vallisaari island making the scenery incredibly pretty.Vallisaari_helsinki_15Vallisaari_helsinki_wildflowersVallisaari_helsinki_violetsVallisaari island is also home to rare butterflies. Around a thousand species of butterflies and moths have been found on the island. I only saw one butterfly and managed to take a quick shot of the brown beauty before it flew off.Vallisaari_helsinki_butterflyThe absolute must-see sight on Vallisaari island is the fortification of Alexander Battery. From top of the fortification you can admire the beautiful coastline and breathtaking sea views, even Helsinki city centre landmarks looming in the horizon.Vallisaari_helsinki_023Vallisaari_helsinki_12Vallisaari_suomenlinna_helsinki

Kuninkaansaari Island

Kuninkaansaari island (King Island) is connected to the neighbouring Vallisaari island by a dam. The island was named after King Gustav III of Sweden. In the 19th century Russia, the new ruler of the islands built three artillery batteries, an artillery front, gunpowder and ammunition chambers on the island. All these can be seen along the 2,5 km Kuninkaansaari island walking trail.Vallisaari_helsinki_04Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_01Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_07Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_03There is plenty of untouched wild nature and even a small sandy cove on Kuninkaansaari island, too.Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_08Kuninkaansaari_helsinki_02

Have you already had a chance to visit Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands? Or any other military island?

Did you like this blog post? Read more about Helsinki:

Visit to Small Recreational Island Lonna

5 New Places to Visit in Helsinki 2017

Secret Adventures in Kruunuvuori Ghost Town

Helsinki Street Art

Traditional Midsummer Celebrations at Seurasaari Island

Helsinki: 6 Unique Summer Cafes

Author: Piia | Ticket to Adventures

Captivating travel stories from around the world, near and far, by an experienced traveller and adventurer.

25 thoughts on “Helsinki: Day Trip to Former Military Islands Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari

  1. Such beautiful islands and a fascinating history, interestingly when the British army pulled out of areas of Germany they discovered that nature had been protected so well by the army being there that some species that were thought extinct still existed there. Thanks for sharing


  2. I have to be honest. I don’t know much about the Finnish history. The islands look really beautiful. I especially love those tiny dusting of flowers that are both yellow and white. It makes me nostalgic for my home in Goa. We used to collect the yellow flowers as children.


  3. I only stayed a night in Helsinki on a stopover en route to Tallinn and I’d like to go back and see more, and take this day trip while there. I love the combination of historical and cultural attractions and natural beauty as well.


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  5. Thank you for interesting posts and beautiful photos!! Helsinki will be again in my trips!!!


    • Thank you for reading, much appreciated. Hope to see you soon in Helsinki. These islands are truly something special, so close to Helsinki city centre but with so much wild nature at the same time.


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  8. The Helsinki archipelago is a beautiful part of the world. Especially so in summer with the green trees and flowers blooming. It is fascinating to see how man and the defence forces have changed the nature on the island, and yet the island’s natural forces are slowly reclaiming back what is theirs and turning the military structures into something quite serene and scenic! Thanks for taking me there through your post. I didn’t quite make it to either of these islands when I was in Finland earlier this year, and the flowers were only starting to bloom, so I am fortunate to read your post and see it in at least a cyber sense!


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  13. Breathtaking photos! Love


  14. Great post and wonderful photos.


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