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.Vallisaari 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 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.The 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Finland the islands were handed over to the Finnish Defence Forces, and even though the buildings and structures were outdated, they were used to store guns and explosives.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 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.The 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.For 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 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.The 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.
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.There is plenty of untouched wild nature and even a small sandy cove on Kuninkaansaari island, too.
Have you already had a chance to visit Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands? Or any other military island?
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