Home North pole ice Skip the stuffy southern Europe and head to these cool, crowd-free islands instead

Skip the stuffy southern Europe and head to these cool, crowd-free islands instead


Kvarken Archipelago: ideal for geological wonders

While climate change threatens sea level rise across most of the globe, here the opposite is happening. Crushed by an ice cap 10,000 years ago, the earth is slowly bouncing back a quarter of an inch a year. Although you won’t feel the earth move, the effects are evident: once-submerged boathouses are washed up on dry land, beaches turn into forests, and many more islands rise out of the sea. observation on Svedjehamn to study the winding moraines of De Geer, another geological curiosity.

How to do: Watch the landscape unfold from Kalle’s Inn Glasshouses on Soderudden. From £264 a night for two with breakfast (coolstays.com)

Hailuoto, Oulu: Best for Bird Watching

Throughout the year, more than 300 bird species have been spotted in the wetlands of this northern Baltic Sea island. Overlooking the meadows and reedbeds, several bird hides provide excellent viewing platforms. Spread your own wings further afield as you visit a crumbling lighthouse, colorful fishing villages and an organic craft brewery. And learn why the lichen-strewn forests and sculpted dunes have attracted artists since the early 1900s.

How to do: The Luotsihotelli – Arctic Lighthouse Hotel has double rooms from £92 with breakfast (expedia.co.uk)

Suomenlinna: the best for history

It takes less than 20 minutes to reach one of Finland’s most important Unesco World Heritage sites from the mainland, but a visit will take you back more than 200 years. Originally built by the Swedes, a sea fortress straddles several islands in the Helsinki archipelago, with museums, bunkers and a World War II submarine open to the public. Guided tours take place throughout August, as well as short traditional sailing trips.

How to do: For the full maritime experience, stay at Villa Silo, a 19th-century wooden house in the Russian Merchants’ Quarter. From £211 per night for four (airbnb.co.uk)

Pellinge: the best for Moomin fans

As Finnish as saunas and Santa Claus, the Moomins embody a national Nordic spirit. Designer Tove Jansson found inspiration for many of her stories on the small island of Klovharun, where she owned a summer cottage. Now run by a heritage group, the artist’s former home is only open for one week in July. But it is possible to explore the landscapes that inspired his work. A two-hour drive from Helsinki, the Pellinge Islands are part of the Porvoo archipelago.

How to do: Pellinge Cottages has several properties to rent, including the seaside Dalen Hut (sleeps 6) from £493 for a week (+358 400 670 785; pellingecottages.fi)