Kökar is the southernmost municipality of Åland (and Finland), and having just some 250 permanent residents it is the second least populated municipality in Finland. Most of the population live in the villages Finnö, Hamnö, Hellsö, Karlby, Österbygge, and Överboda on the main island. The village Kyrkogårdsö is located on island Kyrkögårdsö some 10 km north. Kökar has got a very suitable location for seafaring and the islands are full of prehistoric remnants. The Otterböte site was already used by seal hunters 3000 years ago!
The name Kökar was first mentioned in a 13th century Danish seafaring manuscript as Thiyckækarl, probably referring to a fat man. On the 15th century Franciscan monks arrived to Kökar and built a monastery in the small island Hamnö, making Kökar a cultural and spiritual centre. The exact date for this is not known, but a document from 1472 mentions Conuentu Tiokkarlensis. Even though the monastery came to its end in 1539, the church of Kökar has been located on Hamnö all the times since.
The nature here is unique. Most of the forests consist of leaved trees instead of pines, making the landscape very unusual in Finland. There are some rare plants living here, including the European yew. Bogskär, the southernmost strips of dry land in Finland belong to Kökar and are located some 50 km south from the main island.
Nowadays Kökar is a living community having e.g. a school for grades 1 to 9, library, bank, gym, and a health care station. The services are concentrated to the main village called Karlby. The private sector is dominated by tourism, shipping and farming.
The Nordic pilgrimage route St. Olav Waterway (part of the Nidaros Path) goes through Kökar.
The main connection to Kökar is the Ålandstrafiken ferries from Långnäs on Åland's mainland (a few times daily, via Sottunga) or from Galtby in Korpo (once to thrice a day in season, more or less daily off season). Galtby has a road connection to the Finnish mainland. The Ålandstrafiken ferries are free for pedestrians while quite costly for cars (€6/21/34/164 for bike/motorcycle/car/car+caravan in season). If you are travelling with a car you must book the ferry in advance.
The ferry trip to Kökar takes 2 hours and 45 minutes from Långnäs and 2 hours 30 minutes from Galtby. All ferries arrive to the Harparnäs ferry harbour. There is a summer café and dry toilets at the harbour.
Kökar is fairly easy to reach as there are several daily coaches from Turku bus station to Galtby ferry harbour (about €16), but the coaches often do not match the ferries. See Matkahuolto for details. The trip Turku–Galtby takes about 2 hours. For morning departures and evening arrivals you may have to stay the night in Korpo, possibly with a taxi ride to your accommodation.
On mainland Åland the bus line 5 from Mariehamn goes to the Långnäs harbour.
There are guest harbours at Hellsö village (Havspaviljongen), Brudhäll in the main village and Sandvik, with camping, cottages or hotel (see Sleep below for services not specific to boaters).
- 1 [dead link] Sandvik guest harbour & camping (Sandvik marina) (Munkvärvan), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 50 berths. Electricity, water, laundry, sauna, Wi-Fi, fuel, sewage water pump, bikes for rent, car for rent. €22.
- 2 Hotell & Restaurang Brudhäll (Brudhäll marina), Karlby (Karlby), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 70 berths. Sauna, shower, toilet, laundry, sewage water pump, Wi-Fi. €26-90.
- 3 Hellsö guest harbour (Hällsö), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Over 50 berths. Electricity, water, toilet, sauna, waste disposal, Wi-Fi, bikes for rent. €20.
There is no public transport in Kökar but it's easy and very popular option to rent a bike. Kollektivtrafik from and to the ferry harbour operates Mon–Fri by timetable. It is free of charge on the main road and €2 outside it. The kollektivtrafik must be booked in advance.
- Kökar taxi and kollektivtrafik: phone +358 400-721-207
During the season there are daily guided tours to Kallskär by Hotel Brudhäll.
Kyrkogårdsö is on the route of some of the ferries between Kökar and Sottunga but only by request, and if there is someone going there with a car. Otherwise pedestrians must use a passenger boat (passbåt) from Sottunga harbour. During the season the passenger boat operates by a timetable and must be invoked no later than 15 minutes before the ferry arrives to Sottunga and it leaves Sottunga harbour when all the passengers are on board. In the corresponding Ålandstrafiken's timetable avg. från X means 'the ferry leaves from X', ank. Sottunga means 'the ferry arrives to Sottunga', and passbåtens anlöp till Sottunga färjhamn is the deadline for invoking the passenger boat. Off-season the passenger boat operates only by request which must be done at least one day in advance. The passenger boat is free of charge. Phone +358 40-158-0100.
Kökar is one of the few islands in Åland with noticeable contours, showing picturesque cliffs to the east, now set a bit back from the coast. There is a very attractive little church on a separate island that is easily reached on foot from the ferry port by turning east. There are the ruins of an old monastery beside it. As is common in Åland, the belltower is near to but separate from the main church building.
- 1 The Church & Franciscan Monastery Ruins (in Hamnö). During the 15th century a Franciscan monastery was founded on Hamnö. This place became a spiritual and cultural centre for the entire archipelago. Today the ruins of the monastery share their site with Kökar's church from 1748. In the chapel beside the church there are archaeological excavations. Exhibition in separate building. free.
- 2 The Kökar museum, Österbygge, ☏ . Jun 20–Aug 15: daily 11:00–16:00, W 11:00–20:00. Off season by appointment only.. In an old schoolhouse. Has many of the articles and tools used by the seal hunters on display. Get a glimpse of life on Kökar from the 1800s to the 1940s. There are several other buildings on the museum grounds open to the public. Among them a display hall with different types of boats, a crofter's cottage and a shed for livestock.
- 3 Otterböte bronsåldersboplats (Otterböte broze age settlement), Munkvervan. Otterböte settlement from the Bronze Age (1800–500 BC). The settlement is believed to have been used by seal hunters in the winter, not by families. The findings include dwelling remnants, a former well, bones and ceramic fragments. free.
- 4 Källskär. Outside Kökar main island. For many years, the nobleman Göran Åkerhielm lived on this island. The buildings, the garden and the port that he built are truly creative. Anyone familiar with the Moomin-books recognizes perhaps parts of the houses. Tove Jansson who occasionally came out on visits was inspired from it when she made sketches for the Moomins' house. Also found on the island is one of Åland's most remarkable nature phenomenons, Källskärskannan, which became a protected site already at the 1950's. During the season there are daily trips to the island starting from Hotel Brudhäll. a day trip €30/person.
- 1 Hiking path and fortifications on Kalen (in Munkvärvan). The hiking trail on Kalen is about 7 km long and goes through different kinds of vegetation to the prehistoric ruins of Otterböte, Russian and Finnish military remnants and over rocky hills with nice seascape views. The trail also visits a Vålberg jungfrudans or stone labyrinth (the current maze is a reconstruction as the original one was destroyed by Russians during WW I). The trail starts from Munkvärvan, ends in Karlby, and is marked with white dots. The trail is not suitable for small children. A guide leaflet (trilingual, also English) is available from the accommodations and stores. free.
- 2 Kulturstigen (The Culture trail) (Hamnö). A 2 km long culture-oriented trail in Hamnö. Starting point next to the road, close to the Hamnö bridge. free.
- 3 Klobbars vandringsstig (Klobbars hiking trail) (Hellsö). A 2 km long trail. Starting point at Klobbars Gästhem. free.
- 1 [dead link] Kökar Skärgårdsbutik (Karlby), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Peak season: M–F 09:00–20:00, Sa 10:00–18:00, Su 9:00–18:00; June: M–F 10:00–19:00, Sa 10:00–18:00, Su 12:00–16:00. Groceries, hardware, souvenirs. Alko delivery point (order in advance).
There are small grocery stores in Sandvik guest marina and at Havspaviljongen as well.
- Svartbröd, blackbread, as the name implies the bread is almost black. It is round and quite flat but its most characteristic feature is the taste. The blackbread from Kökar is more sweet than the blackbread from the other parts of Åland. Only a few people still know how to bake the Kökar-blackbread, so you have to ask around where you can buy the bread.
- Skärgårdsbröd Kökar is a local bakery. Runs also a café in Karlby.
- Peders Aplagård, Österbygge is an apple farm. They make different products out of apples like cake, juice and jelly. You can buy directly from the farm or from the food shops on the island.
Cabins and camping
- 1 Sandvik guest harbour & camping, Munkvervan (3.6 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A very popular place. Cabins, camping area and guest harbour. Café with food and a grocery store with boating equipment. Bikes, rowing boats and canoes for rent. Use own linen. Advance booking recommended (not necessary for tents). Cabin €45/75 (2/4 persons), own linen; caravan €19, electricity €3; tent €10 + €3,50/person, children 0–12 free.
- 2 Skinnars, Österbygge (8.3 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The oldest holiday village in Kökar. cottages €50–85/night.
- 3 Havspaviljongen, Hällsö (10.2 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins and guest marina. Restaurant. A small grocery store. cabins €70–100/night, harbour €20/night.
- 4 Anton's Gästhem, Munkvervan (3 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rooms and apartments close to the ferry harbour and well located for cliff walking and for the church. No breakfast but some facilities for self-catering. Open year-round.
- 5 Klobbars Gästhem och Stugor (Klobbar´s Hostelry & Cabins), Hällsö (10.8 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Basic hotel, toilets en suite in some rooms. Cabins. Bikes and boats for rent. Sauna. Rooms €75–272/night (linen and breakfast included). Cabins €95–126/night in season, linen €10 per bed.
- 6 Hotell & Restaurang Brudhäll, Karlby (3.4 km from the ferry harbour), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Hotel, restaurant and a guest marina in the main village.
- 7 Havsgården, Kyrkogårdsö, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A small hotel on the island Kyrkogårdsö. Rooms and a buffet restaurant. Booking only by phone.