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This article is about Själö island in Nagu. There is another Själö at the border of Houtskär and Iniö.
Seilihospital

Själö (Finnish: Seili), is an island in the Archipelago Sea about 30 km southwest from Turku. It is famous for being a former leprosy colony and a fairly popular day-trip destination during summer season.

The island was part of the Nagu municipality, now part of Pargas. It has long been a popular destination, but opened for more organized tourism in 2017.

Understand[edit]

The name Själö has a grim sound to any locals. The island had probably been inhabited by seal hunters as the Swedish name suggests ("själö" means "seal island"). In 1619 King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden ordered a leper colony to be established on this island. As the island was virtually treeless until the late 1800s, anyone who was sent to Själö had to bring coffin materials with him/her. As the patients had right to make moonshine for medical purposes, they willingly sold it to the sailors of passing ships. This produced still living expression "olla seilissä" or 'to be on seili' for drunkness to the Finnish vocabulary. The last leper patient died in 1787.

Själö i Nagu flygfoto 01.jpg

The dark history of the island continued as the island became a mental hospital. Authorities had started to send (allegedly) mentally ill people to Själö already in the 1680s. Probably there was some just poor or physically disabled among them. In the 1850s the current mental hospital building was accomplished and replaced old wooden crofts. In 1889 Själö turned into mental hospital for women only but the idea remained the same: it was not to cure the patients but to ensure they would stay outside the society forever. This was easy as the asylum was virtually self-sufficient. The doctors and other medical staff got households and farmlands from the island for free but were also free to visit outside the island. The mental institution was operational until 1962 when the last patients were finally moved to mainland. The dreadful story came to an end.

Since 1964 the University of Turku has operated the Archipelago Research Institute in the former mental hospital. In addition there are some permanent residents, mostly relatives of former hospital staff, living in their family estates.

The island was opened for more organised tourism in 2017, with restaurant and lodging. The whole hospital area, surrounding farmland as well as the church and its graveyard are included in the Finnish list of nationally significant built cultural environments. The rest of the island belongs to the Pakinainen-Seili nature conservation area which is on the Natura 2000 list.

Finnish pop singer Jenni Vartiainen named an album after the island.

Tourist information:

Get in[edit]

The only option to get to the island is by boat. In summer there are daily connections from Turku, Nagu, and Rymättylä (either Hanka or Röölä, the latter with Föli bus connections from Turku via Naantali also in summer). There is also a harbour for those coming by private vessels. The easiest way to visit from Turku is taking a return cruise with m/s Norrskär. Most of the ferries make trips from Nagu, reachable by coach or otherwise along the Archipelago Trail.

Although some of the ferries take cars, you can not land with one. Bikes are OK.

By ferry[edit]

  • M/S Norrskär, +358 400-176-684, . Timetable: most weekends in May and September, daily most of the summer, also return trips from Nagu in peak season. 9:30 or 10:00 from Turku. 1 hr 45 min from Turku, 30 min from Nagu. Back in Turku 18:15 or 18:30. The vessel arrives from Turku, continues to Nagu and returns to Själö for the return (with an intervening return trip to Själö in peak season). At least in weekends it might be a good idea to book your trip in advance. Single from Turku €25/15, return €37/€23 (children: 3–15 years); from Nagu €9/5, return €15/7.50; bike €10/6.
  • M/S Hamnskär. 24 June–8 August. Smaller ferry on the Röölä–Själö route. Kiosk, WC. Not accessible by wheelchair. €12/8, return €20/15 (children: 3–15 years); bike €6, return €10; bus Turku–Naantali–Röölä €3/1.5.
  • M/S Östern, +358 400-720-606, . Timetable 2021: thrice daily 14 May–29 August. From Nagu or Rymättylä on the Nauvo–Själö–Hanka route, part of the Archipelago Trail. The ferry takes cars and has a café. €7/3, bikes €3, car €12, campervan €20, car+caravan €32; no return tickets; children: 4–11 years.
  • M/S Kokkomaa, +358 50-400-1941. Timetable summer 2021: Su 18:30 from Nagu. The vessel operates Nagu norra rutt in northern Nagu and Korpo archipelago year round. It is free of charge but not really aimed at tourism although you are free to use it if it happens to suit your plans. In 2021 only one service a week goes via Själö, calling by request by phone the preceding day before 14:00. The ferry continues via three other islands to Åvensor. Free.

All connecting vessels call at the 1 post jetty, which is about 800 m from the mental hospital.

By boat[edit]

If you have your own boat daytime visits are free of charge. The 2 church jetty and post jetty are for day visitors while the post jetty and 3 station jetty can be used for overnight stay. For staying overnight the harbour fee is €28, including basic services and evening sauna.

Get around[edit]

By walking or by bike. The gravel roads are in good condition and everything is within about one kilometre from the harbors.

It is not possible to take your car to Själö, even though M/S Östern does carry cars.

See[edit]

  • The awesome nature!
Själö church
  • 1 Själö church. mid-June–July: daily 11:00-15:00; August–September Sa Su 11:00-15:00. This wooden church built in 1733 is the only one in Finland having separate nave for lepers, and the interior is worth of seeing. The church does not belong to any parish and is maintained by Finnish Forest Administration. According to a legend the leprosy patients were buried under the meadow next to the church. However, nobody knows where the bodies actually are. Those resting in the graveyard are mostly mentally ill women and some mental hospital staff. adult €3.50; children €2; family ticket €8.50.
  • 2 Mental hospital. Even though Själö has been mental asylum at least since 1680s the current hospital building was built in 1851. The buildings were designed by famous architect Pehr Johan Gylich and this group of Empire style stone-made buildings is unique in the archipelago. Former mental hospital is now part of the Turku University and people are making science here, so do not wander around too much. One patient room in the ground floor is still in its original shape. Also Restaurant Seili and public toilets are in the ground floor.

Do[edit]

Enjoy the views and history. Try to spot rare plants but, please, do not pick any flowers!

Guided tours are available daily in Finnish. For a guided tour in English, contact Visit Seili in advance.

Eat[edit]

  • 1 Restaurant Seili (at the hospital), +358 40 156 0064. Restaurant Seili is open daily from June to August. There is a buffet lunch from 12:00 to 16:00 and à la carte between 17:00 and 20:00. Breakfast must be ordered beforehand. Terrasse on the inner yard. lunch €16, soup lunch €12.50; children €8.
  • 2 Summer kiosk (behind the church). Small kiosk next to the Church Jetty is operated by locals. Coffee and buns, some snacks and Själö themed souvenirs.

The island is popular place for family picnics. Pack some food, drinks and a blanket.

You can fill your water bottles at the hospital building. There is a special beer called Seili available from the restaurant.

Sleep[edit]

Camping is not available, as any ground away from the houses is a nature reserve.

  • Accommodation, +358 40-156-0064, +358 45 2 463-707 (off season M–F 09:00–16:00), . Reception open 10:00–20:30 in summer. Accommodation available most of the year. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: varies. Accommodation in 1–5 person rooms or apartments. The oldest accommodation building is from 1801, the newest from 2003; interiors are quite modern. Some rooms have en suite facilities. Kitchen available depending on room and season. Linen included but beds have to be made. Sauna can be booked separately. From October to April you need to make your reservation in advance by e-mail or by phone. €90–120, breakfast €9/person.
  • Guest harbours (post and station jetty by the fairway on the western shore, church jetty on the eastern side). Service daily in summer, in weekends in May and September, ask in advance for other times. Depth 1–3 m. Showers, laundry etc. available. Public sauna (separate for men and women) depending on season, private sauna can be booked separately. Overnighting boats can moor at the post jetty or station jetty ("Asemalaituri") or post jetty, day visitors at the post jetty or church jetty ("Kirkkolaituri"). Mind the ferries. €28, pre-booking +€7; day visits free.

Stay safe[edit]

Beware of ticks and sunshine. Do not disturb grazing animals.

Go next[edit]

Most visitors leave the island to Turku or Nagu. Some ferries go to Rymättylä in season, across Ominaisfjärden, as part of the Archipelago Trail shortcut.


This city travel guide to Själö is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.