The chances are pretty good that you may never have heard of the Aland Islands. They are not commonly known among many people. However the same cannot be said of the currency they use. This just so happens to be the euro. You can find out more about both the country and its currency here.
There are only two coins denominated as actual euros (the one and two euro coins). The remainder are denominated in the subunit, which is officially the eurocent but commonly known as the cent. The smallest coins are the one, two and five cent coins, but you can also get the 10, 20 and 50 cents coins.
While there are half a dozen banknotes available for the euro, they are not all in common use. The biggest-valued ones are the €100, €200 and €500 notes but many people don’t like to use them. The ones that are most commonly used are the €10, €20 and €50 notes, which you will undoubtedly see while you are in the Aland Islands.
The Aland Islands are actually a region of Finland, and since this country uses the euro it makes sense that the islands would use it as well. The islands are however autonomous and they are therefore governed by those on the islands rather than remotely by people in Finland.
As you might expect it is pretty easy to get the euro when you need it. You just have to find a good bureau de change that is offering a decent rate of exchange. This might be worth shopping around for so do it ahead of time if you can.
You might also be interested to know the Aland Islands also accept the Swedish krona. This takes place in an unofficial capacity but it is handy to know it is the case. If you are travelling to the islands you are still better off ordering the euro to take with you. However if you happen to have a few krona hanging around, it’s probably an idea to take those as well.
Tourism is a good source of income for the islands so you shouldn’t find too many problems in terms of getting hold of cash. Aland has three banks – Nordea, Alandsbanken and Andelsbanken for Aland. You can get cash from one of the cash machines provided by the bank branches. While there are dozens of islands that comprise the area as a whole, only a few are actually inhabited. Thus if you are on one of these islands you shouldn’t have a problem getting hold of the cash you need. You can also quite easily use credit cards on the islands, although it does make sense to carry some cash with you at all times as well, just in case. It certainly comes in handy for smaller purchases.
It couldn’t be simpler to discover the latest exchange rate for the euro, since this is one of the world’s major currencies. Just find a reputable and ideally regularly-updated currency converter and use that to help you find out what the current exchange rate is. It won't be 100% accurate since the bureaux de change will provide different rates of exchange, but it does at least give you a rough idea of what you could expect.
Since this is a lesser-known part of the world it can be a good idea to learn more about Aland Islands before you pay them a visit. The best way to do this is to visit the official website for the islands, which is operated by the Government of Aland. This has plenty of useful sections you might find interesting to read. You can get started at http://www.aland.ax/en/.
The good news is this part of the world is actually very safe to visit. Crime is generally quite low here and there are no specific threats that could be problematic for you. Of course it does make a lot of sense to take the most obvious precautions. No one wants to run anymore risks than is necessary. When you are travelling it makes sense to ensure all your belongings are safely with you, so make sure this is the case. Some hotels will offer a safe too so if you want to keep your passport and excess cash safe while you are out and about you can do this by keeping them in your room.
So, the first question would be where on earth are the Aland Islands? You will find them in the Baltic Sea, and although you might think they would be close to Finland (which they are) they’re actually closer to Sweden. They sit between the two just at the entrance to a body of water called the Gulf of Bothnia.
If you look at them from a distance on a map you would be forgiven for thinking this is one island with perhaps a few others dotted around its perimeter. But this would be wildly wrong. The more you zoom in on a map online, the more islands seem to appear. Even then you might be surprised to learn the Aland Islands consist of a whopping 6,757 islands as a whole! It’s hard to get your head around that figure, especially when you learn that the entire population of the Aland Islands is a mere 28,000. If that population was spread out over all the islands there would be around four people on each one!
This isn’t the case though, and in fact around a third of the entire population can be found living in the capital of the Aland Islands, which is called Mariehamn. Nine in ten of the population are on the main island of this archipelago, which is called Fasta Aland. This literally means Main Island, which is quite appropriate.
So what can we make of Mariehamn? Well, this is certainly a colourful place to live, since it is filled with buildings that are very brightly-painted. Expect terracotta-coloured roofs and buildings painted in yellows, blues, reds and perhaps also the odd white one too. It certainly welcomes you into the capital since it looks quite beautiful. Look out for Sodragatan, which is a street in Mariehamn and one of the oldest of its kind too. There are two harbours in the city and one of them is home to Pommern, a windjammer ship that is over a century old. She is now a museum and as such she is quite wonderful to visit. You can learn about life at sea and really get the feel of what it must have been like since you are on the ship itself.
There are several ways to get around on the islands, but since they are for the most part quite small, you might like to go for the bicycle option. This is a very popular option and it does keep you fit as well! If you happen to be staying in Mariehamn you may want to consider a trip out to Lemland Jarso. There is a path that goes from one to the other across the water which makes it a memorable trip.
Another way to get around – and a great theme for a holiday in the islands – is to hike. There are plenty of walking routes and trails you can try out while you are in this part of the world, from basic short routes to ones that are far more challenging. There are trails on the islands that range from about six miles in length to far longer ones of nearly 40 miles at the longest. Obviously you don’t need to attempt the whole hike in a day, but you can break it up into manageable chunks if you do want to attempt one of the longer ones. The Kyrkleden path covers about eight miles and can be done in a few hours, allowing time for sightseeing of course. At the other end of the scale you have the Sadelinleden path which is around 39 miles long. Which one would you attempt during your time in the Aland Islands?
As you can see the Aland Islands come as something of a surprise in many ways. Not only are there plenty of them (most of which are uninhabited) there are also many ways in which you can discover them for yourself. With bicycles available to hire in several locations (particularly in the city), and lots of routes available to explore, the Aland Islands certainly have a lot to offer for those of you who love the outdoors. In fact there can be few other places on earth that are quite as intriguing as this particular archipelago.