Published on 10/27/2019. Updated on 7/22/2020. Text and photos by Tero Auralinna.
In summer 2018 we had a very unique experience at Vallisaari island near Helsinki. We visited this old military island and stayed a night there in a tree tent camp. This was a surreal experience because once the last boat is gone, you're almost alone on the island, with badgers and bats.
Sunset at Torpedo Bay, Vallisaari, Finland
Vallisaari is an island about 20 minutes by a water bus from the Market Square (Kauppatori) of Helsinki. Its location is next to Suomenlinna sea fortress (UNESCO) which is a more well-known attraction in Finland.
Experience almost unreal. This Island has been closed for public between 1918-2016 and has amazing combination of military history and nature’s treasures. www.tentsilecamps.com
There have been fortifications since the 17th century. The construction has been most active during the Russian regime. The Finnish Defence Forces have been used the island after Finland's independence. In the year 2008, the Finnish Defence Forces announced that they will give away the island. After that started the work to open up the island for visitors. Since 2016 it's been possible to visit this unique island. More historical info about Vallisaari can be found from the Nationalparks.fi website.
Isosaari is another military island which has been opened to the public recently.
Next to Vallisaari is another island called Kuninkaansaari. Islands are connected so you can walk from Vallisaari to Kuninkaansaari.
Tentsile is a tree tent that will be installed between the three trees. It’s kinda like a large hammock with a shelter. It’s also possible to stack these tents to build a whole tent village.
Vallisaari Tentsile EcoCamp is an area where visitors can stay a night in Tentsile. In addition to Vallisaari, Tentsile Camps are offering Tentsile camping possibilities on other locations as well.
At the camping site, there were two pre-installed Tentsiles and one Trillium hammock for hanging out. Also under the Tentsiles, there are Trillium hammocks that can be used to extend the space for your gear or just for laying around.
When we were there, the second Tentsile was empty, so we had total privacy. Tentsile type (Stingray) used in Vallisaari can accommodate three people conveniently.
Visitors will get instructions from the Torpedo Bay cafe. The visitor will also get a first aid kit and blankets which can be used under a sleeping bag.
Tentsile experience also includes a small breakfast at the same place. Visitors should bring typical camping gear with them. Things like a sleeping bag, water, snacks, personal belongings, electric torch, and enough clothes for changing weather conditions.
The best part of the experience was that once the last ferry from the island was gone, we were almost alone. All visitors and workers will leave at least with the last boat. There were a couple of boats in the marina, but that's it. No other visitors. It was a unique experience to be alone in so tranquil place but at the same time so close to Helsinki. The location of the tree camp is perfect for sunset watching. There is a good cliff for sceneries near the camping area.
Relaxing in the hammock.
Marina is another place besides Tentsile, where you can stay a night if you come by own boat.
Also during the day, the Tentsile area is peaceful because it’s located apart from the main routes. The location is in Kuninkaansaari, and you need to walk a small trail for a while to access the tent area. So most likely, nobody will get there by accident.
The only thing we were a little bit worried during the night was a weather forecast which provided a possibility of a thunderstorm. A tree tent probably is not the best place to be in a thunderstorm. But luckily that storm never reached us. Tentsile has a mesh net cover by default but there is a rain cover which you can put on in case of rain.
Tentsile EcoCamp might feel a little bit pricey for camping night. But the price of 180 € for two people is the average hotel night in Helsinki. This definitely is a more unique experience. And everything for the camping is already setup for you. Just bring yourself and maybe some sparkling wine to enjoy sea views and last sun rays at the waterfront.
There are several restaurants and cafes on the island so you will find something to eat even if you don't bring your own snacks. There are also water points, picnic tables, and dry toilets. Though if you're coming for a night then you should bring some snacks and water with you. Services will be closed in the evening and water points are quite far away from the tent area. Also, note that you are not allowed to make a fire on the island.
The main pathways are wide and in good shape. There is also historic information about the attractions available.
There are two designated routes, visitors must use to go around the islands. Alexander's trail is about 3 kilometers of length, and the Kuninkaansaari tour is around 2.5 kilometers.
You'll also find a small beach from Kuninkaansaari. Swimming is not allowed anywhere else due to hazardous conditions.
There are old, interesting military structures and fortifications still left on the island.
Most noticeable ones are:
Ferries to the Stockholm will leave Helsinki around 17:00. They are passing this very narrow strait between Vallisaari and Suomenlinna. Viking Line (red ferries) and Tallink Silja (white ferries) will use this route when they are leaving. Also, they come back via the same route from Stockholm in the morning. At Vallisaari you can admire ships when they are passing through this only 80 meters wide, S-shaped strait. You can check out arrivals and departures from the Port of Helsinki website. See the departure or destination harbour column, which should be Mariehamn / Stockholm.
Viking Line Stockholm Ferry passing the Strait of Kustaanmiekka.
The highest point of the island has a viewing platform that provides views over the island to the sea, Suomenlinna sea fortress, and city of Helsinki. You’ll also see the protected part of the island nicely from the platform.
Nature is rich at Vallisaari. Vallisaari is the most diverse nature destination in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Parts of the island are protected and visitors can’t enter those areas. Also, you must respect the built paths to protect the unique flora and fauna of the island.
The grass snake gave us warm welcoming right away at the boat dock. Check out the video on YouTube.
In addition to versatile plant species, Vallisaari is a home for numerous birds, bats, and badgers. Also, 1000 butterfly and moth species are living in the islands and some of them are threatened or very rare.
Two water bus companies have constant connections in the summertime to the island. You can enter the boat from Hakaniemi or Kauppatori.
JT-Line has a ticket option called "Island hopping" which combines three islands: Vallisaari, Suomenlinna, and Lonna. Visiting these three islands is also a perfect full-day trip from Helsinki. Lonna is a small island and there is not so much to see but in Suomenlinna and Vallisaari there is more.
I would definitely recommend Vallisaari Tentsile camp night if you would like to experience something different in a peaceful, historic location within the untamed, rich nature.
Sunset view from Tentsile
We visited Vallisaari in summer 2018 so part of the information might be outdated. If you’re planning a visit, check out the official websites for up-to-date information. If you have questions or comments, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll try to answer.
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