Geta, Åland

Photo: HavsVidden Åland
Photo: HavsVidden Åland

In search of a winter hideout? The ski mountains are packed. The ice hotels have been booked forever. While everyplace with an indoor pool is full of noisy kids. Well, almost everyplace. There’s one spot that’s either too far away or too under the radar for families. Which makes HavsVidden the perfect place for you to enjoy the chilly temperatures.

To reach HavsVidden, you must first travel to Åland, itself an almost secret destination. The islands sit in the Gulf of Bothnia, in between Sweden and Finland. Though most of the people who live here speak Swedish, the 6,500 islands and skerries are actually part of Finland. The smallest Finnish region is autonomous, politically neutral, and demilitarized. It’s economy, given its location along the Baltic Sea, is based on shipping and trade. Though it’s quietly becoming a vacation spot, as well.

After arriving by ferry in Mariehamn, the small capital on the main island (also called Åland), drive north along Route 4. The land is rocky and dotted with pine trees and red houses. Sheep farms are in the distance. While the gray-blue sea is never far from sight. During the warmer months, the island is covered with green grass and wildflowers. Right now, there’s a lot of snow and ice.

Photo: HavsVidden Åland
Photo: HavsVidden Åland

HavsVidden is at the end of a dirt road in Geta, a small town on the northern coast. The spacious lounge is warm and inviting when you arrive. A fire crackles in the corner. Huge windows overlook the cliffs, the marina, and the icy bay. While strong coffee and homemade sweets are set out as an afternoon treat. Settle into your room, barely noticing the furniture when you see the continued view. Return to the lounge for a locally brewed Stallhagen Delikat before dinner. Then eat filling chanterelle soup, grilled perch, and deep-fried Bomarsund cheese. Since it’s been dark for hours, you’re not even sure what time it is at this point.

During the summer, people travel to HavsVidden to go fishing for pike, kayaking with sea birds, boating among the red-rocked islets, and diving into the offshore wrecks. The focus is much different in the winter. Your days revolve around keeping warm. You alternate between the smoked sauna, the hot tub, and yes, the indoor pool. You book an energy massage that loosens your sore muscles with salt, oil, and menthol cream. You even go hiking along the four-kilometer wilderness trail during the short six hours that the sun is out.

And you keep returning to the pool. The quiet, indoor pool with an amazing view in the middle of nowhere. It’s a winter hideout to which you’ll return again and again.

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