St Olav Waterway created 600 km pilgrimage route through the archipelago
One of the biggest global trends of today is outdoor tourism, and specially wandering. St Olav Waterway wanted to create The Nordic Camino, a peaceful alternative crossing three countries. Olav Haraldsson (995-1030) was the King of Norway, and after his death he became one of the most important medieval Nordic saints. There are very many St Olav’s churches in the north of Europe.
St Olav Waterway created a 600 km pilgrim route for wandering and sailing from Turku Finland across the archipelago area and Åland Islands to Hudiksvall city in Sweden. The route shows Nordic history combined with culture and nature. St Olav Waterway represents sustainable tourism because slowly hiking and walking is sustainable. One important objective from the beginning was to extend the tourist season and attract visitors to these rural areas and islands also off-season.
There are a lot of attractions along the route, and the project made some of them more visible (ancient monuments, medieval churches, stories, etc). The project was successful with many partners and a lot of external and media interest. Thanks to the project the route was certified by Council of Europe as (the eastern) part of the "European Cultural Route of St Olav’s Ways" in December 2018. The route opened in May 2019 with a seven-week pilgrimage walk from Turku to Trondheim with a message from the Finnish archbishop to the bishop in Trondheim.
The route is in use, maintained by cities, parishes, and volunteer groups. A new association called ”Olofsleder I Finland - Suomen Olavinreitit” will maintain the route in Finland and Åland Islands after the project. Many Visit-organisations in Sweden, Åland and Finland are marketing the trail.
The project inspired others to plan for new/more St Olav related routes and tours in Finland. The overall plan is that there will be a St Olav route all the way from Novgorod in Russia to Nidaros and Trondheim in 2030, as there was 1000 years ago.
As a result, there is also an ongoing project for the first pilgrimage centre in Turku since medieval time, to be a meeting place, highlighting all existing routes in Finland, being a link to the European pilgrimage routes and answering to the increased interest of walking and reflecting.
There were also students involved in many ways, doing market research, testwalks and assignments.
There is a website in three languages with digital maps available. The website is maintained by one of the partners, city of Parainen.
The maps for Vikingaleden, teh Swedish part of St Olav Waterway, are avilable here and maintained by VisitRoslagen.
The first Pilgrim from abroad walking all the way from Turku to Trondheim was from Portugal and he started in April 2019. After that people from many countries have visited parts of the route.
- 600 km new pilgrimage route from Turku to Hudiksvall
- Certified as part of European Cultural Route of St Olav Ways
- Inspired to more pilgrimage routes in Finland
- Inspired to the first pilgrimage Centre in Finland, in Turku