Seili Island, Finland

The island of Seili in the Archipelago Sea is off the south west coast of Finland. Seili is worth visiting not only for its unique nature, biology research station, traditional Finnish food and sauna: the place is known for its gloomy history of a leper colony and a lunatic asylym.

To get to Seili

you must first get to Nauvo or Hanka (e.g. by coach from Turku or by car), and from there take a ferry. The ferry timetable is available here.
Ferry to Seili

The ferry ride opens excellent views and visiting Seili becomes a must just for that.
How to get to Seili



The oldest documented references to Seili are from the 16th century. The first permanent settlement here was built in medieval times; with accompanying fields and meadows, the typical livehood was farming and fishing. At that time, however, the scenery was not this open.
Seili Island

Yet, very soon the nature of the settlement changed, as by the 17th century Seili became a leper colony. Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease was common in medieval Europe; it remained robust in the North for a long time. From the 16th century onward, leper colonies were built further away from the towns. In the Swedish Kingdom to which Finnish territory belonged then, this was funded by the Crown.
In Seili, the patients were isolated from the housing of the others in the islet, separated by the bridge. This changed in the 18th century, when only a few patients were left on the island: the straight between the leprosy colony islet and the main Seili island was closed. Yet, the spooky history of Seili does not finish with that.

Lunatic asylum.

The island then becomes the lunatic asylum, first for both men and women, and then for women only. Frequently, women got here just because their husbands did not like them anymore or wanted to remarry, and nobody knows how many female destinies finished like that here. Current research station at the island offers a view of a typical patient’s room.
Lunatic asylum

To say the truth, however, the patients’ way of life was quite free and independent, unless they were really sick.
Many buildings, including the hospital, exist up to nowadays, some are, on the contrary, abandoned.
Seili hospital


Seili hospital

The island grim history is reminded of by the Church dating back to the 1700s.
grim history

The original untreated wooden surface can still be seen inside the church and nowadays it is beautifully patinated by passed centuries. The door for lepers was on the western side, and the door for non-lepers was on the southern side. The unique peculiarity of the church is a massive wooden fence which isolated the lepers from the rest of the church-goers.
Seili church

The church is surrounded by the graveyard used for both staff and patients (with their graves on the different sights too).
Seili graveyard

Seili graveyard


Another attraction of the island is the 1.3 km trail. If lucky, you may see some animals, or at least their footprints.
 animals footprints

Seili trail

Seili forest

There is a famous eagle nest in the island, but the researchers living in Seili do not show where it is to prevent the nest from being invaded by the tourists. You can watch the nest online through the still camera here. Or try to spot the nest while on the island.
Another option is walking along the bank and enjoying the views. Or just sailing here by the yacht.
Seili yacht tour

NB! Coming to Seili you should not expect much of civilization. There is no shop at the island, only a summer kiosk, so make sure you buy what you need in advance. The housing is provided by Turku University research station, along with saunas and excellent Finnish food. From the institute guided tours and tourist information you may learn more about the island nature and history.
Turku University research station

Yet, the island is quite explorable on your own.
Explore Seili

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