Distant Utö - home to Finland's first lighthouse

The first lighthouse in Finland was built in 1753 on the outer archipelago island of Utö. However, it was almost completely destroyed during the Finnish War (1808-1809). A new lighthouse was built on the same site, which still stands on the island to this day.

A long history as a maritime pioneer

The island of Utö has an important position in the outer archipelago, along the sea route to the Archipelago Sea. The island was already known as a major landmark in the Middle Ages. There has been piloting activities on Utö since the 16th century at least. Signal fires were burned on the island, whose purpose was to guide mariners.

During the 18th century, permanently-employed pilots' positions were established on Utö and the island's piloting community was founded. Over time, a small and dense archipelago village grew around the pilots' living quarters. The present pilot station was built in 1958.

Drawing of Utö in the 1800’s from the Russian landscape painter Aleksei Bogoljubov. Taken from the work Al'bom" morskih"' vidovv'" sěvernago berega Finskago zaliva (Eng. “Album of the Gulf of Finland”)

The stages of Finland’s first lighthouse

In 1753, the lightless wooden daymark beacon was replaced by Finland’s first ever lighthouse. According to the construction drawings for the lighthouse, the tower was supposed to be slender and round with a wood-built section for the lamp. However due to the masons' initiative, the finished lighthouse did not match the drawings at all.

Instead, the tower was built in a conical shape and was rough in appearance. At the top of the lighthouse, at the end of an iron pole, was a basket in which a signal fire could be burnt when needed. The Lyökki Daymark near Uusikaupunki is a good example of what the first lighthouse in Utö looked like. 

A view from Utö, on the right is the old pilot's cabin with signal flags. Late 19th century or early 20th century.

During the turmoil of the Finnish War between 1808 and 1809, the first lighthouse was almost destroyed. In 1814, a new granite-stone lighthouse was built to replace it, which still dominates the island landscape to this day.

In 1841, Finland's first lighthouse church was built inside the spacious, rectangular lighthouse tower. The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1935. The light carries 17.8 nautical miles or about 33 kilometres out to sea.

Fortification of the island

The island of Utö has also served in Finland’s defence. The island was fortified in the 1910s to protect the sea route to St. Petersburg, forming part of the so-called marine fortress chain of Peter the Great.

A paved road and artillery emplacements were built on the island, which served as a support base for the Russian Navy. The Russians also built a barracks, a wash house, an ammunition depot, and even a railway for moving heavy loads across the island.

After Finland's independence, the Finnish Defence Forces took control of the island. The buildings associated with garrison operations from various decades are mainly located on the northern part of the island.

At the turn of the year 2005-2006, the Utö garrison was decommissioned and the building stock was transferred from state ownership. However, part of the island is still a closed military area where movement is restricted for security reasons.

Kuva vasemmalla Kuva oikealla Utö village photographed from the lighthouse tower in 1890. Utö village photographed from the lighthouse tower in 2000.
By scrolling the picture you can see the difference in the Utö village!

Utö Island now shines as a tourist destination

Located at the edge of the open seas, the nature on Utö Island is rugged. Today it is the southernmost inhabited island in the Finnish archipelago.

Although Utö is best known for its lighthouse, there is much more to see on the island. Its long history has left behind various historical structures and ancient remnants, rock engravings and wartime-remains.

The original well-preserved lighthouse building is unique. Its specialty is the lighthouse church, which has been preserved unaltered. At the foot of the lighthouse tower is the island's oldest preserved building, i.e. the lighthouse keepers’ dwelling house completed in 1753, which houses a museum presenting the island's history.

The are many shipwrecks in the waters surrounding the island. Learn more about them from the cultural environment service window webpage www.kyppi.fi.

Why and how is this location protected?

The island of Utö is Finland's oldest known maritime benchmark.

The Finnish Heritage Agency has defined the island as a nationally significant built cultural environment due to its diverse and layered history, as well as its preserved village complex. Utö's unique lighthouse church is protected by the Church Act.

Read more about this location in the Finnish Heritage Agency's register!

A small part of Utö Island lies within the Archipelago National Park.


The island of Utö can be easily reached by ferry, which leaves from Pärnäinen Harbour in Nauvo. The journey takes about 4 hours. Check the routes and ferry timetables here.

There is also organised transportation leaving from Turku to the island of Utö during the summer months. A taxi boat can be hired to reach Utö and visitors can also get there by private boat.

There is accommodation and a restaurant on the island. More information on visiting and accommodation can be found from the lighthouse website.

Finnish Heritage Agency's mapservice

N: 6640449, E:184078 (ETRS-TM35FIN)