Bengtskär Island has the tallest lighthouse tower in the Nordic countries

Bengtskär is located in the Turunmaa Archipelago in the municipality of Kemiönsaari, about 25 kilometres southwest of Hanko.

A long time ago, a skipper named Bengt and his ship were caught in a storm and wrecked on a barren, deserted skerry. As if by miracle, he survived.

It did not take long for the archipelago inhabitants to discover the wreck and they headed for the islet. Bengt rejoiced, for he thought himself saved. Quite the opposite happened; the archipelago denizens looted the unfortunate boatman's property and killed him. Since then the islet has been called Bengtskär (Eng. Bengt’s skerry).

A lighthouse was needed for the dark sea lane

A lighthouse was planned for the shipping route between Hanko and Utö in the late 19th century when the year-round traffic to Hanko Port increased. The outer edge of the Bengtskär reef area was particularly feared, and not without reason, for so many ships had been wrecked over time there, that the exact figure was not even known.

However, the location of the lighthouse was not immediately agreed upon and construction was delayed. It was not until 1905 that the large steamer Helsingfors was shipwrecked and her six crewmen were lost that things began to happen. The construction of the lighthouse started immediately the following year on the bare rock of Bengtskär Island.

Construction drawings of the Bengtskär Lighthouse.

Challenges of building the lighthouse

Construction on the difficult to reach islet posed its own challenges. Occasionally, waves swept across almost the entire island, washing away some of the building supplies. Nevertheless, the lighthouse was completed in nine months, which is an outright miracle given the tools and equipment of the time.

The lighthouse tower was 51 metres high, with a four-storey residential wing built alongside it. At the time of its completion, the tower was the tallest lighthouse in the Nordic countries. The light was first lit in 1906 and was visible for about 37 kilometres. There was also a foghorn on the top floor, which was damaged during the Continuation War. It has since been replaced by a round window.

The round window of the Bengtskär Lighthouse.

Life in the bleak outer archipelago

Life on the desolate lighthouse island was limited and this created its own challenges for everyday chores. The lighthouse staff and the foghorn attendant and their families lived on the rocky islet. At most, there may have been almost 40 souls.

Time was spent fishing, as well as hunting seals and birds. When the weather allowed, the 18 kilometre trip was made to the nearest village on the mainland for supplies, by rowing in the summer and skiing or hiking in the winter. Sometimes, however, they may have been isolated for several weeks at a time.

At times, natural conditions were also very trying, as described by Karlsson, the lighthouse master of Bengtskär, in his diary of 1914:

The beginning of winter was particularly stormy. The storm from the southwest on December 6th caused much damage. For example, the sea shattered the blacksmith's workshop and moved the pieces as far as the kerosene cellar. There were even fragments on the terrace surrounding the lighthouse. The water reservoir was almost completely destroyed. The saddest thing, however, was the destruction of our little garden. Only a small part of the top is left. Even the pier was broken even though it was cast in cement.

Even sometimes today storms prevent access to the island by water.

A rowing boat afloat off the Bengtskär Lighhouse.

The lighthouse as a theatre of war

The central location of the lighthouse on an important shipping lane drew it into the wars of the 20th century. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the lighthouse was turned off and the families who lived there were evacuated. Shortly after the evacuation, two German ships bombed the lighthouse, but the building was spared major damage. The families were able to move back to the island again the following year.

At the start of the Winter War in 1939, the lighthouse was evacuated and served only as a guard post and fire control point for the Coast Guard. Although the lighthouse was bombed again, it was not hit.

During the Continuation War, Soviet troops tried to conquer the island and blow up the lighthouse in an action that became known as the Battle of Bengtskär. However, the attack was successfully repelled with the aid of support artillery from the nearby fortress on Örö Island. Nevertheless, the lighthouse suffered severe damage to the stone facade and the holes caused by the bombardment can still be seen today.

The damage caused by the war was repaired by 1950, when the lighthouse was also automated and some of the staff were made redundant. The last lighthouse guard positions were discontinued in 1968. Soon after, the lighthouse building was deserted, and its condition deteriorated rapidly.

An aerial photo of the lighthouse in 1985.

A new era for the lighthouse

The lighthouse, which had been empty for a long time and in very poor condition, was leased to the Turku Centre for Further Education in 1992. The renovation took three years and the lighthouse was rebuilt while respecting its original style.

Soon the lighthouse was opened for tourism and today it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Finland. It is possible to stay at the lighthouse. There is also a restaurant, a museum, a chapel, and a souvenir shop.

The island has many remnants of bygone days. There are many shipwrecks in the reef-infested waters surrounding Bengtskär Island, which you can learn more about in the Cultural environment service window.

Read more from the official lighthouse webpages!

How and why is this location protected?

Bengtskär Lighthouse is Finland's most famous lighthouse and one of the most important maritime heritage sites in the world.

The Finnish Heritage Agency has designated the site as a nationally significant built cultural environment.

Read more about the protection of Bengtskär Island.


Bengtskär Lighthouse is a popular tourist destination during the summer. Transportation to and from the island is organised from Kasnäs, Hanko, and Turku.

You can find more information on the lighthouse's website.

Finnish Heritage Agency's mapservice

N: 6629182, E: 246971 (ETRS-TM35FIN)