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Experience the Aura River Pilgrimages

Autumn-coloured trees line the Aura River, with Turku Cathedral in the background.

For more than 700 years, Turku Cathedral has watched over the city. It has long been cherished as the most important religious building in the country as well as a precious destination for those on a spiritual journey. Pilgrims travelled far and wide in medieval times to visit the cathedral and today, it is here that the newly created Aura River Pilgrimages begin.

Follow the Aura River

Designed by the City of Turku in partnership with the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, the Aura River Pilgrimages will take you on a journey into the history of Finnish Christianity. There are two routes to choose from: the eight-kilometre Way of Helena or the 35-kilometre Way of Peter. Both will lead you along the Aura River, past medieval churches and ancient remains that shine a light on times long ago.  

As you will discover, the roots of Finnish Christianity stretch far beyond the walls of Turku Cathedral. Your journey will lead to historic places like Koroistenniemi, where the bishop’s see was established in 1229, and Ristimäki hill, where Finland’s oldest known church once stood. The path will even guide you to sacred sites that existed long before Christianity, like Virnamäki hill, where rituals took place way back in the Iron Age. 

An orange and black butterfly resting on a piece of blue wood.
The Aura River Pilgrimages will guide you to sacred sites, rich in history, but it is the journey, not the destination, that makes a pilgrimage truly special. Photo: Katrina Grönholm

A pilgrim’s purpose

The word, pilgrim, comes from the Latin word, peregrinus, meaning a foreigner traveling to a holy place. But the truth is, a pilgrimage is about more than the destination. It is a journey of self-discovery, a way to find peace, perspective, and acceptance within your own heart. In fact, this type of traveling is sometimes likened to a prayer of the body, mind, and spirit. 

A pilgrimage is also an opportunity to connect. Some pilgrims seek a spiritual connection, while others search for harmony with nature. But in any case, as soon as you step on the path, you inevitably make a connection. Whether traveling alone or in a group, you become a link in a long chain that ties together pilgrims, past, present, and future.    

From Spain to Norway, there are pilgrimage routes found right across Europe. Here in Finland, the spirit of pilgrimage is described with seven words: simplicity, quietness, lightheartedness, unhurriedness, spirituality, freedom, and sharing. And, as you wander along the Aura River, perhaps you will find that these words resonate with you.

Turku Cathedral 3
Turku Cathedral is the departure point for the Aura River Pilgrimages. Named for Saint Helena, the patron saint of archaeologists, the Way of Helena is the shorter of the two routes. The Way of Peter is the longer journey, leading to Saint Peter’s Church in Lieto.

Joining the path

Experiencing the Aura River Pilgrimages is simple. You can either walk or cycle, or even canoe part of the longer route. If you are short on time, it is also possible to visit the sites separately. There are services along the way, but the opening hours change from season to season. So, pack plenty of food and water and make sure to plan ahead. 

Before you set out on your pilgrimage, download the Nomadi app here. It will guide you along the route, provide you with historical information, and encourage you to reflect on your journey, just like a true pilgrim. You can also pick up a free printed map from the cathedral, which contains a ‘pilgrimage passport’ that you can stamp at each site along the way. Visit the brand-new pilgrimage centre for more information, and check out this virtual tour for a spectacular birds-eye view of the route.

Sunlight shines through the trees, lighting a path.
In Finland, the spirit of pilgrimage is described with seven words: simplicity, quietness, lightheartedness, unhurriedness, spirituality, freedom, and sharing. Photo: Jyri Aerikkala