Tankar grew from a fishing village into an island with a lighthouse and a pilot station

In the outer archipelago of the Bay of Bothnia lies the barren islet of Tankar, located about 15 kilometres from Kokkola Harbour. Tankar Island is an old landmark for shipping. As early as the 16th century, the island was inhabited by fishermen and seal hunters who created a small village on the eastern shore of the island.

At its peak, up to 100 fishermen and their families could live on the island during the summer. They are said to have maintained the light in one of the island's houses so that fishermen on the open sea could return home after dark.

In 1754, the fishermen built a small church in the village, which is still there today. Pilotage also began on the island in the 18th century when a pilothouse and the first nautical mark were built in the village. There were four pilots on the island controlling the passing traffic at this time.

Fishermen drying their nets on the drying racks on Tankar Island in 1895.

A lighthouse was needed on Tankar Island

As shipping increased in the Bay of Bothnia in the 19th century, the need for a lighthouse on Tankar Island was recognised. Constructed from metal parts, the red and white lighthouse was built in 1889.

The Tankar Lighthouse is almost 30 metres tall. The interior has only an open spiral staircase and the light equipment. Initially, the light’s carrying distance was 13 nautical miles, or about 25 kilometres.

When the lighthouse was electrified in the 1970s, the light carried up to 50 kilometres out to sea. Shortly after electrification, the lighthouse was automated. The lighthouse guards were no longer needed, and all of their posts were terminated. Life on this idyllic island fell silent.

The lighthouse island of Tankar at the end of the 19th century.

An old lighthouse island becomes a tourist attraction

Tankar has been a popular excursion destination since the 1900s. The well-kept lighthouse is still in operation and visitors can admire the spectacular views of the Bothnian Bay from its tower.

A feeling for the lighthouse keeper's life on the island is given by the old buildings to the east of the lighthouse, which form a closed courtyard. Set slightly apart from this yard is the pilot station. There are other buildings on the island, such as a foghorn signalling station, as well as a newer pilot station from 1975. The buildings on the island have been renovated for tourism.

The island's general appearance is reflected in the rugged, rocky landscape dotted here and there with trees and bushes. Among these are a bunch of small cabins of various ages, piers, and other buildings related to the living environment of the archipelago.

The is plenty to see on the island, including the seal hunting museum and the old 18th-century chapel. The island's marine nature can be explored along a guided nature trail. There is also a bird observatory on the island. All of these features are crowned by the vastness of the surrounding sea.

There are many shipwrecks in the rocky waters surrounding Tankar Island. You can learn more about these in the cultural environment service window.

Read more about the lighthouse island of Tankar! 
View from the top of the lighthouse.

How and why is this location protected?

The Tankar Lighthouse community is one of the best-preserved shipping societies in Finland. The island as a whole, forms a diverse, temporally stratified, and well-preserved entity.

The Finnish Heritage Agency has defined the area as a nationally significant built cultural environment. Read more on this topic in the Agency's register.

Tankar Island also belongs to the Luoto Archipelago Natura 2000 nature protection area. A landscape management plan has been drawn up for the island. The island’s nature, as well as the bird-nesting season should be respected. 


Visitors can reach Tankar Island via a waterbus connection, which leaves from the “Meripuisto” marine park in Kokkola. You can also visit the island with your own boat.

Today, there is also accommodation, as well as restaurant services on the island during the summer.

Finnish Heritage Agency's mapservice

N: 7098075, E: 296584 (ETRS-TM35FIN)