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As the less than 30, inhabitants speak Swedish , the province's Finnish name Ahvenanmaa is rarely used. Most municipalities consist of an island group and surrounding archipelago, though a couple are on the "main island" which in fact consists of a few islands, separated by narrow sounds and connected by bridges. Finland assumed the same obligation upon achieving independence. The archipelago consists of around 80 inhabited islands plus around 6, uninhabited islands, islets and rocks. In local documents "the archipelago" does not include the main island.
Use care when planning activities or relying on community services. Outside Mariehamn the communities are tiny; what looks like a town on the map may be a village of only a few buildings at a cross roads! In winter many guesthouses, cottage villages and sights such as Pommern and Kastelholm are closed. There is not much snow; opportunities for winter sports are limited. Around the turn of the century, when the rest of the world was converting to steam, many shipowners made bargains, buying good sailing ships for scrap prices.
The last and most well-known, Gustaf Erikson, owned most ocean going sailing ships left in the s. When the age of sail definitively was over, there were several shipowner companies, some of which still remain. The islands are monolingually Swedish , a point of some contention in otherwise bilingual or, in practice, frequently Finnish monolingual Finland.
English is very widely spoken, even by many elderly people, and would be the primary choice if you can't speak Swedish or something closely related to it. Signs are sometimes bilingual in Swedish and English or Swedish and Finnish, but English or even rudimentary Swedish usually make a better start than Finnish.
If your Swedish and English are weak and Finnish seems a good choice, start with Swedish anyway and let the local make the choice about changing languages. There are no border controls on the islands for most visitors. Ships and yachts arriving from outside Schengen can still take care of their border controls in Mariehamn check procedures.