The Åland Islands (pronounced "Oh-lahnd") are a small group of island officially belonging to Finland but awarded a wide degree of autonomy by a League of Nations decision in 1921 that settled a long-running dispute between Sweden and Finland. Among other things, Ålanders have their own parliament, publish their own stamps, are exempt from military service and maintain a special tax status in the European Union.
The archipelago consists of around 80 inhabited islands plus around 6000 uninhabited islands, islets and rocks. The total population is only 26,257 (2002), 90% of which lives on the main island Fasta Åland, which includes the capital Mariehamn.
The islands are monolingually Swedish, a point of some contention in otherwise bilingual Finland. English is generally spoken better than Finnish.
Primarily for tax reasons, the ferries plying between Helsinki and Stockholm all stop off at Mariehamn, making this the easiest and cheapest way to get in (although docking happens at inconvenient times in the middle of the night). Mariehamn also has a small airport that serves flights to mainland Finland and Sweden.
A combination of ferry between the islands and a bicycle on the islands themselves is the most popular option.