An island in Finland is giving travelers the ultimate digital detox by creating the world’s first phone-free tourist zone. If you’re itching for a break from Instagrammable vacation photos or for a way to truly disconnect from checking your work email while traveling, Ulko-Tammio may be the perfect destination for you.
The small island of Ulko-Tammio, located on the Eastern Gulf of Finland, has recently declared itself a ‘phone-free’ zone. Travelers visiting this island in the summer of 2023 will be asked to keep their smart devices in their pockets and disconnect from social media, though the island still has a functioning mobile network.
“The island of Ulko-Tammio, which is located off the coast of Hamina, will be a phone-free area this summer,” says Mats Selin, from the Visit Kotka-Hamina tourism board. “We want to urge holidaymakers to switch off their smart devices and to stop and genuinely enjoy the islands.”
The site, which is part of the Eastern Gulf national park, is uninhabited by people and travelers are able to stay overnight in cabins or tents. The new voluntary guidelines regarding phone use are designed to give visitors the opportunity to focus on nature.
“We encourage visitors to put their phones away voluntarily and to focus their senses on nature rather than on their phones. This is a great initiative that could be implemented in other nature and recreational destinations, too,” stated Joel Heino, manager of outdoor recreation and visitor management at Parks and Wildlife Finland, in a news release.
The destination also provides travelers with plenty of nature-driven activities, such as hiking trails around the rocky shoreline and climbing the bird-watching towers to observe the island’s rare flora and fauna. The island can be reached by a private boat, sea cruises organized by MeriSet, or taking a water taxi from Varissaari (a historic island fortress).
Research has shown that a digital detox can have significant health benefits. For example, a 2022 study found that participants who took a one-week break from social media reported “significant improvements” in sleep quality and overall well-being.
Additionally, a 2019 University of East Anglia study revealed that a ‘digital detox’ holiday increased participants’ feelings of presence and connectedness on their travels. Other research has shown that a 90-minute walk in nature can help reduce negative thoughts and make people feel more connected to the world around them.
“People are not meant to be glued to screens all the time. Even a short digital fast can be useful and improve our well-being and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression,” said Terhi Mustonen, psychologist and Program Manager of the Limitless Gaming and Limitless Social Media programs at the Sosped Foundation, in a statement.