First snow has fallen in Lapland – this is what Sodankylä looks right now

First snow is always magical. As polar night approaches, there is less and less sunlight every day. One day the sun no longer rises at all. But with only a pinch of snow the whole world gets bright again.

I went to see the first snow to the hills of Sodankylä. My friend came along with her lapponian herder puppy Ruska.

It was a sunny day after weeks and weeks of cloudiness. We climbed to the top of Pittiövaara hill to have a picnic. A raven came to say hello to us. What a beautiful bird.

It was noon and the temperature was a few degrees below freezing. We were wearing lots of warm clothes and also proper hiking shoes – Pittiövaara is a rocky hill, and it is not easy to walk safely on big snowy rocks.

Some parts were too challenging for the puppy. Luckily she still fits in a backpack.

We chose a sunny spot to stop and have a coffee. It was a little gorge on the top of the hill, so the rocks gave us shelter from the cold wind. It was spectacular. In the horizon we could see the silhouettes of Pyhätunturi and Luosto – the Pyhä-Luosto national park.

The trip took us a few hours. I can not imagine a better way to spend a sunny Sunday in Lapland.

I’m so happy it’s snowy again. Welcome winter!

Koli national park is one of the most mythical places in all of Finland

The Mighty Koli has been regarded as a sacred area in which the mighty spirits lived. As the area was feared for its powerful spirits, it was inhabited only in the mid 18th century, almost two hundred years later than the surrounding areas. The landscapes in the area are unmatched and thus impressed upon numerous hikers. The Tourist attraction of the area aroused in the late 19th century. It seems that the tradition where a coin will be dropped into an ancient sacrificial crack was also originated around that time.

On the slopes of Koli you will find the longest valley in Finland, ten other famous caves, waterfalls, devils, boulders and a ridge running in the lake of Pielinen, which is visible on the northern side of the lake in form of line of beautiful narrow islands. So, theretrail‘s sights and adventures for a long time.

Arrival and stay

In order to enjoy the best Koli has to offer, you should book a cottage. There is nothing better than relax on a soft bed after full day of adventures.

Find and book your cabin from Koli >>

The closest Bus stop locates in 9 km from Koli. However, it is easy to get to Koli with your own car or by carpooling.

First time at Koli?

For the first time visitors an absolute must-see is the iconic scenery from the top of Ukko-Koli. It is only 0.8 km hike to the top, and the nearby observation deck can also be accessed with the prams. However, Koli National Park offers a lot more. You can hike the Herajärvi Round, which is 30 or 60 kilometers depending on your preferences. The National Park is full of trail options for both in summer and winter.

  • Route to Ukko- and Akka-Koli both takes only 0.8km in one direction. Both trails starts from the Nature Center are partially accessible with prams.
  • Paha-Koli 1.2km in one direction
  • Top tour is a 1.4km long circle trail. An easy-going classical trail in Koli’s most iconic scenery. Starts from the Visitor Center.
  • Kolinuurros is 3.5 km long circle trail. A Demanding but a spectacular trail with high altitudes.

Explore Koli in winter

  • Trail of the Koli peaks are 3 and 7 km circle ski trails in winter scenery.
  • Snow-Shoeing: The snowshoe route of the highest point, 1.5 km, runs with the peaks of Ukko, Akka and Paha-Koli.
  • Walk: Trail to the top of Ukko-Koli is 400m and starts from the radiotower
  • Ski: Koli’s ski slopes are located near high peaks. Along with the slopes there are plenty of services for the traveler.
  • Snow mobile: The snowmobile route passes through Koli village to Pielinen, which continues to the Juuka, Nurmes, Lieksa and Joensuu. In the national park, snowmobiling is prohibited, including in the islands of the park.

Read more about Koli in English here.

The healing power of forests

Those suffering from noise and stress can find an escape in forests. It is proven that sylvan nature reduces stress and blood pressure. Finland offers an excellent opportunity for a change in lifestyle, and its path leads to the forest.

Only five per cent of Finland’s surface area is built. More than 70% of the surface area is forest and 10% water systems. No wonder that enjoying nature is great on a global scale in Finland: more than half of Finns visit summer houses regularly.

As much as 70% of the inhabitants of northern Finland annually visit the nation’s forests to trek or pick berries or mushrooms.

In principle, every Finn has access to a silent forest and a strip of shore where one can be in peace. Foreigners too have noticed this. Tourists seek a counterbalance to their everyday life in Finnish nature destinations. They want peace, quiet and opportunities for nature and aesthetic experiences.

This is difficult in the built urban environment. For example, as much as 75% of Europeans live in an urban environment. Tourists value original nature, clean environment and local culture.

“Aesthetic experiences and the relaxing effect of a green environment lift your mood and help recover from stress,” claims Professor Liisa Tyrväinen of Natural Resources Institute Finland.

Dr. Liisa Tyrväinen has long studied the significance of forests as a producer of well-being. Forests have a great effect on people as a mental, cultural and experiential environment.

Air pollution and exposure to noise, in this order, are the biggest environmental problems for human health according to WHO, the World Health Organisation.

Insufficient recovery from stress raises the blood pressure and increases the risk of diabetes.

Ms. Tyrväinen emphasises that particularly nature areas must be seen as a resource of health care for city dwellers. According to many studies, forests promote both physical and mental well-being.

Large nature areas muffle noise and improve air quality by removing dust and other impurities and by binding ozone and monoxide gases.

It is also proven that an outing in nature and just being there lift the mood. Forests have a great therapeutic significance.

On the basis of studies, one can influence one’s state of health by being and moving in a nature environment. Especially in one’s favourite spot in nature, it is possible to regulate one’s condition towards promoting health.

“According to studies, people experience stronger recovery from stress on pleasant exercise routes often situated in the forest and in larger outdoor exercise areas than in the street and outdoor spaces of city centres mentioned as favourite places.”

Blood pressure falls and  the organs recover in the forest

Tyrväinen’s research group has results measured with heart rate monitors and blood pressure meters on how quickly a nature environment and particularly the forest help recovery from stress.

The measurements and surveys were made with a test group of almost a hundred persons.

“The health benefits of a green environment are evident.

A stressed person recovers quickly in nature. Recovery in a green zone is apparent after just 15 minutes!”

“The results of joint studies made with the Japanese are indisputable. When people were taken into the forest, a decrease in blood pressure and pulse, a reduction in muscular tension and an increase in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system were observed in the measurement results.”

The parasympathetic nervous system is most active in rest. From the effect of a parasympathetic impulse, the heart rate slows down and respiratory frequency is reduced. Being in the forest has a similar effect on the organs as yoga or meditation. The Finnish forest is a retreat.

People felt more vigorous and even more creative after being in the forest. Liisa Tyrväinen emphasises the aesthetics of nature. Stress is particularly removed by the experience of nature, an unbuilt, beautiful scenery and silence.

Liisa Tyrväinen recommends consciously combining nature experiences and moving in nature with a holiday trip.

It helps recovery from the strains of everyday life. “One nature trip is not enough to heal, but it can be an impetus for a change in lifestyle.”

A nature trip to the Finnish forest offers a holistic health package. It includes multisensory nature experiences, a clean and beautiful environment, outings in nature, accommodation and sauna close to nature, silence and healthy forest products, such as berries, mushrooms, wild vegetables and game.

Article by Visit Finland / Ari Turunen

The largest nationalpark of Finland – Lemmenjoki

In Lemmenjoki national park you can experience the true northern wilderness. One of the biggest wilderness areas in Europe takes place in the municipality of Inari in Lapland, right next to the Norwegian border.

The name Lemmenjoki means “River of Love”. You can start the trip by going to Njurgulahti village where you can get boat rides or rent a canoe.

We went to the river for three days with our canoe to enjoy the autumn foliage of Lapland. Timing was perfect and the colors were unimaginable.

Bog billberrys colored the riverside with red and purple, and the birches took their final breath before the great winter and painted their leaves with yellow and orange.

The fells turned to red and almost golden from mountain bearberry and other shrubs.

The river flows calmly and patiently in here, where time seems to stop.

No matter in which direction you go, there is only true wilderness.

One of the greatest places in the world.

Wild berries of the north are real superfood

The long summer days and cool temperature increase the aromaticity and pigments of wild berries. The unique aroma and the colours are produced by flavonoids and other polyphenols. The antioxidising efficiency of berries is greater than that of other plants.

Photo: Visit Finland/Asko Kuittinen

Over 40 edible berries grow in Finnish forests. Due to the arctic growing conditions, they contain exceptionally many bioactive compounds, i.e. vitamins and polyphenols.

Free oxygen radicals causing oxidation make holes in cell walls. Foodstuffs containing plenty of antioxidants prevent the involution of the organism.

The antioxidants are vitamins C and E, beta-carotene (vitamin A), selenium, zinc, carnosine and ubiquinone. In addition to these, there are many polyphenolic compounds with similar characteristics protective of the organism. There are a lot of them particularly in wild berries, which grow in the north.

IN 2012, the NDL (Nutrient Data Laboratory) laboratory, researching the nutritional data of the United States, removed the popular ORAC database, dealing with the antioxidant contents of foodstuffs, from its web pages.

The reason was that the health effect of polyphenols could not be accounted for in the data collected into the database.

Polyphenols are metabolic products and protective agents of plants whose effect is similar to that of antioxidants. Polyphenols protect plants from diseases and the sun’s rays. Wild berries growing in Finland have many protective compounds which also benefit humans.

– Finnish berries and the products manufactured from them have great opportunities as health products. Northern wild berries have been proven to be healthy, and they have been observed to have numerous health effects. A real superfood is a berry smoothie made of wild berries, sweetened with honey, for example, says research director, Dr. Carina Tikkanen-Kaukanen of Ruralia Institute of the University of Helsinki.

According to Dr. Tikkanen-Kaukanen, the real benefits of the Finnish wild berry are, in addition to its northern location, clean soil and clean air. The organic berries intended for export are obtained from Finnish certified organic forests.

Tikkanen-Kaukanen has long studied the health effects of wild berries. She is particularly interested in the anti-infective properties of berries.

The health effects of American cranberry have been known for a long time. It was scientifically proven in the 1990s that the proanthocyanidins of American cranberry can prevent the adhesion of coliform bacterium to the walls of urinary tracts.

– Now there is interest in Asia and particularly in China in the berries of northern Europe, such as bilberry.

Photo: Visit Finland/Kiki Kolembet

Berries prevent infections

According to Tikkanen-Kaukanen, particularly the clean wild berries of northern forests have properties which prevent bacterial infections. Researchers regard the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics as a phenomenon as serious as climate change, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it concerns every person all over the world.

– An additional problem is that not all have access to effective antibiotics. Annually over a million children die from untreated pneumonia and blood poisoning caused by the pneumococcus bacterium.

The phenolic compounds contained by berries can prevent the adhesion of several different bacteria to the organs.

They repel effectively, for example, the pneumococcus bacterium which causes the most common respiratory infections as well as preventing infection by the meningococcus bacterium which causes meningitis. The polyphenols of bilberry, blackcurrant, crowberry and lingonberry (anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and flavonols) block the bacteria of the mouth and prevent the formation of caries and plaque in teeth.

– Now it is important to find new ways to fight infectious diseases. Ingesting berries as such or as products prepared from them, such as berry juice, is an effective way to prevent infections.

Tikkanen-Kaukanen’s research team tries to discover by means of clinical research whether the occurrence of nasal-pharyngeal infections can be reduced by means of berry juices.

The research team obtained the best results specifically with berry juices.

Photo: Visit Finland

Article by Visit Finland / Ari Turunen

Attract on a Walk or Bike Tour Along Vantaanjoki

Helsinki is full of small gems for short getaways on foot or by bike. One of them is a walk or a bicycle route along Vantaanjoki river that takes you from the oldest of Helsinki to the newest one. Along the way there is plenty; fast rapid and a calm riverside, fields and urban gardening sites, and silence of the woods.
Helsinki was established already in 1550 by the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid, where the Vantaanjoki (river Vantaa) meets the sea. The centre has later moved to where it is today, but the area still carries its historical charm in the middle of the new residential areas growing on both sides of the river and the Arabianranta arts and design district. From the last stop of the trams 6 and 8, there is only a stone’s throw to the path that takes you along the bayside to the pedestrian bridge nearby the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid. On a lazy day, the time goes by watching the rapid, the beautiful bay view and locals trying their luck fishing. A stroll along the wooden path takes you to Lammassaari through a small jungle of sea reed. A small island with tiny summer cottages during the summer season is a peaceful hideaway and walkabout during autumn and winter.

On a more active day, take a bike or put your best walking shoes on and save some time. From the rapid, a pedestrian path takes you north towards the direction of Vantaa and Kerava. The path goes on most parts on both side of the river, with small detours to the residential areas of Käpylä, Veräjälaakso and Tapaninvainio among others.

The next pit stop along the path from the Vanhakaupunki is Pikkukoski, a small public beach hiding within Veräjälaakso residential blocks, resting in a small, quiet valley by the Pirunkallio (‘devil’s rock’). In the summer time, Pikkukoski (‘small rapid’) is a small public beach to swim in the Vantaanjoki river. It gathers local residents to picnic, swim, rest in the sun, play basketball or just stop, enjoy and stretch your legs for a while. The Pirunkallio cliffs by the river create an illusion of being much further away in the woods than you actually are. The cranes of the very new Viikinmäki residential area in the background do however remind you of the rapidly growing Helsinki around us.

In the winter time, Pikkukoski transforms into a small, hidden winter activity corner. The steep Pirunkallio cliff offers a rare opportunity in Helsinki to try out ice climbing, if the winter conditions are favourable in the Helsinki latitude for the ice to form – and stay for few months. Pikkukoski offers also an opportunity to try the winter swimming, if you are brave enough.

The pump keeps the hole in the river open throughout the year and dipping into the icy water is easy thanks to the path and stairs installed for the winter swimmers. The small change cubicle on the beach gives a little shelter for changing clothes. If you don’t dare to try the icy bath with all the health benefits, it is a funny marriage to watch: few evenings a week the climbers in their full gore-tex gear and winter swimmers only in their bathing suits share happily the same small lot. During the snowy season, ski tracks are also available in the area.

Continuing towards upstream, the forest view changes to the fields and parks of Tapaninvainio and Tuomarinkylän Kartano Mansion. The path takes you through the area where urban gardeners nurture their small lots in the summer time. You can also hire canoes in the area for further exploration of the river.

The old farm and mansion Tuomarinkylän Kartano mansion and farm area makes a nice stop as it is in the middle of the oldest park in Helsinki. It also offers a place for a lunch or coffee if you forgot to take lunch with you. Depending how much time you have, you can continue towards Vantaa, even Kerava along the river side, but the bridges across the river make it easy to decide to change direction.

Overall, the route along the river is a nice ride, with bike you can explore more during the day. As the path goes along the riverside, it is mostly an easy ride, too. Map or GPS is a nice companion if you are not familiar with the neighbourhood, as the route does take you every now and then off the riverside.
How to get there:

Take a tram to the final stop of 6 or 8 to Arabianranta, and start the walk along the seaside of Arabianranta. Buses 68 and 71 take you directly to the rapid, in the end of Hämeentie. Local trains to Oulunkylä take you directly close to Pikkukoski. There are also several buses directly to Tuomarinkylän kartano direction.

Text: Siru Nori
Photos: Antti Huttunen