THREE ISLANDS, TWO NATURE TRAILS AND  A LILY POND: EKENÄS ARCHIPELAGO NATIONAL PARK IS PARADISE FOR PADDLERS

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mia Sinisalo

➡ Paddling distance 20km
🔥 2 Campfire spots: Fladalandet ja Modermagan
ℹ Area information
ℹ Ekenäs Archipelago National Park
📌 Departure point on the map

Everyone I know has some kind of a ‘soul landscape’ – a landscape in which they feel they truly belong. I know people who feel at their most alive in mountains. I know many, who feel most at peace resting on a green bed of moss or wandering in the woods. My heart beats stronger and steadier than ever when I’m in the archipelago of the Baltic Sea.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park includes lush coastal inner archipelago as well as more rocky and exposed outer archipelago right up to Jussarö lighthouse. Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is a great paddling location. There’s enough to explore for a multi-day trip, but if you’re pushed for time, a lot can be packed into two days. My friend and I decided on a two day route that took us around three islands.

Planning a three island tour

If you’ve completed a paddling course and want to try sea kayaking for the first time, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is the perfect place to start. Our three island tour is relatively easy to navigate with a sheltered route but all the atmosphere of sea kayaking – the feeling of distance, wind and waves. If for any reason you need to suddenly get to shore, land is never far away.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park’s 52 square kilometres is made up of many islands, big and small. We chose the inner coastal islands of Älgö, Fladalandet and Mordemagan, which provided the most sheltered route, as well as services to make camp life easier, such as dry toilets and designated campfire and tent sites. Another thing that helped make up our minds was access to marked nature trails, so that we could go stretch our kayak-cramped legs. A map of the overall area is available for download Metsähallitus’s Outdoor.fi page.

A strong and experienced paddler could complete our three island tour in one day – the route’s length is around 20 kilometres with 4-6 hrs of total paddling time, depending on paddling speed and wind. However, we wanted to paddle at a relaxed pace, spend the night in the national park and enjoy peaceful island life, so a two day trip suited our needs better.

Before heading out to sea, we went to the national park’s nature centre, which is next to the guest harbour, to absorb some of the archipelago vibe. The exhibition, which tells you about archipelago life and nature as well as protection of the Baltic sea, is primarily designed for children, but there is plenty for adults to learn too. Near the entrance you can pick up a more general map of the national park, which we took along as a spare.

A good departure point for a kayaking trip is Sommarö Stranden, which is actually 13km from Tammisaari. There’s a restaurant and a small shop, if you want to have something to eat before heading out or have a last minute panic about having packed enough food. There’s a small stretch of beach, as well as a concrete slope, from which kajaks are easy to launch into the water and you can leave your car at the guest harbour.

The three island tour can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise. Check the weather forecast and wind direction before choosing which way to go. Even though the route follows a sheltered route between islands, the wind can still have considerable impact on your paddling. And if you want to sway in a hammock at night, make sure you check which islands have trees and which side they’re on!

Älgö’s Nature Trail and Rödjan’s fishing hut

From Sommarö Stranden we decided to paddle around Älgö island anti-clockwise, aiming for Rödjan fisherman’s hut and the starting point for the nature trail. We were accompanied by an easterly wind and the island sheltered us for the first part. After paddling for an hour, we stopped, carried the kayaks onto the rocks, had something to eat and drink and went for a swim.

We navigated with the help of a marine map and an app on our phones. My friend had the nature centre’s free area map, which is not detailed enough for navigation on its own, but is helpful if you want a quick overview of where you are in relation to the rest of the national park. Mostly we followed the coast of Älgö, but after the stretch of water marked as Mörnsfärd on the island’s north west side, it makes more sense to go around the west sides of Heimosholmen and Halsholmen.

Even though the coastal inner archipelago is mostly sheltered and relatively safe, remember that you’re still at the mercy of the sea and the elements. The weather and direction of the wind can change suddenly and visibility can drop to nothing. This is all worth keeping in mind even on an easy, relaxed paddling trip. Make sure you always know where you are on the map. The route crosses a few boat channels, so be aware and careful of fast-moving boats and the waves that they create.

After about 2,5 hours of paddling, we reached Rödjan. The journey was about 10 km. By the time we arrived, we were already hungry and also quite tired. At the guest harbour there were a couple of beautiful wooden sailing boats and a larger motorboat at the fisherman’s hut. There were a couple of places for kayaks on the right hand side of the fishing hut, on the beach in the nook of the rocks. After we had already spread out our picnic, we realised that we had picked a bad spot, right in the middle of the nature trail’s starting point!

In the postbox at the beginning of the trail, there’s an interesting information pamphlet that tells you about the island’s history, which you can borrow while you walk. For thousands of years, Älgö lay under continental ice, and then water until the land rose. Seals have lounged about on the low outer islands, which have over time become Älgö’s high rocks.

Älgö’s nature trail has a lot of steep climbs and descents. Along the route you can see many bays which become overgrown, different forest types and Älgö’s inner lake. Only half a kilometre along from the starting point is the observation tower, with a view that stretches out across the national park.

After an hour we arrived back at Rödjan’s fisherman’s hut and thought about whether we should continue to the next island. But the evening was drawing in and the idea of getting into our hammocks felt much more appealing than that of paddling. We found the official camping spot on the left of the guest harbour (looking out to sea). The rays of the evening sun danced on the ferns on the leaves, and water lapped on the rocks. This spot had good places for tents as well as perfect trees for hammocks, so the decision was made quickly. We moved the kayaks to a different beach, hung our hammocks in the trees and had strawberries and cream for our evening snack.

Out into the open via Fladalandet bay and fascinating coves

We enjoyed our breakfast in the sun on the rocks, about 50 metres west of our camping spot. After packing our kayaks, we navigated towards Fladalandet, which was just under an hour’s paddling away.

Even though we didn’t go ashore, it’s definitely worth paddling around Fladalandet! On the northern edge is a natural harbour and lots of narrow bays and coves that go deep into the island which can only be reached by kayak or paddleboard. I recommend going to explore each one, for they are all different and interesting in their own way. In windy weather, Fladalandet’s bays provide many sheltered places to come ashore.

On Fladalandet’s south side, is open sea. If you have time and the weather allows, then it’s worth taking a detour to the outer archipelago, for example via Stora Björkskar. But do check which islands you can land on during the summer on the national park’s general map . Many islands are protected due to nesting birds from 1.4-31.7. If you have experience paddling in the open sea, then reserve an extra day and paddle to Jussarö lighthouse island.

A surprise find on Modermagan

During our trip we stayed in the inner archipelago, and after Fladalandet our third island destination was Modermagan. It only takes about half an hour to paddle between the two islands, which we did easily in a light wind. Over the boat channel we paddled a bit faster. There was a lot of boat traffic around midday on the summer’s day. Being so close to the water’s surface, a kayak can’t necessarily be seen from a fast-moving motor boat, so paddlers need to take responsibility for themselves and be aware of boats.

On the southern side of Modermagan, a bay opens out from the inside of the island, into which we paddled. We got some advice on where to shore from a couple of paddlers coming towards us from the opposite direction. At the base of the bay, behind the last reed bed is a shallow beach, which is hidden by the reeds. If you keep paddling along edge of the rocks nearest the reeds, you will find a place to come ashore.

The bay has sheltered places for boats, and even the tent spots are out of the wind. There’s a nice atmosphere on Modermagan. It’s a laid-back holiday island, where you can stay and swim and enjoy camp life for a second day if you wish. We headed out onto the nature trail, which amused us with its signposts. I don’t know who writes and illustrates these, but thank you wherever you are. The sign about mosquito’s paradise made us laugh.

Both Modermagan’s and Älgö’s nature trails are easy to follow. The Rödjan trail on Älgö is marked with blue pinecone shields and Modermagan’s with white wooden posts. Both trails are quite hilly and demand good basic fitness as well as healthy feet.

Just as we thought that Modermagan’s nature trail had ended, a pond appeared in front of us. I’ve never seen so many waterlilies. Archipelago nature is usually quite rocky and bare, so this lily pond stuck out by contrast. It was as if in a fairytale. The only thing missing was a frog prince looking for his princess. You can also swim in the pond, something that we tried and tested.

We went back to our kayaks, had a light meal and exchanged greetings with some boaters. Afterwards we paddled back along Älgö’s east side. In calm, favourable conditions, the journey should only take an hour and a half.

Our car was waiting for us at Sommarö Stranden. We emptied our kayaks and lifted them onto the roof of the car. With our souls feeling so fully restored and recharged, it felt like in only two days we had experienced two weeks of summer and archipelago.

Translation: Becky Hastings

Taking in the nature in Pyhä-Luosto national park: Rykimäkero trail

➡️ Rykimäkero trail 12–14 km
🕒 3–4 Hours
🔥 4
📌
⚫⚪⚪ Easy route

In my mind the best way to spend a free afternoon is to go outside and enjoy the nature, so this is what I decided to do on a beautiful sunny day. I packed my stuff, prepared my dogs to go on another adventure and headed to the national park of Pyhä-Luosto.

We started at the Rykimäkero parking area and from here we followed the Rykimäkero trail (more information about the trail and how to get there can be found below).

On the trail there is located an amethist mine. If you are planning to bringing it a visit, this trail is a perfect way to get there. But remember to check their website for the opening hours before you make your way there!

By following the trail you will come across different kinds of paths and parts of the forest. One moment your are making your way through the swamp on some duckboards, and the next you are following a dirt road between the trees. But this is what makes the trail so special: the changing scenery makes you experience the different aspect of nature that Lapland has to offer.

During the hike my dogs suddenly got restless. They started sniffing every little leaf and rock that crossed their path, hoping that it will give away the location of the thing that leaves behind a certain scent that they had picked up on. It only took a couple of meters until a reindeer decided to pop out from between the trees. It happens quite often that we come across these beautiful animals during a hike. Sadly, my huskies don’t have the best intentions when meeting these creatures, so we had to move on pretty quickly.

Along the trail there are a lot of shelter places where you can make a fire, enjoy some lunch or just take a little break. Just remember to leave everything the way you found it, without any waste or damage, so we can enjoy these shelters for many years to come!

During one of our breaks a couple of siberian jays decided to give us a little show. They flew from tree to tree and made it look like they were dancing in the sky. Sadly I didn’t have the right equipment to get this photographed. But if you are lucky and quiet, you might experience this as well during your visit!

During my hike there were a lot of ripe bilberries and cloudberries at the side of the trail, so we decided to pick some as a snack and to bring home. My huskies think of the bilberries as nature’s free dogtreat, which makes it a little harder to actually have any berries left to bring home.

Close to the end of our hike we came across the gorge of Rykimäkero. This gorge originated when the rockbed started to tear. It’s a beautiful place to sit down and take some time to admire the power of nature. There is also a shelter, named Rykimäkuru, next to the gorge.

After this our hike came to an end. We were all satisfied by the things we had seen and experienced and can’t wait for the fall colors to start showing. Then we will follow the same trail once again and enjoy the beauty that autumn season gives us.

More information about the Rykimäkero trail and how to get there can be found here >>

I like to use this pdf-map to find my way through the national park. All the shelters and rest places can also be found on this map.

Catching the end of the midnight sun in Pyhä-Luosto national park

➡ +/- 5 km
🔥 1 campfire site
📌 Location on the map
⚫⚫⚪ Moderate

If you visit Lapland in summer you can’t get around it, the midnight sun! It’s an amazing natural phenomenon above the arctic circle that brings us daylight for 24 hours a day during a big part of summer. This is because the sun doesn’t set for a couple of days or weeks (depending on your location).

It’s really special to experience the midnight sun for the first time, my first time wasn’t that long ago! You feel revived and full of energy, especially after the dark and cold winters we have here in Lapland.

Even though the midnight sun is really special, it’s also a special time when the sun will set again, so I decided to take a look at it from the mountains in Pyhä-Luosto national park.

I know my way around the area and the trails and decide to take my favourite hike up the hill, following the Luosto nature Hiking trail ( more information below).

The beginning of the trail isn’t that scenic but after about 10 minutes the views are only getting better by every step you take. The trail can be quite steep and rocky but it’s totally worth it once you see the view.

During the hike I could just hear the paws of my dogs making their way through the bushes and over the stones just making their way to the top with me, not knowing what was waiting for them.

Once me and my dogs arrived at the top we took some time to rest, get some treats and enjoy the view and sounds of nature while waiting for the sun to set.

Once the sun had set we made our way back down through the same trail that brought us to the top while keeping the beautiful views in our minds. And realizing that winter is just around the corner again. Then we can enjoy the beautiful Northern lights at the exact same spot.

 

Information about the national park, how to get there and the trail can be found here.

I personally use this map! The trail I followed (until the top is reached) is called Luosto nature Hiking trail 18km, green colour.

 

 

 

Strömfors – Playground for Outdoor Lovers near Helsinki

Fancy paddling, supping, biking, climbing or yoga whilst enjoying old culture and nature? If you’re spending holidays near Helsinki, this is your place.

Only one hour drive from Helsinki, towards east, along the coast. After passing Loviisa you come across signs pointing to “Strömforsin ruukki“. Follow the signs and you end up to the most picturesque village, a true hidden gem that not even many Finns know about. It is like taking a time warp back to olden days. A time warp with all modern outdoor equipments you can dream of.

Strömfors is an idyllic old village. Perfect destination if you want culture, sights, nature and sports in one place. Photo: Kukka Kyrö

Photo: Joonas Talka

The cute little village of Strömfors is an old iron mill. Nowadays there is a hotel, cafes, artisan shops… and Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Kayaking in the jungle

Strömfors has a variety of activities to offer with local guides. I personally recommend kayaking. The area is very unique, located in the delta of river Kymi (“Kymijoki”). There are many river branches to paddle. No roads, no houses, just water and bushy forest banks, teeming with all sorts of creatures. As a nature lover, I was in heaven! Rarely I get that WOW feeling so effortlessly and close to settlement, not having to drive hundreds of kilometres to reach the wilderness.

Photo: Kukka Kyrö

The islands are in fact nature reserves, hence there are no summer cottages on the banks as one would expect to see in southern Finland. We even saw an otter, normally a very shy animal to spot in the summertime. Also the delta next to Strömfors is fantastic for birding.

The roundtrip ends with a narrow jungle route.

You can paddle a short half an hour route around the islands closest to the iron mill, or take a longer 10 km round route to truly get the feeling of the surroundings, as I did. There is one point of extra physical work on the longer round route though – you need to carry the kayak over a dam.

Play with your favourite toys

The Strömfors area is known among climbers for some good rock walls. For the fans of trail running, there are nice trails, shorter and longer routes. You can also try fat biking here, but the longer routes are only for experienced bikers. All equipment and guidance you get from Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Supping is one of the many activities you can try. These guys woke up at dawn to go for a paddle. Photo: Noora Säily.

After a hard days’ play, try some relaxing yoga and sauna – you will sleep like a baby in the old clay building from the 1800’s.

The Outdoor Factory yoga room is very zen. Soft, mindful yoga is taught here. Beginner friendly and relaxation guaranteed. Kuva: Karoliina Kaski.

Read more

Strömfors Outdoor Factory homepage

Must see! The Secret Jewel in the Crown of Helsinki – Rhododendron Park of Haaga

If you are in Helsinki in the beginning of June, you really need to go to Haaga. Or if we are honest, it is worth to come and watch from a distance.  Rhododendron park of Haaga is just unbelievable.

I still remember when I found this place for the first time. When approaching the park I felt a pleasant scent that kept intensifying with each step.  When I was in the park, I thought: “People do not believe that in Finland we could have such parks”.

I closed my eyes and opened them again. It was like another world. I do not remember ever seeing anything like it. The place was filled by so much beauty that I was overwhelmed. In every direction my eyes could see huge rhododendron bushes blooming all at the same time.

The park was built when the University of Helsinki plant breeding science department crossed rhododendron varieties in the 1970s.  Now the place is a secret jewel in the crown of Helsinki. The park is also internationally unique. As many as eight acres of the area has nowadays nearly 3,000 rhododendron species. Beside rhododendrons, there are a whole bunch of azaleas in the park. Most of the bushes is 2–5 meters high.

You really need to see this park. Pictures show just a small part of the beauty when coniferous forest greenery is painted with new purple, white and pink shades.

If you want to experience all this, you need to have a perfect timing. Rhododendrons bloom for a short time, usually in the first two weeks of June.

You can on a criss-crossing the park paths and boardwalks through the rhohos and have a close view. The park also has viewing platforms from which you can admire the floral splendor also from above.

What?
Astonishingly wonderful 8 hectare park full of rhododendrons

When?

Usually the best time is two first weeks of June

Where?
Laajasuontie 37. 200 meters from Huopalahti station between the roads Paatsamatie and Eliel Saarisen tie.

Some summer moments

So as some of you might know, I absolutely love being near Finnish lakes. I ended up spending a lot of time this summer in the Finnish nature, particularly in Joensuu. Since I live close to the nature there, it’s really easy to just get on my bike and cycle to the lake or forest.

I also started making some videos this summer about exploring Finnish nature and practicing my photography (you can find them on www.jasontiilikainen.com). Anyways, here are some of the photos that I took this summer.

Pictured above is a small, lonely island soaking in the last bit of sunlight for the day. I went exploring on a few different islands this summer, and this lovely scene really caught my attention.

​Above​ is a shot that I took after rushing around on a lake by boat, trying to find the perfect place before the sunset. I managed to find this really nice place. I then waited for sunset and took the shot.​

In the picture above, I was exploring the shore of a lake in Joensuu. I found this nice little piece of driftwood just sitting around. I moved it slightly so that it would compliment the composition that I wanted, and then I took the shot just after the sun went down behind the horizon.

Above is a photo that I took in the forest. It was still about an hour or two before sunset, so I got some lovely sunlight coming into the forest from behind the trees. I love how green it gets here in Finland. Everything always looks so fresh and alive. The forest also has a really nice relaxing smell to it.

This sky in the above picture was amazing to behold. Being there and seeing this dreamy pink/purple colour in the clouds just felt completely out of this world. It was also really windy, and the clouds were moving really fast, giving it even more of a dramatic effect. Moments like these don’t happen every day in Finland, but when they do, they are amazing to witness.

Sometimes its difficult to concentrate on taking photos when you have mesmerising moments like this one shown in the picture above. The weather was at first incredibly cloudy, almost overcast, but after a while the clouds started to break apart. After breaking apart, I was left with a sky that truly amazed me. The formations and shapes in the clouds really complimented the simplicity of the foreground.

Pictured above is me standing on a rock at the end of the day. I had just finished doing my photography, and thought I’d take this picture just for fun.

I hope everyone has a great autumn! I’m sure the colours will be amazing as usual, and that there will be tons of amazing photographs to look at. Bye for now!

Sky-Sailing above the Lakeland

I’ve always been afraid of heights. So, when a friend asked me if I would like to fly in a hot air balloon, I immediately said yes. I wanted to face my fears and have an unforgettable experience. Right after that I tried to forget what I just had promised.

After a few weeks it was time to face the fears. First the pilot gave us a short presentation of what was to come. Then he released a helium balloon to show the local wind direction, and decided the route in such a way that we would avoid the nearby great lakes. It would be a shame if the wind calmed over a big lake and the balloon would run out of gas.

The take off place was an old sports field 12 kilometers away. The first thing to do was preparing the basket. Then the hot air balloon was spread on the ground. First it was filled with cold air and when it was full, the pilot started to heat the air with a gas burner.

Soon the balloon was high in the air and the basket scarcely touched the ground. It was time to climb aboard. Now I was nervous, but just for a moment. Soon the balloon was high in the air and instead of thrill my mind was ecstatic.

Landscape was truly beautiful in the light of the setting summer sun. There was a green carpet of forests as far as it was possible to see.

Here and there I could see a blue lake shining like a jewel, hills rising and fields glowing in all shades of green.

The air was calm because the balloon had the same speed as the wind. It was absolutely quiet. The silence was broken only by our conversation, and occasionally the sound of the burner. The only sound from the ground was dogs barking.

Above a lake the pilot dropped the balloon as low as possible, and we could see our reflection on the calm water. The sight was unreal, beautiful and memorable. It was good moment to enjoy a glass of a sparkling wine. Then we rose again and travelled smoothly forward.

After an hour it was time to start preparing for the landing. As the balloon goes to the wind, landing takes place in a suitable open area. The balloon touched some treetops and finally it hit the ground with a small bump. The flight was successfully passed. This time fortune favored, because we hit the ground only 300 meters away from the planned spot. Such accuracy is very unusual.

We helped to pack the balloon, after which each of us received a diploma and a testimony to commemorate the memorable experience. It was not scary at all to be in the air. I had seen and experienced familiar landscapes in a completely different way than ever before. That was just great!

Pirttisaari – a wonderful hiding place in Porvoo’s archipelago

Pirttisaari (Cabin Island), which belongs to the western part of Porvoo’s archipelago is known by few, but even fewer have probably noticed that it’s a sweet little spot for an excursion into nature. Given that it is an island we’re talking about, a little more effort is required to go and spend a day by the sea here, but it’s definitely worth it.

I was a little nervous about how things would work out with the boat timetables, as only the departure times were listed on the noticeboard belonging to Pörtö Line, the ferry operating between Kalkkiranta (the departure point on the mainland) and Pirttisaari, not the arrival times. However, I decided to chance it at the harbour with my backpack and climbed on board the ferry behind the other passengers. Most people, judging by the amount of stuff they had with them, seemed to be going for longer than just a day, probably to summer cottages. Only a few looked like they were, like me, on a day trip.

As a mainlander, I was already enthusiastic about the sea voyage itself – a rare treat! A few travellers had settled below deck to shelter from the wind, but most of us sat outside happily enjoying the sunny crossing. From the deck you could see charming cottage islands, rocky islets dominated by birds and open high seas. The water was almost mirror calm and it then occurred to me, that the conditions would have been perfect for kayaking. Oh well, not this time.

On the way to Pirttisaari, the ferry stopped first at the tiny island of Tredjeholmen to drop off some passengers, and then made a quick stop at Bodö, the next island, to deliver the mail. I double-checked with the ferry’s friendly staff where I should get off and was told not until Pirttisaari’s old school pier, where I would also get picked up in the afternoon.

About an hour after our departure from the mainland we arrived at Pirttisaari’s old school pier. The ferry emptied of passengers, the majority of whom then decanted into their own, smaller, boats. I was clearly the only one, who had come for a daytrip. At the end of the pier was a coherent map, but I had a map in my pocket that I had printed from the internet just in case. If you don’t have any kind of map with you, it’s probably a good idea to take a picture of the one at the pier using, for example, your phone, so that you can check the route and sights when you’re on the move.

After the pier, I came into the yard of the former school building but kept going straight ahead. On the red ochre wall of the building was a small sign: Till friluftsområdet / Recreational area – turn right! The former school with its gardens is private, but you can cross through the yard to get to and from the pier. However, hanging around the yard without permission is not allowed.

When exploring the island, it’s good to be respectful of islanders and their privacy and leave places tidy when you leave. Remember, when visiting any place outdoors, you should always follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

I started walking down the path, narrower than a cart track, towards the crossroads. From there I had to decide, will I go to Svartviken first or head straight towards Lerviken, both of which have a maintained and stocked campfire area. I strolled slowly along the easy path, inspecting what was on either side of it. Foxgloves on one side, with their colours blazing, were probably fugitives from the garden.

Juicy-looking blueberries cast their fruity glances in my direction, and I just couldn’t resist… It wasn’t long until my mouth was completely blue. What a delicious start to the trip… But someone else could pick that cep, as I didn’t have my mushroom knife with me.

The name Pirttisaari, meaning ‘Cabin Island’, had already led me to believe that on the island there would be at least one cabin. There were actually several, many painted with red ochre, which fit perfectly with the picturesque archipelago landscape. The island has been inhabited since the 1700s and there are still permanent year-round residents, even though you would think that with the long boat trip from the mainland, people would just come to spend the summer here in their cottages.

You won’t come across any cars on the island. The biggest vehicle that you might encounter on the narrow path is a quad bike. Among other things, these are probably used to transport firewood to the campfire spots for visitors of the island. The only other sounds of motors rumbling are really only heard from the sea, unless someone’s cutting wood with a chainsaw.

In many recreational areas route markers are made with paint dots on trees, but not on Pirttisaari. When I arrived at the first crossroads after the schoolyard, there were wooden signs waiting for me. Svartviken to the left and Lerviken to the right and the toilet. I chose Lerviken first, because I suspected that there might be more to see.

The small road leading to Lerviken went through a primeval forest, where some bugs were probably feasting on the decaying wood that had been left to lie there and rot in peace. A bright green moss carpet covered the forest floor and I stopped a number of times to admire the colours, light and shadows in amongst the majestic spruces.

Random songbirds performed their solos every now and then. My own footsteps were the loudest distraction, but fortunately only a faint one.

The trail led me over the top of a bare rock, alongside a former pasture and then continued through coniferous forests before the next signs with maps, from which I could see that I was already close to the beach and a defence tower. The tower is locked so don’t anticipate climbing up to get a better view, but don’t worry: the Gulf of Finland archipelago landscapes open up spectacularly from the top of the rocks.

I scrambled up onto the handsome looking rocks next to the army tower, along a path of sorts, but then I went my own way. What a view! If only I had brought my binoculars with me. I could see islets and islands near and far. On one island in the distance I could clearly make out the column of a lighthouse. Moomin Papa’s lighthouse, Söderskär, which is located in Porvoo’s outer archipelago. You can even go and visit Södeskar on a number of different ferries or boat cruises.

I jumped forward from the rocks and noticed a graying wooden cross. The cross has been erected in memory of the fisherman’s son Isak Lilleberg. Isak sailed to the outer island in 1838 to collect his sheep, but was surprised by a storm and drowned on the way. On the back of the wooden cross you can still kind of make out his house mark of four arrows.

I took a moment to sit on the rock to savour the euphoria of looking at an open sea view in laid-back warm weather. These landscapes really do make the spirit soar. It was fun to explore the rocks. By the shore, their rugged features had been softened over time, caressed by the waves; any grooves in them had been pretty much smoothed by the water.

In several places little towers had been made from piled up stones, a reasonable task for a hot day on this kind of island.

I then got up and continued my journey towards the campfire and picnic spot. One family was enjoying the sunny rocks by the cove and I heard from the screams of a the children, that the water was a little fresh. I went to the small headland and then leapt across the stones, aiming towards the sailing ships gliding in the sea. Someone had made a short crescent shaped wall out of beach stones to pass the time, but what for? Maybe it was a play den.

Hunger was starting to make my stomach rumble. Thankfully Lerviken’s campfire spot was already pretty close.

I was expecting a simple campfire ring, but Lerviken surprised me with a super smart shelter with glass walls on one side! The previous picnicker left the fire place soon after I arrived, so I got to sit and enjoy my thermos of tea and my sandwiches in peace, while starting at the open seascape behind the rocks. It was a good idea to build a wind shelter, that you can see through, when the views are as beautiful as this.

On the wall of the shelter were some barcodes which you could scan with your smartphone, if you owned one, and load material telling you about wonders on the island and most importantly, a list of 10 things that you should do before you leave the island. I took my phone out immediately (thankfully there was plenty of charge left in the battery) and browsed the tasks. Yes, I’d already seen those things… and yes, I had already heard those sounds, I had climbed to a high point on the island. But wait a minute, this looked like a fun task…

The task that caught my attention, was to ‘discover your inner artist and make a work of art for the island out of materials provided by nature’. So I admit that this wasn’t exactly original, but it was fun to spend a moment finding different kinds of stones and make a cairn on the coastal rocks. The next visitors could then do whatever they wished with these sculptures. My ecological work of art followed the given instructions of not leaving a permanent mark on or causing damage to the island.

As I left the campfire area, I passed a leftover from the war: a pretty well camouflaged bunker in the side of the rock. There’s no point in trying to get inside there either, as it’s forbidden to enter army buildings without permission. I returned to the path that I arrived on back to the familiar crossroads and followed the sign to the island’s other side, Svartiken.

From Lerviken to Svartiken is a distance of about 1.6km, so you shouldn’t get exhausted, especially as the terrain is nice and even. So I curved from the straight path slightly to the side, as with this kind of short distance on a small area near the seashore there’s no risk of getting lost. But I also still had my map safely in my pocket. I followed the cart track from Svartiken slightly to the right and, still on the small path, through the forest, ending up in a charming bay between Marraudden and Mellanudden. This side of the island looked so different with all its lush greenery!

I then came back on myself and turned onto the little road going to Svartiken. It’s good to keep your eyes wide open by Svartiken, because even though there aren’t that many options offered to the walker, the wooden signs are small. If you arrive on the island via Svartiken, the route to Lerviken is clearer, but coming from Lerviken there are a couple of crossroads which can confuse the traveller.

At Svartiken there is a boat jetty, where there were a number of boats parked. The secluded, rocky inlet is a great place to stop for the night if you wish to, as there is a maintained campfire place with firewood and a tidy outhouse. I would recommend Lerviken however as the number one location for daytrippers, where you can enjoy the open landscape/scenery and sheltered campfire place. Svartiken is designed more for boaters.

Then I looked at the clock – it was time to head back to the old school pier to wait for the ferry and my ride back to the mainland.

The ferry arrived at the jetty around 2pm and about a dozen passengers boarded. Sitting on the deck of M/S Pörtö in the afternoon sun in the middle of the glistening sea, I sighed, thinking to myself that Finland does indeed have a gloriously beautiful archipelago and it’s an amazing thing that even an ordinary landlubber like me can go and enjoy it just by using the ferry. And this trip didn’t even cost that much, for the ferry crossing to Pirttisaari’s old school pier and back is free!

Directions and parking: Kalkkiranta beach can be reached by bus from both Porvoo and Helsinki (about 1hr30 from Central Station). From both directions you will need to change buses at Söderkulla, which is about 7km from Kalkkiranta where you catch the ferry, and the times coincide with ferry departure times. Please see Helsinki’s Journey Planner for routes and times from Helsinki. The ferry journey from Kalkkiranta on the mainland to Pirttisaari is about one hour.

If you come via car, you can use Kalkkiranta’s free parking area, but if it’s full you have to find a parking spot by the side of the road. For bicycles, there’s plenty of room near the beach and you can buy ice-cream and other snacks from Kalkkiranta’s kiosk.

ETRS-TM35FIN -coordinates N 6670253  E 413851

Map (Lerviksudden, Pirttisaari)  ETRS-TM35FIN -tasokoordinaatit N 6670253  E 413851

Cycling in Porvoo’s National Urban Park

Porvoo is one of Finland’s best loved national landscapes, with its red wooden riverside storehouses and pastel-coloured buildings belonging to the old town, its river valley and its National Urban Park.

National Urban Parks are an assembly of natural spaces, agricultural landscapes and built areas of cultural significance in and around the urban environment. Porvoo’s Urban National Park is made up of the historical town itself, ancient relics, nature conservation areas as well as parks and recreational areas used by urban residents. Altogether this forms about 1,112 hectares.

While writing this I discovered that Urban National Parks can also be found in seven other cities around Finland: Forssa, Hanko, Heinola, Hämeenlinna, Kotka, Pori and Turku.

My own National Urban Park exploration began on board a Jopo bike courtesy of VisitPorvoo, which can be rented from under Mannerheiminkatu bridge. I set off just as the bells of Porvoo’s handsome cathedral struck ten o’clock, as if someone had fired a starting shot for a race. Weaving through tourists enthusiastically taking pictures with their smartphones, I peddled through the cobbled streets, over the bridge and then onto the bicycle lane alongside Porvoo river.

I had boldly chosen a gearless bicycle, having concluded that I would be riding mainly on flat terrain. Riding on a Jopo also felt reassuringly nostalgic and like a laid back way to travel on a sunny day.

Having decided on Haikkoo Manor as my destination and point for turning back, I peddled along Porvoo’s western bank. The city’s old and new centres were left behind on the opposite shore, as I continued my journey south alongside relatively new apartments.

From my bike saddle, I observed boats laying idle in the harbour as well as gliding along the water. Canada geese were resting on the river bank as I passed The Art Factory, where Visit Porvoo’s travel info is based and from where you can pick up a cycling and outdoors map. I spotted its #URBCULT- area, in which school kids had been nurturing vegetables planted in containers made from old pallets. There was even sauna on offer there in celebration of summer!

After the cycle path had curved round into Kokonniemi, I stopped for a moment to admire a some street art on the wall of the pumping station, inspired by the famous Japanese print The Great Wave of Kanagawa. On my right the coniferous hill of Kokonniemi rose up steeply.

Soon I came across a maintained park area with a campfire pit – a great place for a picnic. One couple had set up their picnic chairs on the lawn of the river bank, but the two campfire sites made out of concrete well rings are a much better way to cook your sausages than using disposable barbecues. I do advise taking your own firewood though, as I didn’t notice any provided by the city.

The features of this park at the tip of Kokonniemi are charming, with a delicately carved yellow pavilion (unfortunately somewhat vandalised), as well as a magnificent straight avenue of linden trees, which leads from it to the beach. This would be a lovely spot for a summer cafe.

Looking at the pavilion and the view, images of old, black and white domestic movies started to play my mind: a manor house romance; a couple in love walking along the linden tree avenue in the summer dusk, a violin playing softly in the background… The park’s construction began in 1891, which was an acknowledgement of the location’s beauty and elegance.

After admiring the park, I cycled ahead on a gravel cycle path and started to crave ice-cream. Looking at the map I noticed, with relief, that nearby was Kokonniemi’s campground, which would be sure to have some. I broke into a little sweat cycling up hill, but at least I had earned my ice-cream.

I took this opportunity to inspect the map further. I noticed as I left the camping area, that the rocks of Kokonniemi were gleaming at me from the other side – another place to go and explore.

Approaching Uddas, the view opened out along with river’s mouth, which stretched out on my left. The reedbed continued as far as the eye could see and the sea could barely be spotted behind all the greenery. The cycle path continued to be even and easy until I reached Uddas, where there was a small uphill before rolling into the forest. I made a little stop again: the raspberries on the side of the cycle path looked too good to resist.

Out and about were other cyclists, joggers and a few walkers. It was especially pleasing to see one particular couple: the lady was jogging while the gentleman accompanied her in an electric wheelchair. It was great to see that this route in the middle of nature was accessible, for all to enjoy. When I came to the field, I chose the path on the coast and and started to look out for a cycle path on the right. Somewhere the path had to rise up to a vantage point.

Then I came to a small beach, where a couple of families where sunbathing, and noticed that a path branched out from the cycle path uphill to Tornberget, next to a granite column, with a mysterious engraving of the number 60 on it. I parked my bike on the side of the coastal path and clambered up the gently rising trail in hope of finding the vantage point.

The forest path was a joy to walk, with the leaves shimmering in the sun. Without the drone of cars anywhere nearby, it was completely quiet except for a bird fluttering and chirping in a nearby tree. Further up, I came across a fitness route which had stretching apparatus on the side of it. I turned past it onto the path that led to the left. And then again to the left, on the coastal side.

With my mouth blue from Tornberget’s juicy berries, I walked onto the almost bare rocks and was presented with a fantastic view towards Porvoo River. This was the moment to sit down and dig out my sandwich and water bottle. I did slightly regret not filling up my tea flask that morning, but that was quickly forgotten. It did me a world of good watching the shimmering water, boats occasionally floating by and a few fluffy clouds in the blue sky.

Back on my bike, after peddling a few metres; I noticed another path leading upwards after the rock walls of Tornberget. The path seemed to promise another fine view, but I decided that my next scenic stop would be a vantage point further along.

As I passed the shore of Hamari, I took a peek at cute, old houses which the local sawmill workers had built for themselves. At some point Hamari used to have its own harbour and docking station. If I hadn’t already had a snack break, I would have stopped at the beach cafe, but instead I looked for the route to the Lennätinkallio nature conservation area. The area’s forests have been left alone to grow in peace since 1961, when the nature conservation area was established.

I cycled along the park road and then to Haavikkotie road which shot me out onto the the fitness trail. I left my bicycle parked on the edge of the forest and picked up the first path going up on the left and decided to aim as high as possible, sure I would find the vantage point around there somewhere. I scrambled for a little while on the pine dominated rocky hill and wondered where to go, but then took the widest path into the spruce forest. From there I found the vantage point with it’s small lookout tower.

At the lookout tower there’s a picnic table. You can compare the view with the image of it that hangs on the side of the tower, by the internationally known painter Albert Edelfelt. Some kids turned up from the straightest path from Lennätinvuori clutching their mobile phones. I suspect they were not there for the view, like I was. Probably on a Pokemon mission.

Because the tower is low, you don’t see over the tops of the trees as far as Porvoo’s centre. The view is mainly of forest and the open water of Haikkoo on the horizon.

I descended on the occasionally very rocky path that led down from the observation tower and back onto the fitness trail, peering at the forest view. The light dappled onto the dazzling, beautiful moss, the trees and on the scattered boulders. I let out a sigh.

After that I peddled towards Haikkoo on the nearest cycle path. However, I didn’t stop immediately at the Manor House and Spa, but continued by journey downhill, it was only 600 metres from the crossroads to Albert Edelfelt’s studio museum. Almost immediately I spotted a sign on the right hand side of the road. It indicated that a pond featured in Edelfelt’s painting was on the right hand side of the fitness trail. Naturally, I turned down it and continued cycling the forest route towards this other art subject.

The marked fitness trail was primarily for skiers and walkers, but it was also easy to cycle. The good signage to Haikkoo’s pond was a bonus. I parked my bicycle on the side of the fitness trail and walked on the bumpy and partially damp path towards the edge of the forest pond.

Haikkoo’s forest pond was charming with its waterlilies, which blossomed joyfully as they did in the painting itself. A large print of the painting was also on display in situ, which enabled comparison of Edelfelt’s version with the live view. I wondered if he carried his drawing and painting materials to the place himself or if he had an assistant. Did the models have to shiver in the pond for long?

I returned to my bicycle and rode along the fitness route back to the nearest residential area and from there to the crossroads, where I reached Edelfelt’s path which led to Albert Edelfelt’s studio, which now serves as a museum. An engraving on a rock in the garden confirms that Edelfelt (1854-1905) worked here for 24 summers.

Albert Edelfelt had been so fond of Haikkoo’s nature and landscape that in 1880 he bought himself an old estate manager’s house, and in a few years had a studio built for himself with windows in the roof. There were excellent views of Haikkoo’s open water from the house. The trees on the plot have obviously kept growing since then, but right on the shore you can still see the landscape.

In the garden of the studio, I noticed a few pictures of Edelfelt’s works and before going into the museum, I walked down the path towards the shore. More photos of paintings! This was a really nice outdoor exhibition and it was interesting being in the exact locations where the paintings were painted.

Down by the water, there was a table on a wooden bench. If you happened to have a print of Edelfelt’s Haikkoo painting with you, you could sit and observe what had changed in the landscape.

I popped a few wild blueberries into my mouth and stopped at the museum, where a guide was talking about Edelfelt’s life, the paintings on display (which were duplicates) and the artefacts, fluently in different languages. Then it was time to head back.

I peddled and at times had to push the Jopo bike up hill. Then, sweating, I turned right into the courtyard of Hotel Haikko Manor and Spa. It was very grand. However, the pond with a fountain near the parking area softened my heart – it looked somewhat unruly in the middle of this manicured milieu. My bike waited in the parking area, as I took a short stroll in the gorgeous grounds of Haikko Manor, where lawns and flowerbeds lived in harmony with frisbee-golf baskets.

InHotel Haikko Manor and Spa there’s a cafe where daytrippers can go and have a sweet or salty snack, you don’t have to be an overnight guest.

I returned to my bike, passing a white Rolls Royce, and then cycled back along the same way that I came, following the wonderful waterside route back to Porvoo, where I returned my rented vehicle to Mannerheim street under the bridge. A shorter route would also have been possible, but why take a short cut if you don’t need to? As I cycled I thought that you could quite easily do this day trip from the centre of Porvoo to Haikko just by walking.

Porvoo’s National City park is a great outdoor destination because it’s easy to hike there on your own, on short or longer routes, and keep within a stone’s throw from cafes if you wish. Or you can rent a bicycle and explore a wider area. When I saw the stand-up paddlers I immediately felt like paddling along Porvoo river.

I can honestly say, that one day is nowhere near enough to explore the National Urban Park that spreads out across both sides of Porvoo’s river. To help you plan your trip, there is some excellent material available. You could start with the ready thought-out themed routes (find the downloadable PDF maps here) and pick up a pocket-sized leaflet with you about the park or a free cycling and outdoor map from the Visit Porvoo visitor office which is in the Art Factory on the river’s western bank.

For those interested in art, there’s a leaflet available that tells you about areas connected to Albert Edelfelt. You can depart from wherever you like, follow the suggested routes or go off and create your own mini adventure!

The author stayed at Ida-Maria Bed & Breakfast, courtesy of Porvoo’s travel office VisitPorvoo.fi

Tornberget on the map.
Edelfelt’s studio and museum on the map. Address: Edelfeltinpolku 3, 06400 Porvoo.

A GLIMPSE OF MAGIC IN THE HEART OF HOSSA

The quiet patter of rain didn’t put us off trying the 3km nature trail at the heart of Hossa. We had already been treated with a couple of days of sunshine, so a bit of rain felt quite pleasant. Being active outdoors can make you pretty warm, and nothing is more refreshing than raindrops on your forehead.

The nature trail, which winds around Huosilampi lake as well as a smaller unnamed pond, is clearly marked and departs from Hossa Visitor Centre’s courtyard. The first portion of the trail is wheelchair accessible.

The first sight on the path left me and my partner feeling rather puzzled. Was it an enclosure to keep people out, or was the fence there so that the lichen couldn’t stray?

To clarify, this kind of enclosure is usually known as a ‘kirnu’ (‘churn’ in English), a fenced area in the centre of the main corral, into which reindeer that roam in the wild are herded during the reindeer round up, something which happens twice a year. The ‘kirnu’ is usually where the main action happens, where individuals are caught and put into separate pens according to whether they will go slaughter, be castrated, go on to breed, be sold and so on. However, the ‘kirnu’ usually has a gate which you can open easily. There was nothing like that here.

Thankfully we were on a nature trail, which meant that there was an information board to offer immediate relief to our confusion. The spot in question was a test area, where they were studying how quickly lichen grows, when it isn’t being eaten. So the fence was to keep reindeer out rather than lichen in,  which was a slightly more logical answer than our earlier speculation.

Our reindeer herding dog seemed to be of the opinion that there were too few reindeer around, and was eager to continue the journey, when we finally finished reading the sign.

Wheelchair access to the shore of Huosilampi lake

Soon after the start of the trail, we reached the shore of Huosilampi. Along the route, a pier had also been made wheelchair accessible. It is really admirable that access has been provided, for all to enjoy the clear waters of Hossa. When Hossa officially becomes a National Park in 2017, it is said that accessible infrastructure will be developed even further.

Along the shore there was also a campfire area which included benches with backrests, as well as a table in the shelter that a wheelchair could easily fit around.

Someone could be heard fishing on the opposite shore. Our route continued in that direction. For a while, the wide, accessible trail hugged the edge of the lake and then crossed beautiful swamplands.

The route then narrowed into a regular path as we dove into the woods, where the elevation differences were noticeably greater.

Soon after, a swamp opened out to our right. Is it just me, or are swamps especially beautiful in the rain? Their colour saturation seems more intense against the contrast of the dark sky.

A little further along we got to admire the dark back of Huosiusjärvi lake from a high slope. There was also a bench, where you could sit and rest. The nature trail shouldn’t include any dramatically steep climbs or tricky downhills, but you can still manage to break a sweat. You won’t find flat, even ground in ridge terrain.

We were approaching the ridge of Huosiharju, the trail slanting towards its eastern end. The path snaked clearly through the ground and was well-marked, making it easy to follow. No-one crossed our paths throughout the whole journey.

The nameless pond along the trail was dark turquoise even in the rain. Might it have been a kettle hole formed by a lump of ice melting at the end of the ice age? The nature trail’s information board confirmed my suspicions.

Kettle holes (bowl-shaped depressions in the land) and ridges, which tell us of the ice age’s powerful influence, have a strong presence in Hossa. But they are so big, noble and soft in form, that nature’s rage during the ice age no longer really comes across. Instead everything is beautiful, gentle and quiet. The turquoise waters of the kettle holes, the soft lichen on the ridges and the carpet of low-lying forest shrubbery invite the soul and eyes to relax.

This aside, nature’s strong will can be seen in the fallen trees, some of which looked like they had experienced quite a violent fate.

We wandered around the forest between the kettle hole pond and Huosilampi lake in a figure of eight trying to guess where the route continued. Straight? No, it continued to the south of Huosilampi.

Soon we reached a road. There was a tourist in a caravan in the carpark. From the carpark, steps led down to the lake shore, by which we found a campfire spot with a woodshed. On the other side of the water on the forest slope a reindeer rustled.

The clear surface of Huosilampi was trying to tell us, that the rain was weakening. Only small individual drops tickled the surface of the pond.

Walking around a small bay I saw tree trunks resting beneath the surface of the water. They were as beautiful as they were eerie.

During the whole trip we only met one other person, a man fishing. I asked if any fish were biting, but the man asked for more time saying that he had only just arrived.

Huosilampi’s disabled access shelter

Around the corner we came across a picnic area so large that you could arrange a wedding there. But it was empty. In front of it was a disabled access jetty. At the water’s edge there was a table for gutting fish.

Soon we were back at the Visitor Centre, where the carpark was filled with the smart-looking motorhomes belonging to French and Germans. It’s wonderful that foreigners have also found Hossa.

The nature trail is a great sampler of what Hossa is all about: clear turquoise waters, forests that are bright and full of rich colour, straight trees and round shapes. This is why it’s a great choice for those, who are for whatever reason only passing through and don’t have enough time to enjoy Hossa more extensively.

Also, thanks to its accessible sections, even wheelchair users can fully enjoy the beauty of its waters, the colourful marshes and the atmosphere of the campfire with ease.

After our own tour, we retreated to the cottage at Hossan Lumo that Suomussalmi region had kindly offered us, to dry off and rest for a moment.

The trail’s starting point is here on the map

This article is part of series about Hossa, carried out in collaboration with the municipality of Suomussalmi.

Translated by Becky Hastings.