In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

Another world surprisingly close to the busy highway no. 25, and beyond the grain fields, awaits the curious hiker who is hungry for new experiences. Encircled by the reed beds, Lake Lepinjärvi is a paradise for birds, providing memorable experiences in nature in historical surroundings. The prehistoric graves of this versatile region date all the way back to the Iron Age. Come with me to discover the cultural path of Lake Lepinjärvi – let’s follow the sunshine to the lush hazel grove!

Relatively easy trail, length approx. 3 kilometres

Travel time 2 hrs

Table for eating outdoor snacks and a campfire site, but no firewood service.

Map showing the starting point of the trail

My mobile phone wakes me up persuasively. It is time; actually it is 03.45 in the morning. Very early in the morning, on the day we celebrate Finnish nature. They say that an early bird catches the worm, so I must be catching a lot of them. I am about to go to a place I’ve never visited before, and I hope to see the best birds in the best light possible – when the sun rises.

It is still dark, though, when I start my car and drive towards Karis in Raseborg. These wee hours are the time of animals, such as rabbits and foxes, so I drive carefully.

Already on the way to my destination, I am fascinated by how lovely nature can be. The morning mist is just unbelievable! The landscape by the roadside has never been more beautiful!

In less than an hour, I have driven from the middle of Espoo to Karis to meet my friend who I haven’t seen for a long time. We spot a clear path leading to the underpass under Highway no. 25. Let’s go there!

The autumn morning is chilly, and the temperature is just 6 degrees above zero. Good thing that I brought my gloves.

The underpass is a safe passage to the other side of the highway.

The mist is soft like a feather, as it floats over the fields surrounding Lake Lepinjärvi. There’s so much moisture in the vegetation on the side of the trail that my pant legs get wet.

Blooming season is mostly over, but the last brown knapweed of the summer is still shining in the dim light of the morning.

The trail running on the side of the field road ends up in a lush forest and forks. Wooden signposts direct us to take a left.

I have to get to the beach before the sun rises.

The old bird observation tower of Lillnäset rewards those who dare to come here.

In the time of corona, you should consider a few things if you wish to go to any bird observation tower. Birdlife Finland recommends that you should prefer close-by destinations and not let anyone else use your binoculars and telescopes but your family members. You should also maintain a safe distance to other birdwatchers.

Being considerate is especially important when visiting bird towers. This means, for example that you allow others to use the tower as well and don’t stay up there for too long.

This morning, however, we have the tower to ourselves as no-one else is around.

Carefully we climb up the stairs to the tower as they have no handrail.

Using these kinds of built structures happens on everyone’s own responsibility as does roaming in nature in general.

A breath-taking view opens up from the tower above the tall reeds.

The sun is about to rise, and Lake Lepinjärvi is full of water birds! In the mist, it feels like it is from a fairy-tale.

The busiest time of autumn migration is not yet here. However, the birds can be counted in tens, if not hundreds already. The cackling and chattering sounds overwhelming. 

Majestic pair of mute swans are swimming in the middle of the mist.

Mist is floating above the surface of the lake.

Time seems to stop just before the sunrise. This is happiness!

As much as they talk about congestion and masses of people in nature brought on by the corona, I don’t really see any of that right now!

Should someone who loves peace and quiet head to these kinds of small and less-known places instead of over-populated national parks? Moreover, should they choose an early time such as now for a tailor-made experience in nature? Selecting the most beautiful morning light and silence instead of afternoon rush hours and hard light.

It is so beautiful that I almost forget to breathe.

The only thing breaking the silence is the flapping of great wings as the swans take to the sky.

The pair of swans,who were gliding gracefully on the surface of the lake just a moment ago, is now taking off somewhere. Oh, I wish I could get a nice shot in spite of this thick mist!

The cultural landscape from the Iron Age at Lake Lepinjärvi

Thoroughly impressed by the flocks of birds and the breath-taking lake views we descend from the tower. Still going east, we take a little side step off the path.

In the middle of the rocky mound, stands a sign from the Finnish Heritage Agency which has seen its better days.

There is a rock that has about 10 hardly visible indentations, so-called cups, over a small area, and a cremation cemetery under level ground.

Archaeological digs have revealed spear tips, ceramics and charred bones. We are at an ancient sacrificial ground, with Finnish national history from the Iron Age beneath our feet.

Some rustling sounds carry from the forest, but we don’t see anyone else. There’s a hint of mystery in the air.

We head back to where we came from, walking past spider’s webs that are now visible due to the dew.

We almost miss a small information sign that tells us that there’s a place ahead of us called Stora Näset. Stora Näset is a small, rocky hill, surrounded by mist and grain fields.

This place dates all the way back to the Iron Age, too. Archaeologists have found pieces of pottery and revealed layers of earth that indicate there might have been a level-ground cremation cemetery here as well.

Walking counter-clockwise on the path going over the hill and climbing down a short but steep cliff, we come to a large and moss-covered stone wall.

The age of this 20-metre wall on Stora Näset is still a mystery.

In a moment, we go past the wooden signs again.  The path leads us to a new bird observation tower named the Pelican Tower.

About 20 metres length of the oldest duckboards is wet and slippery due to overhanging vegetation, but soon there’s also dry wood to be walked on.

The trail passes hazels and large coniferous trees, leaving the cliff of Själdberget to our right.

It feels like in a real wilderness – it is unbelievable that we’re so close to the highway.

Just before the stairs leading to the Pelican Tower, a large information board standing at the crossroads shows us where we are on the map. It also tells us what to expect.

If all goes well, one could spot the long-tailed tit, bearded tit, water rail, red-necked grebe, mute swan and the smew. Other species that have been recorded here are for example marsh harrier, ruff, corncrake, Bewick’s swan, Slavonian grebe, wood sandpiper, common tern, crane and whooper swan.

Lake Lepinjärvi in Raseborg is one of the most important bird lakes in the Uusimaa province.

About 100 species of birds nest here regularly, but as much as 160 have been recorded in Lepinjärvi and its surrounding areas.

At the time of spring- and autumn migration, this shallow and eutrophic lake is an important resting and feeding place for migratory birds. When the migration is at its highest, there are over 220 different species here, and over 3000 water birds have been seen visiting the lake at one time!

During migration, you can also spot the pintail, bean goose, grey heron, gadwall and the redshank and spotted redshank.

So the bird plate is quite full at Lake Lepinjärvi!

The autumn migration is on its way, and more birds can be seen then, because the migration is divided over a longer period, and thanks to successful nesting, there are more birds going out than coming in. The best time to see migratory birds is between September and October.

I notice that recognizing the birds is not easy. They fly overhead so quickly, and the dim sunlight shining through the mist doesn’t help a bit. Are they greylag geese, perhaps?

Lake Lepinjärvi is part of the Natura 2000 regions, protecting biodiversity in the EU. Lepinjärvi is also part of the national bird wetland protection programme.

Lepinjärvi is definitely the ideal place for birds, as it is approximately one metre deep, and the shoreline is covered by a tall reed bed.

Moreover, there is a very rare plant species at Lepinjärvi, namely  

Najas tenuissima which is one of Finland’s – if not the world’s – rarest aquatic plants.

The Pelican Tower of Lepinjärvi

The off-main trail path leads down from the information boards to the beach on stairs and onto wide duckboards that are placed well above the ground.

That means that you can come here to see the birds even during spring flood!

Standing on the Pelican Tower, we can see how the sun of early autumn makes the mist floating over the lake golden. The birds are hiding somewhere under the opaque blanket.

My friend picks an empty beer can up from the ground as we leave the tower. Beer cans are not indigenous to this region, so it’s best to take it with us to be disposed of properly. A little plastic bag normally meant for dog poo will work as a handy place to store the can temporarily.

We start walking alongside the field to the northwest. There are supposed to be more stone structures from the Iron Age somewhere close to Själdberget, but they seem hard to find at this time of the year. Slowly rising morning sun sheds its rays on the slopes, painting the fields golden.

The trail rises up for a good while and turns to the left. There is a resting place with a canopy ahead of us, equipped with a campfire ring and benches. There’s no firewood available.

The hill of Brobacka brings travellers from the Iron Age to the 20th century

As we cross over the ditch, we see more signs along the path to Brobacka that tell us what we can expect to find on the hill. 

Evidence of settlement and cultivation has been found in Brobacka that date back to the Iron Age and up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The signs also tell us that there’s an instructive video available about Brobacka on Mobiguide. We walk up a wide and smooth path covered in tree needles. Ground on this section of the trail is full of forest litter and so far the easiest to travel. As there are roots growing over the trail, it is not accessible by wheelchair for example.

If you are lucky and patient, you may be able to spot the nutcracker that lives in the hazel groves. As much as we try to move quietly, the nutcracker eludes us today.

Only a few squirrels are afoot, foraging for nuts.

The bushes filter the sunlight that is casting shifting dark and light spots on the trunks of the trees and flashing playfully in the foliage.

We pass the nationally valuable cultural heritage landscape, the meadow of Brobacka, as the trail slowly turns to the left.

Under the hazel by the meadow, a sturdy table awaits for hikers eager to have their lunch.

I wish I could be here in the spring or in the early summer as the flowers on the meadow are in their full bloom! Actually, guided tours are arranged here in the spring, when the ancient remains from the Iron Age are best visible.

After a while, as we go further along the trail, a clearing opens up in front of us. When we see stakes entangled by the common hop and black and red currant bushes, we immediately know that there used to be a croft here.

The croft belonged to the medieval mansion of Domargård until the end of the 19th century.

This must have been a nice place to live, on this warm slope, with a beautiful view to the lake and a fertile soil to cultivate!

Due south, on the edge of the former croft’s courtyard, a big and old pine with crooked limbs stands guard.

We wonder what might have happened under its branches, and turn back to the direction we came from.

The trail turns right, behind the spot where the croft used to be, to reveal more stacked stones covered in moss.

The oldest relics from the region are presumably from 200 to 400 A.D. The most famous of the relics is a buckle that was found in one of the stack of stones. The buckle was named the Buckle from Karjaa and used as a model for a jewel from Kalevala Jewelry. The original buckle, though, is most likely from the Merovingian Period, from 600 to 800 A.D., so it is believed to have been put inside the stack of stones some time later. For what? For an offering, maybe?

Diverse natural experiences in historical surroundings

As we get back to our car, I notice that we have spent two hours outdoors and covered over four kilometres, including the trip to the start of the trail and back. The trail itself is about 2.5 kilometres long. There was so much going on and so much to see that it feels like we have done a much longer hike.

The Finnish Nature Day couldn’t have been better celebrated than spending it on the cultural trail of Lepinjärvi!

Diverse nature and interesting ancient remains meet here in a beautiful way.

Moreover, Mother Nature pampered us with a misty morning and sunrise painted with a delicate brush.

When I get home, I will contact Göran Fagerstedt, who is a guide who knows Lepinjärvi like the back of his hand. Göran lives in Karis, and he has a friendly way of telling people about the ancient sites and history of the region. I value even more the work that volunteer organizations have done for the enjoyment and benefit of hikers like us, when I hear that the duckboards and the campfire shelter have been built by the Natura Society of Karis.

Göran also tells me that there are plans to replace some of the signs and information boards during 2021. Also building a new bird observation tower to replace the old one is in the plans. The signs from the east side of the region will be removed, but the historical sites will still be there, though. That side will probably be the more interesting one for the adventurous explorers.

More information and links

The trail in this text starts 2.2 km from the Karis train station and 2.5 km from the Travel Centre.

Your guide on the Raseborg region is Mr. Göran Fagerstedt who will be back at Lepinjärvi next spring. You can contact Göran and see more information about the trips he arranges by clicking here.

The Raseborg Tourist Services website provides tips for hiking in nature and different outdoor activities.

More stories from Raseborg and its many sights you can find here on Finland, Naturally.

Below is a map of Lake Lepinjärvi, found both on the information board of the Pelican Tower and the lobby of Karis ABC service station.

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

Imagine the moment when you wake up in the morning, rested, and in the middle of nature. Wind is blowing delicately, and the fabric of the tent is accompanying its rhythm. You have slept well, and you are anticipating for your morning coffee. You open your tent and sit on the edge. You are wiggling your toes, seeing how wonderful nature looks like from above ground. How lovely is this!

With Tentsile, you can reach new heights when camping out – and it’s no wonder: this unconventional outdoor accommodation has become more and more popular among hikers and campers. Although Tentsile is not the lightest tent around, you can still feel weightless when setting it up wherever there are trees, whether it be in the wilderness or in  your backyard. A night spent in Tentsile feels like adventure everywhere.

Tentsile looks like a tent. You can sleep in it like you would do in a normal tent. The difference is that you set it up between trees, up in the air just like a hammock – only much tighter. The best thing about Tentsile is that you can set it up on a rocky beach or on a cliff with a view. This tent goes where no other tent can. No matter how uneven, sloped or full of rocks the terrain is – Tentsile hangs in the air above all that.

After a long and rewarding hiking day, the tent invites you in like a nest among the branches. What’s even better, you don’t have to sleep there alone as your friend can fit in nicely, too. You can stow your hiking gear, bike etc. under the tent where it will be sheltered from rain.

You are sitting on the edge of your tent, enjoying the evening snack, looking at the view, with a gentle breeze cooling down your weary legs. Maybe you can feel the undergrowth tickling your feet as you take the last sips of your evening tea?

It’s time to give your legs and your whole body the rest they need, comfortably and safely in the air, letting the sounds of nature lull you to sleep. In Tentsile, there is no pea under the camping mattress pressing your back. Just drift off to dream in a million-star hotel. Maybe in the wee hours of the morning, drops of rain drum the roof of your tent. If there’s no chance of rain, you can also use the tent without its outer layer, leaving just the inner mesh tent in place, and see all the stars.

It’s a new day. You are waking up slowly, smelling the wind and sitting on the edge of your tent. Do you see an open sea or lake, or maybe a vibrant-coloured marshland? Do you hear the singing of the cranes, splashing of the waves or a silent hum of the fells?

The feeling of urgency is gone. You ponder whether you should stay right here or continue on your journey. Tentsile is the perfect base camp for day trips. Wouldn’t it be great to set it up someplace nice and just go out on shorter hikes, carrying only a light backpack with what you need?

You can book a night in Tentsile for yourself and your friend at the North Gate of Nuuksio – just a short distance from Helsinki. The Salmijärvi region is a beautiful, forested place to enjoy the peace of nature and experience what it is like to spend a night in Tentsile. See the details of the accommodation and book your Tentsile night here.

Translation: Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

In this episode of the Take a Hike series, we’re exploring the fringe areas of Pyhä-Luosto National Park. The wonderfully well maintained routes offer easy access to the park, but sometimes it’s just as fun to jump off trail and go explore and wonder on your own. The wonderful Lappish nature is in it’s most glorious, bug-free, late autumn shape – and we’re enjoying it to the fullest.

Please note that in Pyhä-Luosto National Park, there are restricted areas where you cannot leave the marked trails – consult your maps or the customer service at Nature Center Naava before you head out! Enjoy the episode!

Follow my adventures also on Youtube and on Instagram!

Read more

Pyhä-Luosto National Park

Lapland. That mystical wonderland in far North. One of the most exciting places in Lapland is a fell named Pallas, or Pallastunturi. Today I’m telling you about my hike to the highest peak of Pallas during winter.

Christmas and new years time is well spent in Lapland. Polar night and Northern lights are the best reality TV for me. What could a photographer enjoy more? I started my journey from the parking lot of Hotel Pallas. The weather was nice and clear. Temperature -20 degrees (celsius) but I wasn’t worried about that. The climb would keep me warm. I was using snowshoes although some people were hiking in winter boots. Start was the easy part and the path was clear.

Wooden cabin

The first point was a small wooden cabin. After that path became steeper and I was glad to have my snowshoes.

One small step…

The view was so amazing that I just had to stop to photograph the landscape every now and then. Slowly rising Sun created colors so unreal.

The view is getting more and more magical

Higher I got, the colder the wind became. Landscape also transformed more arctic.

This way or that way

About 50 meters before the top something unexpected happened. The Sun rose. Just a little bit, but still visibly. During polar winter the Sun should not get up this far North. Later back in the Hotel they told me that the highest peak is high enough for the Sun to reveal itself during clear skies.

WOOW

Here I was, on top of the peak watching this light show. It took me about 2,5 hours to get up there. Then I spent 1 hour just photographing the view. Some people were skiing down the hill but I had my trusted snow shoes. So no fast track down.

“Candyland”

Suddenly I felt like a 7-year-old kid in a candy store. So much “stuff” I had to enjoy before it ends.

Something I will remember all my life

Slowly the Sun started to set. During polar winter the light in the sky is like a 4-hour sunrise/sunset. Then it gets dark again.

Coming down went a bit faster. I was back at the Hotel’s parking lot about 45 minutes later. Temperature was now -25 degrees, but I was still warm enough and my 32 gigabytes memory card full of “candy”.

If you like my photos, please follow me on instagram @anttiphotography. Thank you so much.

Snow creates some interesting shadows.

In partnership with Visit Raasepori

I mount the bike and let the lift pull me up the bare skiing slopes. On the summit I take my time to admire the landscapes in all directions while a fresh breeze clears my mind. For a while I consider tempting and versatile route options and finally choose the one speedy and curvy enough for me and my bike. Adrenalin spreads all around my body as I hit the trail downhill and exhilaration grows along the meters ridden.

Downhill mountain biking is a captivating way to enjoy speed, mountain biking, trails built on skiing slopes and nature. This sub-genre of traditional mountain biking brings riders to the slopes, where a wide range of routes serve speed seekers. The location is perfect for the activity in summer and autumn, when the slopes are empty of skiers.

In Påminne Bike Park, the downhill biking centre of Raasepori, also the beginners have the possibility to try the sport. Previous traditional mountain biking riding and handling experience is required as the sport asks a little skill. Proficient and open-minded rider will grasp the tips for technique and riding from a pro, when the basic handling of the bike is familiar.

Anders Pyy tells about biking centres routes and riding techniques for Marjo Ojala, who knows about traditional mountain biking and is now having introduction to downhill mountain biking.

What the downhill mountain biking actually is?

Downhill mountain biking has a reputation of an energetic and even a bit dangerous sport. The key principles are rather simple and the difficulty level of trails vary. Skiing lifts, which take skiers to the top of the hill in winter, serve also bike riders in the summer and autumn season.

Aders Pyy advices Marjo Ojala how to safely travel up the hill with the lift.
Ropes can be added to drag lifts, which are easier for the beginners to loosen from the bike on top of the hill.
Drag lift can be also placed between one’s legs when all the way to the top is travelled as standing on the bike.
The lift drags the rider onwards with a steady pace.
On the first meters of the climb pedalling can be done but during the rise one simply enjoys the ride without pedalling.
The climb was a little exciting for a first-timer, but was in reality easier than expected.
Cheerful mood and a smile on one’s face tell about the delight of being introduced to the sport.
On top of the slope one catches the strap and gently pulls towards oneself which releases the bike from the lift.

From the top of the hill one can choose from a generous variety of trails according to their preferences in the level of difficulty or trail map. In downhill mountain biking the objective is to ride down the marked trails with style and speed whilst paying attention to the curves, built platforms, hillocks, drops and other possible obstacles.

The expert in downhill mountain biking Anders “Andy” Pyy considers it possible for beginners to get a quick grasp of the sport even with little less experience if one has enthusiasm and time to be spent on the slopes.

– Regular mountain biking on more traditional trails is also good practice for downhill riders as technique and reaction rate will develope on smoother ground too, Pyy says.

Anders Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. He developes versatile riding routes in Påminne Bike Park and welcomes all mountain bike riders in the Southern Finland to his centre.

Pyy himself has been fully concentrating in traditional mountain bike riding for already five years. His previous sport was Motocross. The reason for changing the league is simply the fact, that he finds downhill mountain biking way more fun.

Påminne Bike Park was bor from the passion of the active downhill mountain bike riders

Påminne Bike Park is the most southern slope centre in Finland and also Anders Pyy’s “homefield”. The place was practically engendered by the dream and devotion of the riders to create Påminne Bike Park THE place for downhill mountain bike riding in Finland.

New routes will be examined by foot when necessary.

According to Pyy in the future the aim is to further develop the route selection focusing on trails suitable for beginners as more riders would be warmly welcomed. The objective is also to get some rental gear and equipment for the visitors of the centre. Up until the end of October it has been possible to ride in Påminne Bike Park for two consecutive hours by paying the 20 euro entrance fee or by showing the season ticket. The centre has already been serving even up to about a hundred visitors every week indicating stable and growing interest towards the sport.

It’s fascinating to watch Anders Pyy’s pro-tricks at Påminne Bike Park.

Here’s how you’ll get on to it

Slopes at Påminne will open for downhill mountain bike riders after winter season.

Påminne is conveniently located within only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki through Inkoo and Karjaa. From Lohja the distance takes just half an hour and from Turku about one and half hours.

New riders are always warmly welcomed to the sport and slopes. The culture guides more experienced riders to look after beginners.

– Beginners are highly encouraged to have a chat with more experienced riders to ask for advice and tips, Pyy explains.

Anders Pyy’s motto is to boldly hit the slopes as learning by doing is definitely the best way. He is often there to be asked about the sport in general or to tell about techniques and tips in more detail. Ha may also give a little guidance or tell about the trails in Påminne. The lift crew is there to help beginners get familiar with the lift.

It’s the sense of freedom that lures one to the slopes with a bike

Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. We concentrate on all his tips of how to get on top of the hill as we first grasp the handle bar at the bottom of the slope. Every driving tip is greeted with delight for it asks for a sharp eye, quick reaction skills and ability to perceive terrain to ride down the trails. New routes can of course also be first familiarized by foot when necessary.

The knowledge of the sport increases massively whilst riding down the slopes, as downhill mountain biking needs uninterrupted focus. It is easy to imagine someone already enjoying mountain biking to be carried away by the slopes too.

– The best part of the sport is the sense of freedom and the ability to go anywhere with your bike, Pyy says.

The second he finishes the sentence we see him agilely racing down even the most difficult slopes, almost as if his bike had wings. The smooth turns and accelerating bumps tell about years’ riding experience and never-ending enthusiasm.

Find Påminne Bike Park on map

Translation: Karoliina Säkö

In cooperation with Nuuksioon.fi

Autumn is unquestionably one of the best seasons for a visit in the woods and even a short break to the colourful forest soothes one’s soul. They say the closest forest (and national park) is the best forest as well as the most sustainable choice, but in my case there’s some hindrance with Nuuksio National Park. Currently the route selection seems a bit restricted and I’d rather favour treks requiring no car, so that I could leave from A and ramble to B.

Having all this in mind we tried out this new Nuuksioon.fi-service, which apparently would give recommendations for potential routes, services and transportation options in Nuuksio National Park. Time consuming and bouncing browsing on different websites is history, as now all necessary information can be found in one place!

The service asks first what type of visit I’m planning. Good for me I can choose multiple choices: quick visit, reviving visit and trekking. Other options were ’with kids’, ’running in the nature’ and ’biking’. Presumably the service calculates optimal possibilities from its data according to my answers. And the possibilities are wide!

More than 20 routes are introduced and categorized on easy-intermediate-demanding -scale. There are maps for every route, I’m given an estimation for the duration and furthermore there’s arrival information with public transportation. Woah! As we are not looking for a circular trail, we choose to go with the option of starting from Kattila and ending in Nature Center Haltia. Distance is approximately 7 kilometers, which we consider to be just perfect for a half-day trek. Summing up all the things we need and want to do, the transportation, hiking, breaks, lunch and Nature Center Haltia, this is a good plan for the day. There’s all the info we need, so after packing bags we’re ready to hit the road and trail!

September in Nuuksio is glorious. On a Thursday morning there are just two other passengers with us going all the way to the final stop at Kattila. The morning light is alluring and calling us to the trails. As we walk, we thank ourselves and the route suggestions so that we decided to walk towards south.

We see the sun rising in front of us behind the forest, I see the shimmering light in dew drops and adore the mist growing out of lush moss. Today there seems to be a tiny hint more of magic in these woods.

The trail from Kattila to Haukkalampi is versatile and gives a lot of different landscapes for a wanderer. We just can’t pass the newborn chanterelles to the path, and so we become mushroom pickers too. During the day we spot yellow-foot mushrooms here and there and of course we have the urge to pick them too. “The Earth is our Mother, she gives and she takes.” Today she definitely gives.

There’s more than just forest floor to see; we notice rock walls, duckboards, swamp, ponds, and even take a little detour in order to visit the cave by Vähä-Haukkalampi, a place I’ve never been before but have heard stories of. So much to see and marvel on such a short trail!

At Haukkalampi there’s Cafe Silva, where we decide to have a break. Obviously we didn’t just accidentally find it, but it was introduced with opening hours by the online service, so we knew in advance that there would be no need for thermos coffee this time. Morning has turned closer to noon, and some cars have found their way to the parking lot. I’m rather happy we decided to take the bus instead.

Haukkalampi-pond is like a mirror and even the sun is shining the low temperatures require a warmer jacket for the break. There are some rental canoes and sup-boards on the shore and it would be very tempting to gracefully float on the surface. Next time, perhaps.

We are well over half way to Haltia and lunch buffet. It’s surprisingly fun and perhaps a little luxurious to hike with very light equipment, as we decided to use the catering services instead of carrying our own snacks.

After we’ve left Haukkalampi behind other occasional hikers can be seen on the route. On this part of the route there are a few tough and steep hills. Luckily a couple of stairways have been built to make the walk more convenient. At the north end of lake Pitkäjärvi we stop to admire the smooth, glimmering surface again.

Rumbling hunger sets the pace for the rest of the journey and finally seeing Haltia below us feels plainly great. The lunch buffet is plentiful and we take our time relaxing and cooling off on the balcony.

After lunch we still have time to get acquainted with the current exhibitions at Haltia and we spend some more time exploring other possibilities for a visit in the future. Fatbike rentals would be awesome for the next time, and we immediately check the possible 15 km trail from Haltia to Northern Nuuksio. There’s also chance to accommodate in a Tentsile-skytent right next to Haltia in the summer time! Perhaps next time we take a new angle to Nuuksio either from air or from the saddle of a bike.

Photos: Antti Huttunen

The most loved delicacies in Finland are unquestionably open fire pancakes. They are not just any pancakes, they are plättys. To enjoy your openfire plättys in the best possible way, you should have good company and plenty of time – no one should prepare or eat plättys alone or in a hurry. It’s just not right. We’ll show you how it’s done.

To make best possible plättys, start by taking a stroll in the nature with at least one good friend. Enjoy the fresh air of the forest, listen to the silence. Pay attention to all the small details: the colors of the moss, the shapes of the trees, the ambiance surrounding you. Can you smell how pure the nature is? Take a good walk: the more you walk in the nature, the better your plättys will taste. This works really well especially when the weather is a bit misty, cold or even snowy or rainy.

One good thing about plättys is that you can prepare the dough at home and just take it with you in a bottle. This makes it very easy to start baking plättys after your refreshing stroll in the surrounding nature.

What you need:

5 dl of milk
2 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon of salt and sugar
2 dl of wheat flour
2 table spoons of oil

To prepare the dough, just mix everything together and let it rest for at least half an hour. That’s it!

You need also:

Matches and a knife
Firewood
A frying pan and a spatula
Frying oil
Strawberry or raspberry jam

Finding a good campfire spot is relatively easy in Finland. Now remember, even if one is allowed to enjoy our beautiful nature rather freely, making a campfire is not an everyman’s right. This is why you should always find an actual campfire spot to prepare your plättys. In national parks there are plenty of good and ready-to-go spots that even have firewood waiting for you! When visiting Helsinki, the nearest national parks are Nuuksio and Sipoonkorpi – both less than an hour’s drive away from the city center and also accessible by public transport.

A typical Finnish campfire spot in Nuuksio national park. There’s firewood in the shed.
With the bucket one can get water from the lake to put out the campfire before leaving.

Now, it’s time to make a fire. I hope you brought some matches and a puukko knife with you? Take some firewood from the shed and use your knife (be careful!) to carve little pieces of wood that are easy to kindle. Light the fire and wait for a bit so that the campfire is burning well and ready to prepare some delicious food.

Take your frying pan and put a dash of oil on it. Place it above the fire and let it get hot.

Now it’s time to fry the first plätty. Pour some oil and then some dough from the bottle on the hot pan – not too much, plättys are supposed to be quite thin. Wait for a minute or two and try turning it. Now, don’t worry – the first plätty always goes wrong and looks hideous. This is an essential part of the tradition. The good news is that it still tastes really good!

Maybe the second one turns better, or the third one at least. Fry each plätty one or two minutes each side and add some oil to the pan every now and then.

When you run out of dough it’s time to eat! Some people put sugar on their plättys, others eat plättys covered with strawberry jam. Raspberry jam is also a good choice! One can use fingers or a plate and a fork for example. And, if you’re really, really well prepared, you might even have some whipped cream or ice cream to put on your plättys!

After finishing meal, please make sure that you leave the campfire spot nice and clean. Should there be any rubbish, put it in a garbage can (if there is one) or pack it in a plastic bag and bring it with you away from the nature. Also, if there’s no-one else, put out the campfire before leaving. Let’s be thoughtful and keep our beautiful nature clean!

Enjoy plättys with us – let’s prepare them together!

Did all this sound a bit complicated? No worries. You can book a plätty experience and we’ll teach you how to make them! Come with us to the beautiful national park of Nuuksio, right next to Helsinki, and enjoy the prepapring of plättys as well as the surrounding nature.

As the nights get darker, northern lights can appear again. One night I was waiting for them with my friend. According to the forecast there should have been an amazing light show coming up due to a G2 geomagnetic storm. The auroras should be so bright that they could be seen even in Helsinki, and we were in Lapland! However, the sky was getting cloudy…

Internet and social media are full of beautiful photos of northern lights. However, photographing or even seeing them is not always a peace of cake. Clouds are the biggest problem. Great job if you’re in Lapland and it’s winter – your chances are really good. That’s why I was very optimistic that night.

We made a campfire on our yard and started waiting. The radio was on and we made some tea. But the clouds were coming and I started to wonder if we’re going to see anything at all.

Around 10 pm I took the first photos of the sky. I didn’t see any northern lights yet, but if there’s any light in the sky, the camera can see it even when the naked eye can’t.

And there certainly was something going on.

This was a good time to check that the camera settings were ok for some serious aurora shooting. Maximum ISO and F value, shutter speed about 5 seconds… and focus to infinity. Let’s try with that.

As I was adjusting the camera settings, the sky exploded – but only for a few minutes.

To the naked eye it did not look this green. As I said, cameras can see more than we can. That’s why photographing the auroras is so much fun, it feels like magic!

Before I knew it, the show was over. Reality check: it was way too cloudy.

This is how it can go sometimes – the nature decides whether we can see auroras or not. But nevermind, we had had a great evening anyways!

Imagine sitting by a campfire, enjoying the wild silence of the woods around you. You can smell the freshness of the forest as well as the soft smoke coming from the campfire. You feel safe and relaxed. It’s time to have a cup of campfire coffee. Campfire coffee is one of the most Finnish things ever. Everyone must experience it when visiting Finland, no matter if it’s summer or winter.

To make campfire coffee you must have certain type of coffee grounds that are made especially for making coffee over campfire. Every grocery store usually has this “pannu” or kettle coffee from at least one brand.

You also need fresh water and a metallic coffee kettle that has no plastic parts. To enjoy your campfire coffee in the most Finnish way, also make sure you have a traditional wooden cup or kuksa with you (read more here). A Moomin cup is also acceptable.

Then you must make a fire. In Finland there are lots of maintained campfire spots, and one must not make fire elsewhere without the permission of the landowner. In national parks such as Nuuksio or Sipoonkorpi (both right next to Helsinki) there are dozens of good campfire spots with ready-to-use firewood. Be economical with the firewood – there’s no need to make a huge campfire for preparing campfire coffee.

When the campfire is ready, it’s time to begin. This is how you do it:

Measure one litre of freshwater into your coffee kettle.

Place the kettle above the campfire and wait for the water to boil.

When the water is boiling, take the coffee kettle away from the fire and measure two decilitres of coffee grounds into the kettle.

Then just wait for about ten minutes – the campfire coffee is now preparing itself. You can place the kettle next to the campfire so that it stays hot. Some people add a small amount of cold water into the kettle at this point, believing that the coffee gets ready a bit sooner. Whether this is true or not, who knows – every Finnish hiker has their own style of preparing campfire coffee.

The coffee is ready when all the coffee grounds have sank to the bottom of the kettle. You can test this by pouring a little coffee into your cup and see if there are any coffee gounds coming out. If there are some, put the coffee back to the kettle and wait for a little longer. If not, the coffee is ready to drink!

No coffee grounds coming out – this coffee is ready
Enjoy!

Does this all sound like a whole lot of effort? No worries! We can prepare some delicious campfire coffee for you and your friends. And to make things even better, we’ll also make some campfire pancakes and teach you guys how it’s done!

Article by Tomi Pohja

Have you ever heard of the word Yggdrasil? If you have read fantasy books, delved into old Scandinavian mythology or maybe seen the movie Avatar, you would have come across references to a large and mysterious “tree of life” in one form or another. Then you may have wondered if those kinds of trees really exist. They do.

📌 Parking area for the oak of Paavola: Pietiläntie 23, Lohja

Growing in Lohja, the oak of Paavola reaches for the sky, spreading her branches over a large area and taking the spectator to a place known only from fairy tales and fantasies. I have been visiting the oak at least once a year, because I can’t get enough of it. I have lost count of how many times I’ve made the journey to see the fabled tree. This is one of those times.

Estimates say that the ancient oak is over 300 years old. It grows in Lohjansaari Island, about an hour’s drive from the centre of Helsinki. Driving to the island is an experience in itself, and visiting the site where the tree is, only adds to it. Green landscapes follow one another, and time goes fast by.

We turn from Hankoniementie to Lohjansaarentie. After some old railway tracks by the roadside, the road is lined by countless fields and orchards. Then we move on to Jalassaari Island and after that we cross the bridge to Lohjansaari Island. We can feel that we’re getting close to the oak of Paavola.

There is a boat launching site by the bridge of Lohjansaari Island.

Along the way to the island we have been transported to another world. The sounds of traffic or the city don’t carry here. Instead, the air is filled with the song of at least half a dozen different birds. At this time of the year, the symphony of natural sounds is almost overwhelming.

Soon after crossing the bridge to Lohjansaari, we see the first signs pointing to the oak of Paavola. There’s a nature trail of about 1 kilometre leading from the parking area to the oak. Some might mistake a huge oak growing by the parking area for the oak of Paavola, but that’s not “The” oak. The one and only oak of Paavola is growing deeper in the forest.

Parking is free, and so far there has been room for cars every time I have visited the oak. This time I can see few other cars as well.

On the other side of the parking area, there is an old school of Lohjansaari. It was founded in 1898, and the last classes were held in 2014. In 2018, a café called Ö Cafe was established on the premises. Currently, it’s open on weekends and during the summer. During our visit, however, the café was closed.

If you are planning to come here for a coffee, please check for the opening hours. Please also note that the schoolyard is private property, so if you have no business there, don’t trespass.

The nature trail starting from the parking area goes up to the cliff in front of the school. Already during the first few metres, you get a glimpse of the diverse vegetation that exists on the island. Smaller oaks are also growing in intervals along the path.

Stopping for a while to admire the beautiful colours of the red campion.

After the cliff, the path goes deeper into the deciduous forest, giving us some relief from the heat of a sunny day. Oaks, linden (lime) trees and hazels surround us when we walk on the path, having no worry of getting lost off the trail.

There are also 15 information boards along the trail with facts on the flora and nature of the region. If you take plenty of time to stop on each checkpoint, you’ll get the most of it. Unfortunately, the information is provided in Finnish only.

The 8th information checkpoint says that cones and nuts are important food for many animals.
There are several nesting boxes in the trees, and many birds are indeed nesting, by the sheer sound of them.

A little before the oak of Paavola, the trail turns into a wooden causeway. This is one of my favourite legs along the trail, since I’ve always found wooden causeways somehow intriguing. I feel like rolling on without effort.

On the left, the dense grove of oaks, lindens and hazels gives way to birch trees for a while. This place is at its best in the summer, when the shades of green mix with white, providing a simple but beautiful colour palette.

Eventually, the causeway ends and the path splits in two branches. One of them leads to the oak of Paavola, and the other to the last leg of the nature trail. We are obviously taking the one to the oak.

The path branches off towards the oak of Paavola and to the final section of the nature trail.

When the deciduous forest finally gives way entirely to spruces, we know that we are close to our destination. A little while ago, we saw lilies of the valley and ferns, but there is also a lot of wood horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) around the oak. We haven’t even noticed that we are walking faster now. The oak is clearly pulling us towards it.

I clearly remember how I felt when I first saw the oak of Paavola. At first, I couldn’t believe that it was true. Then, I acknowledged that the tree was actually there and started measuring the height, breadth and girth of it with my eyes. Still, everything about the tree defied belief. Finally, I was so mesmerized by it that I didn’t want to leave its presence at all.

If I remember correctly, this is the sixth time already I’ve been here. However, I still feel the same as on the first time. Standing in the middle of a clearing, on top of a mound, the oak is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen.

The oak has been so popular that to protect its delicate trunk, roots and other vegetation beneath it, causeways and a fence has been built. According to some estimates, the oak of Paavola is over 300 years old. Some oaks can live up to a thousand years when they are left alone. This tree is protected by law as a natural monument. Moving on the area is restricted, and climbing the tree is strictly forbidden. You must also stay on the paths. Littering and firemaking is also prohibited.

It is not exactly sure how old the oak is, but it is old nonetheless – and beautiful.

The oak of Paavola is so huge that it seems to defy laws of nature. Its limbs reach as far as 10 metres from the main trunk, and its height is about 12 metres. One of the most prominent features is its girth: almost 5 metres. The roots of the tree are in many places visible above ground. By the looks of it, the tree must have been a place of worship during the centuries. However, it’s only a speculation.

There’s something unreal about the moss-covered limbs overhead and the rays of light shining through.

We spend a while in its splendour. Then, it’s time to get back to the crossroads of the nature trail. The oak has nourished our hearts and minds.

After the crossroads, the trail continues as beautiful as before. We slow down to enjoy the atmosphere and wildlife as long as possible.

The scenery changes completely after a few hundred metres. Here is the fruit orchard Fruticetum. The path turns to the right, running alongside the orchard fence for a while until it goes back into the forest. In addition to the birdsong and fantastic flora, the smells feel almost tangible. Air here feels really clean.

Before we get back to the parking area, we spot a dead old oak – impressive as well.

Instead of getting back home, we head to the beach. We have packed our swimsuits and some lunch with us. The heat of the day and almost cloudless sky demand a dip into the clear waters of Lake Lohjanjärvi.

We turn right from the parking area, which is the opposite direction where we came from. The signs by the roadside tell us that it’s about 2 kilometres to the beach. After a while, we see another sign saying that there’s only 1 kilometre left. Eventually, the road ends on an iron bar and to a small, unmarked parking area. We leave our car in the shade of the trees and continue on foot down the gravel road towards the beach. There are also few other swimmers enjoying the hot summer day.

Dipping into the lake in water which is nice and warm, crowns the day already filled with experiences. Fording on the sandy bottom was nice, and swimming was easy. There is also an outdoor toilet and information board on the beach. On the board, you can see how clean the water is and when the water samples were taken.

We packed up our things and headed home. Any trip to Lohjansaari Island is different each time, but always as rewarding. The oak of Paavola is an exceptionally beautiful tree with enormous presence in itself, but the total experience with the lake scenery and nature trail is always more than the sum of its parts.

In addition to the oak, there’s a lot more to see and visit, like the café Ö Cafe, the apple wine farm Alitalon omenaviinitila, the old estate of Martinpiha and the antiquities and green room Antiikki ja viherhuone Elegans. This makes sure that when you’re planning for a trip to the oak of Paavola, you can see much more!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti