In paid collaboration with the Sustainable Growth for Summer in Eastern Lapland project 

On the last day of our Eastern Lapland trip, we headed to Posio, where I would have the chance to see Riisitunturi National Park’s wild side! In the style of many other hikers, I have often marveled at the more popular sights of Riisitunturi such as the candle-like fir trees coated in crown snow-loads. Summertime in the area was a new experience for me – I had been anticipating this for some time!

The drive from Kemijärvi to Posio is around 1,5hrs in normal driving conditions. Along the way, between Morottaja and Tonkopuro, is a stunning stretch called Mooseksenkuru. Here, the road flows smoothly between magnificent sand ridges. 

From Maaninkavaara we headed south and marveled at a stretch of road that was striking in a different way – a straight line that continued for over 10 kilometres. After the scenic drive, we found our way to Kota-Husky, where the owner Sari welcomed us warmly. We discussed the schedule for the day as we made a round of the dog yard and greeted the excited pack of huskies. Kota-Husky organises dog sledding experiences in Posio during winter. Today, however, we would go hiking in the traditional way, with only two-legged companions. 

Before the hike, with instruction from Sari, we found our way to our accommodation at Kovajärvi. The spacious wilderness cabin is idyllic and robust. As an added bonus, the cabin stay includes a nearby private laavu with a fireplace and a lakeside sauna. As is custom with wilderness lodging, the cabin does not have running water. Drinking water has instead been brought to the spot in a milk can. The yard also sported an outhouse. After an active day spent exploring Riisitunturi, you couldn’t ask for much more! I would happily relax here for a few nights.

But first, our adventure in the fell.

Hiking in Riisitunturi National Park is allowed everywhere in the park, but because there is only one parking lot, most visitors’ day hikes are concentrated in the marked trails of the area surrounding the parking lot. These trails are already quite familiar to many Finns. Generally, it is better to stay on marked trails, as following them ensures good trail etiquette. Kota-Husky regularly offers a responsible and sustainable option to hike in areas further away without trails, other infrastructure, or passersby. 

Read more: Riisitunturi National Park instructions and rules

As a partner company of the national park, Sari has a specially granted parking spot at the edge of the park. We left the car there and got to it! I consider myself to be a fairly experienced traveller, so it was fascinating to take part in my first guided daytrip. I also took the opportunity to test my new hiking boots on the terrain. I would only go on a longer trip once I knew I could trust the quality of the new shoes. 

There certainly was no path – we followed Sari along the edges of swamps, ridges, riverbanks, and around thickets. Sari had warned us that the trip was challenging, and of course it was. The thickness of the brush varied, but in places it reached up to our knees, and the shrubbery covered the ground surface in a way that made our progress sluggish despite our steady pace. After the morning’s rain everything was wet, but the air was fresh to breathe and drops of condensation sparkled here and there. We found ourselves in the type of forest that many dream about finding and look for during their trips to Lapland: that is, untouched.

Walking in untouched nature is entirely different from a structured environment, somehow rawer. Even shorter distances are slightly strenuous and it’s impossible to walk on autopilot here, as the terrain demands your focus on the details. We examined orchids along our path, saw the body imprint of a reindeer or moose that had been resting on the ground, and snacked on ripe blueberries that covered the area. We conversed, we hiked, and most importantly, we were entirely in the present. 

The terrain had slowly risen upwards, and after circling around a larger swamp area it rose steeper. We climbed to the top of Lavavaara, which doesn’t look like much on the map. Yet, looking out at the landscape to the northwest, the valley was more breathtaking than I could ever have imagined, painted golden by the late summer sun. The lakes in the northern end of Posio mirrored the blue sky and marshes foreshadowed autumn “ruska”. Summer’s verdancy was clearly over, making way for the first signs of amber autumn. Lavavaara itself blushed red, and my search for the best shooting angles with my camera complicated made it near impossible to stop for a snack break. Luckily Sari had anticipated my love for chocolate, and her partner Lauri’s homemade redcurrant juice was so good that I was happily distracted by them for a moment. 

The trip is not timed to the minute and doesn’t require map-reading or even staying on a trail. This made it all the more relaxing. Though the physical strain is tougher than normal, the feeling of peace is enhanced by the knowledge that there are no time, kilometre, or route constraints.

On our way back, we followed a slightly steeper section down the slope of the fell. Discussion naturally flowed to the terrain that sled dogs run on in winter, and how guides plan the routes so that they are pleasant and safe. Today, the route we followed to Lavavaara was also deceivingly well planned despite passing through untouched wilderness. I would never have chosen to follow the marsh so closely if I had been on my own. With Sari’s reliable guiding, it was exciting walking in the morass that didn’t submerge us too much and was in fact a perfect test environment for my new shoes! To my delight, I can say that the shoes passed the test, and based on this trip I’m highly satisfied with the purchase.

The return journey is always shorter than the way there, though the downhill also played a part this time. I stalled the end by stopping at lush blueberry bushes as much as I dared, though at the same time I was already looking forward to the evening’s sauna by the lake. 

The sauna warmed up, dusk set and the nature of Posio was magical in its serenity. As I cooled off on the terrace, I looked out at the lake and thought about the endless opportunities of rich experiences to enjoy here. Hiking. Scenery. Freedom of movement. Fresh air. The sauna. Woollen socks. 

Our stay here in the heart of Lapland’s charm was a great way to end the week. This versatile trip had opened my eyes to the sights and experiences of Eastern Lapland in a unique way. I also had fond thoughts about the immediacy of human contact here.  Thank you, Eastern Lapland – I can’t wait to test my shoes here another time!

Translated by Karolina Salin

Check out all the posts from this series:

Part 1: Reach the wilderness overnight by train – paddle at sunset in Salla

Part 2: The fog lifted and revealed the first colours of ’ruska’ – our hike to “Kivitunturi” in Savukoski with Alit the Husky

Part 3: Climbing up Pyhäkuru rock formations & cycling with e-fatbikes to the eternally beautiful Tunturiaapa mire in Pyhä

Part 4: Summer at Kemijärvi on horseback & SUP-boarding on the superb Kalkonniemi beach

Part 5: The outskirts of Riisitunturi National Park – a journey through Posio’s untouched wilderness

Read more:

Posio Lapland

Kota-Husky.com

Riisitunturi National Park

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -project

The serene nature-filled experiences of our Eastern Lapland trip continued where the trip had begun – we were now headed to the abundant lakes and forests of Kemijärvi! A few days ago, we had arrived here by train from Helsinki. Now, we had the chance to relax properly in Kemijärvi. Our program for today was designed to ease us into the peaceful atmosphere, starting with a horse riding trip on a Finnhorse, continuing with SUP-boarding at sunset, and ending with a dip in Kemijärvi lake from the scenic pier behind our accommodation.

On our way from Pyhätunturi towards Kemijärvi centre, a large and visible sign guided us to the yard of Outinen riding centre. At the stable, a happy herd of horses and their equally happy caretaker greeted us. Our group’s four-legged leader, named Huttu-Ukko a.k.a. Huttis, was already set to go. Soon joining him from their stalls were Särkiä and Helmi, as well as Helmi’s four-month-old foal Rallipertti, who charmed us instantly.  

Our guide Riia told us about Finnhorses and the stable’s operations while we fitted helmets on and got to know our horses (and vice versa). After that it was time for everyone to move out into the sunlight and go for a few practice rounds in the stable’s outdoor arena. 

At Outinen riding centre, you can go horseback riding without any previous experience. I was glad since I’m an absolute beginner. Riia recommended always calling latest the day before you want to come riding, rather than showing up at the yard. This way, availability is much more likely to be guaranteed! 

I’ve probably gotten on a horse a total of five times in my life, and the only thing I clearly remembered was that getting off the horse felt much more intimidating than getting on. Even for a relatively short-legged person like myself, getting on felt relatively easy with the guide’s instructions after the initial apprehension about being able to jump so high up in the air. Easiest is to bravely take the guide’s advice and simply hop up there!

I was partnered with Helmi while Karo got Särkiä, and Riia led the group with Huttis. Rallipertti would roam free with us in nature on his own terms. We got on our horses, and with Riia’s help I reminded myself of the basics, such as moving forward, using the reins correctly, stopping, etc. – it’s all actually quite simple, and as you can expect, stable horses are gentle. Helmi was the perfect horse for me: extremely calm, without any rush to get anywhere. Personally, I don’t like speed at all, so Helmi and I got along wonderfully. 

Me & Helmi
Riia checking that Karo & Särkiä are set to go.

After doing a few practice rounds in the arena, it was time to head out into nature. We followed a grass-covered forest road into the depths of Kemijärvi’s summer-bathed nature. We got the best of Lapland’s late summer, enjoying the warmth and lack of bugs. 

The horses didn’t even stir when a dog barked from the yard of a nearby house, only exciting Rallipertti a little. He took to the safety of trustworthy old Huttu-Ukko, sticking to his side for a while. Otherwise Rallipertti was overjoyed with life and the summer air, frolicking here and there, stopping when he felt like it to snack for a moment, and then prancing around between us. Occasionally the foal would march ahead leading the herd, then get distracted by something for a bit before bolting forward enthusiastically to catch up to us again. I rode Helmi, Rallipertti’s mother, so I was honoured to have the foal follow me quite closely many times. As the trip progressed, he sniffed the back of my thigh, which felt like a warm tickle on my skin. 

We broke off the trail and crossed a ditch to a nearby meadow, where the horses had a proper chance to graze while we enjoyed Lapland’s summer and the warm day, listening to Riia’s stories about the horses. 

In the middle Riia & Huttu-Ukko, on the right Karo & Särkiä, in the foreground Rallipertti.

During the trip, Rallipertti wanted to stop for his own snack breaks, drinking his mother’s milk in peace for a moment. It felt moving to be able to follow the large animal’s care procedures so close up. 

The round in the forest took around one hour, including breaks. Horse-riding feels a bit daunting to me as an idea, but it’s a relief to see that the horse is a fairly reliable creature. It generally knows how to use its feet, look ahead, and analyse situations. For this reason, we didn’t have to worry too much about things like crossing the ditch, even though I felt it a little in the pit of my stomach. I remember vividly how much I used to worry about crossing a ditch with a snowmobile – with a horse the same situation feels completely different and alleviating, since I don’t have to have much skill myself. 

As we returned to the stable, we had the honour to meet one last furry friend – the wonderful Rölli cat, who came to ask for cuddles and scratches without hesitating. And of course we did!

After the horse-riding adventure, the rest of the evening’s schedule was on our own terms. Visit Suomu had SUP boards waiting for us to enjoy the evening in Kemijärvi. The company can transport rental SUP boards anywhere in the Kemijärvi area, but because we hadn’t decided where we wanted to go paddling, we asked for them to be delivered to our lodging at Hotel Uitonniemi. And that’s where they were waiting!

As evening set, we decided to head out to Kalkonniemi. It was only around a 15-minute drive from the hotel and is generally a popular spot that I had seen lots of photos of over the years. I often lamented not having gone to Kalkonniemi, and now I had the chance!

Kalkonniemi’s stunning beach

We drove past scenic landscapes to our destination, and the evening sun already streaked the western sky with red. Kemijärvi has an abundance of lakes and lakefront roads. Even the city centre is literally surrounded by a lake in an unreal location, so you can admire the blue landscapes in every direction. The vast lake reaches as far as the eye can see! Hills far in the distance surround the water. 

We took in the magnificent views along the road to Kalkonniemi, including many quaint buildings, blue-green hills, and lakes. On arrival, we found a parking lot and first-class facilities: a cooking shelter, changing rooms, outhouse, and woodshed. 

We weren’t sure if the noise coming from the electricity line next to us was continuous or normal – we tried to shut it out of our mind. Kalkonniemi Beach was such a sight that we instantly forgot it and any other distractions!

I can only imagine how much of a paradise this place is for swimmers throughout summer. Now the beach was empty, and the cleanliness of the area amazed us. There were enough human and canine tracks that I imagined it was probably a favoured outdoor recreation area among the locals. And why wouldn’t it be, in all its splendor! 

Kalkonniemi flows into the western side of Kemijärvi. The northern point of Kalkonniemi is delightfully calm, while strong gusts blew on the southern end. Karo, who is a skilled paddler, decided to try both worlds. The lake provided a complete SUP-boarding experience, from a smooth, slow ride on one end to battling with the wind in a test of skill on the other. A buoyancy vest was a crucial piece of equipment for this sport. 

View to the north
View to the South

Resting on the beach, we watched the sunset and looked out into the open space. Karo had snacks with her as always, and I couldn’t have been happier snacking while sitting on the SUP-board, admiring the scenery.

As night descended upon us, we drove back to Hotel Uitonniemi. The hotel is right in the centre of Kemijärvi and next to the train station, but is still in a peaceful spot that gives the impression of being in the countryside. The hotel’s beautiful red main building hosts the reception and breakfast spaces, while the rooms are located on the other side of the yard, in a two-story log building. Our cosy room included a kitchenette and private restroom with shower. 

Before going to bed, we wanted to check out the lakefront sauna behind the main building. A quick dip in the lake from the sauna’s dock was the perfect end to the day!

The last thing in the evening, we went over the experiences gained during the trip, realising that tomorrow would be the last day of our round of Eastern Lapland. Our last day would be spent in the nature of Riisitunturi national park, Posio – the story will be published next week!

Translation by Karolina Salin

Check out all the posts from this series:

Part 1: Reach the wilderness overnight by train – paddle at sunset in Salla

Part 2: The fog lifted and revealed the first colours of ’ruska’ – our hike to “Kivitunturi” in Savukoski with Alit the Husky

Part 3: Climbing up Pyhäkuru rock formations & cycling with e-fatbikes to the eternally beautiful Tunturiaapa mire in Pyhä

Part 4: Summer at Kemijärvi on horseback & SUP-boarding on the superb Kalkonniemi beach

Part 5: The outskirts of Riisitunturi National Park – a journey through Posio’s untouched wilderness

See also

Outinen Riding Centre

Visit Suomu

Hotel Uitonniemi

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -project

We woke up to a bright and beautiful morning in Pyhätunturi, the warm, soft touch of autumn blowing in the breeze. It gave a welcome contrast to the dark cavernous gorge on the side of the fell with grey, rugged edges spreading in different directions, exposing fascinating cracks and tunnels of various sizes. Wearing a sturdy harness and helmet, Karoliina set off to conquer these striking formations before our next very different type of adventure, namely a peaceful cycle on the charming bike paths of Tunturiaapa. 

The impressive rock walls of Pyhäkuru rise behind a spectator stand and U-shaped sitting area, built on a slope beside a small road. Climbing structures and wires are visible along the rock wall. Looking up towards the heights excitedly, I almost chuckle out loud when a gleefully shrieking adventurer attached to a zipline glides above me. I can’t wait for my turn! In front of the sensational action is a small hut with a guide waiting to assist us. The guide gives us climbing instructions and wishes us a wonderful journey.  Another employee waits on the slope ready to help if there are any difficulties. Extra help may be required if a glide falls short or there’s a problem with the safety locks.

We notice the diversity of the group waiting to start the adventure; people of all ages, even very small and brave children with their parents.  Despite its exhilarating nature, this adventure is suitable for most people, with no previous climbing experience required. As long as you don’t have a fear of heights, an open mind and basic fitness level are enough!

The guide assists me and the others in the group with harnesses and helmets,  and then we start a practice run. There are a wide selection of metal structures hanging from the wall, a wire going through them that encircles the hut.

You can study the route beforehand from the map on the hut wall.

At the starting point, each climber clicks the carabiner attached to their harness onto the wire in the test course, following the route around the hut with great concentration. The guide explains how to get past each point on the route, as these same obstacles will be encountered along the route around the gorge. The exciting sounds of metal clanking soon fill the hut surroundings as all the participants ensure that they can get through the obstacles. 

The course is designed to be extremely safe – it is practically not possible to get detached from the safety wire once you have attached yourself to it. As we get ready to begin the course, everyone is attached to the wire in a fool-proof way that will remain that way from start to end. 

Off we go! The first stretch of the course runs in close proximity to the road – including the first zipline, a pleasantly mellow first run – and everyone can see how the  climbers are doing. Soon after this, we ascend up and behind the rock wall. From below, the climbers get smaller and smaller until they disappear from view entirely for a while.

Pyhäkuru will leave you speechless as your mind fills with adrenaline. The actual size of the gorge is only apparent once you get here – it’s impossible to estimate just from pictures! Suspension bridges challenge your balance while the vertical steel steps attached to the cliff feel sturdy beneath you and lead straight up towards the sky from the grey depths of the gorge. The constant presence of the safety wire allows you to fearlessly throw yourself at the challenges knowing that there’s no real danger, even if it occasionally feels wild!

Passing other climbers has also been taught at the practice hut, in case anyone wants to stop somewhere for longer to mentally prepare, take pictures or pick blueberries. It’s handy when you can get your snacks straight from the cliff edge!

Visual instructions have been placed in necessary spots along the gorge in case anyone forgets what they learned during the practice run at the hut. The visual instruction is also useful for those who do not know how to read yet. 

The route provides a roller coaster of emotions. The rugged cliff is always nearby since the safety wire only allows around a metre of freedom. The route is a mix of trails, soft turf and shrub, sharp rock, wires, and – during the ziplines – nothing! Many trees and cliffs get hugged to during the climb.

Completing the route definitely doesn’t involve pure focused concentration, though some specific sections are particularly exciting and require focus. Though many groups traverse the gorge at the same time, there’s no need to rush – everyone focuses calmly at their own pace. There is time to appreciate the autumn colours and snack on blueberries in peace. The views from above are majestic, and worth taking the time to look at as well. The starting point of the Pyhäkuru route is already high up the fell’s slope, and the views only improve as you rise up the cliff walls. Those waiting at the bottom can’t even imagine the open scenery that those who braved the route get to enjoy!

After some time, the adventurers appeared in sight between the rocks, and their friends waiting at the bottom could see their progress. 

The starting point at the mouth of the gorge is covered with dangling rope courses and wires, where climbers either balance on top of the wires or move with them. A small child can be heard objecting to gliding down a slightly high zipline, but before the guide makes it to help the child is already bravely sliding down the long and high zipline without further thought.  

First by foot to the gorge’s southern wall…
…Then speedily ziplining back to the northern edge!

The longest zipline passes above the spectator stand to the other side of the road, acting as the grand finale of the route. The thrill of gliding such a long distance from the heights is only topped by the end, where part of the way passes between pinewood treetops.  The zipline ends on a platform built around a post, where the safety wire is detached, and stairs descend to a stony ground and into the arms of the elegant forest. The guide greets the adventurers once again and suggests a second round, but this time we still have more planned for the day, so we finish up and get going to the marshland. 

-Karo

Scenic trails of Tunturiaapa mire by e-fat

Once an exhilarated Karoliina was safely down from the zipline, we stopped by our accommodation at Pyhä Igloos briefly to change clothes and eat a quick snack before our next adventure. The distances between attractions at Pyhätunturi are conveniently short – if you’re not in a hurry, it’s easy to walk between places in the village. Our accommodation, Pyhäkuru, and our next destination, Bliss Adventure rental shop, are all a stone’s throw from each other.

At Bliss we were greeted by Artturi, who would be our e-fatbike expert and guide for the trip. This was my first time riding an electric fatbike, and admittedly during my adulthood I haven’t cycled much otherwise.

Though you should remember how to cycle forever once you’ve learned it once, the electric component of the bike made me nervous. I was scared that I would end up out of control and into a bush at the first rock or sharp bend. That’s why I was grateful that Artturi gave us a proper briefing on how to use the bike – he gives this briefing to all his customers. According to him, knowing the right way to cycle with an e-bike can be pivotal to the enjoyment of the sport. On the other hand, certain mistakes when using the bikes can deter the rider enough not to want to try it again. 

To me, the most important lesson was learning what to do with the different gears and electric assist modes. We set the bikes to Eco-mode as we left, which means light assistance. We were taught that if the cycling feels too strenuous, we should first adjust the gears rather than playing with the electric assist modes. The Tunturiaava route ahead of us is apparently possible to cycle without changing from Eco mode at all, but we could test the more powerful modes during the trip if we felt like it. This made me feel more at ease, since I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to shift between both the different gears and assist modes. Now, I could calmly concentrate on just the gears without thinking about the assist modes. Suddenly everything felt a lot simpler!

After the briefing we did a few rounds around the yard to be sure that the bike saddle was adjusted to the right height and helmets were firmly fitted on our heads. We also got silicon padding on the seat since I remembered that the few times I did cycle in my adulthood, I had a tendency to start feeling sore already while cycling. The padding turned out to be very effective – I wasn’t even sore during our horse-riding trip the next day.

We left for the trip directly from Bliss Adventures’ yard, the dirt path going directly into the forest. A few intersections and junctions, and we were on our way to the swamp. The narrow dirt trail twisted and turned in the beautiful pine forest, lined with a selection of potholes, rocks, puddles, and roots. The fatbike is a comfortably sturdy piece of equipment for this kind of terrain – even though I usually get nervous about anything that feels even slightly reckless, here I felt comfortable. Every once in a while, we passed by other hikers – a larger group of people, dog walkers, and to my delight even a person walking their cat!

Artturi told us that at Pyhä-Luosto national park there are a good amount of multi-purpose trails, meaning that you can both walk and cycle. According to him, this is a relatively new concept country-wide. In many areas in the past, cycling has been allowed only on separately marked bike trails, whereas nowadays he’s seen the trend shift towards allowing cycling on all routes where it isn’t specifically prohibited. If you’re planning a cycling trip to any national park, you can check route details on Nationalparks.fi

As we left the forest, we rode along a blissfully wide trail of wooden planks to a small island at the edge of the marsh. I could have cycled this kind of trail forever, the elevated edges making me feel safe. 

Waiting for us at the other end of the trail was a rest stop, Tiaislaavu, where we stopped to drink water and sit down for a moment. The clouds above gave us a sight to watch as they rolled up and revealed ever more sun from behind them. The sun shone down on the marsh and magnificently highlighted its deep, warm tones that already hinted at autumn. Some of the cloudberry leaves had turned their autumn “ruska” colour, wine red. You could already spot little bits of red here and there in the green cranberry bushes. 

There is a trail of narrow wooden planks that continues from Tiaislaavu straight to the marsh. I did a quick walk around here to photograph the area. When the time came to get back on our bikes, we continued shortly along the forest path until getting to a point where we could test how the marsh felt by bike. 

The trail of wooden planks ahead of us looked comfortably wide, but as I set off I noticed that with speed it actually felt fairly narrow – particularly when it narrowed even more after a short stretch. Artturi advised us to look further ahead rather than at what was directly in front of us. Though I believed his advice would help, my eyes didn’t want to cooperate. I cycled for some time in cautious concentration and could feel the beads of perspiration forming on my temples.

I soon decided to move on to the second activity, namely carrying the bike, which is a fundamental part of the sport according to Artturi. Even on routes that allow cycling, there are often sections that are unsuitable for beginners, some even for experienced cyclists. Carrying the bike is required for these sections, and I decided that now was the time. As I jumped off in a semi-controlled manner and felt the legs of the wooden planks under my feet instead of the marsh (huh!), I was able to take a proper look around at the landscapes. And how beautiful they were!

Karo, who is a lot bolder than I am, cycled over the wooden planks with a smile on her lips! But even she admitted to being slightly nervous. Either way it went well – no one fell into the marsh. Even if someone had, it would have been a soft, cooling, and probably unforgettable experience on a soft and warm summer day in Lapland.

At the marsh, we took a moment to admire the view. We were on our way to the bird-watching tower, which stands tall in the middle of the marsh. The marshy blue ponds shone colourfully among ochre tussocks, reflecting the blue sky and giving the landscape a painting-like appearance. The huge fells rising around the edges only added to the allure. 

We got the best of late summer in Lapland! No bugs and few other people, but still great weather and nature preparing for “ruska” autumn colours.
On this section I still cycled, but when three planks became two, I got off the bike. The bike was luckily light to carry on such an even stretch!

The wooden planks were narrow enough that even by foot I would have felt like sticking closely to the sides when passing others. With bikes, there was an even greater need for it. Luckily there were spots at suitable intervals where you could lift the bike and yourself to the side when needed so that oncoming hikers could easily pass. Passersby were mainly cheerful nature lovers walking alone or in pairs. As with any hiking trail, a cheerful greeting always creates a pleasant atmosphere. Those were definitely not lacking on this trip!

Artturi waiting for the hikers to pass by.

The forest of silver trees growing in the marshland was exceptionally beautiful and picturesque, especially in the glow of late summer’s warm light. Karo climbed up to the bird-watching tower to take a picture of me while I was still walking my bike towards the tower.

From the bird-watching tower, the official Tunturiaava route (total seven kilometres in length, more info at Nationalparks.fi) would have continued onwards. We unanimously decided to turn back and go the same way we had come. I walked the bike back to the edge of the forest while absorbing as much of the fell landscape as I could. After this trip, I knew it might be a short lifetime before I get the chance to return to Lapland’s nature. I was also thankful that Artturi had chosen precisely this beautiful route. Somehow, though I lived near Sodankylä for a good few years, I never chanced upon this trail. This is definitely among Pyhä-Luosto national park’s most stunning routes, boasting surprisingly striking landscapes with minimal elevation difference.

Even Karo carried her bike towards the end. The sun started to set as our trip shifted towards evening.

Our return to the rental shop went smoothly, following the old rule that the way back is always half as short as the way there. We thanked Artturi for the wonderful guiding and perfect choice of destination. After the trip I was left with the feeling that I would enjoy renting e-fats more often in the future. This particularly pleased my partner, who has his own e-bike and has so far had to cycle to places without me, since I haven’t had enough confidence with e-bikes, or more specifically my ability to use them properly. It would be fun to try other easy routes like the one we did now at Tunturiaapa. E-fat rentals are popping up these days in many areas such as national parks. I personally prefer renting, as I don’t have to worry about the maintenance and fixing of such expensive equipment. Renting is wonderfully worry-free.

After saying goodbye to Artturi, we stopped by the campsite and then went to eat. After comparing the vegetarian options, prices, and opening hours of the area’s restaurants on the internet, we ended up choosing restaurant Uula. The vegetarian burger there was fantastic!

After a long day, it felt wonderful to watch the sky darken from the comfort of Pyhä Igloos’ adjustable beds. We were hoping for Northern lights, but they didn’t appear this time – at least before we fell asleep. I did find a few familiar constellations from the star-filled sky though, which made me feel at home.

-Jonna

The following day’s plan involved a short transfer to Kemijärvi and activities included horseback riding and SUP-boarding. Story on that coming up next!

Translated by Karolina Salin

Check out all the posts from this series:

Part 1: Reach the wilderness overnight by train – paddle at sunset in Salla

Part 2: The fog lifted and revealed the first colours of ’ruska’ – our hike to “Kivitunturi” in Savukoski with Alit the Husky

Part 3: Climbing up Pyhäkuru rock formations & cycling with e-fatbikes to the eternally beautiful Tunturiaapa mire in Pyhä

Part 4: Summer at Kemijärvi on horseback & SUP-boarding on the superb Kalkonniemi beach

Part 5: The outskirts of Riisitunturi National Park – a journey through Posio’s untouched wilderness

See also

Pyha.fi

Adventure Park Pyhäkuru Lapland

Bliss Adventure

Pyhä Igloos

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -project

In the morning, the weather forecast for the day was looking grim, giving us reason to consider back-up options for our trip to the fell. Thankfully luck was on our side, as the worst rainfall cleared up in the early afternoon. When the time came for us to start heading towards Kivitunturi fell, the sky was left with nothing more than a dense fog. This suited us well, as a misty fog over the forest wetland adds to its magnificence! The plan was to do the Kivitunturi Nature Trail basic route, 5.9 kilometres in length. Our fell tour was not so basic, however, as we would be joined by an exceptionally energetic and furry companion to get to this exceptionally beautiful fell.

Led by our guide for the day, Reija, we drove along dirt roads to an empty parking lot. On arrival, the star of our hike hopped out of the back trunk of Reija’s car: Alit the husky. Reija’s company, Radnis Northern Venture, organises farm tours and other guided adventures such as the husky hike we were about to go on. 

Alit had different coloured eyes, one brown and one blue – in fact, the word ’alit’ means blue in Sami, and the dog is from the Sami land. We took in the fell’s silence for a moment while Alit took the chance to do some unfinished business after the exciting car ride, then we were on our way!

The forest of Kivitunturi resonated peacefulness. The kota, our trip’s first stop, was as silent as the trail we followed. You could almost wrap yourself in the magic and stillness of Lapland’s warm and misty forest. The first signs of autumn could be seen here and there in the yellowing of birch branches and red shades of bunchberries.

It was a short walk to the first lookout point. After a warming workout up a flight of steps, we looked out from the terrace-like platform at the misty evergreen forest. The candle-like fir trees gave off a fresh earthy scent with a hint of musty aromas.

As I took my raincoat off, I realized that the brisk air had warmed up. The warm feeling was not just from the step workout to the platform – the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. 

Kivitunturi hiking trail differs from other fell trail in that no expenses have been spared with the trail infrastructure. Flights of steps, boardwalks, and other wooden structures along the trail lighten your step and make the route feel shorter. This feeling is of course also influenced by the interesting sights to see at regular intervals along the way, the first of which is this lookout point.

“Luojanluomalaavu” is the first actual sight on the route, and it certainly is a memorable sight to see. The name literally means ”laavu created by God”, for a good reason. Karoliina posed for a photo in front of the lean-to with Alit, though in reality we didn’t stop here for long. A little further down the path is the official campfire site, so at Luojanluomalaavu we focused simply on admiring the scenic nature.

The trail was spotted with smaller and larger puddles, which Alit enjoyed cooling off in. It was fun to watch the husky greatly enjoying himself as he splashed around in the water. I wasn’t feeling particularly warm after taking off my raincoat, yet the thought of joining Alit in the forest pools was tempting. I contained myself this time. 

After our first sight-seeing warmup at Luojanluomalaavu, we were ready for the highlight of the trip, “Pirunkuru”. Here, a suspension bridge hangs over a magnificent gorge. Alit didn’t require any extra coaxing to cross the bridge, but after crossing we let him take a break with Reija while Karoliina and I went back to the bridge to get a better look at the gorge.  The steep and rugged drop is not done justice in pictures – this beauty must be experienced in-person!

While looking out from the bridge, I noticed for the first time that the blanket of clouds had started to give way to a small blotch of blue in the sky! For a moment the clouds still worked to patch up the sky, but the day was starting to brighten.

After Pirukuru, the trail continued with a fair share of paths, flights of steps, and boardwalks. The forest opened up to a bright sight of bushy pines with tufts of hanging moss and puddles and ponds shimmering on the shoulders of the fell. 

Our next break was at “Äitipetäjänlampi”, or mother pine’s pond. Awaiting us in front of the half-kota was a campfire, looking out to a calm, clear pond. Alit took a gulp from the pond and waded in for a bit before settling for a birch shrub root as his resting spot. After circling a few times, he was fast asleep. The dog lay in peaceful silence for the whole time that we snacked. We didn’t make a fire this time since we didn’t have the need for it. Reija had baked us blueberry pie, and boiling hot water was waiting in a thermos flask. Reija served us rose-hip tea, and everything was so delicious that it felt like nothing could have been better in that moment. 

At our rest stop, I examined the trail map and oops! I thought we were already almost at the peak, but according to the contour line the real ascent only started from here. The curve rose almost straight upwards. In reality, the trail sloped gently upwards with trees to push from on the way to the top. 

As we climbed higher and the weather brightened, the landscape started to appear. I am partial to the versatility of nature in Kivitunturi. The small bodies of water bring to life the already distinctive fell. I could spend forever admiring the view, the verdant nature nestled between water and stone creating a collection of miniature worlds. 

The autumn colours of “ruska” were already visible on the blueberry bushes, as could be expected in August. There were also still plenty of large ripe blueberries, which we took the time to pick along the way. The lingonberries were not ripe yet, cloudberry season was long gone, and cranberry season was still to come, but the blueberries were a perfect snack for the trip. 

I’m one of those people who finds water enchanting. As we reached a babbling stream running over jagged rock, it would have been impossible for me to pass by without stopping to examine it. I studied the water and how it smoothened the edges of rocks and formed a shiny, velvety surface over them. I broke the water’s surface and felt the rock with the entire palm of my hand, while the running water smoothened my hand as well. The water was clear, accentuated by the needles and leaves mixed within it. While I stopped to admire the water, Alit decided to take a drink as there was nothing more exciting to do.

The highest point of Kivitunturi is really quite humble. There is no showy pile of stones or sharp peak – in fact, as we examined the map, we realised that the fell seems to have at least two peaks. The path only traverses one of two gigantic bumps that sit side-by-side. The surface boasts a wide and beautiful landscape, low-growing pine trees and other forest, and the stunning scenery opens far out into the horizon. According to the old – or perhaps new? – wooden sign close to the peak, the Soviet Union is 71 kilometers away.

The peak was followed by a steep and narrow path downhill, through rocky and forest terrain. At this point, I wish I had something more supportive on my feet than rain boots. The slope led us to a beautifully colourful sunlit forest, the rays of light transforming blueberry shrubs into sparkling rubies. 

At the parking lot, we said goodbye to Reija and thanked her and Alit for a wonderful trip. Alit hopped in the car as if he had springs in his paws. Our journey continued onwards to “Samperin Savotta”, our place for the night. A short drive from Kivitunturi, it is located on the shore of Kemijoki river at the edge of Savukoski village. 

Waiting for us there was Ms. Santa Claus cottage’s cosy room and inviting beds as well as “Marski’s sauna”, already radiating heat. The heavy log sauna, originally built in Saunakangas for President Mannerheim, was later moved to this spot at Kemijoki’s beach cliffs. We studied the markings and numbers on the logs while keeping an eye on the spectacular sunset on the river. A thin layer of fog formed over the river as the sun set. The water of Kemijoki was clear, enabling the late evening light to shine beautifully on the riverbed plants. We stayed in the sauna until it got dark, and fell sound asleep as soon as we got into bed. Thank you Savukoski!

Translated by Karolina Salin

Check out all the posts from this series:

Part 1: Reach the wilderness overnight by train – paddle at sunset in Salla

Part 2: The fog lifted and revealed the first colours of ’ruska’ – our hike to “Kivitunturi” in Savukoski with Alit the Husky

Part 3: Climbing up Pyhäkuru rock formations & cycling with e-fatbikes to the eternally beautiful Tunturiaapa mire in Pyhä

Part 4: Summer at Kemijärvi on horseback & SUP-boarding on the superb Kalkonniemi beach

Part 5: The outskirts of Riisitunturi National Park – a journey through Posio’s untouched wilderness

See also

Visit Savukoski-Korvatunturi – Korvatunturi.fi

Radnis Northern Venture

Samperin Savotta

In commercial collaboration with Visit Raseborg

Article & photos by Johanna Kleemola @outdoorfamily.fi

Sneaking around Raseborg castle on a foggy November night, we might have heard two ghosts playing hide-and-seek in the castle ruins. Had we gone in Mid-July, the arcadian village Snappertuna would have been bustling with medieval markets and wild tournaments. However, our visit to the castle ruins on an ordinary day in early summer was still certainly fascinating, surprising, and rewarding.  

Raseborg castle is already a captivating attraction in itself, but a guided tour provides the opportunity to immerse yourself even more in the environment. Or what do you think about the following experiences?

A medieval castle surrounded by green countryside

Sunlight reflected on the surface of the road that winded through the countryside. The fields were ready for the coming growing season and bird song filled the forests, indicating the start of summer.

Flowing river views could already be seen from the car park, and the couple hundred-metre walk from the parking lot to the castle ruins already boasted the verdancy of Raseborg. More was to come.

Bug safari – entomology with professional tools

We began our family day with a Bug safari. First we caught small insects with sweep nets. Then we got to study our catches under a microscope. We also managed to fish a few different types of bugs from the riverbank.

Catherine Munsterhjelm introduced us to the world of spiders, water striders, and other insects in an interesting and compassionate way. She gave us the chance to test professional tools and observe bugs, each even more interesting than the last – while respecting the insects.

Through the microscope, miniscule organisms grew gigantic. The smallest details stood out.

There were dragonfly nymphs and caddis larva. Centipedes! And a giant snail! And a beetle that jumps in the air at an explosive speed!

Catherine organizes hour-long bug safaris in the courtyard of Raseborg castle on-request for families and other groups (€100 / max. 10 people / English, Finnish, or Swedish). There are also general safaris that anyone can join for €10. Availability can be found on Visit Raseborg’s website, and tours are suitable for all ages.

Catherine can also arrange longer bug safaris – as well as something completely different…

Wild herb walk – dive into the exciting world of free natural treats

This something different is immersion into the world of wild herbs. We got a brief taste of Catherine’s wild herb walk, but the half hour was enough to get the family super excited about wild herbs. My first-grader wanted to write down all of the herb names that we tasted so that none of them were forgotten at home. At home, it was imminent that we immediately start going through stinging nettles to gather the free superfood.

When you can taste tens of herbs and hear plenty of tips on preparing them within half an hour, one can only imagine how much a 2.5-hour wild herb walk has to offer.

There’s ground elder, viola, and rosebay willowherb. There’s alder, birch, and rowan. There’s greater plaintain, spruce tip, and polypody roots. You’ll taste licorice flavours and asparagus-like delicacies. Best of all are the stories, recipes, and ideas.

Catherine guides her guests around Raseborg castle while giving tips, advice, instructions, and taste samples. You can’t gather just anything from anywhere, but many common plants can be used to create more delicious and healthy treats. Catherine always offers small samples of these herbs at the end of the walk. It was an incredible experience! Thank you Catherine!  

You can book a wild herb walk from Catherine for your own group. Shorter and longer walks are also possible. Additionally, wild herb walks are organized at all open events during the summer. Participation costs €25 and availability can be found here.

Catherine Munsterhjelm

Biologist specialized in underwater research

Has worked as a nature school teacher in addition to research work

Instructed courses and guided tours at Raseborg castle for c. 5 years

More info about guided tours: catherine.munsterhjelm(at)gmail.com

Guided castle tour – a unique theatrical experience on historical ground

After the bug safari and wild herb walk, we were ready to learn about the castle itself. This is definitely not your average guided tour! From the moment Dan Idman steps into the castle yard clothed in full medieval garments, the most unique 1.5 hours of your life begins.

The tour is full of life and emotion. Dan explains facts from the castle’s construction in the 1300’s, abandonment in 1558, and vacancy of over 300 years. However, the facts are mixed with details, feelings, and strong visions. The Raseborg castle tour is an energetic theatrical performance that you can attend for an extra €5.  (Children under 7 years €0, 7-15 years €2. Castle has a separate entrance fee.)

On Dan Idman’s tour, beer kegs rattle, jokes are flung, and emotions flood. We walk along corridors of the castle ruins, climb up stairs and explore the scenery. We see how flocks of eider circle the ruins and hear about life in the castle during its time. The stone walls are bursting with intriguing secrets, stories, and phases throughout the castle’s lifetime.

Built on a sheepback surrounded by water, the castle has gone through some rough wear in its time. Dan guests from the 2020’s through this one-of-a-kind journey through history to hundreds of years back in time. This is definitely an experience worth participating in – if you dare!

Guided tours are organized throughout summer (see raaseporinlinna.fi/en/) and are suitable for all ages. The tour lasts c. one hour, but you should be prepared for enough stories that it may last longer.

Dan Idman

Theatre performer

Summer 2022 is Dan Idman’s 25th year as a guide at Raseborg castle

Up to 90 guided tours per summer

Tours can be found from raaseporinlinna.fi/en/

Lemmenpolku trail and more

When the time comes to say goodbye to the historic ruins and leave the ghosts behind, there’s still more to see before heading to the car. In addition to the guided tours there is plenty to see and do nearby the castle, such as the restaurant/café Slottsknekten, the Swedish-speaking summer theatre that has operated for over 50 years, and kayak rentals.

One particularly fantastic experience is the short Lemmenpolku trail, starting from the castle to Forngården outdoor museum. The trail is only 500 metres in one direction, but on the way you’ll find sheep pasture, grove, riverbank, and even a scenic bridge.

The verdant trail and charming old buildings are enchanting. Raseborg’s river flows freely under the wooden bridge and a sea of windflowers bloom beautifully. To top off the wonderful day, on our way back the sheep come within petting distance.

Lemmenpolku trail was established in the 1960’s when local biology teacher Einar Öhman, who was interested in the area’s history and culture, wanted to create a direct path from the village’s hostel to the castle ruins. The man started calling it Lemmenpolku (”amorous path”) due to the lovelorn birds that filled the air with mating calls each spring (source: luontoon.fi).

At the other end of Lemmenpolku, Forngården outdoor museum transports you to life as it was in the archipelago during the 1800’s. The museum includes the main building as well as different sheds, fences, and lofts from the 1700’s and 1800’s that were brought from Halstö island. You can read about Forngården’s opening hours and more here.

The area around Raseborg castle is a fascinating combination of enchanting history and mesmerizing nature, living culture and culinary experiences. A fantastic summer daytrip for the whole family, you can enrich your experience of the area by joining these unique and unforgettable guided tours. Who’s ready to go?

You can read more about Raseborg castle on its webpage: raaseporinlinna.fi/en/ as well as Visit Raseborg’s page: Visit Raseborg – Raseborg Castle.

Translation: Karolina Salin

Beautiful places nearby

Ekenäs’ serenity and autumn colours are fit for a postcard – only one hour from Helsinki

Billnäs ironworks is now 380 years old – the beautiful village is a great destination for a summer trip

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Ekenäs old town, a colorful array of quaint houses and passageways, looks like something out of a painting. Given its picturesque appearance and proximity to the nature paradise of Ramsholmen, as well as the reasonable travel time for most Finns, the area is surprisingly quiet outside of the summer season. As summer fades, the streets of Ekenäs grow silent. Yet, it’s hard to imagine this hidden treasure more stunning than in this moment of peaceful bliss. This scenic spot is just a train or bus ride away!

Ekenäs on a map

Villa Skeppet is visible from the parking lot and starting point of Ramsholmen hiking routes. It is currently owned by the Christine and Göran Schildt Foundation, and you can learn more about its history by booking a guided tour. The building was designed by Alvar Aalto as a home for his friends Christine and Göran. Read more.

As we set off on our Ekenäs sightseeing trip, the cool October day was already turning to dusk. A sunflower peeking out from behind a wooden fence caught my attention. It seemed to be gazing at the sun and sea, and turned out to perfectly encapsulate the evening ahead: the scenery of our Ekenäs trip was fit for a postcard, filled with sunlight and lovely shades of “ruska”, Finland’s autumn colours!

Walking through Laivuri park, we marveled at what might be the thickest trees I have ever seen. In the other direction the blue sea glimmered beautifully, yet another view fit for a postcard.

My adventure buddy Karoliina turned her gaze up from the roots of the gigantic trees and spotted a bell hanging high up. The bell is a monument to the artist Helene Schjerfbeck, made for anyone to ring by pulling the string handle that hangs on a pillar. The sound travels far with the sea, even to Ramsholmen forest where the artist was said to enjoyed painting. Schjerfbeck lived in Ekenäs during the year 1925–1941, even having a nearby street named after her.

In one step we had left the park and were surrounded by the charming passageways of the old town. My mind was already somewhere much further, as far as Åland or even a storybook, with quaint houses and polished alleys. The magnificent features of the landscape contained captivating intricate details, such as the blocks named after sea animals. Among them were shark, whale, seal and many more, in Swedish.

The streets and alleys had revealing names such as “glove-maker’s” street and “hatter’s” street – the latter immediately brought to mind Alice in Wonderland. The names actually signify the town’s history, which is deeply rooted in the working class of the past. Nowadays the old working-class homes are mostly vacation homes. For those tickled by the thought, there were a few houses with “For Sale” signs in the windows!

Read more here about Ekenäs old town and other guides.

We stopped by the church. The current church building was completed in 1842. The original church was a small wooden building built in 1600, and in between there was a stone church that was burned down in a fire. The current church looks like a white stone giant towering over the low-lying wooden houses of Ekenäs old town.

Porcelain statues, teddy bears, and special mirror installations were on display in the house windows, which I figured were “gossip mirrors”. These allow those inside the house to see what’s happening on the street and who is walking there (with who!) without being seen. A great method of observation, and probably a spectacular source of gossip back in the day.

I liked that bulletins had been put up on the streets about people who influenced the area. Some were familiar, but most were completely new to me. One of the new names included Olof Bäckström (below), but I learned that he was the one to invent Fiskars scissors! These bulletins were scattered around town, a great addition for independent travelers.

Karo and I walked around solely on intuition, choosing to take whichever street or alley looked inviting. The setting sun of the October evening cast moody shades of light on the landscape only seen at this time of the year. The late autumn light is a magical sight by the sea of the south coast, and it beautifully complimented the nature and old town of Ekenäs. The rays of light refracted by windows and colourful shades completed the scenery with contrasts and effects.

We arrived at Raippatori. It was a small, cobble-stoned square between the old town and beach. The spot’s gloomier history aside, I enjoyed the sparks of colour: the yellow, red, and green shades from the buildings, trees, and vines were almost too much against the blue sky!

Raippatori is reminded of its history not only by its name, ”whip market”, but also by the still standing pole of shame in the market. There was a time “when crimes were punished by public whipping”, as mentioned on Visit Raseborg’s website. The current atmosphere here does not at all give away its past.

Our journey continued from the pole of shame to another narrow passageway. The colours of the houses and fences continued to intensify, competing for saturation in different shades of red. The sunny weather forecast for the evening did not disappoint; the place would be stunning in any weather at any time of year, but on our trip it felt like nothing could be better than a sunny autumn evening in Ekenäs.

The city of Ekenäs was founded in 1546. Four years before Helsinki! Back then it was a small fishing village and Sweden’s king Gustav I gave it city rights. Most of the preserved buildings to this day are from the 1700’s and 1800’s. To think! But if you look around you, the charming houses speak for themselves. 

Though the houses are not quite as old, it’s mind-boggling to think that the same passageways we were walking have been there since the 1500’s. It’s difficult to imagine what the world looked like back then, it feels so distant. At the same time, my heart is filled with warmth and comfort by the thought that my ancestors might have walked these same streets on their daily errands. 100, 200, or even 500 years ago – these streets already existed.

The air was calm. There were few other pedestrians, some passageways were totally empty. It was peaceful and clean; I noticed that the only “trash” on the streets were shriveled leaves from the trees, which were swept by the gentle sea breeze and rustled softly against the cobblestone asphalt.

Even without a map, it felt like were always exactly where we needed to be. Next we arrived completely by chance at a square, Raatihuoneentori, lined with cafes and restaurants. Café Schjerfbeck was already closed, but it looked cute and the windows mirrored the park’s autumn colours wonderfully. I walked a small round in the park (bottom right picture below) and noticed some city bikes. It would have been a great option for sightseeing the area if I had noticed early. You can read more about city bikes here

Market days at Raatihuoneentori are year-round on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will have to come back when there’s snow to see the area in a totally different way!

Ekenäs old town hall below. So magnificent!

At the edge of the square was a map of the old town. This map is a great guide of the area if you prefer more organized sightseeing than Karo and me. We were more tempted by the freedom of letting our thoughts and feet guide us instead of the map. Laivuri park, which we passed through in the beginning of our trip, is seen on the bottom right of the map (Laivurin puisto).

Karo luckily noticed that cafe Cafferien at the edge of the square was still open. The time was quarter to five, so we had 15 minutes. The café was bustling with teens spending time together, mothers and children, as well as older folks. We ordered coffee and cake – the vegan raspberry pie with oat vanilla sauce was delicious – and we had just enough time to enjoy them peacefully. It was the perfect pitstop before the next leg of our journey, as our city break was about to be swapped out for a nature hike.

After the coffee, we meandered through the town to our starting point, from where we would start heading in the opposite direction. First we wandered for a moment on the silent Kuninkaankatu (“king’s street”), which was full of brick-and-mortar stores that had already closed for the day. I already knew the story behind this, as I read beforehand that this was the first pedestrian street in our whole country, and the stores still close in the “old tradition” at five o’clock.

For those who enjoy shopping and dining, I recommend Ekenäs as a day trip in the sense that shops and cafes are mostly open during the daytime. My introverted heart was less interested in the services available but could have burst from joy at the quiet and exquisite views that provided endless photo opportunities.

As we once again passed Laivuri park’s giant trees, Helene’s bell, and Villa Skeppet, we were soon back at the parking lot where our car was waiting. The car could wait a little longer, however, as we went past and found the starting point for the hiking paths of Ramsholmen. The guidepost effectively displayed the main features of the area, and we took a picture as a backup on our journey.

Though Ramsholmen is most often spoken of, the entire area also includes Hagen and Högholmen. Wooden bridges connect the islands, and the route’s charm comes from the European-style grove’s magical atmosphere and the sea views. The views are best admired by choosing paths that occasionally escape the forest’s shade to open shores.

The sun approached the horizon, producing a jungle of cool shadows and warm rays of light. The main track was solid and wide, but smaller paths strayed here and there. We once again allowed our feet to guide us. We crossed paths with dog walkers, photographers, parents with their children, runners, walkers, and cyclists. Many smiled and greeted us.

At the first bridge, we stopped to take in the scenery so elegantly painted by the sun and the running water below us.

I must shamefully admit that I am unfamiliar with the tree species in the area. Some trees seemed to reach the sky, at the least. The few I could recognize were maple and common hazel. Many spots on the ground were covered in a carpet of maple leaves, their colour enriched by the refracted light.

The refracted sunlight is a reason why I recommend Ramsholmen specifically as an evening stroll destination. Why not a morning walk as well! The thick shade of the grove is in striking contrast with the bright sunlight on the shores, and in many places we felt like were shifting between worlds as we stepped from light to dark and vice versa.

The next bridge is longer than the first, and the scenery totally different. The bridge stretched across reeds openly while water flowed narrowly beneath it. The gold-tinted reeds swayed in the wind and gave the archipelago an authentic touch.

As we moved onward, the route narrowed and was totally covered in leaves in some places, but it was still easy to follow throughout the trip. Our surroundings switched between blue-green pines of the coniferous forest and grove filled with green foliage and yellow-orange leaves on the ground.

Most of Ramsholmen is wheelchair-accessible, but the area of Högholmen is not suitable for wheelchairs. The coniferous forest was particularly uneven.

On the way back, we had one last cherry on top of our Ekenäs cake. This was watching the sunset on the beach, and it was timed perfectly! The passage shaded by the common hazel led us to the beach, where the bright orange light awaited us.

As we arrived to the beach, it was empty. It would have been an amazing spot to go swimming if we had brought swimsuits and towels. There was even a changing cubicle conveniently there. Next time!

The sun gives off the most intense rays and fullest colours just before it dips beneath the horizon. We were able to enjoy the breathtaking view of the final orange rays shining on the forest floor. Dusk began to descend on our way back to the car, and had just about taken over as we arrived.

We were given one final goodbye from Ramsholmen on our way back. Above, the light of the setting sun shining through the treetops set the autumn colours into blazing flames.

In addition, I noticed a small movement from a bush on the side of the road. A deer crossed the road, seemingly quite tame as it let us pass quite close by it once it had made its way to the shelter of the forest.

Though I had guessed that Ekenäs old town and Ramsholmen were beautiful destinations, I have to say that the trip exceeded my expectations. The area is also so close to Helsinki metropolitan area that most can visit relatively easily. It’s vital to remember your camera, as a more photogenic place is hard to even imagine! There is plenty of accommodation available in the region, so I would warmly recommend a mini-vacation here for those who have the chance.

Learn more

VisitRaseborg.com

Travel to Raseborg without a car (VisitRaseborg.com)

Ekenäs Old Town (VisitRaseborg.com)

Helene Schjerfbeck (VisitRaseborg.com)

Alvar Aalto architecture in Raseborg (VisitRaseborg.com)

Beautiful places nearby

Billnäs ironworks is now 380 years old – the beautiful village is a great destination for a summer trip

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -hanke

In the end of August, we spent a week discovering the best of Salla, Savukoski, Pyhätunturi, Kemijärvi and Posio in Eastern Lapland, Finland. The end of summer couldn’t be a more perfect time – no mosquitoes and few tourists, just the peace and calm of the wilderness. Our program for the week included cycling and climbing, hiking in the fells with and without huskies, as well as horse riding and stand up paddleboarding. Our very first stop on arrival, however, was a paddling trip on a serene lake in the wilderness.  

It’s a long way to Lapland from the south of Finland: it can be over 1000 kilometres depending on the destination, and easily 12 hours of driving. That’s why taking the night train is so handy, with the additional option of taking your car onboard. We loaded our car onto the train at Pasila railway station in Helsinki and travelled through the night across the whole of Finland, up to Kemijärvi!

Pasila railway station, Helsinki

The evening was well spent watching the sun set from our cabin window, and as dusk set in we saw the brightly lit Häme Castle reflected on the surface of Vanajavesi lake. The cabin was compact, with two comfortable bunk beds and a small private lavatory. Ear plugs effectively blocked out any rattling noises from the train during the night, permitting a good night’s rest.

Our train journey ended in Kemijärvi, at a modest railway station. The air was crisp – the previous afternoon in Helsinki went up to 30 degrees Celcius, here it was 14 degrees. The railway station slowly filled with people clearly lacking their first morning coffee.

Kemijärvi railway station

After around half an hour we got our car out from the train carriage. Our first stop was in fact for coffee in Kemijärvi centre, before heading towards Salla!

It took no more than an hour to get from Kemijärvi to the base of Sallatunturi fell. On the way we checked the weather forecast, which promised cloudy skies that should clear up by the evening. The cotton clouds blanketing the sky were a calming sight on our way to Sallatunturin Tuvat, where we made camp for the first night. My friend, whose journey had started a few days ago, was overjoyed to be able to do laundry, while more than anything my appreciation was focused on the calming silence around us and the hut’s ambient interior.  We had a short rest after the drive to recharge for the evening’s adventure. 

After our break we quickly dropped by Kaunisharju lookout point, located just a few kilometres from Sallatunturi, along the road towards Kuusamo. The lookout point opens out to a fantastic view of Finland’s newest national park!

Kaunisharju lookout point, Salla national park

Our first scheduled activity for the evening started at Salla nature centre, with Timo from Salla Wilderness Park. Soon we were joined by a Dutch family of four, and the evening’s program could begin. After getting into Timo’s car, we cruised down a dirt road to the edge of a serene lake.

The road continued up the Northeast side of Hangasjärvi to an elegant high ridge with a beautiful view of the fells. Looking out at the landscape, we wondered as a group what our chances might be of seeing the northern lights if the sky would stay clear through the evening. My friend, and especially the Dutch, were thrilled by the idea.

It was a steep descent from the back of the ridge to the shore of Hangasjärvi. Timo gave us brief safety instructions and handed out life vests and paddles. It wasn’t long before everyone sat merrily in their canoes. 

Hangasjärvi is around three kilometres in length, an oblong but narrow and practically untouched lake very close to Sallatunturi. The water’s surface was wonderfully smooth, perfectly reflecting the forest landscape throughout the evening. You could almost touch the silvered pine and gently rising mounds of fuzzy marshland. 

Paddling felt safe and pleasant, not at all difficult, even though I’ve truly only paddled before in my youth. The canoe was comfortingly stable and relaxing. The bow murmured soothingly as it broke the water’s surface ahead of us. It felt as if time stood still in the silent night air, only broken by the occasional hushed conversation between paddlers and the clopping hooves of reindeer in the nearby forest.

The setting sun painted the few clouds left in the sky gentle purple and orange hues. Aptly named the sunset paddle tour, it couldn’t have been timed better. We paddled toward the southeast end of the lake, passing through a narrow strait where we were briefly immersed in the dense forest. Taking a moment to stop and let the canoes glide along the lake’s surface, the silence and surrounding nature were breathtaking. I dipped my fingertips in the water to find that it was pleasantly warm, not the chilling cold that I was expecting. 

The setting sun is unique in its ability to paint many different moods on the landscape in the same moment. I sat at the bow of the canoe – the slave’s seat, according to the guide, though it didn’t feel like it – and my friend sat at the back, steering our direction. I got to admire the views ahead of us; the blue sky and chartreuse shores mixed with forest glowed beautifully against the towering sun-kissed backdrop of Ruuhitunturi fell. When I turned to look back, the first signs of dusk already showed in the reddening sky and forest darkened by the backlight.

Once we reached shore on the other side of the lake, our guide made a cosy campfire and served us coffee, tea, and a local delicacy: ‘kampanisu’, or a comb-shaped sweetbread. The peaceful moment was a perfect chance to exchange thoughts and ideas with the rest of the group. The Dutch told us about their journey here by ship and train, from the Netherlands via Germany to Finland, and finally Lapland. They were planning to continue to the North Cape and Lofoten islands before returning home. The family seemed delighted with their trip so far. 

Those who wanted also got to cook sausages over the fire, the traditional Finnish camping food! The crackling fire and buzz of the group’s discussions created a lulling backdrop for watching the different phases of the sunset and increasing stillness of the lake. There was even a rocking chair next to the kota to sit and marvel at the landscapes. 

After getting the canoes back in the water, we paddled back towards the starting point. The night sky was gradually cast with clouds of different sizes, colours, and shapes. Eating and gazing into the campfire left me feeling drowsy as we glided into the dusk that had descended on the lake. The tranquility calmed the mind, and even though conversation between the paddlers continued, my mind already started drifting towards sleep.  As we were leaving Hangasjärvi ridge, we saw a perfect halfmoon that shone brightly between the peaks of the Sallatunturi fells. 

Translated by Karolina Salin

Read more about things to do in Salla:

Visit Salla – in the middle of nowhere

Salla Wilderness Park

Sallatunturin tuvat: Sallatunturi.fi

Check out all the posts from this series:

Part 1: Reach the wilderness overnight by train – paddle at sunset in Salla

Part 2: The fog lifted and revealed the first colours of ’ruska’ – our hike to “Kivitunturi” in Savukoski with Alit the Husky

Part 3: Climbing up Pyhäkuru rock formations & cycling with e-fatbikes to the eternally beautiful Tunturiaapa mire in Pyhä

Part 4: Summer at Kemijärvi on horseback & SUP-boarding on the superb Kalkonniemi beach

Part 5: The outskirts of Riisitunturi National Park – a journey through Posio’s untouched wilderness

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

I had been eagerly looking forward to my paddling trip in Billnäs cultural landscape. The morning arrived very cold, and my car windows were covered by frost. Luckily, the weather forecast promised us a beautiful day with sunny intervals. I started my drive towards the Billnäs ironworks where I was going to meet my guide Gustaf Ahlroos, more familiarly known as Gutte. Gutte organizes, e.g., paddling and biking trips around the Billnäs area.

Mustio starting point on the map

Billnäs finishing point on the map

The length of the paddling route is about 20 km.

There are no rapids on this stretch of the Mustio river making the route a perfect fit for touring kayaks and inexperienced paddlers not familiar with rapids.

Usually the paddling trips start from Mustio, but we decided to leave my car at the finishing point of the route in Billnäs and head to the starting point by Gutte’s car. I took a scenic route to Billnäs, but still arrived there a bit early. So I had a little time on my hands, and I wandered around the Billnäs Ironworks and got to know its history. At the same time, I was curious about getting to the river already. Unfortunately, the fall colors had already faded, and stormy winds had left the trees bare.

But the river looked inviting. There is something so charming in fall season. The skies are gray, the weather is foggy, the air is filled with earthy smells – it’s always so beguiling. Seasons bring changes to river environment as does the river flow. As we were able to witness, heavy rainfalls result in increased river flow and higher water level. The fast flowing river may also speed up your paddling.

We set out to paddle on kayaks that Gutte had rented in Mustio. If you are not in a hurry, go check out the magnificent Mustio manor. The manor is situated only a few hundred meters from the starting point. But we had to get going, because the sun sets quite early in the fall. The paddling route to Billnäs is more or less 20 kilometers, so it’s a decent muscle workout at the same time. I have paddled quite a lot, but I’m not really used to kayaks, so this trip was also a learning experience for me.

Gustaf ”Gutte” Ahlroos

Gutte is a nature-loving guy and a versatile entrepreneur who works in the Billnäs area. Gutte’s company Lyfte hires out kayaks and mountain bikes and organizes guided tours like this paddling trip on Mustio river. It is also possible to experience a combined biking and paddling tour.

Gutte is also a Certified Mental Trainer as well as a Personal Trainer. He is also currently studying to be a hiking guide.

Read more about paddling and biking in Billnäs on Gutte’s Facebook pages.

This paddling route is perfect, if you have never done any kayaking and want to practice it safely with an experienced guide. The first three kilometers are pretty easy. The river flow is relatively slow, and the stretch is largely sheltered from the wind. During the first three kilometers, you will have time to get used to kayaking and practice different paddling techniques.

Just as I started to get the hang of some basic techniques, we passed by the small Junkarsborg island with ancient castle ruins. The castle dates back to the 12th century, the late Iron Age, and has presumably also been inhabited by Vikings. Tradition has it that the castle was first called Raseborg, and that name was later on passed to The Raseborg Castle in Snappertuna. My family is related to the former Lord of The Raseborg Castle, and that is why it was quite special for me to be paddling in the area connected to my family’s heritage.

There is a strong current near Junkarsborg, and there are also quite a few big rocks. So pay attention at this point!

After Junkersborg, we paddled over Lake Päsarträsket, after which the river meandered through the fields for several kilometers. Gutte told me that in the summertime herding cows come to the river bank to stare at the paddlers passing by, and it is not unheard of that a curious gray heron starts to follow a group of paddlers. The river banks offered us a shelter from the wind, so it was easy to paddle for a while, but as we approached the Kyrksjön lake, a brisk wind started to blow.

Gutte told us that this part of the route is often very windy, and that there may be big waves, even though the lake is shallow.

There are many suitable places to stop for a picnic along the route, but we decided to enjoy our packed lunch before starting to cross the lake. Gutte also kindly made us a cup of coffee, but just as we started to eat, it began to rain. The weather forecast proved not be accurate, but that’s just typical… Fortunately, we had these waterproof drysuits on, so the rain didn’t really bother us. When getting ready for a paddling trip, you should always pack a rainproof jacket with you, even when there is no rain in the forecasts.

Next we paddled over the lake and arrived at the city center of Karjaa. After a short stretch of urban paddling, the rain really picked up and it started to get dark as well. But we were right on schedule and our route was coming to an end – we made it to Billnäs just before dark.

At dusk the Billnäs Ironworks looked just absolutely beautiful. The quacking ducks welcomed us back to the same bridge where I had been admiring the scenery before the start of our little paddling trip. Luckily we were dressed appropriately for the weather and didn’t get cold. On the contrary, I was a little hot when we paddled upwind. We also took several short breaks.

I have been paddling my packraft in many places from wilderness to urban environments. I was pleasantly surprised by this route, as it was truly atmospheric with rich cultural landscape. It was nice to paddle in a kayak on a river like this at a moderately brisk pace. We were a little late, but I can only imagine the landscape with fall foliage in all its glory. We decided to come back with my wife and next time take the combined biking and paddling tour and top off the day by eating in the Billnäs restaurant.

Read also:

An impressive cycling route in Raseborg: Presenting the 46-kilometre long Front Line Route

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

The sea always offers a sense of timelessness , and islands are a great place for adventure. Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is a genuine treasure trove, with sheltered harbors offering a safety net for seafarers. And the island of Jussarö, where mining used to be carried out, is the ideal place for reflecting on deep social questions. The summer sun glimmers on the gentle waves as the salty wind ushers the traveler onward.

In a way, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is very easy to get to. All that’s needed is the means of navigating the waters (or ice!). The national park can be reached in summer by boat, canoe, kayak, sailboard, and even by swimming, and in winter on skis or skates whenever it’s safe to travel on the ice. Seasoned travelers should make sure their schedule is overly tight, or getting around from island to island may feel like too tough a task.

For those who have less time and do not have their own means of travel, I highly recommend a guided tour, as it makes it possible to focus fully on admiring the splendid nature of the archipelago and on enjoying a snack. A day trip to the archipelago is a wonderful escape into what seems like another world entirely.

We set off from Ekenäs pier around nine in the morning. The sun is already shining by then, and the fairly calm sea is inviting. Our captain and guide Matti Piirainen pilots a small boat for six people, and has a lot to tell about all the destinations and the nature and history of the area. At one time in history, it seems like Ekenäs could grow into a large cluster for islanders, as Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia – formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark – and her fleet of ships visited the area for leisure. A reminder of this part of the area’s history is Dagmar’s Spring, a popular sight that winds its way down to the sea at Källviken. Due to the sheltered nature of the archipelago, large fleets set sail instead for more open waters, and thus Hanko and Helsinki developed into more favored destinations. We pass Dagmar’s Spring and a whole host of inviting little sandy beaches, and continue further eastward to the island of Älgö.

A guide who knows the area well will always make sure that the boat docks only in an area subject to permission. When visiting Ekenäs Archipelago National Park, it is important to remember that the park was established to protect nature, and that the Finnish ‘everyman’s right’ to pick berries and mushrooms freely do not apply within the national park. For instance, some islands have a prohibition against landing for part of the year, while in others landing is prohibited all year round. In addition, there are certain water areas where marine traffic is not allowed at all. Visitors to national parks should not forget that they are guests in the wild, and should conduct themselves accordingly and with respect for nature. Before they set out, they should read the rules and regulations for visits to national parks on the website of Metsähallitus, the national environmental services organization. The guide will ensure that the visit is conducted responsibly. The first stop will be the island of Rödjan, south of Älgö, the largest island in the national park.

Rödjan (above) is a former fishing village – and in a way it still is, as Micke Röberg takes care of the parcels of land and the pier, and smokes his catches of fish. The service structures in Rödjan are freely available to visitors to the national park. In the area you will find a nature trail, a dry closet (that is, a toilet containing no water), and a campsite a little further from the beach. Unfortunately, the beach sauna burned down recently, so there is no chance of a sauna.

Micke’s catch on the day of our visit is the usual kind, largely perch – but also one flounder, the first in a long time! We talk with him about how the sea and the Ekenäs archipelago have changed. Micke has been fishing and has been living in the area for several decades, and says the changes taking place in the region are most visible in the water. The rocks are resistant to change within a human lifetime, but the changes in the underwater world are clearly noticeable.

“At one time, it was quite common to catch anywhere between 100 and 200 flounder a week. I used to smoke a lot of them. Nowadays, the flounder catch for the whole summer is about a hundred.”

According to Röberg, the waters are also becoming cloudier all the time. On the other hand, changes related to emissions from the large factories on the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland are also noticeable, and fortunately they are for the better now.

With our guide, Matti, we also talk about the birds of the archipelago during the day. Cormorants in particular are a source of lively debate, as their habitat and presence in the area has had a marked effect on the habitat of the population in a short time. Matti also advises birdwatching visitors to be on the lookout for an osprey’s nest in the crown of a particular pine tree.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park was established in 1989, and it annual visitor numbers are about average for Finland’s marine and lakeland national parks.  Whereas there were just short of 5,000 visitors to Bothnian Bay National Park in 2020 and almost 100,000 visitors to Bothnian Sea National Park, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park drew an estimated 58,000 visitors that year. Visitor numbers have not been astronomical, as those who travel in the area are largely boaters and paddlers. According to Matti, however, there have been increasing numbers of birdwatchers to national parks, and some choose Ekenäs Archipelago National Park as their final park of the birdwatching season. On Matti’s guided tours, these park achievements and birthdays have been celebrated, and he has also taken experts on expeditions to see shipwrecks in the area.

When in the archipelago, one can’t always be certain when they’re in the national park and when not. In some places visitors can find themselves in the nature reserve, other times on private land. Responsible hiking also means knowing the waters you are travelling through, and choosing your landing location according to the permitted places. Overnight stays in Ekenäs Archipelago National Park are only allowed in marked places. As there are only a few of these, they should be carefully chosen in advance. Naturally, in the event of an emergency boats may be forced to come to land in other places – as is well known, the sea can be an unpredictable environment. But with good preparation, and if need be an overnight stay with respect for nature, every hiker can contribute to ensuring that the Baltic ringed seal can continue to raise its head amid the waves.

After leaving Rödjan, the landscape gradually changes. The inner archipelago gives way to the mid-archipelago, from where we eventually end up in the outer archipelago. The pearl of the intermediate archipelago is unquestionably Modermagan, meaning ‘mother’s lap’, a natural harbor with a charming lagoon-like, rock-walled route into it. Matti steers the boat to land under the welcoming pine, and we jump off onto the rocks.

The services at Modermagan are relaxingly simple: a fireplace, a place to safely light a fire, an outdoor toilet, tent site and information board. Mother Nature’s offerings, by contrast, are abundant: a peculiar, almost fairytale water pond, the wind-blown cliffs towards the outer archipelago, the wonderfully wind-curved pines, and the view from the rocks over the magnificent embrace of the bay. One could stay and admire the open sea all day were it not for the summer heat, which soon forces a retreat into the shade. An amusing little detail that Matti points out is a telephone pole on the southern rocks of Modermagan. There used to be a phone there at one time, and on occasion it would ring. The only telephone coverage among the nearby islands was there. The phoneless telephone pole is now a convenient perch for mew gulls.

After leaving Modermagan, the open sea beckons. There is only a gentle breeze, so the journey goes smoothly, ‘like treading on asphalt.’ At Modermagan we saw the Jussarö lighthouse far off in the distance. It was in fact built on a separate islet southwest of Jussarö. We make a detour to admire the beautiful idyllic former archipelago village, which is now privately owned and apparently serves as a summer resort.

Up ahead is the main destination for our day trip – Jussarö island. Perhaps some advance knowledge of the island and its history has an effect on our perceptions of it, but even the name itself has a metallic ring to it.

In the port of Västerviken, however, the atmosphere is quite relaxed as holidaymakers and excursion boaters enjoy a peaceful afternoon by the new pier. Right next to the guest boat pier is an outdoor toilet, an information board, a swimming area, a sauna – and even a café! There is also a water point on wall. The water is safe to drink, as the seawater is desalinated and purified by reverse osmosis. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is the only water point in the national park. This is a little reminder that hikers planning their excursion to Ekenäs Archipelago National Park should prepare at least as carefully as hikers in Lapland, if not even more so. The limited number of services and the requirement for a good deal of self-sufficiency tend to reduce the number of visitors, thus making this national park a rather peaceful and unknown destination, one that offers more than its fair share of adventure. After all, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is not a place you’re ever going to come across by accident.

With our guide, we get a peek into Kullakoja, a small red building that is the only building remaining from the old pilot village of the early 19th century. It has been renovated by Metsähallitus. The building has a strong sense of atmosphere about it, but is not open to visitors. Half of Jussarö island is part of the national park, and there walking is permitted only on the marked paths. This restriction is absolute and always in force. All services and camping facilities are in the eastern half of the island, which there are less restrictions. On the nature trail, hikers can immerse themselves in the nature of the archipelago as calmly as their heart desires. But the serenity comes to a startling end when you set eyes on the ugly spectacle on the other side of Jussarö.

On the open zone of the eastern side of the island is a historically significant former iron mine, and the heavily pock-marked landscape is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Faced with such a sight, the viewer’s imagination may well be tempted to run wild, evoking stark, even brutal images from video games and movies. 

Summer nature could not be more beautiful when the sea glimmers in the sun, a deep contrast with the man-made scar on Jussarö.

In the deciduous forest, above the trees, runs an old, partially ruined wooden railroad track. This is the route on which the enriched iron was hauled to the loading dock in the northern part of the island. A light metal fence encloses the barracks buildings that in bygone days provided accommodation for the miners. Only very few of the windows still have intact glass, and there are plenty of bullet holes in many of the walls. The Finnish armed forced apparently used the buildings in their exercises. We walk through the horror movie-like scene with the guide, and I have to admit I’m happy it’s a sunny summer day. If we were here during an autumn storm, the combined effect of these unsettling surroundings and a runaway imagination might well be too much for the nerves.

Ahead of us is what was called the iron yard. There is a tall tower-like building on the left, and a fairly large, gray barracks-type building on the right. An open gravel pitch. We could almost be in the Texas Wild West of the movies; all that’s missing is the tumbleweed. Moving on, we can hear the sound of the crickets in the grass. And further ahead is another tower-like building and the skeleton of a house, with no walls left standing. This is a pretty mind-boggling sight. These are not the scenes you’d expect in a national park.

But on the other hand, perhaps we should just accept it.

After all, denying or forgetting the past is of far less value than remembering and learning from it. In all its harshness, it’s nonetheless probably a good thing that these remnants of buildings are still here. As monuments. According to Matti, the iron mine was in operation for an amazingly short time – only seven years! He also tells us of the day-to-day life and activities on the island and its connections. Digging for iron under the sea turned out to be unprofitable, and so came to a rather swift end. The world changed. Now those who some to Jussarö are mostly boaters at their leisure, a far cry from the miners or conscripts who came to labor here. But even in a transformed world, it’s still the same island.

Behind another tall mining building is a sandy hill, and we get to try something that’s close to a pleasant reminder of physics classes in our high school days. The guide gives us small magnets for finding iron-bearing stones and rocks in the ground. And we find them! An awful lot of them, in fact. We also come across a few of what seem to be old shotgun pellets, or what’s left of them (pardon my ignorance in this area). There are plenty of ferrous rocks and sand. So much, we’re told, that in the past the compasses of many ships, which worked with old, unrepairable mechanisms, were led astray near Jussarö, making navigation difficult. On the seabed to the southeast and south of the island are several shipwrecks.

Hiekkamäki leads us directly to the sea to one of Finland’s most remarkable beaches – the aptly named Iron Beach. The dark tone of the beach meets the magnificently glistening summertime Baltic Sea, and the cliffs that frame the area make the place almost magical. On a nearby cliff stands an observation tower, with a direct view south over the sea.

There is also a nature trail to the west of Iron Beach. it does not run through the national park, but instead leads to the cliffs to enjoy the seaside sun. Along the path, Matti gives us a few tips about other rocky or sandy beaches along the trail that are good spots for swimming. We can feel the heat radiating from the rocks, and the salty sea breeze ruffling our hair. It’s just fantastic to be by the open sea. And we have been blessed with such great weather: as beautiful as the nature around these parts is now, in the winter it can be ferociously stormy.

Jussarö gives you much to think about. An abandoned iron mine, old broken-down former railroad tracks in the middle of the forest, a tranquil beautiful archipelago meadow, the majestic sea and beautiful cliffs… You can’t take it all in at once. Even for people who now the archipelago well, Jussarö is still a world apart. There is just something so… video game-like about this island.

On the way back to Ekenäs, there is still plenty of sunshine to savor. As we speed away, we pass islands and islets to the right and to the left of us – many of them nameless, and highly varied. A start to dream of a kayaking trip through the watery maze of this sheltered archipelago. As the home port comes into view, the feeling is slightly unreal. The sea and the archipelago are a wilderness of their own kind, and promise adventure to those who visit. It’s nothing short of breathtaking what a massive contrast there is from the islands criss-crossed with small paths to the asphalt of the mainland. And despite the contrast, the distance between these two worlds as the crow flies is not even that great. Perhaps it is the ‘absence of society’ that makes archipelagos and wilderness so different, relaxing and natural.

And all the treasures that are hidden in those islands.

Read more

Matti’s website

Visitraseborg.com/EkenasArchipelagoNationalPark

An impressive cycling route in Raseborg: Presenting the 46-kilometre long Front Line Route

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

The Antskog Ironworks is a scenic and historical site few people know about in Raasepori, only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. The picturesque ironworks reveals its beauty to an adventurer who appreciates its history and approaches the idyll discreetly and with respect for its nature that differs from other ironworks villages. 

The early evening atmosphere in Antskog in late June is magical. I have arrived in a seemingly sleepy, beautiful little village. The mass of clouds drifts by, almost touching the treetops, but the worst threat of rain has already passed.

I know that the only permitted parking spot is at the Antskog plaza. I have to check my navigator to make sure that I am indeed in the right place. Yes, I am at the plaza, at Harabackantie 3. I have never visited such a tiny plaza before, but a village community of 120 permanent residents hardly needs a Senate Square.

The plaza is recognizable by the yellow house standing on the corner – a former diner and shop – and an information board titled “Antskog as a copperworks” describing the history of the copperworks. When you see them in front of you, you know you have parked legally. Parking anywhere else is prohibited, especially in front of the old volunteer fire brigade building, as that is the turning area for the bus, and every square meter is needed.

The peacefully slumbering Antskog Ironworks is surrounded by a fence sealed with locked gates. Trespassing beyond the fence is not allowed, as the area is entirely under the control of its owner, Mako Ltd.

Fortunately, small glimpses of the buildings in the historical factory area, now used as warehouses, can be seen from permitted routes. Through my camera, I take a peek at a past world filled with our industrial history that lies beyond the fence.

The long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks

The Antskog Ironworks is the oldest and smallest of the ironworks in Pohja. The German-born merchant from Turku, Jacob Wolle, is considered to be the founder of the Antskog Ironworks. In history books, Antskog and Wolle are linked from the year 1630 onwards, so that year is considered to be the founding year of the Antskog Ironworks. 

As an ironworks, Antskog competed with Fiskars, which was founded much later (not until 1649!). In the end, Fiskars had a better location traffic-wise closer to the sea and triumphed.

When the furnace was still operational in 1650, the village had 80 inhabitants who were considered adults. People serving Antskog at that time included a master of the furnace, a pot caster, two pistolsmiths, a precision smith and a wheelsmith, several hammersmiths, a master builder as well as colliers and charcoal burners. 

The first church was built in Antskog in 1665. The ironworks parish was dissolved after population dwindled in the 1770’s, and the Antskog church was moved to the Koski Ironworks in Perniö, where it mostly retains its features from the Antskog era, although it is no longer in use.

All that remains of the church now in Antskog are the church site and the sign pointing to it.  At times when the undergrowth is more barren, the plinth of the church is visible. After June, the plinth is probably covered by Amazon-like vegetation.

As centuries passed, the ore used at the ironworks varied, as did the end products. From the present-day perspective, one of the most important owners was pharmacist John Jacob Julin from Turku. To facilitate access for ore barges from the nearby Malmberget mine, Julin built a sluice in Antskog in 1824. Julin himself believed the sluice to be the first one in Finland, and had his assumption carved into a rock next to the sluice, even though the honor of building the first sluice probably belongs to Henrik Johan Kreij, owner of the Mustio Ironworks, who is said to have built two sluices in the Mustionjoki river as early as 1745.

The copperworks closed down in 1880. Earlier in 1875, pharmacist Julin’s eldest son Emil Lindsay von Julin had been forced to hand his factory over to his debtors, but he also received a managerial position in the Fiskars Aktiebolaget company that was founded in 1883.

Industrial operation continued in Antskog, however. In 1839, John Jacob Julin had received a permit for founding a baize factory and a felting facility and dyeworks alongside the ironworks. The stone building of the baize factory was completed in 1841, and was rented by various entrepreneurs until 1849. When there was an attempt to sell the factories here in 1879, they included a small wool spinning mill, weaving mill and dyeworks in addition to the copperworks and mill. There was even a tricot production plant in Antskog before the turn of the century.

In 1900, the old baize factory was destroyed in a fire. The Antskog Klädesfabrik Ltd, founded two years later, built a large group of industrial buildings on the same site. The factory specialized in the manufacturing of baize, slipper, ulster and suit fabrics and employed over 100 people during the early years of the 20th century. The operation of the factory that provided a livelihood for the entire village ended in a surprising bankruptcy in 1959. In 1960, ownership of the area was transferred to its current owner, Mako Ltd, through a compulsory auction.

(This is an adaptation of the long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks. You can read the full long history at the Antskog Ironworks web site here.)

The Antskog Ironworks village today

Today, Antskog is filled with peace and quiet. The ironworks sleeps; nothing is being manufactured inside its factory buildings anymore.

The Anskunjoki river flows languidly through the fenced factory area. The sound of running water reaches my ears from somewhere, but I see no steps down to the water.

Although all manufacturing has ended, there is still a solidness about the old buildings. The abandoned factory buildings are reminiscent of past times, the history of Finnish industry.

The serene, unbroken surface of the Anskunjoki river paints beautiful images; even the slight blemishes created by the ravages of time do not disturb the full picture.

The grass isn’t growing wildly; the paths are clearly visible. The white fences look as if they had just been painted. Somebody is looking after this industrial-archaeological environment.

Even though Antskog and Fiskars are located next to each other, Antskog is worlds apart from Fiskars that waits for tourists with open arms a few kilometers away.

There are no shops here, nor artisans’ workshops with inviting open doors.

Antskog is meant to be enjoyed as is – raw, without sugarcoating to make it more tempting. There are no temptations here for loosening the strings of one’s purse, but plenty of peace and atmosphere.

The Antskog summer idyll is located on Slussintie

To get to the start of Slussintie, I cross the concrete road that runs through the village.

The speed limit is low, but it’s still a good idea to look both ways. Many of those driving by here seem to be in a hurry to get to Fiskars.

The former workers’ homes on Slussintie have developed into a paradise for summer residents. The rental apartments are modest, with outhouses at the back of the yard. Bathing takes place in the sauna, and a swim in the river feels refreshing. 

These affordable rental apartments are rarely available, and even when they are, they are rented under the counter. Marketing takes place through the grapevine. There are approximately one hundred lucky summer residents.

The houses have seen plenty of time and life, and they all have names. Plevna, Onnela, Fiskars I & II, Pomola.

The residents have their own little piers by the river.

The river sauna gets plenty of visitors. Women are cooling off with towels around themselves and their hair, and children are wading in the quietly flowing water. 

For a moment, I imagine that I have fallen into a historical, cosmic wormhole and travelled at least 80 years back in time. The number of children playing outside is beyond my comprehension. They really are swimming and running around, as they should in the summer. Outside! Even in the evening! People here are enjoying the summer and every single warm day. 

I wait for a good while before I’m able take out my camera. The surface of the river has barely settled as new swimmers enter the water.

Even the laundry/mangling room on the bank of Anskunjoki looks rather idyllic.

The nature in Antskog is particularly sensitive 

The opposite bank of Slussintie at Keskiportti is wilderness-like. The magnificent trees are reflected on the mirror of the water. Somewhere in the cover of the trees, a blackbird is singing its prettiest serenade. The water flows here from the Seljänalanen lake above, from which a waterway through a narrow canal also leads to the Määrjärvi lake. 

Here in the Pohja-Kisko uplands, especially in these river valleys, the nature is lush and diverse. There are many clear-watered, wilderness-like lakes here that have been spared from the construction of cabins and agricultural runoff, on whose shores smooth cliffs rise sharply towards the sky.

In 2017, the Pohja-Kisko lake uplands were included among the one hundred pearls of nature named by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. In the nature of Raasepori, one may spot the red-throated diver, which is rare in Uusimaa. The area is also the habitat of the black-throated diver, whooper swan, crane, eagle owl and Eurasian pygmy owl. Even a playful otter might be found in the brooks of the lake uplands. 

There is a large population of white-tailed deer. Moving quietly and downwind, one may even encounter moose, lynxes, bears and wolves. In the swamps, one may hear the wood grouse and black grouse, and there are large numbers of bats and dragonflies.

There are several conservation and Natura areas in the vicinity of Antskog. In order to keep their sensitive nature as untouched as possible, no routes have been built in them. The nearest marked routes are close by, however. There is a tree species path of about two kilometers in length in the Fiskars ironworks area that introduces as many as 23 different species of trees. The four-kilometer Rissla forest path leads through beautiful scenery to the Rissla waterfall and the structures of the old power plant. For those who enjoy cycling, the Fiskars Ironworks offers a total of 60 kilometers of marked and maintained mountain biking routes!

The Antskog idyll has even appeared in a movie

Slussintie winds along the riverbank; my steps are taking me towards the “slussi”, or the sluice.

While walking leisurely, one can constantly see eye candy along Slussintie: flowers, artistic and warmly humorous still lifes, summer residences for winged friends; the washing lines on the opposite bank and even the chair where the happy washer probably has time to wait for their laundry to dry. 

The Slussintie summer idyll looks straight out of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books! I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Emil i Lönneberga himself came running down the hill with his cap tilted, or Pippi Longstocking rode past me on her spotted horse.

No wonder the Antskog riverbank has even appeared in a movie. The adaptation of Eeva Joenpelto’s novel Vetää kaikista ovista was filmed here, and the Antskog workers’ hall can also be seen in the movie.

Nature is flourishing here. This landscape is a safe haven for many buzzing insects.

Members of the Antskog village society have received an honorable mention for their work for the preservation of the diversity of nature. Through its own example, Antskog proves that looking after the natural environment of one’s own village doesn’t necessarily require large resources, but good will and active hands willing to take action.

The Antskog village society has also made its own village plan for the development of their village. They want Antskog to be a vigorous village community in a pleasant environment, and they want to offer the people of Antskog diverse opportunities for exercise that keep people healthy.

The active Antskog village society organizes an annual summer fest, collective voluntary work, summer exhibitions, summer café activity and concerts. At the heart of these activities is the diligently restored cozy workers’ hall situated at the end of Harabackantie.

The Antskog sluice

After a few hundred yards of walking, I arrive at the historical sluice. 

The Antskog sluice was constructed in 1824 by Johan Jacob Julin, who was in charge of the refining of copper from the Orijärvi mine. Transporting ore to the foundries in Koski and Antskog was extremely laborious, especially during the winter with heavy snow. Julin solved the logistical problems by constructing a waterway from Orijärvi to Antskog, which had a connection to the Gulf of Finland through a series of small lakes. Julin’s solution was successful, as transportation costs were halved thanks to the sluices. 

The Antskog sluice became less important in 1830, when copper refining was concentrated at the Koski foundry. The Antskog sluice remained in use until 1908, when the actual sluice gates were dismantled.

The remaining reminders of history are the rusty sluice structure and the text “First sluice in Finland, J.Julin 1824” carved in stone. As mentioned before, the sluice wasn’t actually the first, but who would doubt information that has been carved in stone?

Slussintie ends at the beautiful Mikkola beach

Slussintie ends at a beautiful beach. The Mikkola beach is the villagers’ bathing beach. Littering and keeping dogs loose is understandably prohibited, as is camping. 

A smart guest always respects the rules of the house and never wants a bad mood for themselves, let alone to upset the permanent residents. During the COVID year, we’ve all read about sites getting damaged during the nature tourism boom and careless hikers who disregard the rules and leave trash behind. As smart and considerate nature lovers, we don’t want to be part of that group, do we?

Evening images at Anskunjoki river

As I walk back towards the plaza, I still wonder about the children splashing about in the river. 

The sign warning about playing children at the start of Slussintie should indeed be taken seriously instead of barreling down the road towards the sluice by car.

I admire the beautiful reflections on the surface of the river as the lens of the camera catches some boys on an evening kayaking trip.

Luukas Huppunen and Niilo Alander are enjoying the soft atmosphere of a summer evening in Antskog in the best possible way – on the water.

Villa Taika offers surprises and unique bed & breakfast accommodation

I quickly visit the Manibacka hill, a little ways from the center of Antskog towards Fiskars. Here, a real surprise awaits a hiker in need of accommodation. Raisa Kaipainen and Torsten Rüger have renovated an old schoolhouse into a unique bed & breakfast that almost certainly has no equal in Finland.

Immediately at the front door my thoughts fly towards southeast Asia. The dark wood used in interior design and the turquoise color of the common rooms act as a virtual ticket to foreign lands.

As I peek inside the comfortable accommodation rooms, nothing reminds me of an old schoolhouse. Each of the eight rooms is unique and individually decorated. 

In addition to the beautiful rooms, guests at Villa Taika also get to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding nature and a lovingly prepared vegetarian breakfast. A fountain bubbles in the large garden, and a large, wood-heated sauna is available for course groups on order.

Villa Taika is a memorable and cozy base for an explorer who values the beauty of the nature of Antskog. Rowboats are available for rent for those wishing to go out on the river, and those wishing to visit Fiskars can borrow a bicycle. By car, the drive to Fiskars is five minutes. Other sites to experience in Raasepori are also close by. The Billnäs Ironworks and Mustio Manor are only 15 kilometers away, and the distance to Tammisaari is 35 kilometers.

There are as many as five lakes as well as a conservation area within walking distance from Villa Taika. The bathing beach of the clear and strictly protected Simijärvi lake is only 200 meters away.

He who has happiness…

…should hide it, says an old Finnish proverb. After my time spent in Antskog, I can also easily understand those villagers who would prefer to keep this idyll entirely hidden. If there are no services for tourists and entrepreneurs in the village who would benefit from visitors, many may fear that their peace will be disturbed without any benefit for the community.

Antskog is unlikely to become a destination for the masses as long as the old industrial area lies slumbering behind locked gates, but for those who value peace and the beauty of nature and walk their own paths, Antskog is the perfect choice. Here, small parties and groups of co-workers will find not only the magical accommodations of Villa Taika, but also an opportunity for customized, guided adventures in nature.  The local company KD-Adventure organizes tourist services for lovers of kayaking, climbing, riding and tour skating. A survival course tailored to the group’s wishes or an evening of firewalking are also possible, as are outdoor cooking classes for gourmands who want to learn to cook on an open fire. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to cook a salmon on a fire or how to prepare an epic dish of rosvopaisti

A summer café has operated at the Antskog workers’ hall every summer during the summer fest and exhibition. This year, the summer fest will be held on July 31, and the summer exhibition will probably take place at the same time. If you are around in these parts in late July, you can find the Antskog workers’ hall at Harabackantie 30.

If the summer café is open, please support the active village society by having a relaxed cup of coffee, for instance. While doing so, you will also see the fabulously restored workers’ hall, and while enjoying your coffee, you can ponder on what a fine piece of the history of industrialization in Finland the Antskog Ironworks is.

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