In cooperation with Cursor

Article by Mari Valtonen

The Salpa Line bike route is located in southeastern Finland, in the province of Kymenlaakso, near the Russian border and close to the Finnish section of the Europe-wide EuroVelo13 or Iron Curtain Trail. The Iron Curtain Trail (9950 km in total) introduces European history from a time when the continent was forcefully divided into east and west, and the general atmosphere was tense. In Finland, which miraculously defended against the Russia goliath while maintaining its independence, you should definitely take a small detour to experience the 72 km long Salpa Line bike route.

Distance: 72 km
Duration: 2 days
Destination on map
Difficulty: Easy route

The Salpa Line is a fortress line built in defense of Finland’s eastern border, the structures of which are still clearly visible in Finnish forests. The Salpa Line is even one of the best preserved fortress lines in the whole of Europe built during the Second World War, reaching all the way to Lapland from the southern coast of Finland, and many of the most spectacular and powerful structures are located in Kymenlaakso. The Salpa Line reaches an impressive total length of 1,200 kilometers and was built between 1940 and 1941, and 1944.

Kymenlaakso has two Salpa Line themed museums – one in Miehikkälä, and the other in Virolahti. Both are located along the EuroVelo13 and the Salpa Line bike routes. These museums shed light on the background of this impressive structure and are definitely worth a visit. EuroVelo13 travelers can easily start the Salpa Line bike route from either location.

However, the route is not only suitable for those interested in military history. You can also enjoy a lot of beautiful and extensive Finnish nature with its beautiful forests and idyllic farming landscapes. I set out to find out what the Salpa Line bike route has to offer. Join me!

The warm fall weather and the fine fall colors ensured that the cycling season in southern Finland continued into October. The Salpa Line bike route was a great choice for enjoying the northeastern European fall weather for a couple of days’ bike ride.

You can start your trip from anywhere on the route, but you can easily park your car in the parking areas of the Miehikkälä Salpa Line Museum or the Bunker Museum in Virolahti (the distance between these sites is about 20 km). On the last day of September, I started from the Bunker Museum. The museum is only open on Fri–Sat in the fall, so I started my journey straight away since the museum was closed.

The Salpa Linja bike route is not marked on the terrain, but I had uploaded Cursor’s map to my Google Drive, where I could easily track my journey with the phone’s GPS data. The route travels partly along a hiking route called Salpa Trail, but those sections were often marked as mountain bike sections, so I most often chose the dirt road route. A third asphalt option was also indicated on some points.

Here we go!

After driving west on Vaalimaantie for a while, the route turned southeast onto Vahtivuorentie. The dirt road was in good condition, although bumpy. First there were warnings about horses on the road and then about snowmobiles, but I didn’t see anyone. After some recently planted forest, the road dived into a coniferous forest. According to the map, the first dugouts – troop-protecting structures used in the war – should be located near the Vahtivuori campfire site, where I parked my bike on the side of the road and continued walking up the path.

There were insanely big blueberries everywhere! In Finland, you can pick natural berries, thanks to the so called everyman’s rights, so I tasted the northern superfood with a smile on my face. However, the berries were already quite tasteless at this time of year, so I didn’t regret leaving my bucket at home.
Next, my attention was drawn to some really large boulders. Could they be man-made parts of the Salpa Line, or natural obstacles, I wondered. I found the cooking shelter on top of the hill, but the trees prevented a wider view of the surrounding landscape. I decided to use my Trangia to make coffee with apple pie before I went looking for the dugouts.

After studying the map, I realized that I should have been right next to the dugouts, but I didn’t see anything. Military history isn’t exactly my area of expertise. I wonder what I was supposed to be looking for. I had read beforehand that most of the dugouts are not maintained, with potentially dangerous drops and sharp iron structures so it was a bit terrifying trying to find them alone. I’ve never been to the army, so even in that sense, I had no idea how the dugouts could’ve been built into the terrain. I understood that the map made it difficult to determine the exact location of the dugouts and probably the GPS signal on the phone displayed my location incorrectly. I was beginning to wonder whether I would find any bunkers on the whole trip.

Amazing boulders! Or tank barriers after all?

I had read that there should be a cave and a nature stage near the fire site. I went down the path and followed some signs. I noticed that there were better signs on the opposite side, and discovered the first winding trenches and the opening of the first bunker No 82. After continuing ahead, I came across another much cozier lean-to called Rinnelaavu, and found the rock cliff I was looking for, with its railings. Next to the railing there was a path down and a view opened up to the nature stage: What a great venue with stands can be found below the cliff! The barrier rocks have been mined from the cliff, and this can be seen in its the vertical shape. The place is so impressive that it would be great to watch a show there sometime!

The nature stage looks rugged!

There was a concrete doorway next to the stage, and after a while, and after I got my headlamp working, I had the courage to enter through the door. Inside I discovered a large cave carved into the rock and there appeared to be a smaller room at the back. Water fell from the ceiling. The bunker seemed so strong that I dared to continue through the second door. There was an embrasure on the right side of the second door, and on the left you could see the small room that I had noticed earlier. There were no furniture. After leaving the cave, the air felt warm and I felt relieved – I made it! I realized that it takes a lot of courage to enter such structures on my own. I decided that this would be enough for now, and that the structures that I would explore next would be at the Harju Learning Center.

The road lead to an idyllic field opening and a row of tank barriers erected on the Ravijoki river banks. Later, the barrier line continued along my route in many places and I can only imagine how much work it has taken to build it with the tools of that time! At this point, the tank barriers were inside the pasture, and after a while a resting flock of sheep appeared.

Tank barriers as sheep pasture

Next, I climbed to the courtyard of the Harju Learning Center, where I saw many beautiful old buildings. The students had just finished their school day. The summer café Kiessi seems to operate there but it was already unfortunately closed for the year. The Kiessi Museum was on the opposite side and the door was open. Inside I found a collection of horse-drawn vehicles and some information about the history of the Harju manor.

The Harju milieu

From the Harju courtyard, the journey continued along a birch alley until we turned left onto Museotie. A great view opened up to the Harju manor. The route continued along the side of the road and alternated between idyllic well-maintained countryside and different types of forests. Huge boulders could be seen here and there. Grasshoppers were still chirping along the road, and there were still flowers such as bluebells, tansies, thistles and sow thistles. Summer was in the air!

The old kilometer markers guided me towards Virojoki, where I had planned to have a little lunch break.

After the village center, my journey continued on a bike road next to Vaalimaantie for a short while before the last bit of road turning to Miehikkälä. A couple of sphere-shaped dugouts were marked on the route map along Mattilantie, which I decided to visit. I found the dugouts relatively easily when I followed the path in the forest. But I didn’t enter because they seemed to be in bad condition. Also, there were some homes nearby so you had to be careful not to walk into anyone’s yard.

Soon I spotted a sphere-shaped dugout right by the side of the road on the left side! The camouflage of the dugout – the moss that covered it – was destroyed, so the round dome was clearly visible. Unfortunately, the location by the side of the road meant that the dugout was full of trash bags and I didn’t bother to go inside. According to the Finnish trekking etiquette, you should always take your trash to the nearest trash can and take them with you if there are no trash cans on site. Nothing should be left behind.

Balded sphere-shaped dugout

Based on the map, the next attraction was the Kotolankoski rapids of Vaalimaanjoki, which was a very pretty place. It would have been a much better place for a break than the place I had chosen. After the rapids, the road turned into a dirt road and passed through the village of Kotola. Kotolankoski is worth a break!

The evening was getting darker, and I had to maintain a decent speed so that I could get to my accommodation near the center of Miehikkälä. Indeed, around September and October, you have to consider the fact that it starts to get dark around 7 p.m. Finally, I spotted the village of Miehikkälä!

Vaalimaanjoki river

According to the instructions, the accommodation was next to the church. In the tenant’s yard, the village blacksmith’s cabin was a separate two-person accommodation building with a kitchenette, toilet and shower. Perfect accommodation for such a one-night bike ride.

It is also possible to plan the route so that you stay in a tent at one of the lean-to or campfire sites along the route. These are located in the western part of the route, so in that case you should start from the Salpa Line Museum in Miehikkälä. I had originally thought about bringing a tent, but I couldn’t fit the gear on the bike so I decided to book accommodation. Based on the route map, there seem to be accommodation options in several places, so there is room for choice.

The dahlias were in bloom outside, on October 1st!

After breakfast, I started towards the Salpa Line Museum, which was only three kilometers from the center of Miehikkälä. I decided to take a shortcut along Taavetintie and skip going round Myllylampi, marked on the route map. The trip started uphill and I felt the 40 km cycling from the previous day.
After climbing into the museum courtyard, I marveled at the silence and indeed: it was October 1st and the museum was no longer open during weekdays! This was my own mistake, since I hadn’t considered it would be October. From the window I could see that staff were there and after knocking on the door they were kind enough to give me a map of the outdoor areas and permission to tour places that were not locked.

I had thought that I could safely visit the museum’s refurbished dugouts, but this seems like the perfect excuse to revisit southeast Finland some other time.

That’s how impressed I am with the Salpa Line fortifications. In sunny weather, I toured the trenches, visited the aerial surveillance tower, and marveled at the tank barriers and cannons. I was thinking how all of it would have worked if the enemy had approached Taavetintie. Could they have stopped it? The tour took so much time that I decided to use my Trangia to cook lunch at the museum’s campfire site.

From the museum, the route turned to Rakolantie and an exceptionally enjoyable part of the journey started! The road was a smooth dirt road and it meandered in stunning pine forest, among sturdy and gloomy spruce trees, and occasionally through idyllic field areas. When cycling, you felt like you were following a trail of historical events. I wonder if the people who built the Salpa Line are still alive. Have they felt proud to build such large fortifications? The concrete dugouts are in relatively good condition, as the Finnish Defense Forces partially maintained them until the 1980s.

No worries when cycling through boreal forests!

On this stretch, many parts of the route merged with the Salpa Trail. I had read in the guide that there was something worth seeing in Jermula, and I decided to visit, even based on the name alone, to see what I would find in the direction of the sign.

There was a sign to the dugouts on the way there, but I kept going all the way to the back where I found a parking area. A road continued to the right, and there I first found a tipi-like hut, then a Jermula cottage used by war veterans, and a lean-to. There were concrete figures at the campsite: a couple and a dog, but I didn’t see anyone else. There was also a well in the yard and a long jetty at the beach. I was startled when a heron took off just a few meters from the beach!

When I came back, I went to the parking area to find dugout 310/443. I just took a sneak peek, because once again I was terrified to go in alone. There was even an information board near the door. As I cycled back to the route, I noticed an embrasure disguised with rocks on the slope and climbed to see it. I was beginning to know how to look for the fortifications in the terrain!

The fall colors were beautiful and bright, as the sun shined in summerlike fashion. The grain fields were all already harvested – fortunately, because winter is approaching. After turning to Vuolteentie, the route crossed another beautiful little river, the Turanjoki.

From the Salpa Line Museum onwards, the cycling route sometimes merges with the Salpa Trail for long distances. There were also beautiful, short forest parts on Vuolteentie, and there were even dugouts right next to the road. The shore of Pyyhinlampi would’ve been a great spot for a break, but after studying the terrain map, I found that going there would have meant uphills both ways, so I decided to postpone the coffee break. Today’s part had more hills anyway, and I was feeling it in my legs.

After this, there would have been a short mountain bike trail to the left, which traveled along the unfinished cave of Soikonvuori, and I had read it was beautiful. I decided that I might not dare go into the cave alone, and I decided to skip it on this trip. After the forest section, the route passed through the idyllic village of Mässelinmäki.

The barn is camouflaged too!

Shortly before the highway underpass, there was a concrete dugout 153 on the edge of the forest opening, which looked so firm that I ventured to go inside. The embrasure pointed directly at the highway. I thought that during the war there had been few roads in the area where the enemy could have progressed inland, and all of them had spots where they could be cut off if necessary. Now there’s a huge highway to Russia! But that is how it should be: neighboring countries peacefully trade with each other and live their own lives.

The embrasure in this dugout points right in the direction of the highway

According to the map, there was supposed to be a lean-to right after the highway underpass, where I decided to take the last coffee break. I read on the information boards that a bunker had been blown up to make space for the highway. The Salpalaavu lean-to turned out to be a brand new lean-to placed right next to the concrete bunker! The sun was already setting behind the woods when I made the coffee and ate the last piece of apple pie.

There seemed to be a large parking area nearby and signs to the Bunker Museum, which was only 2.5 km away. The last part of the route was brand new asphalt road, which must have been built when the highway was completed. There would also have been a mountain bike section going alongside the Salpa Trail, which would probably have been nicer, but on my bike and load it wouldn’t have been a good idea.

The Salpalaavu lean-to is located right next to the dugout

The two days passed pleasantly when admiring the landscapes of southeastern Finland painted bright by the fall colors, and exploring the Salpa Line. The Salpa Line bike route can be recommended for tour cyclists, and you don’t have to be a military history enthusiast to go on the route. The route requires a bit of an adventure attitude, as it is not marked on the terrain and you need to read a map. Only a small part of the Salpa Line fortifications are marked and it might take some time to find them. Safety issues should also be taken into account. Most of the dugouts have not been refurbished, so they are accessed at your own risk.

Bring a good headlight (and spare lamp) with you. I highly recommend going with a friend, as going alone increases risks, and it took a lot of courage to explore the dugouts on my own, at least for me. Of course, during the summer or on weekends there are certainly more travelers in the area than during the off-season and on workdays. If you enjoy your own peace, then I recommend going on workdays.

In addition, it is advisable to check the opening hours of the museums in advance, as they definitely provide added value and information for the trip. For me, at least, the closed museums bothered me so much that I have to visit the area again in the future!

Read more:

EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail, Visit Kotka–Hamina

Salpa Line Museum

The Salpa Line Trail

The article has been created for the Bizcycle project / Southeast Finland-Russia CBC program. The program is funded by the European Union, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Finland.

View from Iivaara fell

Hiking up north in Finland if always fun – but it’s even better than usual during the fall. Great brisk weather, no mosquitoes, safe environment – you can lose yourself for hours on end… in a good way. Join me this time as we hike up Iivaara fell, and enjoy the best hiking weather of the year in picturesque Koillismaa – North-East Finland.

Iivaara peak on the map (Sijainti: N=7300404.330, E=622387.834 (ETRS-TM35FIN))
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More hiking videos: Youtube / Take a hike with Mika Viitanen
More hiking in Finnish language: Youtube / Taarna
Parking spot directions: Google Maps
More information on the location: nationalparks.fi/iivaara

In cooperation with Nuuksioon.fi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Antti Huttunen

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

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

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

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

And there certainly was something going on.

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn is about to begin in Lapland – there’s already some beautiful autumn foliage to be seen. But autumn colors are not the only sign of the summer being over. Autumn in Lapland smells like fresh rain in the forest, tastes like berries and sounds like singing swans. You can also see the beautiful starry sky of Lapland for the first time in months. Here are nine signs of nature that tell you autumn is here!

Misty mornings

Autumn is the time of beautiful, cold and misty mornings. You want to get up early so that you won’t miss them!

Nights get darker

This feels very special especially because in Lapland the sun hasn’t set for months. So when it finally does set and the evenings get dark, it feels truly amazing. You can see the stars for the first time after spring, and even some auroras can soon appear!

Autumn foliage

The first ones to begin turning red are bilberries. Make sure that you have a camera with you when you go outside – this is something truly amazing.

Berries get ripe

Bilberries first, then lingonberries and soon also cranberries – they are waiting for you and they are delicious! Thanks to the everyman’s right, anyone is allowed to pick berries in Finland. Just make sure you treat nature with respect and leave nothing behind! Do not litter!

Fresh smell of rain

Who wouldn’t love the smell of a refreshing rain in beautiful nature. In autumn, this smell is at its best. Each forest or swamp has a wonderful smell of its own.

Time for some mushroom picking

Like berries, you can also pick mushrooms. If you’re lucky, you’ll find delicious porcinis or chanterelles!

Chanterelles

Swans get ready to leave

The whooper swan is the national bird of Finland. But they can not stay here for the winter. In autumn you can hear them singing in the wilderness, as they get ready to leave.

Thunder storms appear

Especially in August it’s possible to see and hear some amazing thunder storms and rainbows in Lapland.

Reindeer get handsome again

This might come as a shock, but reindeer get really ugly in the summer when they moult. In August they start to look very handsome again, and the males also have huge beautiful antlers.

P.s. We advice you not to approach male reindeer especially in September, as they can get aggressive during this period of reindeer’s rut.

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

➡️ 5,5 km, loop
🔥 Shelter
📌 Starting point on the map
ℹ Read more

The Enchanted Forest Trail (Peikkometsän kierros) is a picturesque and diverse trail in Västerby recreational area in Raasepori, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from Helsinki. Its 5.5 kilometre length is perfect for a family with children on a day trip – leaving time for games, breaks and even hunting for mushrooms. The trip can be made at any time of year. The forest is full of light, with scenery which is probably still beautiful even in the darker times of year.

Västerby recreational area was a new location for us. According to the map, there was an interesting route of just the right length: The Enchanted Forest Trail, which takes you up onto the rocks and the edge of a pond. There was also also a lean-to shelter, the perfect spot for a break.

We drove through Western Uusimaa from Helsinki to Tammisaari admiring the wonderful scenery on the way. We found the parking place for the recreational area and starting point for the Enchanted Forest Trail easily with the help of a map.

There was plenty of space at the parking place. In addition to the information board, we found some convenient climbing trees.

The trail started with a section on the rocks, where moss had created lovely green columns.

The trail was wide and easy for even smaller people to use, but still nice and diverse. The Enchanted Forest Trail is marked on certain trees with yellow paint, and there are duckboards going over wet areas. We felt a little overdressed in our warm clothing, as it felt like summer.

On the way we made some interesting discoveries. Someone (or something) had dug into a wasps ground nest and spread pieces of honeycomb on the moss, on the shores of Vitsjön pond. It was also here that we found our first porcini mushroom.

We were well prepared with plenty of things to eat. Our plan was, that at the shelter, we would make a warm lunch. But the table and benches on the shores of Vitsjön were calling us to take our first snack break there.

The path went through beautiful swamp areas and through the forest to the lakeside rocks of Grabbskog Stortäsket. The view from the top of the rocks was stunning, where you could see the lake narrowing into a canyon.

By the higher path we found a real fungal surprise. The warm weather had brought about twenty porcini mushrooms to the surface, none of which had any worms. Our mushroom basket was full in moments.

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While looking for more porcini mushrooms (boletes) we spotted a huge cauliflower mushroom Sparassis crispa on the slope. Even though it’s a delicious edible mushroom, it’s also rare, so we left if there, as advised by the mushroom book.

Traversing along the trail we came across a few trekkers, but there were certainly no crowds on the Enchanted Forest Trail. When we arrived at the shelter, the fire was already going and a few others were also taking a rest. For our lunch we had brought a mushroom risotto to make with our camping stove, which fit well with the trip’s unexpected theme. For dessert we made croissants on the fire by wrapping the dough around a stick.

On the Enchanted Forest trail, as well as wonderful views, you may spot some stone trolls. This was particularly fun for the kids. The Geocacher in our family also made some of their own discoveries.

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The trail is a loop and returns to the shores of Vitsjön pond. Once there, we decided to go back and check the jetty built on the rock. This would be a great place to return in the summer when the water is warm. An unexpected find that brought a great deal of joy to the kids was on the tree next to the jetty. A rope was attached to it making possible a swinging game that was enough to fill mothers with dread, but thankfully we survived without getting wet.

The Enchanted Forest Trail can easily be combined with other Raasepori sights. We didn’t get to see the castle ruins, but on the way home we went to admire Tammisaari’s old centre, wooden houses and seaside park.

Here are a few more views from the route:

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Translation: Becky Hastings

Lue artikkeli suomeksi Retkipaikasta.

When you walk through the nature in northern parts of Finland, especially in Lapland, you will most likely end up meeting a new friend during your lunch or coffee break.

Siberian Jays are known for being fearless and tame, and they will often land close to you immediately when you pause and dig up your lunch or snack. For hundreds of years these birds have been companions to hunters and rangers in the woods. In the Finnish folklore Siberian Jay was called a ‘soul-bird’ and when a ranger died his spirit was believed to move to one of these birds.

Siberian Jay is a member of the crow family but is much smaller compared to the actual crow. Their colour is grayish brown with beautiful bright rust-coloured markings on their rumps, the edges of their tails and wings. This bird lives mostly in the northern boreal forests of spruce and pine, the so called taiga area.

I’ve never met a Siberian Jay as close as I did on my latest trip to Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark in western Lapland. These little fellows were so tame and eager to get a piece of my food that they even landed on my hand. I felt gratitude to meet the soul-bird so close.

I spotted Siberian Jays almost everywhere in the woods and forest parts of Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark. But these pictures are from an easy 3 km trail called Saivionkierros, which is located near Ylläs and Äkäslompolo village in Kolari. If you are interested in this or other hiking trails around the Ylläs area you can find more information via this link.

If you meet one of these birds on your travels in Lapland you can offer them a small piece of white bread, but remember that salt and salty foods are not healthy or good for them.

Kekri is an old Finnish agricultural harvest festival celebrated in autumn, and it’s also the time for the souls and spirits of the dead to visit us who are still living here on Earth. This is the time when even ghosts go to sauna! 

Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve has spred all around the world from the United States. It has made its way also to Finland during the resent years, but did you know that Jack O’Lantern, trick or treating, costumes and ghosts all refer to European traditions that are thousands of years old?

In Finland we have long agricultural traditions with the harvest celebrations: Kekri used to be the biggest fest of the year. Here are 5 interesting facts about the Finnish Kekri celebration!

1. Long traditions

Long before All Saint’s Day and the commercial Halloween, people used to celebrate the harvest season in many countries. In Finland the agricultural traditions were strong, and the Kekri fest has roots even back to Iron Age over 2 000 years ago!

2. “Kekri” refers to the remnant of harvest time

The word kekri comes from an old fenno-ugrian word kekra, kekraj which means cycle. Back in the old times it was natural to end a year connected to the earth and harvest, so while people celebrated the harvest it was also an ending of the year fest!

3. Trick or treat!

The Kekripukki, Kekri goat, was a creature with horns. Young people used to dress up as a Kekripukki with a fur coat worn upside-down and walk from house to house asking for feasting or beer. If a household would refuse they used to threat by breaking the oven. Sounds like trick or treating old school, huh? Today it is common to burn the Kekri goat made from straws during the harvest fest!

An interesting fact is that the Kekri goat was actually the origin to Santa Claus! Yup, you heard that right.

4. Ghosts go to sauna too

Sauna is probably the most Finnish thing on earth and its history goes way back. Löyly means the steam that rises from the stove or heat of the sauna. In Finnish mythology it also refers to the soul of the body, and sauna was thought to have strong connections to the underworld. During the harvest season it was also thought to be the time when the spirits and souls of the people who had passed came back for a visit. Sauna was offered to those spirits before any living person was allowed to go to there, and it was prepared with towels, water, soap and everything a living person would need.

After bathing it was time for a feast. The house folk left a table full of food and drink and went to sauna themselves to leave space and peace for spirits to enjoy the meal.

5. Jack O’ Turnip

Everybody knows the traditional pumpkin lantern from America, but also in Finland we had something similar. During the Kekri fest it was common to carve a turnip and put a small candle inside. Pumpkins were not known in Europe before the colonialism.

 

September was amazing and October has thus far been greatly rewarding. Autumn has kicked in, and in my opinion cannot overstay its welcome. Last month I managed to see the northern lights for the first time ever, right here in Joensuu and right above the city. The sunsets have been dramatic and the stars bright. Also, the fog has crept in and turned the routinely visible into the unknown. It’s official, this time of the year is now my favourite.

Here are some moments that I’ve been happy to capture:

Above: Waves crash against some rocks on the shore of Lake Pyhäselkä, Joensuu. The cloudy weather can often bring powerful, dramatic skies to a sunset.

Above: This is a place that I just can’t get enough of. This little island sits just off the shore from Kuhasalo in Joensuu. It’s perfect for if you’re looking to take a good picture. On this particular day the clouds were dramatic, the sun bursted through them and illuminated the island. I also found the green colour on the rocks to be a great foreground interest.

Above: My very first time experiencing the aurora. I went out looking for it, but it was only on my way home that I was treated to a show that I won’t forget. This is not the most amazing photo of the northern lights, but the moment will stay with me forever. The photo was taken in Joensuu, with the church near the centre of the image.

Above: On certain clear nights, the milky way is out to light up the night sky, possibly giving you that feeling of insignificance but simultaneously making you feel immensely grateful to be part of it all.

Above: Onkilampi is a great little lake/pond in Kontiolahti. Every time I go there, this old jetty seems to draw me in. It has a lot of character and appears to have spent its time with many visitors before. This photo was taken on a windy day at sunset.

Above: Another sunset shot on the shores on a lake in Joensuu, Finland.

Above: My second time with the northern lights. I was absolutely amazed at the show I was given. This photo was taken in Kontiolahti.

Above: Autumn has brought with it many different colours. The orange, yellow and red flora starts pop-out and introduce itself in a very bold manner, creating some interesting scenes to take in. Kukkosensaari offers much forest to explore.

Above: Birches lined up in the fog.

Above: A tree in the fog. Finland has been giving me some amazingly foggy scenes to appreciate.

So there you have it. Autumn has so far been fantastic here in Finland. With such a variety of things to see, it makes me wish that winter could somehow delay itself for a little while longer (and I think winter is awesome too). Every day seems full of things to appreciate and photographic opportunities to take. So see you out in the forest and remember to take your camera with you when you go! The Finnish nature is waiting for you 🙂

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➡️ 14 km
🔥 3
📌 Location
⚫⚫⚫ Challenging

Since the weather was perfect to go on a bit more challenging hike, I decided to pay a visit to Noitatunturi fell located in Pyhä. This hike has been on my mind for quite some time now, but since the weather has to be good (dry, no snow etc.) I still hadn’t had the chance to actually go, until now! Of course my huskies, my partner and a friend were excited to join me, so off we went!

We started our hike from the parking area of hotel Pyhätunturi and headed in the direction of the Isokuru lapp hut. From there we made our way down by using the staircase and started following ‘the trail to Noitatunturi fell‘ which is marked with the colour green.

The trail is quite demanding since there are a lot of rocks and steep climbs to get to the top of the fell, but the trip is totally worth it, especially because of the constantly changing scenery. At the beginning of the trail the autumn colours were still doing their best to develop. Once we were a little bit further along the trail, the autumn colours were starting to fill the scenery and they made us even more excited to make our journey to the top.

Since this was a very tough trail for us, it was even harder for my huskies, especially for my puppy. Even though he is not that small anymore (6 months old), he is still not allowed to walk these kind of heavy trails. Luckily he is trained to sit in a backpack, but this is probably going to be the last time we’ll use the backpack for him (you might understand this when you see the picture below).

After some hard work we finally arrived to the top, which meant that the toughest part of the trail was now behind us. We took some time to enjoy the spectacular view and took a little break for a drink and some fresh berries.

We continued our hike by making our way down the fell towards the Isokuru gorge. This part of the national park of Pyhä-Luosto is probably the most popular place to visit, which I totally understand since it is absolutely stunning. But the Isokuru gorge is not only pretty on the eyes – it is a big part of the cultural history. For instance Pyhänkasteenputous Waterfall, which is located in the gorge, is a holy place for the Sami people.

Want to know more about Pyhä’s history? Then go check out this article!

Making your way through the gorge is really easy nowadays, since there is a well maintained wooden pathway and staircases. There is also a trail that will lead you through the gorge without having to climb Noitatunturi, ‘Karhunjuomalampi trail‘.

At the end of the gorge there is a staircase leading back to Isokuru lapp hut, from where we made our way back to the car again.

Now matter how tired and sore our feet were afterwards, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss the great memories of hiking this trail with it’s amazing scenery. Not sure if our dogs were thinking the same, only thing I do know is that they felt the same tiredness as we did, they almost slept through the whole following day. Luckily we have some great pictures to remember Noitatunturi dressed in the most stunning autumn colours, before they will be buried underneath the snow again.