What an opportunity to experience the magic of Lapland! Nightless Night Outdoor Photography Workshop takes place in Finland’s largest National Park

Nightless Night – Outdoor Photography Workshop is an Instagram & Outdoor photography event that will be held on the last weekend of June 2019 in Finland’s biggest National Park Lemmenjoki, in Finnish Lapland.

The event is meant for anyone who shares the passion for outdoor life, photography and story-telling through social media – regardless how beginner or advanced one feels as a photographer. Outdoor-related photography workshops will take place throughout the weekend in breath-taking arctic landscapes in the most instagrammable spot of Lemmenjoki area.

Photo: Juha Kauppinen

Every summer we want to bring something new to Nightless Night – this time we proudly present Camping Crash Course as a pre-program of the Nightless Night! Camping Crash Course is a 24 hour outdoor workshop that will take you to the basics of Finnish outdoor life and camping. The crash course is held by a professional wilderness guide and accompanied by like-minded campers. Excellent for outdoor beginners and for those who want to share a trick or two!

Read more and buy your ticket here

Nightless Night outdoor photography workshop on Facebook

Photo: Juha Kauppinen

Article by Inari-Saariselkä, featured image by Jan-Eerik Paadar

Experience the thrill of a treasure hunt in Raseborg – from the castle via a suspension bridge to the channel

Article by Johanna Suomela

What outdoor activity both young and old can do without having to be extra fit to do it? What can you do 24/7 and 365 days a year both in the city and in nature – for free? What activity has a goal, provides experiences and gets the lazy-bones moving? What is a hobby you can start with just a pen and a phone?

Some of your friends may already have tried it and gotten hooked, but you might not be familiar with it. You have probably heard its name, but the mystery surrounding it has kept you on your guard. But fret not, this microadventure and treasure hunt called geocaching is immensely popular all over the world!

So let’s go to Raseborg with our professional guide Stacy Siivonen! Stacy has been searching for treasures for 6 years now in 19 different countries. If you don’t know what geocaching is about, don’t worry – Stacy will explain it.

How to start geocaching?

Most important gear is an open mind. In addition to that, weather- and dirt proof outdoor clothing, good shoes, a smartphone and a pen. If you have a true GPS device, that’s OK, too, but a GPS-capable smartphone works fine as well. You might also want to take gloves and a flashlight with you, because some of the caches are hidden in quite imaginative places where you don’t necessarily want to blindly stick your hand into.

This game is played on www.geocaching.com. You can access the cache data when you register on the site. When that’s done, just download a geocaching app for your smartphone, activate the GPS function in your phone, and off you go to search for your first treasure!

If you are in an urban environment, you can do fine with just a regular map. However, when you step from the “concrete jungle” into the real one, a smartphone app is needed. The geocaching app will use up your data plan, so please make sure that you have a sufficient data plan with your mobile operator to avoid any unexpected charges. There are about 60 000 geocaches in Finland, so you will not run out of them very easily.

If you are going abroad for geocaching, please download the map of the target region for offline use while you are still home. Also, if you are planning to spend many hours anywhere looking for the caches, consider also taking a power bank with you.

Stacy has a pen and GPS device with her, so let’s get moving!

Stopping at the Snappertuna Church

Map

We are heading towards the medieval castle of Raseborg, to perhaps the most spectacular castle ruins in Finland.

But on the way there we just have to stop at the Snappertuna Church which was built in 1689. The yellow church stands on a stately spot on top of a hill, calling us to come closer.

We admire the church from the outside and walk around it. To our disappointment, the church has no geocache, even if it could have. Many of the churches do.

During our short stop, Stacy finds two suitable places for a cache which are such that they wouldn’t cause so-called “geo-erosion”.

A responsible geocacher knows what the so-called “everyman’s rights” are. He/she also knows that where there are rights there are also responsibilities. One of the most important responsibilities with geocaching is that the caches are put in places where they don’t cause unreasonable wear and tear on the environment – that is, geo-erosion.

Another very important principle is to respect the rights of the landowner and people living near the cache sites. Caches must be placed so that they don’t disturb anyone. Obviously, laws must be obeyed, too.

The Raseborg Castle

Map

Our geocaching trip proceeds to the ruins of the Raseborg Castle. However, calling them “ruins” doesn’t really do them justice. This place is a lot more than a pile of rocks and dilapidated walls.

Although it is not known for certain, what the castle has looked like in its glory days, the castle facade has been restored to show what it could have been.

It is early spring, and the morning sun is shyly reaching with its rays towards the castle. Surrounded by a sea ages ago, the smooth glaciated rock is now a foundation for the castle.

In its time, the castle served as a centre of government of the West Nyland and as a military base. The castle has also overseen trade and seafarers on the Gulf of Finland.

In the 1450s and 1460s, life here was thriving. When the City of Helsinki was founded in 1550, Raseborg started to lose its stature. And when the beer cellar collapsed, things started to look really bad. The castle was abandoned in 1558, and it was left to rot in peace for over three centuries. Not until the 1880s, the value of the castle was realized again, and the restoration efforts began.

We pass an old swing hanging on the branch of a tree. Very insta-credible.

Frozen slush crackles under our feet as we tread on.

A flock of jackdaws takes wing from the castle battlements.

They won’t fly very far for our sake but circle back to where they started from.

We notice that a fluffy friend with long ears has been by the castle hopping here and there.

In the summertime, the Raseborg Castle hosts many different events like the Midsummer Festival, Medieval Fair, different concerts and Swedish theatre performances. The castle is administered by the Parks and Wildlife Finland (Metsähallitus), but it is for rent for those who wish to throw their own party in these historical surroundings!

We don’t see any other people yet, but we do see nature, which is present in the spring, too.

We like this peace and quiet. It is good that the muggles aren’t around to see where the caches are. You cannot reveal the location of the caches to outsiders, because if you do, the caches might get lost – get muggled.

The types of geocaches

We know that this particular cache can be found also in the winter, and that it’s not located inside the castle. Facts about the history of this place can be found in the preliminary information about the cache, as in many other caches in historical places.

Every geocache has its attributes that determine what type of cache it is. Those attributes are saved in the geocaching site an in the geocaching app. The attributes may contain information about things that are allowed on the site – for instance if dogs are welcome or if you can make a fire. The attributes can tell you also the means of transportation with which the cache can be reached – like by bicycle, horse or snowmobile.

The attribute will also define the conditions related to the location of the cache; for instance if it can be found in the winter also, is any swimming required, if you have to climb, perhaps be aware of the cows – or to behave discreetly. Some caches might even require teamwork or a 10 km hike.

The cache attribute can also contain information about any equipment needed to find it, such as parking fee, boat, flashlight or an UV light – or snowshoes. Some caches can be high up in the tree and require some serious climbing. If there are evident dangers such as poisonous plants, dangerous animals, ticks, abandoned mines, crags or rock slides involved, the information about them is provided.

Nothing human and natural will be strange for the geocacher. Like in life, in geocaching also everything is possible. Some caches can really be in dangerous places, so you will certainly need to have common sense and patience. And this is why geocaching is a modern type of adventure.

The size of the caches varies from tiny ones about the size of a fingernail to huge. The biggest caches could be the size of a small house. That said, the most common size for a cache is a watertight box that can hold a pen and a log book.

Difficulty of the caches and their location as regards to the terrain is rated from 1 to 5 stars. The cache of Raseborg Castle has a rating of 1.5 stars for both. It has received 69 so-called FP (Favourite Points) from advanced cachers, which means that 69 users have considered the cache to be good and worth hunting.

And it will continue to be so after our visit as well – a veritable treasure trove. Stacy drops a heavy bundle of so-called “travel bugs” into the box. The travel bugs – as the name suggests – travel with the geocachers from one cache to the next. The travel bugs are marked with an individual tag which allows them to be tracked on the geocaching website. One travel bug wants to move around ice-hockey rinks, another wants to travel to Lapland and back.

A pen is mightier than the sword: if you don’t sign the cache, it doesn’t count

The most important thing in geocaching is that you remember to sign the log book when you find the cache. Unless you don’t sign it with a handle you have registered at the geocaching website, you cannot tag the cache as found. Here, the rules of geocaching are ruthless. Stacy will sign the Raseborg log book with her own cacher handle.

I am admiring the majestic castle. No longer the sound of swords echo from these walls. It is so silent that you can hear the water drop from the castle roof gutters when the sun rises higher and higher.

The castle footbridge is closed with a gate during the winter, so we will not be going in.

The castle will open again on the 1st of May. We would love to come back then, and go for a walk on the Love Path, which is a half-a-kilometre-long path leading to the Forngården Folk Museum. At the Folk Museum you can see how people used to live on the farms in the archipelago.

After a visit to the Folk Museum, lunch might be in order. The tourist cottage Slottsknekten sits next to the castle and has been offering services for travellers since 1893.

In the summer, you can sit down on the terrace and enjoy local delicacies at the restaurant and café of Slottsknekten, admiring the view that opens up towards the Castle.

From the end of June to the end of July, the next stop from Forngården would be Classic Garage Café. In addition to the delicious bakery products there is something extra for the eyes as well – especially for those who love old cars.

But now, when it’s still spring, we’ll just have to do without pastries and automobiles. So, on with the adventure!

Near to the castle, there’s also a so-called multi-cache which consists of several stages.

Stacy is figuring out the coordinates of the cache hint, only to come to a conclusion that we will not be going after the multi-cache at all today. It would seem that to find even the first stage we would have to tread in deep snow, and who knows how far the final stage would be.

So, we cross over to the other side of the Raseborg River and continue our adventure from there.

DNF from under the bridge

Although the caches are sometimes in exciting and possibly even dangerous places, you must have a sensible approach to this hobby. Don’t put yourself (or others) in danger, and don’t do anything illegal.

The next cache should be under a small road, hidden somewhere in the structures of a bridge over a troubled water. Under the bridge, there is a steeply declining stone pavement, and a cold and treacherous current runs right under it. To be able to safely look for the cache and not fall into the ice-cold water, you should have a proper rope with you. As we don’t have one, all we can do is say DNF! That means “did not find”. Actually, we couldn’t even start, because our shoes were too slippery, and there was no point in hurting ourselves.

Nevertheless, the scenery is rewarding, so the trip here is not a total waste. We pick up few aluminium cans someone has tossed on the side of the road. As you know, aluminium turns to dust relatively slowly…

By the way, there’s this great geocaching trend called CITO, which is short for Cache In, Trash Out. In CITO, the cachers clean the place of the cache from any harmful material and take the trash out. Or, they do something else environmentally friendly before establishing the cache.

The suspension bridge of Raseborg – The essence of geocaching

Map

Stacy tells us that “Geocaching as a hobby is at its best when it motivates people to move and takes them to new and awesome places which they would not otherwise see.” She says that there is a suspension bridge in the island of Skärlandet, 10 kilometres south from the city of Tammisaari, and it’s well-known by the geocaching community. It can be accessed by taking a ferry from Skåldö. OK, but why haven’t I heard about it, and neither has Google? Are you kidding me?

But today, I will witness with my own eyes that world is indeed different for geocachers. In summer weekends, you would have to line in to get to the ferry of Skåldö, but now there are only a few cars, and we get there quickly as if we were driving.

The starting coordinates direct us to the recreation area of Kopparö into the beautiful nature of the archipelago. We move on to find out what the suspension bridge of Raseborg with a FP rating of 13 really is!

We find the place where the path starts. Someone else besides us seems to have taken the path recently – someone other than a deer. Deer, according to all the tracks, seem to be in abundance here. The sun is shining, and the path runs in a beautiful forest. Snow has melted from small spots here and there, and quite soon it will melt from all over.

I step off the path onto a small cliff. Lovely spring is already here!

About 600 metres from the start, I shout out aloud.

Wow! There it is – a real suspension bridge of which even Google is aware! Yet.

We make our first contact with the suspension bridge safely from ground level.

It seems quite reliable…hefty utility poles on both ends, and strong-looking cables to hold the bridge.

I climb up the high stairs – only to come back down and muster some more courage.

I guess there’s no helping it. I just have to do it. With my own responsibility of course. It would be a shame to leave the cache unfound just because I’m afraid of heights. Besides, this bridge is not that high anyway. Little quirky, though. The deck is tilting little to the left – could I fall off?

Having mustered enough courage, I step onto the bridge. I hear an ominous creak, but Stacy reassures me that it’s just because the bridge is frozen. The handrail is low, and I am really afraid to cross the bridge. After all, this bridge is something different from the bridges in our national parks in general. Making slow progress, I grab onto the handrails, staying as low as possible.

I am across! And didn’t even have to swim!

My personal geocaching coach Stacy is yelling me instructions from the other side.

What a feeling when the cache is found! The log book is jammed deep inside the jar, refusing to come out. Look at this muggle logging her first cache! When I finally get the teeny-weeny notebook in my hands, the lid falls down. Next to go is the resealable plastic bag. Gust of wind snatches it from my fingers.

To my luck, the flight of the bag stops onto a branch in a nearby tree and I manage to get it back where it belongs. Phew, this is exciting!

“Travel both directions at your own responsibility! “

This is it. Geocaching at its finest. Excitement and experiences!

Geocaching motivates to move year round. It will take you to new and exciting places that you probably wouldn’t otherwise see.

It is true – without geocaching, I wouldn’t have found this awesome place!

I sit down to the other end of the suspension bridge, happy with myself. Success feels even better when the view is so great. For the whole length of the bridge. Right here, right now.

To the cache of the fateful Jomalvik Channel

We have been geocaching for hours, but still decide to check one more cache on our way back. So we drive to the fateful Jomalvik Channel.

It feels that not even a race car driver could drive through the channel – that’s how narrow it looks.

Although Stacy’s GPS data seems to be valid, and the cache hint is supposed to be on the level, we just don’t find the cache. We seem to be blind as bats.

The accuracy of the GPS varies from 3 to 5 metres, but we don’t find anything where we’re supposed to. I am glad that there’s no-one else around who might wonder what the cache is going on.

“This goes to show how important it is to maintain the geocaches. If the cache is not found, it’s probable that it’s not there in its original location and could use some maintenance.”

Although we logged another DNF, the day in beautiful Raseborg has been awesome, to say the least! I have seen many new and wonderful places and learned a lot as well.

It has been exciting and a little scary, too, but I have to say that this is very addictive. On my next journeys, I might even stop “for a few” as they say. Not for a cold beer, but for caches! But, who knows…

This world-wide treasure hunt called geocaching is so dope! Just give it a chance!


Epilogue

After our day in the realm of geocaching, we find out that the exciting suspension bridge is on the Kopparö Nature Trail. The trail is marked with yellow markings, and it runs partly inside a nature preservation area. The trail will end at the beach of Stora Sandö where there’s a campfire site and an outdoor toilet. The length of the trail from the Kopparö Harbour to the campfire site of Stora Sandö is 3.2 kilometres. When you want to go and conquer the suspension bridge, you should leave your car at the parking area of Kopparö to keep it out of the way. If you ask from the restaurant in Kopparö, they will gladly point you to the right direction and even give you a map if you need one. More information about the services in Kopparö, go to www.kopparo.fi (only in Finnish).

The opening hours of the Raseborg Castle and the Slottsknekten are shown at www.raaseporinlinna.fi. There you can find valuable information about other services at Snappertuna and about accommodation services as well!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

Read more

The Raseborg Castle on Facebook

Visit Raseborg: Event calendar

Visit Raseborg

Visit Raseborg on Facebook

Geocaching.com

Lue artikkeli suomeksi Retkipaikasta

Wandering through Winter

This past winter here has been a bit different for me in terms of photography. I focused less on creating my more typical landscapes and tried to introduce a more human element into my images. I wanted to somehow show what it feels like to experience the amazing and surrealistic side of the Finnish wintertime. Whether it’s watching the sun go down in the middle of the day, or witnessing my city becoming hidden from snowfall, I had some fantastically memorable experiences this time around, and now I’d like to share a few of these memories with you. Here are some photos from winter.

Above: My favourite local island ”Voiluoto”, sits on the frozen lake in the chilly and fresh weather. I love how soft and calm the scene appeared on that particular day. It was almost like the clouds appeared as markings from a paintbrush pressed flat onto a canvas.

Above: Curves of snow sweep along the lake at sunset. I decided to put myself in the image to show the scope and vastness of the scene. It was really a beautiful moment to behold.

Above: Not my most interesting photo, but I just found it to be a very simple way of showing the snowy treetops on a typical overcast and wintery day here in Finland. I really enjoy the contrast that the snow has with the darker shadows from the trees.

Above: A night spent exploring under the stars at twilight. I was waiting for the sky to get darker so that I could do some astrophotography, but whether you’re into photography or not, I highly recommend having a nice winter walk after sunset. It’s amazing when the last glow of sunlight stretches across the horizon and the stars start to pop up in the sky. Just remember to dress warmly and to take precaution when venturing outdoors, especially on the lakes.

Above: In this image I wanted to recreate the beautiful sense of mystery that the Finnish winter scenery can provide. The frozen lakes and night sky can make a great combination for photography, or even if you just want to experience the other-worldly atmosphere without a camera.

Above: There was one particularly stormy day here in Joensuu. The snow was coming down like crazy and the wind was blowing like mad. This image was taken just outside of the city, showing someone skiing through the stormy conditions. I found this stormy weather to be fascinating, so I sheltered myself under a tree, set up my tripod and took this shot.

Above: Another moment venturing outdoors. The winter weather can occasionally be so wintery that it conceals everything in the distance, making for some awesome and simplistic photography. Just to experience it feels like you are in a dream, or up in the clouds!

Above: Sitting on the lake one night with my lantern. The air was incredibly frosty and refreshing. This image would probably round-up my experience over the last season best. The adventure, moody and mysterious darkness, crisp air and spectacular snowy landscapes all combined to make it a winter worth remembering.

Although the winter is cold and dark, there is a strange and wonderful side to it. There is something special about Finland and its nature all throughout the year, and I think that however you wish to experience it, there is always something special to find or some alluring moment to take in. Now that spring is here and the lakes are starting to thaw again, I can’t help but feel excited for the summer, even though I know that a part of me will miss the ice-cold beauty that winter has to offer. Anyways, it’s all good stuff over here 🙂

Hope that you all had a great snowy season and that you have a fantastic spring! See you out there in the nature.

-Jason

Best hiking trails in Finnish Lapland

Finnish Lapland is beautiful – and huge. There’s an endless amount of great hiking trails to choose from, but which ones should you choose? Here are our 7 favorites for the summer! On all these trails you have a good chance of seeing not only beautiful landscapes but also reindeer and siberian jays.

Saana fell

Kilpisjärvi

Saana is probably the best-known fell amongst all Finns. This magnificent fell has a beautiful, unique silhouette, and once you get on top of it, the view is something to remember. It’s a 4 kilometer hike to get on top of Saana. Make sure you’re not in a rush: this hike takes time and energy, because it’s literally a rocky road – and a quite steep one as well. Before heading out to the trail, we recommend you pay a visit to the local Nature Centre. There you can get the latest information and useful tips concerning the trail and the weather conditions.

Read more about Saana and other trails in the area

The summit of Saana

Pyhä-Nattanen

Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, Sodankylä

Pyhä or Holy Nattanen is a unique fell in Sodankylä. On top of this fell there are huge rock formations called ‘tors’. There’s also an open day hut where one can rest and maybe have some snacks. The trail to the top is 2 kilometers long. It is located in Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, which means that one is not allowed to leave the marked trail. If you feel like hiking more than 4 kilometers to the top and back, you can also choose to hike a 7 kilometer long loop. The loop has some seriously challenging parts, so make sure you have proper hiking shoes!

Read more about Pyhä-Nattanen

The summit of Pyhä-Nattanen

Isokuru gorge

Pyhä-Luosto national park, Pelkosenniemi

Isokuru is a beautiful summer and autumn destination. It is the biggest gorge in Finland and we promise you: it will take your breath away. There are lots of steep stairs that lead you to the bottom of the gorge. The wooden route then leads you through some astonishingly beautiful landscapes, where there are lots of ponds and beautiful Lappish forests. One of the most beautiful sights is Pyhäkasteenputous waterfall. After the waterfall there’s a new staircase to lead you up to the top of Uhriharju esker. The view from the top is something to remember!

The Isokuru trail is not very long – about 4 kilometers to Uhriharju and back – but it is challenging thanks to all those steep stairs. Also, please note that Isokuru is included in the national park’s restricted access zone, which means that leaving the marked path is prohibited. In winter, this trail is closed and no-one is allowed to go there because of the risk of avalanches.

Read more about Isokuru

Isokuru gorge

Kivitunturi fell

Savukoski

Kivitunturi is an isolated fell near Savukoski village in eastern Lapland. The trail is about 6 kilometers long and there are plenty of things to see, such as an exciting suspension bridge that leads you over Pirunkuru gorge. There’s a lean-to and a campfire place by a beautiful pond called Äitipetäjänlampi. From the top of Kivitunturi fell you can see breathtaking views in all directions, even all the way to Russia.

To learn more about Kivitunturi, please contact Korvatunturi Visitor Center.

Kivitunturi trail

Karhunkierros

Oulanka national park, Salla and Kuusamo

Do you want to challenge yourself? Karhunkierros or The Bear’s Trail is the most legendary hiking trail in Finland, but there’s a catch: it is 82 kilometers long. Karhunkierros leads you to some unbelievably beautiful sights in Oulanka national park in the North-East of Finland. There are lots of open huts, lovely forests, breathtaking views, and true wilderness by this famous trail. Karhunkierros leads you from Ruka to Hautajärvi or vice versa, so it is not a loop.

If 82 kilometers sounds too hard, there’s an excellent option: the Pieni Karhunkierros loop is only 12 kilometers long, but it has several suspension bridges, rapids and gorges. No wonder it is the most popular trail in Finland.

Read more about Karhunkierros (82 km)

Read more about Pieni Karhunkierros (12 km)

There are several suspension bridges on the Bear’s trail.

Hetta-Pallas trail

Pallas-Yllästunturi national park, Enontekiö and Muonio

Hetta-Pallas trail is 55 kilometers long and one of Finland’s most popular hiking trails. It is especially beautiful because it leads you over huge fells with arctic views to remember. This trail leads you from Pallastunturi nature center to the village of Hetta or vice versa. There are several open huts and campfire sites by this legendary trail, but one should always have a tent or a hammock as well, just in case.

Read more about Hetta-Pallas trail

View from the summit of Pallas fell

Ravadasköngäs waterfall

Lemmenjoki national park, Inari

Ravadasköngäs is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Finland, and it’s located in Lemmenjoki River Valley in Inari. A marked trail follows the river from the small village of Njurkulahti to Ravadasköngas waterfall (16 km). When hiking on this trail you can experience the true magic of Lapland: this is one of Europe’s biggest and most beautiful wilderness areas.

You can also get to Ravadasköngäs by boat from Njurkulahti, if hiking is not your cup of tea. Please remember that Ravadasköngäs is included in the national park’s restricted access zone, so do not leave the marked path.

Read more about Lemmenjoki national park and Ravadasköngäs

Ravadasköngäs waterfall. Photo: Antti Huttunen

If you want to explore these routes or some of the hidden gems of the Laplan with experienced professional wilderness guide, please contact us.

This is what it’s like to walk through the winter forest trails in Koli national park

Deep in the forests of Eastern Finland, there lies a peaceful and unspoiled place. Here, one can find snow that goes knee deep and frozen trees that tower all around. It is totally quiet here, and it is possible to be in harmony with nature while walking through these woods.

This place is Koli National park, and last winter I was lucky enough to explore this snowy realm. I have put together a 12-photo album of this adventure as I make my way to the Ukko-Koli, where one can see one of the most spectacular views in all of Finland. The hiking trail is the forest walk which can be taken from the Koli village (Kolinkylä) to the lookout at Ukko-Koli, overlooking lake Pielinen.

The first thing I was greeted with was fluffy snow peacefully adorning the branches of the many trees. Old spruces and birches grow in these protected forests.

I was sinking knee-deep into the snow with every step, but it made for a more memorable adventure.

There is no better place to be mindful of the surroundings and enjoy the delicacy of nature. Koli has inspired artists for centuries.

A lonely sign could be found along the hiking trail, guiding the way through these mysterious white forests.

‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.’ – John Muir

Walking through these peaceful landscapes was indeed very calming and relaxing for the mind.

The walk is also about the little things, such as the fresh cold air.

With every passing minute on the walk, the views get better and better. Even a ski area can be found here.

Then, at last, I reached the summit, where the iconic ‘National view of Finland’ can be found. It was an unforgettable sight. The lake Pielinen lies ice-covered in the distance, as misty clouds cast their shroud over some of the frozen pine woods.

Once, long ago, great glaciers shaped these landscapes. Back then, the land was permanently frozen under glacial ice caps which didn’t melt for thousands of years.

Some of the greatest trees can be found here. They span from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts in what is known as the Main Taiga, the world’s largest ecosystem.

On the way back down, I found a traditional cozy winter cottage with its gates lying open in welcome.

And finally back again at my homely accommodation, Kolin Ryynänen, a traditional wooden lodge.

A long ski season with guaranteed snow until May

Every year, the fells of Saariselkä are covered by a layer of fluffy white snow. This ski centre, the northernmost in Europe, boasts a myriad of beautiful slopes, fun sledging hills, well-maintained ski trails and guided treks, guaranteeing a memorable holiday.

Text: Helena Sahavirta, Photos: Panu Pohjola

In Saariselkä, the ski season is guaranteed to last from November to May – perhaps even longer, as in the past the ski centre has opened its doors on three days in June to offer its visitors the memorable experience of skiing on slopes lit by the midnight sun.

The natural snow in Saariselkä is of excellent quality and lasts until late spring on the slopes between two fells, where beginners can find suitable courses and more experienced skiers can try their hands at tricks. Saariselkä also boasts two extra long sledging slopes, one of which is the longest in Finland. On this 1,800 metre run, daredevils can whizz down from the top of Kaunispää all the way to the lower chairlift terminal. The toboggan slope is illuminated with aurora-inspired light art.

In December the sun never rises in Saariselkä, but the ski centre’s well-lit slopes guarantee that the winter fun doesn’t have to stop. The polar night brings its own magical atmosphere to Saariselkä – and the arrival of spring offers another enchanting experience when the days get longer and the April sun glistens on the snow like a thousand diamonds.

Even for visitors who have never experienced snow before, learning downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledging and cross-country skiing is safe and fun with Ski Saariselkä’s professional instructors. To ensure safety, the beginner slopes and other practice facilities have been designed with novice skiers in mind.

The ski resort of Saariselkä boasts about 200 kilometres of well-maintained ski trails, 34 kilometres of which are illuminated. With its vast wilderness area, Urho Kekkonen National Park, situated a stone’s throw from the ski centre, offers great opportunities for cross-country skiing and trekking. A map of the ski trails is available online at infogis.fi/saariselka.

Snowmobile safaris into the wilderness

Playing in the snow comes naturally to children, and the unspoilt, snowy forest often brings out the inner child in many adults too, who find themselves building snowmen and making ‘snow angels’.

For some, on the other hand, snow may be such a novelty that they feel slightly nervous about the unfamiliar conditions. For this reason, Saariselkä’s winter safari organisers often pick up their customers from the hotel or Saariselkä centre and kit them out in warm snowsuits. They also rent outdoor gear such as snowsuits, skis, snowshoes, sliding snowshoes and sleds to DIY travellers, as well as offering ski waxing services. Shops in Saariselkä sell a wide range of winter clothing, from socks and thermal underwear to hats and outerwear.

Lapland Safaris’ most popular excursion, the Aurora Borealis Safari, takes visitors on a hunt for the Northern Lights half an hour’s drive, or an hour’s snowmobile ride, away. Situated by a large lake, the viewing spot, far from any artificial lights, has been selected to maximise the chances of seeing this incredible natural display. Also fat bike treks are organised along snow-covered forest roads to a frozen lake for a spot of ice fishing.

Snowmobile safaris offer adventures in the forest and on the fells.

Northern Lights Village also offers a variety of winter activities, including tuition in cross-country skiing and photographing the Northern Lights. Children over the age of three can put their skills to the test on a children’s snowmobile. In addition to an ordinary restaurant, the hotel boasts a snow restaurant where diners can sample drinks and savour á la carte dishes while seated on ice benches covered with reindeer rugs. The hotel has its own reindeer farm, and visitors can discover a world of Arctic adventures right on the hotel’s doorstep, including snowmobile, reindeer and husky safaris.

Ice fishing on a frozen lake

Joiku-Kotsamo Safaris, run by a local Sámi family, offers a variety of reindeer safaris. Once the ground is covered by a layer of snow, reindeer-pulled sled rides are arranged every evening. On these two-hour outings, you can scan the skies for the magnificent Northern Lights before stopping to warm up by a campfire with some hot drinks. During the day, the reindeer safaris weave their way through snowy pine forests.

In December, when lakes get their ice cover, fishing on a frozen lake makes for a memorable experience. After riding to the lake on a snowmobile, you can fish for Arctic char and grayling through a hole cut in the ice. Your catch is transformed into a mouth-watering fish soup, washed down with coffee brewed on a campfire.

In the daytime, snowmobile safaris, lasting either two or three hours, take visitors to admire the majestic fell scenery, while in the evening the goal is to make an Aurora Borealis sighting. The reindeer farm also has a traditional Lappish log cabin where you can enjoy authentic Sámi delicacies: smoked reindeer, salmon cooked on an open fire and Arctic berries, with the experience completed by Sámi yoik and folktales. Advance booking is required.

Snow safaris arranged by Lapin Luontolomat take visitors through vast northern forests to the shore of a lake, known for its clear water, where they are welcomed by a log cabin, sauna, hot tub, lean-to and a fisherman’s cottage. This spot under starry skies makes for an idyllic setting for ice-fishing and enjoying a candlelit meal by a campfire, while keeping an eye out for the Northern Lights. The open fire is also perfect for grilling sausages.

Local delicacies can also be savoured at the cabin, which seats 50 people and serves lunches and dinners with yoik as an accompaniment. The place, though far from urban noise and artificial lights, is easy to reach by car and snowmobile. For those looking for a real adventure, a longer snowmobile safari to the Russian border is an ideal choice.

With its wide range of activities, Saariselkä offers something for everyone – whether you are in search of action-packed adventures or relaxation amid Lapland’s magical landscapes.

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Inari-Saariselkä – Far in the North

Chasing the Northern Lights

Text and photos: Rayann Elzein

I am going on my eight consecutive winter chasing the elusive Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, all around Inari, in the very north of Finnish Lapland. Sure, I have also seen the Aurora in Norway and even Greenland, but every single winter I am drawn back to Inari for photography and to help people enjoy this magnificent show of nature. I am often asked “why do you always go back to Inari?” or “why don’t you try somewhere else?”. I always wanted to experience the northern lights, but at first the only thing I knew was that I had to go somewhere north. But where north? So after a long process and weeks of research I set my mind on Inari.

Inari is right under the Aurora oval

The Aurora Borealis appears under a huge doughnut shaped ring that is centred on earth’s magnetic north pole. Without getting too much into the science, this means that if you travel to a location right under the “doughnut”, or Aurora oval, you maximise your chances to see the northern lights, even when the activity is very low.

Inari is located at 68°50’N – 265 km (165 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. This positions Inari right under the ring, almost guaranteeing to see some northern lights on a clear night. This probability based on scientific facts is the most important criteria in my decision to visit Inari and return there so often.

An excellent road network

When you want to see the northern lights, you go “Aurora chasing” with a guide or your own car. In reality, it would be more accurate to say that you are chasing the good weather as you cannot see the Aurora if you are under clouds. Although I am no meteorologist, my personal opinion is that there are often clear nights around Inari. However, if this does not happen during your stay, don’t worry: there are several roads radiating from Inari to all directions. You might even end up on the shore of a fjord in Norway! This makes it very easy to chase the good weather.

Some words of caution: when you are driving yourself, be careful in difficult weather. You also have to be careful of reindeer and elk that are frequently standing or sleeping right in the middle of the road. If you don’t have experience with winter driving, or just want to relax and not worry about anything, then hiring one of the several professional guides is a safer idea.

Much more than just Aurora

There are many places in the world that are located under the Aurora ring but only few of them are inhabited and accessible. Despite being located so far north of the Arctic Circle, Inari-Saariselkä offers a full range of state-of-the-art tourism facilities: comfortable hotels, excellent restaurants, safari companies with a broad range of services. The entire area is also culturally rich, as the home of the Sami people. You can learn a lot about this at the Siida museum. And for a total immersion, an excursion with a reindeer herder will teach you more than any museum (you can even pet the reindeer!)

How to photograph the Aurora

With these few recommendations and just a bit of practice, it is actually quite easy to take some good Aurora photos. A camera with manual mode and a tripod are all that you need. The basic settings that you can use are the following:

  • Sensitivity: +/- 1600 iso
  • Aperture: the largest possible aperture (the smallest number on your lens, i.e. f/2.8-3.5-4)
  • Shutter speed: this one depends on the brightness of the Aurora. Start at 10 seconds and move up or down depending on what you see on your camera screen.

Focussing is the hardest thing to do at night. If you don’t manage to focus on stars, ask someone to stand about 30 meters from you with a flash light, and use auto focus on this light. Then switch to manual focus (MF) and don’t touch this setting anymore.

Tip: practice with your cameras before going out for Aurora, so that you know where all the settings are.

Aurora chasing

A frequent question is how often it is possible to see the Aurora. On a clear night, it is almost always possible to catch at least a glimpse of the northern lights. It might not always be some intense colourful outbursts, but if you are lucky you will see some light dancing in the sky. That’s why I always go out at night if there’s even the slightest chance to find clear sky.

My Aurora chasing usually begins in the early afternoon, when I browse through several weather forecast websites, and exchange text messages with other Aurora chasers all around the region. With this information I make an action plan and will usually start driving around 7 PM. I have often witnessed Aurora in the very early evening, so I like to be in position as soon as it’s dark! During the polar night, this can even be much earlier, like 3 PM or 4 PM.

Once in position, the waiting game begins (unless the Aurora appeared unexpectedly much earlier while still on my way!). Clouds might disturb the view to the stars, so I check the weather forecast once more, and call my friends again to have the latest update of their location. If needed, I will drive again.

The Aurora starts dancing in the sky. I am in my element now. I know how it moves, I anticipate its movements, I can be ready to take the best possible pictures. Sometimes it surprises me, actually quite often, and this is why I never get bored. I always return, and participate in the dance. You might even hear me scream “wow” or something in French. I take photos of my happy guests under the Aurora. I can never decide when to start driving back, because I know that another outburst can always happen. But I know that the Aurora will be there again tomorrow, and we finally drive back to the hotel, with beautiful images in our memory cards, and amazing memories in our minds.

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Inari-Saariselkä – Far in the North

A day in a mushers life in Lapland

What´s the best part about owning huskies? All the mushing fun you can have with them of course! And this is exactly what we do almost every day.

My huskies are pure breed Siberian huskies, a well known sleddog breed that originated from an old tribe in Siberia. They have a very beautiful appearance and they love to pull!

We live in the perfect spot in Luosto. We can start our sledding adventures from our backyard, from where we can reach lot of trails.

Sadly I don’t have enough huskies (in my opinion), so usually my friends huskies come along with me when mushing. Or we make two teams and have a fun time together exploring the trails with our huskies.

During the drive I just enjoy the amazing view that the backcountry of Luosto has to offer, look at how the dogs are working and all of us love every minute of it!

One of my dogs is not of age to run the whole trail yet, which means that I sometimes need to get creative. When it’s unsafe for him to run, he comes to sit in the sledge (which goes with a lot of protest sometimes). Otherwise he is just running freely along with the team. When sitting in the sledge he can still learn and see what it’s like to be a sled dog.

Everyday on the trail we learn something new and see the nature in different circumstances. Sometimes we get sunshine, sometimes heavy snow and a lot of days freezing cold. But never will we complain. We just enjoy our time together when we are doing what we are born to do!

And besides working we just have a lot of fun together exploring the rest of the world! We are lucky to live in the most beautiful part of it.

Above the busiest motorway in Finland is a hauntingly beautiful secret – the backwoods of Karnaistenkorpi

An unexpected journey awaits those who come to this place. A fairy-tale forest exists above a section of the National Road 1, running from Helsinki to City of Turku.

Karnaistenkorpi has a well-marked nature and story trail and lean-tos by the ponds. The trails look like figure 8, and you can choose whichever distance you wish to hike. There are two starting points for the trails that are equipped with outdoor toilets. They are marked in this map under the name “Paikoitus”. The address of the parking area is Suoniementaival 30, Lohja.

A shorter trail of about 3.5 kilometres is available starting from the parking area next to the Kisakallio Sports Institute. The trail goes around two ponds and lean-tos and comes back to the starting point. This trail is suitable for families and for those who wish to take things easy.

The story trail begins also from this parking area. One of the many things that may come to you as a surprise is the silence. Although the motorway is close, it runs inside the bedrock which effectively blocks out the sounds of traffic. Nature is also quite special here: beauty everywhere and forest as from a fairy-tale. Soft green mosses and towering spruce trees make you feel you’re safe here.

The story trail runs clockwise. It rapidly leads to the shore of a small pond. The bank is a little marshy. When we visited the place, the winter was on its way, and the pond was partly frozen. However, the sun was still warming us up nicely. We smelled smoke coming from somewhere and understood that there must be a lean-to nearby.

Beautiful Labrador tea was growing by the pond. Labrador tea is a common plant on marshy areas, and when you rub the leaves of the plant on your fingers, the scent gets stronger. This is what Finland smells like.

When we got to the lean-to, fire was going, and a father was teaching his son some wilderness skills. We sat down with them. We had picked up some delicacies from a bakery on our way to Karnaistenkorpi, and we also had a small coffee pot with us. As we were hungry, a lunch break was in order.

There is a wood shed near the lean-to, and the firewood is available for use. The firewood was a little damp, so I chopped it into smaller pieces to make it burn better.

The lean-to is located on a very picturesque spot on top of a cliff by the Ahvenanlampi Pond. You need to step off the story trail a little to find the lean-to, but it’s still an easy task.

We found a handy gridiron at the lean-to. We put our paninis on the gridiron to warm them up over the fire, and the water for the coffee boiled in no time. Our little outdoor lunch by the fire was perfect!

The father and his son went on with their hike. We stayed to enjoy our coffee in almost complete silence. You wouldn’t believe it if you didn’t know, but the biggest motorway in Finland runs right below this lean-to!

We also continued our own journey along the story trail. There are 21 control points with information boards along the trail to offer lots of interesting information about local nature. The information boards are in Finnish.

We made good way, and soon were at the lean-to at Sorvalampi Pond. This lean-to is also located on a pretty spot on top of a cliff. Both lean-tos (this and the previous one) are equipped with outdoor toilets and firewood sheds.

Autumn days are not very long, and the dusk was already setting in. We stayed on for a little while longer to look at the last lights of the evening.

The ancient rocks of the region are covered in grooves that almost look like runes. Green mosses and lichens grow on the rocks which makes them look fairytailish.

The trail runs on wooden causeways in many parts. Beautiful cliffs surround the trail on both sides. The causeways have recently been fixed so they are in good shape as the rest of the trail structures.

Darkness fell gradually further and further into the forest. Luckily, we didn’t have much distance to cover anymore, so we just enjoyed the beautiful backwoods as long as there was light.

My imagination got wings when the darkness settled in. In the dark everything looks different.

Oh, I wish the trees could talk! These majestic spruce trees are way over a hundred years old. They have witnessed the cycle of life in the forest. Their roots are strongly embedded in the ground, and they are not easily moved.

Eventually, we had to leave these fairy-tale forests behind. We got into our car and drove home, but we will be back again someday – so magical was this place! Maybe next time we will sleep in the lean-to and listen what secrets the old spruce trees might share with us in the night.

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

The historic Ox Road of Tavastia now hosts a 70 km bicycle route – mobile app lets you in on the story from the village of Letku to the city of Hämeenlinna

Undoubtedly the most famous road in Finland is the Ox Road of Tavastia (Hämeen Härkätie). Autumn was kind to us in regards to the weather when we embarked on our bicycling trip on the Ox Road. The 70 kilometre-long route is classified as intermediate. On our trip we would learn many things about the Ox Road, the villages along it, and also its history.

The Ox Road is now a host to a bicycle trail gone digital, thanks to the Digitrail Project mentioned in some of our earlier posts. The Digitrail app* will guide you through the section of the road that lies on the side of Tavastia Proper. The route starts from the Village of Letku and goes all the way to the City of Hämeenlinna. The app will guide you along the route in a form of a story, told by a character called Hemminki, also known as Kulkeva.

It was early October when we hopped on our bikes, started the app and off we went! It’s so wonderful how modern times and history can come together with the help of a mobile application as the Digitrail.

Hemminki told us the first story already at the Village of Letku. He said that there is a strange place somewhere in the vicinity of Kapilo, called the Giant’s Tomb. At the tomb, there is stone that looks like a coffin, and if you knock on the stone, it will make a booming sound.

We would’ve surely wanted to try and knock on the stone, but we had much distance to cover, so maybe we will do it next time. We continued on our trip, passing the Häme Nature Centre and Eerikkilä on the way. If we’d started from Turku, we might have stayed the night at Eerikkilä. Eerikkilä is a paradise for those who love nature, for its outdoor and hiking facilities are second to none in Southern Finland. This time, however, we covered the rest of the distance in a day.

Next, our virtual guide Hemminki provided us with directions to Korteniemi, warning us about the caves at Ilveksenluolakallio.

Then, the idyllic village of Porras. The Esker of Kaukolanharju and the Folk Park of Saari would have been only a short distance away from the village. Albeit they both are beautiful national landscapes, we decided to get to know the history of the village of Porras and what the village had to offer.

The Nahkurin Verstas Tannery in Porras is an old and small industrial facility where the tanner used to process his leathers for market. Now it serves as a business offering accommodation and catering services in beautiful surroundings. The Tannery carries on the tradition started by an inn which used to exist in the village.

You might wish to reserve a few days to travel along the Ox Road in order to really enjoy your trip. The Nahkurin Verstas Tannery is a good choice for having a nice, idyllic and peaceful place to stay.

But, let’s get on with our bikes, shall we!

We were making good way, and our digital guide Hemminki shared with us stories from the village of Punelia, salvaged houses and Räyskälä. We passed many picturesque landscapes, but for some reason, a place called Vuohiniemi was particularly lovely. It literally forced us to stop so that we could take in the beauty of the place. Only a small rain shower made us to seek shelter for a while.

Next breath-taking place was the village of Vuorentaa. According to the app, there would be a cup-marked stone! Around here, in the village of Ojoinen, there is one of the largest known cup-marked stones in Finland. There are over 350 registered cup-marked stones in Finland, and they are mostly located in the southern and southwestern parts of the country. So, we were in the “hot zone”, actually. There are many theories about the use of the cups, and most of them believe that they are some kind of sacrificial places where people left offerings such as grain for the ancestors for hunting luck, etc.

Somewhere along the way the tarmac road had changed into gravel, but we just realized that when we were getting close to the City of Hämeenlinna.

The road changed back to a tarmac cycleway which would lead us to the medieval Häme Castle itself. Seeing the silhouette of the castle gave us energy to pedal a little further to our final destination.

You can download the app here.

*DigiTrail is a mobile application that works in nature like a navigator and thus lowers the threshold to explore nature areas. The application guides the traveller in the woods, shows nearby services and attractions. In addition, it provides interesting information, for example, about the history of the region and can be used to activate its users with different themes, such as forest related sports and cultural content.

Article: Antti Huttunen

Photos: Tomi Pohja

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti