In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

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

Relatively easy trail, length approx. 3 kilometres

Travel time 2 hrs

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

Map showing the starting point of the trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mist is floating above the surface of the lake.

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

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

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

It is so beautiful that I almost forget to breathe.

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

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

The cultural landscape from the Iron Age at Lake Lepinjärvi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the bird plate is quite full at Lake Lepinjärvi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pelican Tower of Lepinjärvi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only a few squirrels are afoot, foraging for nuts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diverse natural experiences in historical surroundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information and links

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

Article by Onni Kojo

Usually SUP boards are used for short day trips at lakes, shores, or rivers. But there is a small number of people who choose a paddleboard over the kayak or canoe for multi-day trips, mostly descending along the river as far as you ever want to go. This style of exploring is not hard in Finnish Lapland. It is full of rivers, most of them eventually flowing into the gulf of Bothnia, a few flowing east to Russia and north to Norway and the Arctic Sea. In fact, the biggest river basin in Finland, Kemijoki, covers most of Lapland. It and other rivers of Lapland give adventurers endless possibilities to explore and see the beauty of the northern nature from a different point of view. Sitting in a rowing boat or a kayak gets you really close to the rich river nature, but SUP paddleboarding gives you a different aspect on all of this, as it gives you the freedom to change position while paddling down the stream. You can stand up or even lie down as you let the stream take you.

On river adventures, one must remember a few things. There is going to be some currents and maybe some obstacles on the way. It’s important to check if there are any dams or bigger streams along the way, or any big obstacles because of which you have to carry the boat of choice on the other side of the obstacle. A good thing in Lapland is that you’ll find plenty of water to paddle on without any major barriers.

Inflatable SUP boards are fairly easy to carry around and are super handy to pack in your car. This gives a lot of freedom in choosing where to go and how.  Also, with these, you can go in shallow water without worries. Just remember to take the fin off the board when going in shallow water or a current with rocks etc.

A no-brainer for all paddling trips is to pack all your gear in waterproof bags. This one is a must on multi-day trips. Don’t worry if you fall down, your sleeping bag is dry! A good tip for packing is to put everything in different colour bags to know where to find certain things.

If you’re afraid to stand up on the board whenever there is a stronger current, you can always be on your knees or sit down. Usually on small rivers the flow is not going to be that speedy. Standing up is also way more fun!

The Amazon of the North

One of the many river branches of the Kemi river is Kairijoki. This one starts near the wilderness of Kemihaara, one of the most isolated places in Lapland. Kairi river is a popular destination for fly fishing but paddling down this crystal clear river is possible too. 

One beautiful August weekend a group of paddle boarders set down to explore this area. Far away from the reach of mobile network at the end of a dirt road, we set our paddleboards into the river and started paddling down. The stream was moving slowly, but well enough to help the journey. We did not have fins on the boards at all because there was going to be a lot of tiny shallow rapids that we had had to paddle through. It wasn’t easy to paddle without the fin, but it gave the freedom to go through the shallow parts without stopping.

The water in this river is so clear that sometimes it feels like floating in the air! All the water plants swaying with the current, trout and grayling swimming under the board. The feeling of floating on the river can be a magical experience.

When hitting the first currents I didn’t stand up. I felt like I would fall if I’d hit a rock. But the current was never too strong that the small bumps would bring down the paddler. Of course, you have to have a little bit of stability with the board. All in all, it is very easy to learn though. A little bit of practice is enough. This is not like other board sports that would need a bit more practice.

Once I stood up and went through the small rapids I felt like the lumberjacks in the older days when they’d use these same rivers for log floating, sometimes standing on the logs in the river and trying to keep the balance. It is true, we were not the first ones to stand-up paddle down these rivers. You can still see signs of this as there are sometimes sunken logs on the bottom of the river.

Some parts of the river were not going so speedy so there was more paddling to do to get forward. This can be quite tiring on the long run. No worries though, you can always just chill out and lie down on your board and tie it on the riverbank. Or you can just let the slow current take you. I guess I found my favourite way of travelling: lying on a paddleboard on a sunny day just looking at the clouds and tree branches and birds going by. This can be almost too relaxing so you must watch out not to sleep when there are stronger rapids ahead!

Kairi river has an awesome wilderness lodge about midway of the river. This place has nice cottages and a sauna by the river: perfect place to rest for an exhausted wilderness adventurer after a long day of paddling. When we went swimming from the sauna, we had to keep ourselves in place, so we didn’t go with the flow. The water is cold here but there is nothing more refreshing than a dip into a clear and clean Lapland river from the steam of the sauna. 

I woke up before the sunrise and walked down the riverbank. I was trying to catch some fish but this time I had no luck. I didn’t really mind. There is something mysterious about early mornings. It’s so calm and quiet. Everything is still. Then, slowly the nature starts to wake up. Every bird singing. Fish jumping in the river. The sun rising behind the forest and shining through the mist was spectacular. Also, all the insects woke up at the same time. Unfortunately, the biting ones as well so I had to go back to the cabin and wait for the day to start.

The second day of this expedition was hot and sunny. The mosquito season was pretty much over and luckily there were no horse flies. Sometimes there might be annoying small biting midges. Usually a little bit of wind and hot sun keeps them away. Depending on the year or the season there might be a bit more insects. You just have to protect yourself from these biting devils and you’re good to go. Quite often there is a bit of wind in the open river, so it helps. Evenings and mornings, swamps and shady places are to avoid especially in the middle of the summer.

There are many lean-to shelters and fireplaces along the way so stopping for lunch was easy. Of course, you don’t have to stop and land for snacks: it’s possible to have your picnic on the board! Fireplaces usually have an outhouse toilet but in other places one must go a bit further from the shores for their needs.

We tried to find a wave in a rapid big enough to try a little surf. It was hard to paddle in a strong current and try to “catch the wave”. You have to have very good skills in paddling when going in the currents. River surfing is a thing, but with a SUP board it’s quite challenging. Especially if you have a lot of gear on the board. I did try to catch a wave, but I ended falling down as I was sideways in a bit of a stronger current. The river is not that deep so I could just hold myself and the board in the current. It still surprised me how strong it can be. A little dip and feeling the current was a good reminder to not get too comfortable with the stream. You always have to watch out for the rocks and stay on the main current!

After about 15 km I just laid down on the board and put my hat on my face. The hot and sunny day made it feel like I was in Asia. The board just went with the flow and I almost fell asleep. The lush green of the birches and aspens against the clear blue sky made it hard to believe that we were inside the Arctic Circle. 

The river nature is very rich. There are so much different kinds of fish, mussels and plants, sometimes even crayfish, under the surface and on the surface dragonflies and other insects, the birds often going after them. The water birds diving to the bottom to eat or catch a fish. We even saw some common goldeneyes diving under our boards! Ducks, cranes and terns are living here too. The river brings a lot of life around it. Everyone must drink of course. But moose, for example, also like to eat the aquatic plants. You can see a lot of life on your river journey. Especially if you stay quiet and just observe. 

Our journey was successful. Sometimes I went alone and just enjoyed, sometimes we would paddle next to each other and chat. We paddled 40 km in two days. Just as it was getting a bit exhausting, we reached the mighty Kemi river and paddled it a little bit more to reach our goal and our car. Some folk who have their houses and cottages along the river were looking, maybe a bit surprised, that someone would paddleboard over here. I just waved at them. This was fun!

I was eager to have a solo multi-day trip with the board. I also wanted to try how I can manage to get all my camping gear with me. So, the next weekend I set off to another branch of the Kemi river: Pyhäjoki. Pyhä river starts from the National park of Pyhä-Luosto. This would also be a 40 km long journey towards the Kemi river. 

As I was looking at the map of the whole river system, I realized how much is reachable by waterways. Certainly, this was the way that people would explore new lands in the older days. But now, how many people would travel long distances by rivers? The downside is that like a lot of other rivers in the world, this one was also dammed. Good thing was that with kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, it could be possible to do very long trips using this river system as you can carry them and go around the dam.

I set sail one cloudy afternoon from the lake Pyhäjärvi, which had a small tidal wave going on. I had taken the fin off the board as I knew that the river would be very shallow. The board was packed with gear and food, so it wasn’t easy to reach the river with this style. When I reached the mouth of the river, I had another obstacle. There was a few hundred meters of bush ahead of me. Of course! By August the shallow river lands would be grown over. It was already afternoon that I’d left for my solo adventure, so I felt like I was late. When I finally got through the bush and stood up on the board, the current took me into a place that looked like a jungle. The grass brought by the spring floods hung from the trees and the different shades of green everywhere made the scenery unreal. I have never seen nature from this perspective. 

Standing on the board, seeing over the banks. Fish and water plants under me. Common goldeneye flew over my shoulder and there were reindeer in the forest, munching on some moss and looking at me. I was just floating by and admiring.

The day turned into an evening before I was at my planned camping site. It wasn’t dark yet, but the sun was going down. I thought that it would actually be interesting to do this in the dark with a headlamp on. So I took my time, not rushing. Just silently paddling. A baby moose was eating water plants after a curve. It looked at me and didn’t really mind before it’s mother in the forest took fright and it realized that I might be a danger. I floated by and looked at the mama moose in the forest. We both stared at each other as I went by. I’m always amazed how big of an animal they are when I see them.

I reached a nice fireplace before the dark. The nighttime paddling would be another adventure. I could hear the nearby small rapids from the tent. This was a good wake-up call the next day when I continued, getting to go slightly faster first thing in the morning.

It was a very windy day. All the trees were wobbling and I almost stumbled as well. It was mainly tailwind so it made it easy to advance. I wish I’d had a sail on this boat! Some swans that flew by were struggling too because of the wind. The day was also a bit chillier. But clear. There were signs of the autumn coming slowly. 

The last few kilometres before reaching the main river it got deeper and there were less water plants. I had brought my fishing gear with me and it was finally possible to try fishing on this river while supping. Trolling is my favourite style of fishing because you’re on the move at the same time. It was a bit of a struggle at first but once I got a good stance and enough speed for the SUP it worked! A few perch and northern pike were the catch. There is a different kind of feeling when catching a northern pike when you are on a SUP board. This is definitely my new favourite hobby. SUP fishing!

Fishing has been especially important for all who live along the rivers of Lapland. The dams have made it harder follow on the traditional way of river life. But there still are free flowing rivers and clean ones, too. It is very important that we take care of the rich and vulnerable river nature. It’s everyone’s best interest that the waters stay clean, without fertilizers from forestry or the sewage of the mines. There is so much life along the many rivers of the North. I mean, most of the people live by them as well! Certainly, rivers are important for all life. One way of truly realizing this, is to see it close by. The Amazon of the North is full of rivers to experience all of this.

How to plan a multi-day SUP trip in Lapland

The best time to go is all summer. The early summer, in May and the beginning of June, is free from mosquitos, but there might be strong currents and floods to watch out for. Late summer is good as the water is usually low and the worst biting insect season is over. I don’t see any issues going during fall as well.

It is a good thing to have a wet suit or a dry suit on, or at least have dry clothes with you if you fall. The waters in Lapland are always cold so it’s good to prepare for that. 

Have a good map of the area. With more then one vehicle it is easy to plan the starting and ending points. If that is not possible, you can always ask local tour guides, wilderness lodges and generally just locals, for helping out on the transfer.

Be aware of everyman’s rights and duties. Keep a distance of private property on land and water. Have your wilderness toilet in a distance from the waterways. Respect the nature and take everything you bring into the nature back with you. 

For example the lake Pyhäjärvi in Pyhä region is a good place to try SUP boarding in Lapland. If you are not comfortable with the SUP board, kayaks and canoes are available too. If you have your own board, there are plenty of possible rivers to paddle down in all of Lapland. You can always ask for the possibility of renting a board from the local tour guides where ever you decide to go. An inexpensive way to do a multi-day trip along the rivers is to just buy waterproof bags (they can be low-priced) and rent a board for a few days. You don’t necessarily need a dry suit. Just don’t fool around too much and have dry clothes ready!

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mika Puskala

The 46-kilometre long Front Line Route in Raseborg is an interesting, beautiful and also thought-provoking cycling route which starts from and ends in Ekenäs. The adventure awaits only a train ride away for example from Helsinki. History of the war is still present in many places along the route in the pinewood forests, which makes it so special. Read here about our experiences from the route when we took it at the end of July.

Circular route, 46 km (Google Maps)
Duration 6 hrs.
Start and finish coordinates on a map
An intermediate route. For those not accustomed to cycling long distances on roads, the route might feel hard.

The centre of Ekenäs is quite lovely. The town was established way back in the 16th century, so expect to find ancient streets and idyllic courtyards adorned with apple trees. You can easily imagine hatters and clockmakers hard at work while the gentlefolk were taking their daily stroll.

The Front Line Route combined with lodging for a night or two in the town centre will give you a nice little mini-holiday. But it’s also a perfect destination for a day trip, if you come from Helsinki for instance.

I had rented us bikes from Carfield Bike Rental which has rental points all over the coastline. In Ekenäs, the bikes can be rented and picked up at Motel Marine. Early in the morning, we park our car on the Raippatori Market, check the tyre pressures and hop on our bikes. The first leg on our route rolls along the highway no. 25 on the north side of the town. Google Maps guides us to the start of the route and along it. Following the route is easy, because there are not many different roads and turns on the way.

The Empress Dagmar’s spring and the beautiful Vitsand 

We are speeding along the first few kilometres from Ekenäs, on a combined cycle- and walking track, all the way to the crossroads of the Prästkullantie road. After that, we have to ride about a kilometre with other traffic until we turn to the Leksvallintie road. There is almost no other traffic. We stop to pick some raspberries by the roadside and enjoy the peaceful countryside. The tarmac is in good condition, and soon we arrive at the parking area of the Dagmar Park.

The nature conservation area of the Dagmar Park is located about 8 kilometres from the centre of Raseborg (Ekenäs). There’s plenty of parking space for cars, and if you arrive by bicycle, you have a chance to get a little closer to the spring itself. The parking area is clearly marked, and the signs and directions on the region are exemplary.

Finland celebrated its 100 years of independence in 2017. The nature conservation area resides on the land owned by Fiskars Company, who donated it on the same year to Metsähallitus to be maintained for 100 years.

The dry pinewood forest continues down towards the sea and turns into a lush oasis on the way, as the groundwater springs through the Lohjanharju esker, forming a small, meandering stream. Spending a while in a stone pool, the water eventually runs into the sea. On the beautiful little beach, there is a small pier with a bench. An ideal place to spend a hot summer day, I would say.

The spring of Dagmar got its name from Princess Dagmar of Denmark who married the crown prince Alexander of Russia. Alexander and Dagmar made many trips to the Finnish archipelago on their yacht, usually mooring in the safety of Lähdelahti bay. The visits of the Emperor and Empress have been recorded on the memorial stone by the spring.

We walk back to our bikes and continue southwest along the Leksvallintie road. After a few kilometres, the road takes a turn to the left and to the beach of Vitsand. If you wish to take a more direct route, there is also a path from the Dagmar’s spring, leading straight to Vitsand.

The trail from the spring to Vitsand is a forest path, so it’s more comfortable to ride it with a bike that has little fattier tyres than normal. There doesn’t seem to be any specific instructions in Vitsand where to park one’s bike, so it’s  up to you if you want to challenge yourself or to take it easy: the trail is short but bumpy.

Nowadays, it is very hard to imagine, how the white, sandy beach of Vitsand used to be a stage for a fierce battle between British warships and Russian–Finnish troops and their gun battery on the opposite side, during the Crimean War in 1854-1856.

Our coastline is strategically very important, so it has seen blood spilled on many occasions throughout history.

After we return to the road, we continue a few kilometres along the Leksvallintie road, turning eventually to the road leading to the village of Skogby. The air is heavy with flying dust as we ride along the gravel road to a lovely wooden house called Villa Kosthåll. The house used to function as a mess hall and office of the Skogby sawmill as well as the residence of the sawmill’s founder, Mr. Mauritz Hisinger. Hisinger had a park built in the honour of Empress Dagmar, and he also acted as a host for the Emperor and Empress during their visit in 1888.

We spend a moment watching the sheep tending the courtyard lawn before riding northwest towards the village of Harparskog and a defence line named after the village.

The Bunker Museum and the impressive Irma 302

I think I have read my share of history, but at the same time, never really given any more thought to some of the events. One of the eras that I had apparently been totally oblivious to, was the lease of Hanko to the Soviet Union before the Continuation War in 1941-1944. When the Winter War (1939-1940) ended with the Moscow peace treaty in 1940, Finland had to give the whole of the Isthmus of Carelia to the Soviet Union and also lease them Hanko and its surrounding islands for 30 years.

The Soviet Union established a military base in Hanko with 27,000 troops and thousands of civilians. Altogether 40,000 people – four times as much as there were indigenous Finns. The so-called lace villas in the region received new residents, and Hanko became the “Riviera of the North”, with a strong competition for who got stationed there.

Obviously, Finland didn’t let her neighbour to roam on her back yard totally unprepared. Before the Continuation War, Finland had built a fortified defensive position along the border of the leased territory. By the end of May 1941, the Harparskog Line consisted of 46 concrete bunkers with a same amount of dugouts, 70 artillery sites and 113 machine gun nests. There was also a huge, several kilometres long anti-tank barrier built across the Hanko Peninsula. Parts of it are still visible, as we noticed on our cycling tour.

Those events seem to be far away in the past, especially in the middle of a warm summer day, but if you’re interested, you have a chance to look into the history in the bunker museum. The so-called Irma 302 was one of the tough concrete bunkers built on the temporary border. It has been since restored and opened for public. The armament of the bunker consists of a 45-millimetre anti-tank gun and a machine gun. The guns slide effortlessly on their well-oiled tracks, and the accuracy of the optical sights is still amazing. The smoke and sound effects take you back 80 years to experience what it was like to be one of the 16 soldiers manning the bunker. Available for groups visiting the bunker, the experience is both impressive and thought-provoking at the same time.

We continue about half a kilometre from the bunker towards the front line memorial, erected on a place where Marshal Mannerheim received the march-past of the troops in Hanko when the Soviet Union left the area. We pass by some private courtyards and ride to the memorial along a quiet village road. After enjoying our packed lunch, we get back on our bikes and move on.

The front line of the Hanko Peninsula was fixed all the way through the Continuation War, and both sides concentrating on defending their posts. Most of the battles were fought with the artillery, and where the front line was on land, it was trench warfare. The archipelago was a stage for more mobile battles. Eventually, the Soviets evacuated their base in Hanko, and the remainder of the troops left the town on December 3, 1941. On the very same morning, Finnish troops advanced into the empty town.

Hanko Front Museum

We get back on the highway and cycle a short distance to the Hanko Front Museum. I have seen the cannon on the museum courtyard flash by through our car window, but now it’s finally time to visit the museum itself. The permanent exhibition displays the events of 1939-1941 in detail with photographs, maps and various objects of the era. An old warning sign reminds the visitors that the border of the leased territory of Hanko was just a hundred metres away from the museum. The trenches surrounding the museum also provide quite an authentic feeling of those times, and they are also very exciting for the little ones visiting the museum. When we were there, children could also enjoy a pony ride on the museum grounds.

Read more about the war history of Hanko at Finland100.fi for example.

Back to the beginning

After having a cup of coffee at the Front Museum, we move on. We have two choices: either to go back the same way we came from or ride towards Hanko for a short while and then turn northwest. After all, as the idea is to take the circular route, we choose option no. 2. Riding through the villages of Öby and Vimenböle, we return on the Prästkullantie road and then back to Ekenäs, riding several kilometres alongside Lake Gennarbyviken. The lake was dammed from the bay for industrial purposes.

This leg is the most scenic of the whole route, reminding us about the Archipelago Trail and its stops. There’s little automobile traffic, and only a few other cyclists. We pass one walker who says a happy hello. One hill after another rolls by under our tyres. The lake shimmers as we make our way uphill, downhill, uphill and downhill again.

As this leg is practically gravelled all the way, we are happy to have fat tyres on our bikes. Rolling downhill is funny, but there are some treacherous grooves on the road which we have to negotiate carefully.

A white-tailed deer hops in front of us across the road. Three cranes are slowly moving on the field. We stop by the fieldside to eat our packed lunch, to be suspiciously watched upon by a proud steed from behind the fence. Our summer holiday is almost over, but we still have nine kilometres to go on tarmac. But in a landscape like this, it is no problem.

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Front line Route

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

The Sun does not set in Lapland, and the nature is blooming. One might still see some snow here and there, but almost all of it is gone. Instead we have beautiful greenery all around us. Here are some photos to show you what the Midsummer looks like in Lapland.

Lapland has some beautiful clear waters so don’t forget your diving mask. This is lake Pallasjärvi.
Little fish enjoying the beautiful sunshine of Lappish summer.
Wild blueberries (or bilberries) are blooming.
It doesn’t get any darker than this for weeks.
Sunny Midnight in Kittilä.
Bunch berry (Cornus suecica) is one of the earliest flowers to blossom in the summer.
As the snow melts, rivers in Lapland tend to flood and it can sometimes get pretty serious. This is Ounasjoki river.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

Over the last half a year or so, I have been experimenting more with my photography here in the Finnish nature. I’ve focused on big landscapes as well as focused in on the smaller details. My time spent in the forest, on the islands and near the lakes have been nothing short of spectacular. Below are some photos that I’ve taken over the last few months (from around July to December), here in wonderful Finland.

Above: A warm, summer scene within a small patch of bitch trees. Since Finland has many colder months, it almost makes the summer feel more special in a way. I’m lucky in that I enjoy all the variety throughout the seasons 🙂

Above: A sunset in July at around 23.00. This photo was taken along the river Pielisjoki in Joensuu.

Above: Another intimate summer photo. The time spent outdoors around sunset brings some fantastic and eye-catching glowing patches amongst the Finnish landscapes.

Above: Somewhere on an island near Tuusiniemi at around 03.00 in the beginning of September. I made plans especially for this night since it was predicted that the northern lights may appear. I spent the night camping near a summer cottage and was once again blown away by this incredible show of light. The aurora have become really special to me and I’m incredibly grateful to be in Finland so that I may experience them in person.

Above: Another photo from that night.

Above: Autumn. When autumn kicks in, you’ll know all about it 🙂 If I had to pick my favourite season in Finland, this would be it. The golden leaves, foggy mornings and starry nights make it a clear winner in my books.

Above: Trees in the fog on a fresh and crisp morning in Kontiolahti. This morning had an incredibly mysterious feeling to it, and I had to stop several times to pinch myself and check that I wasn’t dreaming 🙂

Above: A view of the treetops on a misty and snowy day. I climbed to the top of a nearby hill to take this photo and really enjoyed seeing the layers upon layers of forest fading into the distance.

Above: An October moonrise with an amazing halo of light above some forest in Joensuu. This is something that I’ve never really tried to photograph but thought it would be interesting to capture.

Above: Some finer details along the floor of an autumn forest. Interesting things may be at your feet 🙂

Above: Misty birch forest.

Above: Another misty autumn scene.

Above: A rocky lake shore in Joensuu at the end of October. No matter what I do with my photography, I always end up back in places like this. There is a sense of tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere.

Above: A November landscape at my favourite local spot. The water has become cold and icy.

Above: Icy patterns on a frozen lake shore. The small details can sometimes be quite interesting as well.

Above: This is my most recent photo from Joensuu (around 3rd December). The lakes are freezing up and creating interesting shapes of ice these days. One has to visit regularly to see all the amazing changes from day to day.

That was it for the last few months in Finland! I look forward to the amazing winter and what interesting photographic opportunities it may bring. Also, I just enjoy being outdoors regardless of whether I have my camera with me or not 🙂 I hope that all of you have an amazing winter and enjoy your festival season.

See you out there!

Article by Onni Kojo

After Karhunkierros I continued my way north. The forgotten UKK route continues at the north end of Karhunkierros. This trail was almost non-existing, but it was fairly easy to find the markings on the trees. Very quiet, after meeting other hikers every day. I was not talking to other people that much. Finns are just so bad at small talk! But also because in these popular hiking routes, people tend to have own groups in which they travel.

I didn’t mind. I enjoyed walking alone as much as I enjoyed company. 

Beautiful old growth forests covered the fells that opened up in front of me. I was now in the region of Salla. Their slogan is – Salla – In the Middle of nowhere. I like that! It did feel like being in the middle of nowhere. The beauty of Lapland is very much in the sense of open space. 

When you get to Lapland, the nature starts to change around you. More old trees, different kinds of plants, more barren, but beautiful still. The Lapp huts along the way have remained even though the trail seems to be rarely used. I found myself in this hut between two fells, next to a small lake. Fireplace inside, pure drinkable water right next to it and still few berries to be eaten. This was perfection. It was now officially fall. My favorite season.

The nature roasted in to a golden-yellow glow. The forests of Salla were absolutely stunning! This season was a perfect timing for admiring them. I stopped often to wonder the different shades of orange and red while I was walking. Dead silent everywhere. I would meet a pack of reindeer or willow grouse every now and then. 

It was necessary to take more breaks as the ascents began to be longer and the fells higher. At one stop I startled. There was a dog behind me! For how long it had followed me, I didn’t know. It had a collar with antenna. It was some hunter’s dog. But where was the hunter?

Day was beautiful and not too cold. I admired the vast view of forests that continued beyond sight. The dog was still with me while I was sitting on this rock. We continued the journey together. Still no sight of the hunter. I tried to look a phone number on the collar, but the number was wrong. Well, maybe the antenna worked and we would meet the owner soon.

I stopped for lunch at this lean-to shelter. Not knowing what the dog could eat, I didn’t give any food. As a protest, I was barked at.

Soon we hit a dirt road. I knew that if the antenna worked, they would see from the gps and drive there shortly. After 2 minutes, a land cruiser raced next to me.

He was a bear hunter and he had seen from the gps where his dog was and told me that he knew from the movement that there were humans around. The guy had driven 40 km from the other side of the forest to that spot. He also said that it was a good thing that I didn’t give the dog any food, because otherwise they would learn to go after the hikers to give them food!

In the village of Salla I got more supplies and ate a huge, well-deserved pizza. Hanging around at the main street of the village was like from a movie. Guys drinking beer at a bench next to the grocery store, hitchhikers from Germany at the bus stop, grannies cycling along the street. It was a nice and sunny autumn evening. A lovely little town it was. I continued my way towards west now.

4 days I hiked these gravel roads to a place called Pyhä. For me, it was a familiar place as I had been working there the previous winter. Here, I would also have couple days off from the hike and I actually worked as a guide on these break days! I was welcomed with the Lappish hospitality from my dear manager at work. It was unreal to be indoors and have a bed after weeks of hiking!

I experienced this Lappish hospitality on those 4 days of gravel road hiking, too. This guy drove next to me with a transporter. He was a hunter. He was amazed. Why the hell I was walking here by myself! After we shared a laugh, he offered me his cottage to stay! He just said that I could go there and sleep! I didn’t get there that night before the dark. Anyways, people in northern Finland can be extremely hospitable. I had many other encounters like this in Lapland.

Pyhä is an old holy mountain of the forest Sami people that used to live on these lands. The word ‘Pyhä’ in Finnish, means ‘Holy’. This place is unique. You’ll find remarkably unique landscapes, old growth forests and silence from here. There is a national park that covers most of the area. Finland’s biggest gorge is here between the fells and one of the most beautiful waterfalls I know. Right next to the national park there is also skiing slopes, a small village and lots of activities packed in one small place. A perfect combination for everyone! It’s like Lapland in a nutshell.

Pyhä-Luosto national park’s logo features a Siberian jay. You see these birds here every day. These curious and pretty birds sure are fun creatures!

After hiking amongst many other visitors, who had come to see the fall colours, I headed to the town of Sodankylä. I walked by the driveway and from there took another 4 day gravel road hike to the west towards Ylläs.

Those days were one of the most boring ones of my life. There were just vast areas of semi natural forests and not much to see. One stop near Kittilä was nice though. This big lake you could see from the shore overlooking the landscape of fells.

My plans had worked quite well so far. I had stayed pretty much on that path that I had thought. There was just one problem – the winter was coming. 

There was already some wet snow pouring when I started hiking through yet another national park: Pallas–Ylläs. This national park is one of the oldest and most known in Finland. No doubt, the scenery is breathtaking. Here I met many other hikers and made new friends. After a few days of rain and wet snow, the weather turned beautiful. Crisp cold mornings and bright blue days. I enjoy those kinds of days.

Herds of reindeer would pass by every day. They start their mating time around this time of the year so it is good to be little bit cautious with them. At least with the stags.

These herds can be hundreds of individuals, sometimes running around the fells. One morning I got woken up by this huge herd as some of them have bells around their necks like sheep. They are a semi-domesticated species and all of them are always owned by someone even when they go around the wild every now and then. There are a lot of domesticated reindeer as well in the farms all around Lapland. 

They say that a white reindeer is for good luck. I saw one every day! From a distance though. I heard a story about how furious the stags can get during mating season. I was having lunch at this Lapp hut with few other hikers when this older guy told us a story that involved a reindeer antler, a carotid artery and lots of blood. I kept my distance.

Nice lunch discussions and encounters continued along the way. I remember this one dad who was hiking with her 5-year-old daughter. They were on a one-night hike and we had a chat at this yet another Lapp hut shelter. I told him about my journey. By now I had walked about 2000 km. He told me word to word ‘I doubt your mental health’. I laughed. But he was right as well. I might have gone mad by now, walking by myself for months. There were a few things that kept me sane. One was social media – (staying connected is almost too easy nowadays; I did also have days when I didn’t use it), the other was just staying on the course, so perseverance. I would meet new people all the time so I wasn’t really lonely. There were only a few times I felt loneliness, but I think that is good. In this hyper social world of ours we easily forget to self-reflect. It is very important to just be happy with yourself. The modern world easily distracts us to use our time on just looking on what other people do.

But yeah, to walk over 2000 km you have to be a bit crazy. In a good way!

To be honest, at the moment while I’m writing this in a studio apartment in Helsinki, I feel lonelier than when I was hiking alone. I would meet so many fantastic people along the way. The wilderness cabins would usually be full of people, sharing their adventures. People would gather around a fireplace and share their stories. Would that happen in a city? Just random people at a park for example just meeting and sharing stories about their days? 

There is something really familiar to us, when we meet new people while hiking in national parks or in the wilderness. We are so close to the things that humans are made for. Surviving in the wilderness and staying together as a tribe. 

I shared a wonderful evening with people all over Finland on the last day of the Ylläs – Hetta hike. To hear everyone’s craziest adventures was so much fun. You also learn so much from others while you share stories. We even saw pretty good northern lights that night.

That is one exceptional aspect about the open wilderness cabin culture. There is always another side of the coin, though. This culture is based on respecting the place and other visitors. That includes cleaning up after yourself and giving space to people who need the shelter most. This age-old rule is easily forgotten nowadays. Always respect the nature and others around you, always! We can still keep this culture alive and have these places, so we can share stories by the fire. It would be sad to see this go and have private cabins all around instead of the open ones, if we do not adhere to common rules!

In general though, during my journey, I met great people and almost every shelter and cabin that I visited was in good condition! Way to go Finland!

I heard news that there was already snowfall in the very north western part of the country. That’s where I was heading. I based my plan to the fact that last winter the snowfall was so late and that people had hiked up to Halti even at the beginning of October. It started to seem that it might be impossible. I didn’t change my plans. The snow might have melted.

I walked along the driveway towards Kilpisjärvi for days. I headed to the wilderness after three days. There was this dirt road leading to the wilderness area of Käsivarsi – ‘Käsivarren erämaa-alue’. From there I was to hike to Kilpisjärvi through the wilderness. After about 10 km walking the dirt road it was obvious that there was a lot of snow. The snow limit was in about 600 metres above sea level. I still continued, I didn’t want to quit. Mainly because my other option was pretty lame. To walk the along the road all the way to Kilpisjärvi, another 70 km or so.

I went to the first cabin at the end of the dirt road. I was a little depressed. I couldn’t hike up to Halti. The October gloom got more intense day by day. Nevertheless, I had an amazing adventure in the wilderness! The soft snow made it super hard to go through even with skis. At times the snow was down to my knees. At the first cabin I found some hard plastic and iron wire so I decided to make my own snowshoes. Surprisingly, after testing them, they worked!

I walked with my snowshoes about 7 km to the next hut. I was the most exhausted I have ever been. It was so heavy to walk in the snow. I had lunch and a cup coffee and decided to head back and plan another ending for my journey. There was no way I could walk in these conditions even if there would be melted ground after the next fell. I was beaten, but still so happy that I tried. It sure was an instructive and fun adventure!

A boring couple of days of walking by the road followed. I would just camp where ever I could find a spot. There were a lot of campfire places along the road and rivers. Fishermen use this road and these rivers during summertime and make campfires everywhere. It started snowing and the temperatures dropped even more. It was now officially winter here.

When I finally saw the Saana fell and the village of Kilpisjärvi, I jumped out of joy. This would be the last village before heading to Norway. I decided that I’d climb to Saana and then walk to Norway and to the Arctic sea. It was only 50 kilometres away!

This was the only area that is geologically considered to be a part of a mountain range in Finland. After hiking up to Saana I had visited almost all the different habitats found in this country. From the shores of the Baltic sea, through the fields and villages of the south, across the lake land and boreal forests, over the endless swamps and up the fells of Lapland, I had walked across the whole country! 2300 kilometres by now, to be exact. 

I wanted to finish the trip by going to Norway. I hadn’t swam or seen the sea for months, so I would end this at the mighty fjords of Norway. 

The very last day I walked from close to the Finnish border down to the fjord beach. It was one of those clear sunny days when the blue sky just opens and the universe just feels so vast. I felt good!

The feeling was also a bit melancholic, I would end my journey now. During that one day, the scenery changed from the arctic tundra into almost like the southern type of nature! Even the leaves were still orange and yellow, even though 30 km inland in Finland there were no leaves on the trees anymore. I was close to the sea though. The snowy cap mountains and sheep welcomed me to the village at the beach. Why is there sheep everywhere in Norway?

I have nothing greater to say after all this. Finland is a wonderful country and we must continue to care for it and its magnificent nature. Whoever reads this, remember, be sure to take some time off for yourself in life. Losing the track of time is the best way of charging your energies! Even a small amount of time is enough, you don’t have to hike 2000 km. Through this self-reflection, one also learns to be a better person to others and the nature around us.

You can follow my adventures on Instagram @onnimarkus

Blog in Finnish: onnitravels.blogspot.com

Read more:

Hike Finlandia: a hike from Finland’s southernmost tip to the Arctic sea. Part 1

Hike Finlandia, part 2: Eastern Finland

Article by Onni Kojo

In this article I will be going more into the less known places of Eastern Finland.

The end of July was really warm. Hot even. The weather made hiking harder. Insects like mosquitoes and horse flies were annoying. I was now heading close to the eastern border of the country. Here, you can still find crystal clear lakes, untouched forests and endless mire lands. 

The downside with the seemingly never ending nature is that it has also been cultivated a lot. In North Karelia, 89% of the land area consists forests. Forestry companies own a prominent amount of them. Peat, or turf, is also a significant resource around here. I saw that as I was walking past those infinite fields on these hot summer days. By the way, if Finland had done the same with their swamps and turn all of them into peat fields, we could have a very plentiful source of fuel. Peat is harvested for fuel from these fields. 

It’s good that we didn’t.

Swamps are super important for the environment, since they are host to a range of plant life and a high level of humidity, hence plenty of insects. Now this might be uncomfortable when visiting swamp areas, but when you realize how many birds and reptiles there are because of the insects, you respect them much more. And because of the smaller animals, there is always a bigger animal coming after them.

In addition to biodiversity, mires are important carbon sinks.

I would be walking through endless swamps for weeks! But first, I had to visit some of my relatives. I had planned my route so that I could pay them a visit this summer. I also needed a bath so bad. I’m making a statement now. There is nothing more satisfying than sauna, a swim in a pure lake and to having a cold beverage after hiking a day in heat. Trust me. Or maybe there is, but this combo is surely very close to the ultimate satisfaction.

I had a weekend off from hiking. It is important to rest properly on such a long walk. I also needed to do laundry, as from now on it got harder and I really had to plan my stops and rest days. Where could I charge my phone and batteries, where could I do laundry and get more supplies? Up to this point, I could just visit friends and family, but after this I’d have to book a guest house every now and then.

After the July heat, the temperatures dropped tremendously. There was a cold north wind to all around Finland. These extreme weather changes are getting more and more common in Finland. Before, our climate has been fairly mild, at least in southern inland.

For me it was good though! The north wind kept the nasty insects away and it was nicer to walk than in the heat. I was so prepared for having to deal with millions of mosquitoes around here. I did encounter a few flying devils that I really hate, like the deer fly. Also it is notable, that in the very eastern part of North Karelia, close to the border, there are ticks that can carry diseases. That’s why they are one of the only dangerous creatures in Finnish nature. There is only one venomous snake in Finland, the common viper.

Equal growth pine forests and gray skies led my way to the next national park, Patvinsuo. Here, it is fascinating to see some age-old pines amongst the new growth ones. I hiked through vast open swamp areas to the lakes of the national parks. I found some nice beaches along the way and met other hikers. It was nice to talk with people. My social life took place only online on some days of the hike

I ate last of my Karelian pies (you only get the real ones in Karelia) and continued the journey north via ‘Karhunpolku’ – The ‘Bear trail’. This would lead me to the town of Kuhmo and from there I would take the Eastern border trail all the way up to Lapland.

At Karhunpolku, I didn’t meet any other hikers! Again, once out from the national park, there was no one else. The forest looked magical, full of white lichen, moss, pink blossoming heather and berry bushes of different colours.

Slowly, through the beautiful ridges cutting the swamps and forests, I made my way towards north. These trails would also have other kinds of shelters besides the huts and lean-to shelters: wilderness cabins. This culture of open wilderness cabins is one of a kind in the world. Some of them even have saunas! Absolutely brilliant for a tired hiker, or a country-cross skier in the wintertime!

These shelters always have a visitor’s book, where one should write about their visit. These journals were so much fun to read every night. I found notes from few other long distance hikers, even couple from one of my teachers at the wilderness guide course. One note was from this one guy who had done a big hike the previous summer (I met him earlier in the summer somewhere in the lake country). He had only written: ‘On my way to the North’. Pretty modest from a guy that hiked across the whole country!

These stories and encounters with people are worth writing down. Apart from these forgotten hiking trails, I met many people. I had many of confluences with interesting people. I heard stories that I would’ve never heard. People opened up to me in a very different way. I mean telling me, a stranger, about their lives. Maybe there was some kind of nostalgia to the old days, where there would be vagabonds and tramps all around the country. You stayed connected with the people because of this folk. 

Sometimes when I had to walk along the driveway, I felt like a rebel. Maybe little bit extremist, but why use fossil fuels, when you can just walk to places? There was other free riders and rebels along the way. Every time there was a biker or a long distance cyclist passing by, we shared this smile. These people know what freedom feels like.

One of the most interesting stories was from this old man and his wife who I met somewhere near Kuhmo. They were locals and had lived there all of their lives. This mosaic of old growth forest, lakes and swamps was, just 50 years ago, a true wilderness. Now, there was are a lot of clear cut forests in the area. Luckily there still are conservation areas in between of these more cultivated lands.

I was in the lands of storytelling. No wonder there would be people who like to share stories. From the notes in the visitor’s book, to the old guy at the market square of Kuhmo telling me about his life, I was having difficulties to write it all down. I felt like a 19th century explorer going around the wilderness collecting stories from times that were forgotten.

I mean, Finland’s epic, Kalevala, was collected from these lands. The vast area of White Karelia (Vienan Karjala in Finnish) spread from here far to the east to the Russian side of the border. Culturally, White Karelia also has three poetry villages on the Finnish side of Kainuu.

There was other culturally important places along the border too. A Traveller faces the relics of the wars around here. Old foxholes, bases, fortresses, some of which have been restored as a historic sites. There has always been war around these lands and I think it’s good to visit these places as we should never forget how horrible war is. 

While I was walking the Eastern border trail, I was for a few times, stopped by the Border Patrol. They were just keen on what I was doing, as they were no hikers around here. Metsähallitus (Finnish Forest Administration) had just stopped maintaining the trail. I worried that the campfire places would not have any firewood because of this. It would be harder to dry clothes and shoes after many days of hiking in the swamp areas! Luckily they were still somewhat serviced, maybe because the local day hikers or hunters would still be using them. I did actually need the campfires a few times because at the beginning of my two week journey at this trail, it was quite rainy. Also the trail was in some parts, in very bad condition. I would have to cross the creeks because the bridges would be broken down. I would have to walk in the swamp a few times because the boardwalks would not exist anymore.

It was good meeting with the Border Patrol because we both changed information like, what animals we’d seen, what was it like at the next campsite etc. Now to clarify a bit, the guards were driving with a jeep along the dirt roads, not hiking the trails like they used to. Still, nice guys that were amazed of my journey. 

Last time I talked with them, they half-jokingly stated that I’d have to put something red on my head, as the bear hunting season had just started and these lands and forests were full of hunters. I might get shot otherwise. It was only later, at this Wilderness Centre in Martinselkonen, I realized the Border Patrol was not joking. I talked with the owner of the centre. He said that if the hunters would not get the bear at one shot, which is highly likely, the bear would be extremely dangerous wounded. Not only the wounded bear, but the hunters running after it and shooting, while I’m there as well!

Later I heard a few gunshots here and there. Some of the dirt roads along the trail had pickup-trucks beside them and tents in the forest which the hunters used. I met few hunters as well. It was interesting to hear what they were doing, as this was a totally new world to me.

I’m not a hunter, so I’m not going to go into it. All I know, is that hunting and fishing are a big part of the Finnish outdoor life. To kill for trophies and for sport is in my opinion bad, but to hunt for game, for food, is just an old way of living.

Anyways, I was now in the land of lot of bears. I saw signs of them every day. Like ant nests dug, all the blueberries eaten (European brown bears love blueberries!), or I would just step on a pile of bear poop.

I didn’t see the king of the forest. They have a natural fear of humans and they could smell me miles away. There is bear watching tours you can book, if you want to see these mighty creatures! At Martinselkonen for example.

I saw other animals though. Moose would walk in the forest or crane (bird) would fly past me every now and then or make its very recognizable sound echoing in the open swamp areas. All kinds of forest grouses would hurtle from the bushes when I walked quietly by myself through the boreal forests. Some of these age old forests had hanging moss or beard lichen on the branches of the trees more than I had ever seen before. This is a clear sign that the air is super pure. This moss doesn’t grow if there is any pollution.

I would some mornings, be woken up by whooper swans. Their sound is loud and can be heard miles away because the lakes carry sound. These small ridges would cut the swamps and lakes. Little birds flew in all directions from the berry bushes on the ridge slopes. In addition to blueberries, lingonberries and crowberries grew everywhere. 

I diverged from the trail a bit to get supplies. There was only one village with a little country store around here. Ala-Vuokki store had a post office, bar and a gas station in the same building. Very typical to have all the services in one place in these remote areas. The store owner was interested of my journey and offered me coffee and pastry! I continued to the trail the same day. Days were getting shorter and nights darker.

A few times I heard hunting dogs barking or the forest machine would break the feeling of being in the wilderness. Otherwise, I still walked mostly on magical lands. No wonder these forests and lakes were attached to the age old storytelling lands. And did I already say that I didn’t meet any other hikers along these hiking trails? There were couple of days that I didn’t see any other human being!

After the long eastern border adventure, I made my way to Finland’s latest national park – Hossa. The contrast was huge. Suddenly there was all these newly made trails and huts. People hiking along the turquoise waters of Hossa or mountain biking next to these magnificent cliffs. 

I had a resting day in the town of Kuusamo. From here I would continue to one of the most known hikes in Finland – Karhunkierros. 

Before this, it had been relatively easy to hike, at least in terms of altitude differences. Finland is pretty flat country. So until here, I would not have to ascend more than sixty meters or so! But here, it was crazy! Climbing up and down these hills was brutal. With a backpack full of one weeks supplies, anyways.

The scenery changed more to the northern kind. Gorgeous sceneries, big rivers and cliffs. I also saw little bit of northern lights the first night. Already! The days got even shorter and the leaves of the trees would turn to yellow, orange and red. By now, I really had to try and wake up early because I had to use the daytime for hiking. Summertime was easy – it didn’t really matter what time I was walking since there would be enough light even during night time. 

I started to see more northern species like the Siberian jay and reindeer! I was now truly in north. I felt so good. I had hiked through the endless swamps all the way to up the north, by myself!

You can follow my adventures on Instagram @onnimarkus

Blog in Finnish: onnitravels.blogspot.com

Read more:

Hike Finlandia: a hike from Finland’s southernmost tip to the Arctic sea. Part 1

Article by Onni Kojo

I travel and explore nature, history and culture. I am interested in the relationship between man and nature. During the summer and autumn of 2019, I hiked from Finland’s southernmost tip to the Arctic sea in northern Norway.

For a long time, I had this need to connect with the outdoor world again. For our generation, the human world is so much different than for any of the other generations before us. Nature, on the other hand, is always perfect with it’s dangers and beauty.

I had this idea of a big hike. Maybe I felt like I needed a break from this busy world of ours, or maybe just for the pure adventure. Many people share this same urge to explore. But to have the time for all of that is just so hard in this modern life. It’s also scary. Just to leave everything and go abroad by yourself.

Of course this hike would include visiting a lot of culturally important places and meeting new people, things that I really enjoyed as well. But this adventure would be more about the nature than my previous travels.

Big hike of a lifetime. There are those routes that take months to walk. Like Pacific Crest Trail in the US or Camino de Santiago in Spain. But here in Northern Europe there really is no such a route. Just few longer hiking routes amongst the hundreds of shorter ones. That is why I decided to plan the route myself and have as much different places along the way as possible.

I’m not the only one who has done a hike across Finland. There are few other people, even couple of people who I saw along the way, that have done a similar hike than mine. Some of these people might want to keep themselves. Who knows how many other big adventurers there are!

You can follow my adventures on Instagram @onnimarkus
Blog in Finnish: onnitravels.blogspot.com

Hike Finlandia, part 1

The Baltic Sea opened up in front of me. The breeze from the sea was warm, the day was sunny and bright. Few tourists were by the sea, enjoying the day. Polished by the glaciers from ice-age, these cliffs were smooth, gently curving into the depths. This point was the southernmost point of coastal Finland.

My backpack weighted about 25 kilos. I had a wide grin on my face as I dipped my toes into the salty water and then put my hiking boots on. I felt free for the first time in ages.

My plan was to hike all the way up to the northern part of this country. To the highest peak in the north western part of it, to be exact. I had little bit less than 4 months to do this. I had planned this hike the whole spring as I was studying to become a nature – and wilderness-guide. So for me, this was also a continuation to my studies. I wanted to see what it was really like out there. What kind of secret places I would find? How many species in the nature would I remember from my studies, how many new I would learn? Would I survive by myself hiking the endless forest? What kind of difficulties would I encounter and what kind of people would I meet. I was eager to travel and explore.

For me it was easy to travel by myself, as I had been backpacking around the word much of my adult life. But this was a whole other level. I would walkNo cars, no train, no bicycle, no boat. Just hike.

Sunny and windy day continued and I started walking. The cape of Tulliniemi is a conservation area with couple of nature trails. The day hikers looked at me and my backpack curiously. Beautiful groves and pine forests covered this cape. It didn’t look like any other place I would visit during this hike. This was the only place that had that kind of southern temperate nature. I would soon be walking in endless boreal forests and swamps.

As the first day folded into the night (It didn’t really, the sun just went close to the horizon for a bit), I was exhausted. I had first walked into the southernmost point and then started the actual hike. I already had a blister on my foot. First day of any hike, is always the hardest. I hadn’t hiked in ages, because I was studying and working before this. My backpack was way too heavy. The day was hot.

I sat down and took my hiking shoes off. I was close to the beach I was going to camp for that night. I saw a stick. A branch of a pine tree. I took it, cut it half by kicking it. I hated it. It was crooked, not cool enough. But I needed a walking stick. It really helped me to get there the rest of the way. I had walked 40 km that day and it was almost midnight. Tired, but still happy. I made it even when my feet hurt so badly.

The next morning I dipped myself into the water. The air smelled salty. It was a hot and sunny morning. I felt like I was somewhere in the Mediterranean. This would be the last time I would feel and smell and hear the ocean, for months to come.

The days went by and walking got easier. I had marked down places worth to visit and good spots to camp from the map. I used ‘Maastokartat’-app on the phone. Here in the south I would have internet access almost anywhere, but in the north I would need to download the maps on the phone or then just buy a map. Anyways, I had a general plan of my route and all the camping sites, lean-to shelters and ‘kotas’ marked in the maps on my phone.

It was fairly easy to navigate with the app. At least here in the south. I just enjoyed the summer days and walked along country roads and forest tracks.

So the first bit of my hike was the nature trail and then the streets of Hanko. Very nice town by the way, Finland’s most sunny town, they say. There was no hiking routes around here. But luckily, Finland is full of forest roads, because of the forestry and logging industry.

The scenery changed all the time from the nice country estates with horse stables, to the mixed forests and then into clear cut forests (which there is a lot in the south). Here and there, there would be a small conservation area with a fire place in it, or just a nice beach or shelter to camp for the night. Most of the places were quite good. And they were free to use because of our everyman’s rights. I would see a white-tailed deer every day, as this introduced species has been very successful in southern part of the country.

Now, there was also some problems with everyman’s rights. In the town of Karjalohja for example, it was not allowed to camp on the public beach. I went into the nearby forest instead, and checked from the map that it wasn’t near any residence. This is the law, you are allowed to camp for a short period of a time as long as it is not near anyone’s property nor causing any disturbance.

But most of the evenings, I would easily find a place to camp. I had a tent with me, but I also used the shelters. The tent was better option in midsummer though, because of the insects. As I would go further inland and close to swamps, there would be way more mosquitos. But I will go into that later on.

So, it’s fairly easy to find places to camp for the night anywhere in Finland. Just need to know the rules that apply for the everyman’s rights and have general respect for the places and nature where you are visiting. Leave no trace, don’t set up a fire if there is a forest fire warning, don’t disturb others or the nature and don’t destroy any living trees or plants. In exchange, you can pick up the berries and mushrooms, camp, and roam freely! Now this habit of respecting the area and freedom to roam should be common knowledge, but unfortunately it’s not.

The next area after the countryside, was the national park of Liesjärvi. From there, I would use the Ilvesreitti trails into the lake country.

Liesjärvi is convenient and nice national park, as it is quite short a way from Helsinki. Because of the easy access, there would be a lot of visitors. It’s good that people come and charge their energies in the nature, and outdoors is a healthy new trend. But. Unfortunately the side effects of this growing number of visitors, is rubbish left on the fire places, food waste on the river next to the camp sites, people throwing every single piece of rubbish into the bonfire.

I do not know where this habit came from. Cardboard and paper is usually ok to burn, but anything else is really easy to just take with you and recycle at home. There is nothing nastier, than someone burning plastic and the next moment, kids around the fire place roasting marshmallows.

Why would you have the energy and willpower to travel into a certain natural place, and then leave your rubbish and food waste there. It does not belong in that place. It is ok to visit. To feel, smell, hear and see the pure nature. And then just leave with everything you had with you. Including your dog, who was on the leash for the whole time. Wasn’t it?

Anyways, there is clearly lot of advisory to be done for the hikers, tourists, any visitors really. Everyone who visits the nature of Finland, should know, what the common rules are. Without them, all this free roaming is in danger.

The national park had clear hiking routes marked with various colours, depending on what kind of a hike you wanted to do. I was following the route that was marked with a head of a lynx. ‘Ilvesreitti’ means ‘The lynx route’. This web of routes stretches hundreds of kilometres around the Häme region, about an hour drive from Helsinki. There is also an old heritage farm in the national park called ‘Kortenniemi’ that is worth visiting! I went there also and got a free presentation as there was a local guide doing a tour with visitors.

Besides the national park, there was literally no one on these routes. Some fire places along the way had day visitors, as they were usually close to the roads and had easy access. Some camping sites were barely used. As the route went to another municipality, it changed in its condition and scenery. Sometimes it would be just bush that was still marked with yellow signs hanging from the trees. Sometimes it was a dirt road, sometimes a nice path in a magical moss covered forest.

The reason for this alternating condition of the trail was because it went through different municipalities. When the trail is not entirely in one region or park, its condition varies. Some towns make an effort maintaining outdoor services, some don’t. Either it’s because of budget, or some places have just been forgotten. Seriously. I was surprised how many people there is, if the area is a national park. But there might be a beautiful conservation area nearby that has all the same services, but is nearly never used.

One of these places worth mentioning was Heinisuo. A swamp area close to Hämeenlinna. It was basically like mini version of the Torronsuo national park which is the biggest preserved swamp area in southern Finland. There I met first grouses and snakes during my hike. And not a single person.

Soon, I encountered another problem with the rights to roam. There was a field, rye field if I remember correctly. I had looked from the map, that if I went from the dirt road into the forest and went little bit along this field, it would be a smart route. The field was first just hay and it was not that wide. But then it changed. It was someone’s rye field. Now, to walk in fields where there is something growing is prohibited. I made a mistake with my route. Luckily there was tractor tracks where I reckon it was ok to walk the 100 meters to the other side. Still, I kind of broke the law.

Also, some maps are older and might not have all the tracks, routes, fields or clear cut forests marked into them. All hikers and travellers should know this.

Anyways, the Maastokartat-app worked very well. 10 days had passed from the start of the hike when I reached to town of Hämeenlinna. I would have a day off here, have a shower and go buy more food.

You could be thinking by now, how I managed to take care of the hygiene, what kind of food I would carry with me, how I would succeed generally. Like mentally and physically.

The thing is, while hiking, you have to let go of some standards. Especially in places where there is no modern comforts. Swimming in the lake every day for a week is enough to stay clean, before you get the chance to go into a sauna or shower. Luckily, Finland is full of lakes and public saunas!

For the clothing. Using materials like wool, that don’t need washing all the time, is good. Other hygiene, like I said: Wash your teeth and face, brush your hair, like you would do every day. But it’s really not necessary to have a daily shower. I was fine just going swimming every day and have a proper shower at least once a week.

Food supply was easy to take care while just hiking from town to town in the south, but further along the way it got harder. I would just go into the shops in almost every town and by fresh food and also go in cafes and restaurants. But I would also be on budget and when hiking in national parks and far from any villages, I would need lots of lightweight, mostly dry food that does not rot. At least in the summertime when the temperatures are not the same than in your freezer.

For the boredom, I listened audio books. That was only for the long days when I would be walking roads that went in the same looking scenery. Like these semi natural forests, which there is more than enough in Southern Finland.

But I was bored for a very little time as there was always something new to encounter. Was it a deer walking in the forest or a butterfly that I was trying to figure out which species it was. Or a villager passing by with a bicycle and talking with me, asking questions about my travels. There was always a new kind of atmosphere and landscape after every turn on the roads. It never really got boring. Sometimes it was just nice to listen to music and feel the breeze on your face as I was walking alongside a lake. Sometimes I would just listen to what birds I would recognize were singing. (I didn’t recognize many, it would take a lifetime to know all the Northern European species singing in the early summer choir)

To walk every day tens of kilometres with a heavy backpack, it takes a lot of mental strengths. ‘Sisu’ as we would say in Finnish. Everyone who has climbed a mountain or been on a weeklong hike in a challenging terrain for example, knows what I’m talking about. You are just not quitting.

Now for the physical endurance, obviously training is essential. I did try to get as fit as possible before the hike. But the most important part is just to take care of yourself. I did rest properly and avoided taking risks like climbing cliffs with heavy backpack.

Only thing I didn’t do during the first days of the hike was stretching properly. That I got to know after about a week. My right knee was hurting really bad. I tried to massage it. Didn’t work. It was only after I started stretching properly every morning and evening, that the pain was gone. I might have been pushing myself too much the first days of the hike. I was so eager to just go.

I also have to say that nutrition is very important. Your body needs so much energy while hiking. Lots of carbs and good fats. Good fats are also essential for the joints. I also picked some wild herbs for my lunches and dinners like fireweed and nettles. I’m pretty sure that they helped for the pain in the joints also. Later in the summertime there would be a source of vitamins in all the forests as the berries would grow.

So, naturally, the nature would be my chemist and nutritionist along the way!

Well rested day in Hämeenlinna and the adventure continued! The Häme region has always been the gateway to inland Finland. The lake country starts here. Lakes continue as far as the eye can see. You can hike up to hills that cut this landscape. It’s a maze of swamps, lakes, forests and rivers.

This area has lots of history with its castles, iron-age fort hills, churches, old towns and holy places in the nature. Like sacred groves for example. I was to visit few of these old sacred places, but further inland, as I had already visited in many places around Hämeenlinna before. There was lot of other interesting places to come, and I had planned my route so that I could visit as many new places as possible before winter.

My next destination was to hike to Evo-region. This hiking area is very popular combination of trails and camp sites. Not a national park, but a huge area consisting many little pieces of conservation areas. Here you can find animals like beavers, moose and flying squirrels. You can also find some of the oldest forests in southern Finland. These age old forests are in my opinion the most interesting of all places. There is just a different kind of feeling in them.

I didn’t see any beavers, moose or flying squirrels. But I did see a lot of beaver damns, lodges and other signs. I also started to see more of the ordinary species like common goldeneye and other water birds, frogs, squirrels, rabbits and hawks. The kind of animals you usually see and hear in Finnish forest.

First month of the summer is usually rainy. This year it seemed like the rain poured all at once, at the beginning of July. I was walking on the tracks of Evo and got a bit lost. Downpour, lots of water everywhere. There was a beaver dam and the trail went besides it. I somehow passed it and instead went next to a creek that was about 3 meters wide. Two birch branches crossed the stream. Of course, I had to try and walk to the other side. Rain, slippery surface and heavy backpack was not a good combo. I was in the creek to the waist.

Fortunately I had covered my phone in my pocket so it didn’t get wet. Be sure to always wear a waterproof case for your phone if you are hiking! For me the phone was extra important because of the maps in it.

Also, another rule if you get wet: always have dry clothes in a dry bag. And don’t worry, the next fire place is usually not far away. I changed my clothes and shoes (Yea I had two of them) in this lean-to shelter and ate some chocolate. Dry clothes, shelter and food, that is the only thing what we really need.

The lake country

From Evo, it’s not a long way to lake Päijänne. This is the second largest lake in Finland. I remember camping at the shores of the lake, after a long day of hiking from Evo. There was again, white-tailed deer. Actually two of them, chasing each other at the beach. It was a nice summer night, and I was thrilled that I got there. Big lakes have unique atmosphere. You could easily travel through half of the country just by using waterways! Now, thinking back into it, I should’ve definitely do a kayak or boat section of this journey at the lake country. So if you happen to be in the lake country of Finland in the summertime, hire a water vessel of your style and explore.

My plan was to just use the roads and various paths that go in the forests. The problem was though, that this area is full of people’s summer cottages and houses. The lake country is sometimes referred as the ‘cottage country’. I mean, there is half a million leisure homes in Finland! One for every five people. Every family has one, or everyone knows someone who has a second home somewhere outside cities.

Anyhow, Päijänne has a national park. It’s mostly islands, but there is a ridge going through the other side of the lake. I walked along it to the other side and beyond, towards Central Finland and Savo.

Here I had to walk little while by the roadway. Then back to the endless little country roads that go crisscross everywhere. Finland has definitely been efficient in using its forests. That is why these little roads go everywhere. They are also one reason that there is no big forest fires: these little roads cut the fire and make lot of places easy to access and put out the fire.

I continued to Kammiovuori in Sysmä. This hill was the highest point of lake Päijänne. The view was just amazing. I remember having morning coffee on top of the hill, pine tree forests as far as the eye can see, clear blue sky reflecting on hundreds of lakes. Common loon doing it’s call somewhere on the lakes, the sound echoing between the hills.

I didn’t have to travel many days when I was in another view point to the lakes. Neitvuori. This was middle of lake Saimaa, the biggest lake in Finland.

There was not really any good routes to hike in the lake country. There is few other national parks here but they are better to be visited by kayak or canoe. I was focusing on the small conservation areas or old sacred hills where I could see the view. These hills usually had interesting history too, as they’ve been used as a sacrificial sites or hillforts. This one, Neitvuori, was known to be used as a deer hunting spot. People would surround packs of deer towards the top of the hill and the deer would get stuck on the cliffs or drop. This hunting style made these kinds of hills very important.

If the rock or cliff had some kind of shape of an animal or human, it would be a sacred place. Sometimes just the location would made a specific place important. One of these was Sulkava hillfort. Finland has hundreds of pre-history fort hills. These places are usually protected by the law or have been hard to access during times, so they tend to have more diverse nature!

I was now in Savo region. People seemed little bit easy going then in the busy south. Beautiful landscapes opened up after every little hill as I was walking the countryside. A lot of cows around here. Every now and then I would walk pass a dairy farm. Then another lake and another farm, between of them, forests of course.

It was a nice and sunny after the beginning of July rain. Butterflies were everywhere alongside these country roads. Flowers and wild herbs almost at the peak of growing season, giving life to every little living thing flying around them. For me as well, as I sometimes picked a dandelion or some fireweed to spice up my lunches. Fireweed by the way, is ‘Maitohorsma’ in Finnish in which the first word ‘maito’ means milk. The name comes from a belief that it increases cow’s milk production. Because of this feature, it is preferably added to the cattle feed. Finnish milk products are said to be really good quality!

Moving on. I left the cows and continued towards east. There was one more town before I would go the region of Karelia. Savonlinna. This place is definitely worth visiting. It’s like the lake country packed in one little town! Surrounded by the lakes from all directions, this town has a medieval castle and an old town, and of course Tori – a really good market (where I ate so much it was hard to continue my journey).

July continued with pretty nice weather, even some super hot days. Luckily I was in the lake country, where I could go swimming every day. I didn’t encounter a lot of other hikers or even animals during this time. Didn’t get to see the Saimaa ringed seal – species that only lives around here.

Like I stated before, this area is should’ve been explored by waterways. There is also inland water cruises during summer if you don’t want to navigate through the lake maze by yourself.

So if you like water, beaches, castles, history and nature – lake country Finland is the place to be in summer!

After Savonlinna, I continued my hike towards the eastern part of the country. 

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

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

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

What you need:

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

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

You need also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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