In commercial cooperation with VisitKarelia
Situated in Eastern Finland, the national landscape of Koli with its mystical hills has attracted travellers for millenia. Visitors mainly come to admire the three most distinctive summits: Ukko-Koli, Akka-Koli and Paha-Koli, from which open out breathtaking views over one of Finland’s largest lakes, Pielinen. But how many have truly explored the area, probed the deepest caves and climbed the highest lookouts? Below are 6 hiking tips for those who want to get to know the region more deeply and intimately.
1. Räsävaara observation tower – climb above the treetops
“The information sign says that a great Finnish master once painted in this spot. When you move your gaze beyond the sign, you understand why. I would have painted too if I had been him. ”
From the Räsävaara Tower, which rises more than 300 meters above sea level, you can marvel at the panoramic view. The summit of Ukko-Koli can be seen in the southeast and Paalasmaa, the highest island of Finland’s inland waters, in the northwest. The deeply Finnish soul landscape is everywhere: endless forests in different shades of green, shimmering blue water and hills that, in the distance, look hazy blue.
Read more: nationalparks.fi/kolinp/sights
2. Koli’s Devil’s Church – Do you dare to ask the devil a question?
What unites the famous Finnish painter of the Golden Age, Eero Järnefelt and the devil? Both are connected to Koli’s Pirunkirkko, otherwise known as the Devil’s Church. The Devil’s Church is a cave hidden in the woods on the shore of Lake Pielinen, which demands a little daring from its visitors. There are many places in Finland that share the same name, but of all the Devil’s Churches, this is probably the most famous. Access to the cave requires diving into a narrow rock cavity. The place has an eerie atmosphere as do the stories surrounding it. It is said that he who dares to peek into the darkness corners of the cave can have a conversation with the devil himself.
Read more: nationalparks.fi/kolinp/sights
3. Kolvananuuro – a harsh reminder of the ice age in the form of a gorge
A challenging, rocky hike with big changes in elevation best describes the five kilometre circular route of the Kolvananuuro gorge. However, the demanding nature of the Murroslaakso trail is likely to be forgotten while admiring the rugged slopes and unique vegetation. The route is marked by orange circles and there is also a campfire spot on the way, so make sure to bring a snack.
See photos: Retkipaikka.fi/Kolvananuuro
Read more: viakarelia.fi/kolvananuuro-nature-reserve/
4. Kolinuuro – an unforgettable lesson in Finland’s geological history
On the 3.5 kilometre circular route that starts from the yard of Koli’s Nature Centre, Ukko, you can find geological wonders which are more than half as old as the earth itself. Did you know that in the landscapes of Koli you can see traces of ancient deserts, glaciers, oceans and mountain ranges? Here you are walking on soil that is the oldest in Finland and amongst the oldest in the world. Along the trail, you can admire the mystical candle spruces and landscapes from Paha- and Ukko-Koli as well as Pieni-Koli towards the mighty Lake Pielinen. The nature trail information boards are in Finnish, English and Russian.
See photos: Retkipaikka.fi/Kolinuuro
Read more: nationalparks.fi/kolinp/trails/
5. The Mined Gate – a gully that transports you into another world
“The place was dumbfounding. Hidden down below was a glimpse of paradise – a light green glow of moss and moist air. Just as you thought you had seen everything, something else came into view. ”
Porttilouhi, The Mined Gate, is a large gully that forms its own fantastical world in the middle of the forest, taking the visitor by surprise. At the bottom of the gully formed by two vertical rock walls are mossy rocks and a beautiful creek. According to stories, folk healers and witches practiced here. On a dim, or rainy day, this is especially easy to believe, for the atmosphere of the gorge becomes particularly intense and mysterious. If you’re not used to walking in the woods, you might want to ask someone local to join you as a guide.
The Mined Gate can be reached along the UKK hiking route. However, you can also drive close to the spot along forest roads.
Read more: juuka.fi/the-mined-gate/
6. Juua’s ‘Demon’s Churn’
The most enchanting aspect of the Devil’s Churn gorge, Pirunkirnu in Finnish, is the fairytale atmosphere of the old forest that surrounds it. After following an inviting forest path amongst spruces. the ground suddenly falls away into a chasm so deep that the tops of the trees growing at its bottom can’t reach over the edge. The gorge is decorated according to the forest lover’s taste: there are thick moss carpets, hanging decorations of beard-lichen and a vast amount of other vegetation tucked in between the sturdy rock walls. The air, atmosphere and soundscape at the bottom of the gorge are as if from another world. It is said that the whole Demon’s Churn is a place born of mystical forces. The terrain is demanding, so great care should be taken here. Going with a local guide is recommended, especially if you’re new to hiking.
Read more: juuka.fi/the-demons-churn/
Need more ideas?
If you can’t decide which destination to choose, you can search for more inspiration from VisitKarelia’s website.
Article by Terhi Ilosaari and Jonna Saari, Translation: Becky Hastings