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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. 

New service for Nuuksio National Park does all the brain work for you – follow the recommendations and enjoy the forest!

In cooperation with Nuuksioon.fi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Antti Huttunen

Best hiking trails in Finnish Lapland

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

Saana fell

Kilpisjärvi

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

Read more about Saana and other trails in the area

The summit of Saana

Pyhä-Nattanen

Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, Sodankylä

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

Read more about Pyhä-Nattanen

The summit of Pyhä-Nattanen

Isokuru gorge

Pyhä-Luosto national park, Pelkosenniemi

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

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

Read more about Isokuru

Isokuru gorge

Kivitunturi fell

Savukoski

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

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

Kivitunturi trail

Karhunkierros

Oulanka national park, Salla and Kuusamo

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

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

Read more about Karhunkierros (82 km)

Read more about Pieni Karhunkierros (12 km)

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

Hetta-Pallas trail

Pallas-Yllästunturi national park, Enontekiö and Muonio

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

Read more about Hetta-Pallas trail

View from the summit of Pallas fell

Ravadasköngäs waterfall

Lemmenjoki national park, Inari

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

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

Read more about Lemmenjoki national park and Ravadasköngäs

Ravadasköngäs waterfall. Photo: Antti Huttunen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Vuori-Kalaja trail at Southern Konnevesi National Park

Step into the winter wonderland: a winter walk in Southern Konnevesi National Park

Sometimes you just get an urge to get out of town, to go somewhere really quiet, with only few people around you. And if it’s winter time, what could be better than to be surrounded by the whitest snow, breathe the purest air and share the moment with a friend… So let’s go and visit one of our national parks!

There are 40 national parks in Finland; five of them are located in the province of Central Finland. To the south of Jyväskylä, there are Isojärvi National Park with its wooded hills and valleys, and Leivonmäki National Park with its easier marsh and esker terrain. The other three are north of Jyväskylä: about an hour’s drive takes you either to the old forests of Pyhä-Häkki or to the lakes and hills of Southern Konnevesi National Park, while the northernmost Salamajärvi National Park with its wild forest reindeer, pine woods and bogs adds another hour to the journey. All of these national parks are best reached with a car.

Our day trip destination was chosen based on my previous trips to Southern Konnevesi National Park: we would easily manage the trail to Vuori-Kalaja campfire shelter and back in a few hours, even with the limited daylight hours of late December. After parking our car at Törmälä we saw – to our delight – that there were already footprints on the snow-covered forest road towards the start of the Vuori-Kalaja trail.

Walking the Vuori-Kalaja trail in winter

There is no winter maintenance on the forest road so in this season be prepared to first walk 1.5 km from Törmälä to the (summer) parking area from where the Vuori-Kalaja trail begins.

I had packed two pairs of snowshoes in the car just in case, but the path trodden in the snow seemed easy enough to walk without them. We just added garters to protect our boots from snow and started following the narrow trail. The forest around us was simply magical.

Inspecting trail information at Vuori-Kalaja

After inspecting the trail information at Kalaja parking area we stepped onto the Vuori-Kalaja trail. From this spot it is only 900 meters’ walk to Vuori-Kalaja lean-to and campfire site.

Winter wonderland: snowy forest

That’s when we really felt like stepping into the winter wonderland! The snow covered birches, alders and firs all around us were simply amazing. Nature’s own sculptures!

Vuori-Kalaja lean-to in winter

Once we’d arrived at Vuori-Kalaja campfire shelter our first task was to make a fire and luckily, there was plenty of dry firewood available. Oh, where are my matches? There!

Campfire at Vuori-Kalaja shelter

A campfire is always a treat, but especially on a winter trip.

After the fire was happily burning, I stepped to the shore of the frozen lake and admired the snowy view: Kalajanvuori (Kalaja hill).

Kalajanvuori hill, Vuori-Kalaja

The snowy, steep cliffs on the opposite shore of lake Vuori-Kalaja were impressive in their almost black and white glory. There is something special about a winter landscape that lacks all the vivid colors of the other seasons: a certain serenity. Everything stands still, all is calm.

As the winter had until now been fairly mild, I knew that it wouldn’t be safe to step on the ice and walk across the lake to the cliffs (the ice just wasn’t solid enough yet) so it was better to stay on land rather than risk it. Time to take out the thermos flasks, sandwiches, and did someone mention a slice of cake?

Coffee break at Vuori-Kalaja shelter

We were already sipping our cups of tea and coffee and digging into the cake when we heard voices from behind the shelter.

Three young men with big backpacks arrived and sat down for a bit of rest before heading back to their car. The brave trio had spent a night sleeping outdoors at another campfire site in the national park. Wow! Yes, you can go hiking in the woods also in wintertime if you’ve got the right gear – but for some of us, just a day trip is quite enough…

Walking in the winter wonderland at Southern Konnevesi National Park

However, soon it was time to head back to the car and return to city lights, and enjoy the last minutes of winter magic in daylight before the drive home.

Hiker at Southern Konnevesi National Park, Central Finland. Photo:Upe Nykanen

The dusk was already beginning to fall when we met the next winter walker, a young hiker with impressive looking gear, carrying also a pair of snowshoes. Just in case – to allow him to walk where there was no trail! The serious hikers were going to the woods while we city girls were leaving…

I wonder if we should try winter camping next time?

Directions: how to get to Southern Konnevesi National Park

Map to Törmälä parking area | ETRS-TM35FIN -coordinates  N=6941195.000, E=485582.000
Google Maps: Konnekoskentie 552, Rautalampi

Map, lean-to shelter at Vuori-Kalaja

This article has been previously published at visitcentralfinland.com.

Raven’s Tour (Korpinkierros) Wilderness Trail in Nuuksio National Park, Espoo

➡️ 8 km
🕒 2-3 h
⚫⚫⚪ Moderate
🔥 Campfire sites and cooking shelter
The route is marked with yellow markings on the trees, and the trail has signposts.

Korpinkierros, The “Raven’s Tour”, is a circular wilderness trail in the Nuuksio National Park. The trail is the most popular circular trail in Nuuksio. If you have only two hours time for Nuuksio, this route is what we highly recommend.  An eight-kilometer loop starts at the Haukanpesä information center, at Haukkalampi witch is easy to find and only 30 kilometres from the centre of Helsinki.

Korpinkierros | Nuuksio, Finland

The start of the trail passes through moss-covered terrain under spruce trees. As you approach Lake Mustalampi where you can see the turf floats on the pond, among other things. There is also the campfire site on the hill.

Korpinkierros | Nuuksio, Finland

After Lake Mustalampi, the trail rises on the Rajakallio hill and continues to vary, travelling through the forest. Next campfire sites at Lake Holma-Saarijärvi, one on an island, and another on the other right next to the shore on the other side of the lake.

Korpinkierros | Nuuksio, Finland

It takes a bit over two hours to walk the trail withtime to have occasional stops for the scenery. The untouched nature of the national park is the best part of the experience.A peaceful environment is good for hiking, not too difficult but slightly challenging. It’s also possible to walk only half the route if entering and exiting Nuuksio with different buses.

Korpinkierros | Nuuksio, Finland

Suitability

The trail is ideal for those looking for slightly challenging route with best views. There are a few short challenging sections on the trail: relatively steep hills and varying surface. Most of the trail goes over gently rising rocks and  duckboards, which both can be slippery to walk when wet. There are some wet spots on the trail but most of times it is possible to use normal light footwear on the trail.

How to get there?
Haukkalammentie 29
02820 Espoo
N60 18.581 E24 31.017

It is located only 30 km from the center of Helsinki. First take train line U from Helsinki Center Railway Station and go to the Espoo Center, Espoon keskus railway station. The train take about 32 minutes. From Espoon keskus take the bus number 245A, it will take you to the Nuuksio.

Different moods of Pyhä-Luosto National Park

One of my favourite places in the world is Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Fells are all that is left of ancient mountains. Although Pyhä-Luosto is a skiresort with extensive winter activities, I think the most magical time to visit this park is Summer or Autumn. Here are a few pictures that I have taken over the years.

Snow blowers working.

Autumn is the time of mystics. Fog and bright colors are great reasons to spend a few days in Pyhä-Luosto.

Sometimes the light almost gets through

Beautiful fall colours and Pyhänkasteenputous waterfall

Silently waiting

On the other hand in the summer there is light 24 hours a day. Lapland’s summer is swift but bright. Make sure you are not visiting Lapland during “räkkä” a.k.a. the worst mosquito time. End of July and August are great for hiking and mosquitos won’t bother you too much.

Between fells there is a paradise

Uhriharju lookout during summer

Midnight view on top of Pyhätunturi fell

Moonlight reveals foggy terrain

Of course in Lapland you will run into reindeer. Some times the clouds are so low that the only clear place is on top of the fells.

The Alfa and the herd

Above the clouds

Midnight sun, as they call it, is the opposite of polar night. Basically summer is light and winter is dark. Very dark and cold. There are sunlight only for a few hours a day, maybe not even that.

Sunset turning to sunrise

Ancient mountains have been swiped away by ice ages and erosion. This is what is left of the majestic mountains.

Old stones

Mystical autumn

Isokuru gorge during summer

 

Enter The Land Of Melancholic Beauty

Perhaps not as striking and immediate as the Alps, nor as intimidating as the gorges of Norway, Finland can definitely be a strange beast to fathom, but there is great beauty here, beauty that is not found anywhere else on the planet.

In fact, besides those famous Lapland photos of aurora borealis and snow bent pines, small cottages and midsummer nights, it might appear to you that Finland is nothing but an endless stretch of mottled blues and greens. And while it’s true, it’s also so much more: It’s all about the details, and less about the scale. It is the silence, the sudden rush of leaves, the seasonal shift, the whole enthralling ambiance of the north.

A moment of stillness just before the sun takes the plunge.

While other countries often give me this continuous feeling of awe, bombarding my senses with towering mountains, quaint seaside vistas or gently rolling hills, nothing can really beat the magic of the moment I’ve felt herein. It’s a feeling hard to describe, with seemingly melancholy surroundings of little remark. It’s one of those deeply personal experiences everyone must figure out for themselves.

“Surely we have leagues upon leagues of lonely woods and scores of glimmering rural lakes, but to truly feel the magic – you only need to pick out any neck of the woods and let yourself be spellbound.”

Now, you might say that I’m perhaps a little bit biased, that everyone thinks just so about their country, but bear with me here. Although I have a great sense of home, my true country is nature, unhindered and unconfined by any border.

Imagine yourself somewhere there by the rocky coast, under those shadowy trees, enjoying the purity and silence.

For me the most memorable moments are those of discovery after a long day’s hike when you find that perfect spot in the wilderness. Be it in a dark wood by the deep green stream, or a solitary free-for-all cabin in the midst of winter. The peace that follows. The campfire by which you might find yourself contemplating the simple fact of being alive, or just warm yourself with the kuksa full of coffee.

Wilderness huts such as this one are scattered all around Finland for anyone to use as a temporary shelter.

Come summer and those mornings when you wake up to a concerto of early birds and the misty light of dawn. There is something ancient and shamanistic about it really, some deeper unconscious connection between the man and the wild, so often lost in this time and age.

What do you think? Why not come and explore it for yourself. The arboreal land of bear, elk and deer welcomes you!

Reindeers, while keeping their distance, are often quite curious about the wandering folk.

A stormfront chasing across the marsh with thunder in its wake.

Finland is all about stark contrasts and attraction of the opposites.

Amidst all those browns and greens, it’s spectacular to see a heather in bloom against the morning rise.

These 7 summits in Finland are easy to reach and will take your breath away!

Climbing on top of a fell is something you’ll never forget. Physically it can feel exhausting – prepare to sweat. However, with each step you’ll notice that the view behind your back is getting more and more amazing. When finally on top, you can not believe how beautiful the view is.

Here are my personal favorites that are relatively easy to reach and their beauty is mind boggling.

Saana, Kilpisjärvi

Saana is one of the most legendary fells in Finland. To get to the top you’ll have to hike about 4 kilometers back and forth, including Finland’s longest stairs. The view on the top is spectacular – and so is the cold wind. At the feet of Saana you’ll find Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre and for example a hotel and some restaurants. Read more in English here. MAP.

On top of Saana

Pyhä-Nattanen, Sodankylä

This is an ancient holy place of the sámi people who are the only indigenous people in the European Union. On top of Pyhä-Nattanen there are strange rock formations called “Tors” named after the Scandinavian god of thunder Thor. To get there you need to hike a 7 km circle trail. Pyhä-Nattanen is in the Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, which means that you have to stay on the official trail at all times. Read more in English here. MAP.

Tors on top of Pyhä-Nattanen

Olos, Muonio

Olos is a cute little fell near to the Swedish border. It is a ski resort with hotels and restaurants and stuff, but you can still experience the serenity of the Finnish nature when hiking on top of Olos. The hike to the top is not long: only about 1,5 kilometers from the hotel. I recommend wearing snowshoes in winter! Read more in English here. MAP.

On top of Olos. Levi fell is in the horizon.

Pallas, Muonio

Oh my, the Pallas fells will surely steal your heart. In the beautiful national park of Pallas-Yllästunturi, the round summits of Pallas are one of the most popular place to visit. To get to the top I recommend that you hike the 9-kilometer-long circle trail called Taivaskeron kierros. At the feet of Pallas you’ll find a hotel and a visitor centre. Read more in English here. MAP.

If you love reindeer, Pallas is the place for you.

Oratunturi, Sodankylä

When driving from Kemijärvi to Sodankylä or vice versa, Oratunturi is a must see. With only a 2 km hike you’ll reach the top of this quite underestimated fell. The trail is well marked with red, wooden crosses (it’s actually a snowmobile trail). The view from the top is unreal! You’ll also find a lean-to shelter with firewood and everything next to the top. To find out more contact the Sodankylä Tourist InformationMAP.

View from the top of Oratunturi fell.

Luosto, Sodankylä

The Pyhä-Luosto national park is very easy to reach and has lots to offer. In winter this place is amazing for snowshoeing and aurora watching. The hike to the top of Ukko-Luosto is about 2 km long. When visiting Luosto, check out this beautiful little café with no electricity or running water: Torvisen maja. Read more about Pyhä-Luosto national park in English here. MAP.

View from the top of Ukko-Luosto. Pyhä fell is in the horizon.

Levi, Kittilä

And finally, if you’re not into hiking but still wanna see some breathtaking views, there’s always Levi waiting for you. On top of Levi there’s a parking lot and even a café. It is not common in Finland that a road leads to a top of a fell, but Levi is an exception. This place is a very popular ski resort, so be prepared for lots of tourists especially in winter. In the feet of Levi there is a village with many kinds of tourist attractions such as snowmobile safaris, hotels, restaurants and so on. There’s even a cabin lift that will take you to the top if you don’t have a car! Read more about Levi here. MAP.

Polar night on top of Levi fell. Pallas is in the horizon.

Please remember that weather can change very quickly in Lapland. Also, the trails to the tops of the fells can be very steep and rocky. Always make sure that you have proper hiking shoes and hiking clothes and a map before you go for a hike – even if the hike is going to be a short one. If you don’t know what you should wear, contact the local tourist information and tell them where you’re heading to ask for their advice.

Julma Ölkky’s (Cruel Canyon) rugged ring route, Ölökyn Ähkäsy

I scanned the Ölokyn Ähkäsy (this roughly translates as the Canyon Groan in local dialect) ring route on the map. It didn’t look too bad, only around 10 kilometres long. However, when I asked about the route at Hossa’s visitor centre and talked to people who had done it, all of them warned me that it was extremely tough and demanding. I needed to set aside at least 5-6 hours. Apparently there are great changes in elevation and lots of rocks and roots.

But I was willing to take on the challenge. I put on my hiking boots and backpack. In my backpack I had packed the minimum amount of gear: a camera with acouple of lenses, a couple of sausages, a sandwich and 2 bottles of water. It’s important to be careful on the route, as your mobile phone won’t pick up any signal apart from at the highest points.

As the crow flies, it’s about 5 kilometres along Ölökyn Ähkäsy to the Ölkynperä (Canyon rear) lean-to and back. Just by looking at the map you can tell that the views are going to be rugged and spectacular. After all, we are at  Julma Ölkky (Cruel Canyon), one of Finland’s three largest canyon lakes born of a large crack in the land. The others two are Iso Helvetinjärvi (Big Hell’s Lake) and the Toriseva canyon lakes in Virrat.

History and geology

The birth of the gorge took place more than 2 billion years ago. The canyon is a rift valley, which is caused by earthquakes or transitions in the ancient continents. Later the ice age honed the rift, but the traces are clearly visible on the vertical wall that towers almost 50 metres out of the lake. The canyon already looks quite impressive when viewing it on Google Earth.

The Toriseva canyon lakes and Helvetinkolu in Helvetinjärvi (Hell’s Lake) National Park were formed in the same way. This canyon formation process is however completely different to that of Oulanka’s canyon, where water and ice have carved the gorge from the bedrock.

Route

The trail starts from Julma Ölkky’s parking place, which is around a 20 minute drive from Hossa’s visitor centre. It must be said,  the road was not in the best condition. A little Fiat will hit its undercarriage, if you don’t drive carefully.

At the starting point there is a summer cafe, which had just gone into hibernation. It’s open until 31.8. When it’s open, you can explore Julma Ölkky on a guided boat tour.

I approached the circuit following the signposts, which take you counter-clockwise along a route marked with orange dots. I chose 10am as my departure time, as the sun was shining appropriately from the east, its light hitting the west shore. The canyon’s orientation is pretty much north to south for the whole length, which meant that for the final part of the journey the sun would be shining from the west and lighting up the canyon walls on the eastern shore.

Already half a mile in, the scenery was reminiscent of a fantasy film. I felt like calling Hollywood and asking them to come here and film a remake of Lord of the Rings.

On the outward journey, the path runs right along the edge of the rocks, so I ended up having to stop repeatedly to take pictures of scenes that were even more  impressive than the last. What a nuisance.

However, those with vertigo need not worry. You don’t have to go so close to the edge if you don’t want to. Just as I thought I had reached the best spot, a more spectacular view opened out before me a few minutes along. Every now and then I heard the sound of a waterfall. A number of waterfalls formed from streams flow out from the canyon walls and from some of them you can see rainbow colours in the evening sun.

Those who like climbing can scramble up the cavity called the Devil’s church, where you can find a guest book. This time I left the Devil in peace and continued my journey.

Approximately halfway to the lean-to, the canyon splits into two parts. The lake continues along the western gorge and the eastern depression, Sitkansola, is essentially swamp. The scenery certainly didn’t get any worse.

Finally I reached the lean-to at Ölkynperä, where I met 3 sausage barbecuers. I told them about Värikallio (Colour Rock), a few kilometres away, where you can see amazing rock paintings from thousands of years back. Together we agreed that you can find everything in Hossa, and that it had most definitely earned its new status as a National Park in honour of Finland’s 100th Year of independence.

After this, no more people crossed my path.

On the way back the terrain is more forested and some of it is quite far from the rock’s edge. It was this proportion that was full of steep climbs and descents. However, in a few places, I came across a viewing point. Julma Ölkky’s own ancient rock paintings are near the water’s edge, but they can be better seen by boat.

Summary

The Ölökyn Ähkäsy route is indeed challenging, but I still wouldn’t say that it’s a bad route, as long as you are in possession of good basic health and your legs function properly. I completed the trip with a few photos and breaks in a total of 4 hours, walking on my own. With a group, it would probably take 5-6 hours. And if you go the gym, it might be a good idea to do some extra squats!

I recommend wearing hiking boots to protect your ankles, but in good dry weather you will probably be fine in trainers. Doing the trek in autumn, I had to cross a few swampy areas that were a couple of metres wide, which would have meant my socks getting wet if I wasn’t wearing proper hiking boots.

I don’t recommend the route for children, unless they have a lot of hiking experience. Even my 67 year old father stayed behind at the cottage making food. Although this wasn’t due to his age, rather the knee surgery that he had a couple of months ago.

Making the most of digitalisation, I saved my route onto my mobile and in reality it works out at around 12km, with changes in elevation on top of that. From a scenery freak’s point of view, I must say that it’s an impressive canyon and totally underrated.

Perhaps when it becomes a National Park, awareness of this amazing place will grow. Even though more publicity does of course mean more use, which carries its own risks, it is still the kind of place where all Finns should be encouraged to come and marvel at their own natural wonders instead of jetting off to Gran Canaria. Lapland is of course Lapland, but you don’t always need to disappear beyond the arctic circle to see something unique. Highly recommended!

Map to Julma Ölkky’s car park | ETRS-TM35FIN -coordinates NLat 7270314 ELon 607372

GoogleMaps: Julma-ölkyntie 82, Kuusamo

Map to the lean-to at Ölkynperä

This article was executed in cooperation with the municipality of Suomussalmi. The author stayed at Camping Hossan Lumo during the trip.