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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

Photo: Jussi Judin / Retkipaikka

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

Photo: Terhi Ilosaari / Retkipaikka

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/

Photo: Jussi Judin / Retkipaikka

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/

Photo: Antti Huttunen / Retkipaikka

Need more ideas?

If you can’t decide which destination to choose, you can search for more inspiration from VisitKarelia’s website.

Make sure to also check our Koli National Park page and also Metsähallitus’ information pages on Koli before heading out on an excursion!

Article by Terhi Ilosaari and Jonna Saari, Translation: Becky Hastings

In commercial cooperation with VisitKarelia

Article by Terhi Ilosaari

You turn onto a path that can barely be distinguished from the terrain, leading you into a mystical old forest. Your ride carries you up high, above the scratchy brushwood. You admire the dark scent of autumn, while your horse bows his head to fumble for hay. You marvel at the effortlessly rambling animal as well as the landscape all around you. Somewhere in the distance you can already see a sandy beach and a lean-to, waiting for you to take a break. You’re no stranger to hiking, but taking in the outdoors on horseback is a completely new experience for you.

In Finland, North Karelia is famous for its national landscape seen from Koli, Karelian hospitality, many different varieties of pies and the lyrical Eastern dialect. However, many would be surprised at the number of stables that warmly welcome new riders. If you’ve always thought that riding on horseback in the forest requires many years of practice and circling around a paddock for hours on end, you’ll be pleased to hear that’s not the case! We have listed seven horse riding stables in the North Karelia area, all of which offer forest rides for beginners as well as multi-day horse treks for the more experienced. Most of the stables work together and also offer nights in each other’s cosy lodgings.

1. ElämysMantsi, Ilomantsi

In Finland’s easternmost municipality of Ilomantsi, there is an idyllic country farm whose horses are members of one big farm family including dogs, cats, sheep, rabbits and hens, all living happily alongside one other.

Potential visitors would be pleased to know that most of this stable’s trips are off-road. Relaxed cross country lessons are not merely adapted for, but actually designed for novice riders. Experienced horsemen and women can take part in longer excursions, which may involve spending the night in the woods and riding on the shores of Lake Koitere with its hundred islands, while glancing over at Patvinsuo National Park across the water.

ElamysMantsi.fi

2. Kuivala Icelandic Horse Stables (Kuivalan islanninhevostalli), Vuonislahti

On one of Kuivala Stables’ trips, on the shores of Pielinen

You can already sense how well looked after the farm is when entering the courtyard. This radiates from the main building, which dates back to the 19th century, as well as the dappled chickens and nine Icelandic horses.

All excursions from Kuivala farm venture into the countryside, often wandering up to the shores of Lake Pielinen, which are part of the national landscape. Riders going on these trips are required not only to have mastered the basics of riding but must also know how to respect the surrounding nature.

Those without a car or horse will be pleased to know that you can also get to Kuivala farm by train.

Kuivala.fi

3. Kiies Farm (Kiieksen tila), Nurmes

Rabbits, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, pigs, cows, ponies and, of course, horses, can all be found frolicking on Kiies farm. Finnish horses lead treks on forest trails, in impressive wooded fell landscapes. While the elevation changes might not be daunting for the experienced rider, they do make these trips unsuitable for first-timers.

Experienced riders also have a chance to trot briskly and gallop in certain sections if they so wish. Only two riders are taken on a tour at a time – what could be more luxurious than that!

Kiies Farm on Facebook

4. Paimentupa, Koli

With Koli’s Paimentupa, even first-time riders get to go on a cross country trip. And this is not just any trip, but one that takes place in one of our most stunning national parks. It follows the Kaski trail and goes through the home turf of the Eastern Finncattle. Antti Huttunen of Retkipaikka wrote about his Paimentupa trip:

“The horses found a solid foothold for every step. It was great to witness the precise work of these noble animals. On the way back, further away from the national park, we stopped by another highlight of the trail. We had come to a place where there really was magic: a spruce forest that seemed to be from a fairytale. Spread out at the foot of the handsome young trees was a glowing carpet of moss. A few blueberry sprigs and some May lilies poked out, but otherwise the moss mat continued through the whole forest”.

Paimentupa.fi/en/

5. Heiskalan Hoppala, Liperi

Gustur, Ófeigur, Gaefa, Raudskjona, Nattfari, Teitur aka Töltti-Teppo and many other maned charmers take their riders on trips lasting up to several nights. On Hoppala’s trips, nature is savoured with all the senses, focusing on holistic well-being. Groups are organised by terrain type and rider ability, so riders of all levels can enjoy the experience of touring. After dismounting from our saddles, our rumbling stomachs were quietened with campfire delicacies prepared by our guide and our minds were soothed with forest mindfulness exercises. On treks, riders spend the night in an army tent while the horses rest in temporary fencing.

What if the whole family wants to go on a riding trip? With Heiskala’s Hoppala, a group can also ride off-road, with one on the back of a Finnish horse, another on a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh, and a third person on the back of a gentle Icelandic horse.

Heiskalanhoppala.fi

6. Teija’s lodgings and countryside stables (Teijan Talli)

During the autumn at Teija’s Stables, you can observe signs of the season changing: flocks of migratory birds and wonderful shades of autumn, from the back of a horse on a real western saddle. In winter, glistening snow and the silence of the forest paths embrace the rider, snow crunches rhythmically under hooves in the background.

The stables are home to gentle and sure-footed Finnish and Norwegian fjord horses, who have been trained primarily for cross country riding. An alternative to a forest trip is the stables’ Refresh & Empower programme – focused training for those who want to practice mindfulness and interaction with horses, in the surroundings of nature.

Teijanmajoitusjamaastotalli.com

7. Hepovaara Wellness Farm (Hepovaaran hyvinvointitila), Kitee

Mira of Hepovaara Wellness Farm
You can also meet a mini pig at Hepovaara’s Wellness Farm

The people and animals of Hepovaara Wellness Farm are living examples of their own values: presence, stillness and well-being. In addition to field lessons for beginners and more demanding treks for the experienced, you can also come to the farm to get over a fear of horses. Most importantly, the treks allow you to enjoy nature and interaction with Icelandic horses.

Hepovaara.com/en/

Have you already decided on your dream tour?

Tips for your dream trip to North Karelia

Do you dream of adventuring in the rugged nature of Eastern Finland, with its landscape full of contrasts, while spending nights in cosy guesthouses? Koli’s sculptural snowy trees, Pielinen’s majestic waves, the shimmering autumn colors of Ruunaa and peaceful hiking trails in the wilderness are all waiting for you. You can also find inspiration for your trip on VisitKarelia’s website!

See also

The Guesthouse to Guesthouse tour is a full service cross-country ski tour in North Karelia

The Photographic Playground of North Karelia – Outokumpu

Koli National Park

Translation by Becky Hastings

The Mighty Koli has been regarded as a sacred area in which the mighty spirits lived. As the area was feared for its powerful spirits, it was inhabited only in the mid 18th century, almost two hundred years later than the surrounding areas. The landscapes in the area are unmatched and thus impressed upon numerous hikers. The Tourist attraction of the area aroused in the late 19th century. It seems that the tradition where a coin will be dropped into an ancient sacrificial crack was also originated around that time.

On the slopes of Koli you will find the longest valley in Finland, ten other famous caves, waterfalls, devils, boulders and a ridge running in the lake of Pielinen, which is visible on the northern side of the lake in form of line of beautiful narrow islands. So, theretrail‘s sights and adventures for a long time.

Arrival and stay

In order to enjoy the best Koli has to offer, you should book a cottage. There is nothing better than relax on a soft bed after full day of adventures.

Find and book your cabin from Koli >>

The closest Bus stop locates in 9 km from Koli. However, it is easy to get to Koli with your own car or by carpooling.

First time at Koli?

For the first time visitors an absolute must-see is the iconic scenery from the top of Ukko-Koli. It is only 0.8 km hike to the top, and the nearby observation deck can also be accessed with the prams. However, Koli National Park offers a lot more. You can hike the Herajärvi Round, which is 30 or 60 kilometers depending on your preferences. The National Park is full of trail options for both in summer and winter.

  • Route to Ukko- and Akka-Koli both takes only 0.8km in one direction. Both trails starts from the Nature Center are partially accessible with prams.
  • Paha-Koli 1.2km in one direction
  • Top tour is a 1.4km long circle trail. An easy-going classical trail in Koli’s most iconic scenery. Starts from the Visitor Center.
  • Kolinuurros is 3.5 km long circle trail. A Demanding but a spectacular trail with high altitudes.

Explore Koli in winter

  • Trail of the Koli peaks are 3 and 7 km circle ski trails in winter scenery.
  • Snow-Shoeing: The snowshoe route of the highest point, 1.5 km, runs with the peaks of Ukko, Akka and Paha-Koli.
  • Walk: Trail to the top of Ukko-Koli is 400m and starts from the radiotower
  • Ski: Koli’s ski slopes are located near high peaks. Along with the slopes there are plenty of services for the traveler.
  • Snow mobile: The snowmobile route passes through Koli village to Pielinen, which continues to the Juuka, Nurmes, Lieksa and Joensuu. In the national park, snowmobiling is prohibited, including in the islands of the park.

Read more about Koli in English here.

People say that what you can see from the top of Ukko-Koli hill is the most famous view in Finland.

You can find this breathtaking place in the easternmost part of Finland, in Koli national park in Lieksa.

Many artists used to come here at the end of 1800’s and early 1900’s to immortalize this spectacular natural landscape. Nowadays widely known and highly esteemed Finnish artist Eero Järnefelt (1863–1937) spent a lot of time in Koli, wandering around and searching for new spots to sit down and create new paintings. And, boy, did he find them! He was a master to describe Koli’s surrounding by paints.

This is where Eero Järnefelt made a painting called Metsälampi (Forest pond).

Today tourists from all over the world come to visit Koli to see these places that are well-known from Järnefelt’s works. Yesterday’s art became today’s advertisement.

You can climb up Ukko-Koli hill, which is the most visited place in Koli. On the highest point you can admire Lake Pielinen right there under your nose. All those green islands and endless blue water under the blue sky and white clouds… That has to be the most Finnish view there is.

There is also an observation tower called Räsävaara nearby Koli village. If you dare to climb up, the view from up there is really stunning!

From the tower you are able to see all around Koli: the Koli hill queue, Lake Pielinen and other smaller lakes and ponds. I think that this really is Finland’s most beautiful national landscape!

MAP.

Read more about Koli here and Koli National Park here.

You don’t have to go all the way to Lapland to find beautiful winter landscapes. In North-Karelia you can find the most highest place of South-Finland. In the fell Koli you can find it’s peaks Ukko-Koli, Akka-Koli and Paha-Koli. People believe that these peaks got their name’s from powerful ancient gods.

You can use snowshoes or ski’s to get to the top of Koli. There is also a hotel and Koli National Park‘s nature center in the top. After hiking in the hills you can get a cup of coffee for example in the nature center Ukko’s cafeteria.

When the sky is clear, you can see lake Pielinen from the Koli hills. When the sky is misty, you just have to enjoy the magical spruce forests with snow and hard rime that accumulates on tree branches.

Old forests look magical in winter time. Village under the hills can be without snow on the trees, but when you climb up to the fell, usually you can find beautiful trees with snow and ice on them.

Finnish artists, photographers and nature-lovers have been inspired with this heritage landscape for centuries. Usually people say, that you should go to the Koli, when the sky is clear and sunny. I think you should definitely visit Koli in a foggy day also.

When almost everything is white, you start to realize, that it’s not really white. It’s blue, it’s purple, it’s orange and colors are changing sometimes really fast. Some camera’s go crazy and it’s difficult to capture the real color of the forests. But who know’s, what’s real and what’s unreal?

Some part’s of the trails are without winter maintenance, but usually paths are walked open by people, so you can even go walking there just with your winter shoes. Don’t hesitate to ask advice’s from nature center’s helpful workers.