Tag Archive for: paddling

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -hanke

In the end of August, we spent a week discovering the best of Salla, Savukoski, Pyhätunturi, Kemijärvi and Posio in Eastern Lapland, Finland. The end of summer couldn’t be a more perfect time – no mosquitoes and few tourists, just the peace and calm of the wilderness. Our program for the week included cycling and climbing, hiking in the fells with and without huskies, as well as horse riding and stand up paddleboarding. Our very first stop on arrival, however, was a paddling trip on a serene lake in the wilderness.  

It’s a long way to Lapland from the south of Finland: it can be over 1000 kilometres depending on the destination, and easily 12 hours of driving. That’s why taking the night train is so handy, with the additional option of taking your car onboard. We loaded our car onto the train at Pasila railway station in Helsinki and travelled through the night across the whole of Finland, up to Kemijärvi!

Pasila railway station, Helsinki

The evening was well spent watching the sun set from our cabin window, and as dusk set in we saw the brightly lit Häme Castle reflected on the surface of Vanajavesi lake. The cabin was compact, with two comfortable bunk beds and a small private lavatory. Ear plugs effectively blocked out any rattling noises from the train during the night, permitting a good night’s rest.

Our train journey ended in Kemijärvi, at a modest railway station. The air was crisp – the previous afternoon in Helsinki went up to 30 degrees Celcius, here it was 14 degrees. The railway station slowly filled with people clearly lacking their first morning coffee.

Kemijärvi railway station

After around half an hour we got our car out from the train carriage. Our first stop was in fact for coffee in Kemijärvi centre, before heading towards Salla!

It took no more than an hour to get from Kemijärvi to the base of Sallatunturi fell. On the way we checked the weather forecast, which promised cloudy skies that should clear up by the evening. The cotton clouds blanketing the sky were a calming sight on our way to Sallatunturin Tuvat, where we made camp for the first night. My friend, whose journey had started a few days ago, was overjoyed to be able to do laundry, while more than anything my appreciation was focused on the calming silence around us and the hut’s ambient interior.  We had a short rest after the drive to recharge for the evening’s adventure. 

After our break we quickly dropped by Kaunisharju lookout point, located just a few kilometres from Sallatunturi, along the road towards Kuusamo. The lookout point opens out to a fantastic view of Finland’s newest national park!

Kaunisharju lookout point, Salla national park

Our first scheduled activity for the evening started at Salla nature centre, with Timo from Salla Wilderness Park. Soon we were joined by a Dutch family of four, and the evening’s program could begin. After getting into Timo’s car, we cruised down a dirt road to the edge of a serene lake.

The road continued up the Northeast side of Hangasjärvi to an elegant high ridge with a beautiful view of the fells. Looking out at the landscape, we wondered as a group what our chances might be of seeing the northern lights if the sky would stay clear through the evening. My friend, and especially the Dutch, were thrilled by the idea.

It was a steep descent from the back of the ridge to the shore of Hangasjärvi. Timo gave us brief safety instructions and handed out life vests and paddles. It wasn’t long before everyone sat merrily in their canoes. 

Hangasjärvi is around three kilometres in length, an oblong but narrow and practically untouched lake very close to Sallatunturi. The water’s surface was wonderfully smooth, perfectly reflecting the forest landscape throughout the evening. You could almost touch the silvered pine and gently rising mounds of fuzzy marshland. 

Paddling felt safe and pleasant, not at all difficult, even though I’ve truly only paddled before in my youth. The canoe was comfortingly stable and relaxing. The bow murmured soothingly as it broke the water’s surface ahead of us. It felt as if time stood still in the silent night air, only broken by the occasional hushed conversation between paddlers and the clopping hooves of reindeer in the nearby forest.

The setting sun painted the few clouds left in the sky gentle purple and orange hues. Aptly named the sunset paddle tour, it couldn’t have been timed better. We paddled toward the southeast end of the lake, passing through a narrow strait where we were briefly immersed in the dense forest. Taking a moment to stop and let the canoes glide along the lake’s surface, the silence and surrounding nature were breathtaking. I dipped my fingertips in the water to find that it was pleasantly warm, not the chilling cold that I was expecting. 

The setting sun is unique in its ability to paint many different moods on the landscape in the same moment. I sat at the bow of the canoe – the slave’s seat, according to the guide, though it didn’t feel like it – and my friend sat at the back, steering our direction. I got to admire the views ahead of us; the blue sky and chartreuse shores mixed with forest glowed beautifully against the towering sun-kissed backdrop of Ruuhitunturi fell. When I turned to look back, the first signs of dusk already showed in the reddening sky and forest darkened by the backlight.

Once we reached shore on the other side of the lake, our guide made a cosy campfire and served us coffee, tea, and a local delicacy: ‘kampanisu’, or a comb-shaped sweetbread. The peaceful moment was a perfect chance to exchange thoughts and ideas with the rest of the group. The Dutch told us about their journey here by ship and train, from the Netherlands via Germany to Finland, and finally Lapland. They were planning to continue to the North Cape and Lofoten islands before returning home. The family seemed delighted with their trip so far. 

Those who wanted also got to cook sausages over the fire, the traditional Finnish camping food! The crackling fire and buzz of the group’s discussions created a lulling backdrop for watching the different phases of the sunset and increasing stillness of the lake. There was even a rocking chair next to the kota to sit and marvel at the landscapes. 

After getting the canoes back in the water, we paddled back towards the starting point. The night sky was gradually cast with clouds of different sizes, colours, and shapes. Eating and gazing into the campfire left me feeling drowsy as we glided into the dusk that had descended on the lake. The tranquility calmed the mind, and even though conversation between the paddlers continued, my mind already started drifting towards sleep.  As we were leaving Hangasjärvi ridge, we saw a perfect halfmoon that shone brightly between the peaks of the Sallatunturi fells. 

Translated by Karolina Salin

Read more about things to do in Salla:

Visit Salla – in the middle of nowhere

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

I had been eagerly looking forward to my paddling trip in Billnäs cultural landscape. The morning arrived very cold, and my car windows were covered by frost. Luckily, the weather forecast promised us a beautiful day with sunny intervals. I started my drive towards the Billnäs ironworks where I was going to meet my guide Gustaf Ahlroos, more familiarly known as Gutte. Gutte organizes, e.g., paddling and biking trips around the Billnäs area.

Mustio starting point on the map

Billnäs finishing point on the map

The length of the paddling route is about 20 km.

There are no rapids on this stretch of the Mustio river making the route a perfect fit for touring kayaks and inexperienced paddlers not familiar with rapids.

Usually the paddling trips start from Mustio, but we decided to leave my car at the finishing point of the route in Billnäs and head to the starting point by Gutte’s car. I took a scenic route to Billnäs, but still arrived there a bit early. So I had a little time on my hands, and I wandered around the Billnäs Ironworks and got to know its history. At the same time, I was curious about getting to the river already. Unfortunately, the fall colors had already faded, and stormy winds had left the trees bare.

But the river looked inviting. There is something so charming in fall season. The skies are gray, the weather is foggy, the air is filled with earthy smells – it’s always so beguiling. Seasons bring changes to river environment as does the river flow. As we were able to witness, heavy rainfalls result in increased river flow and higher water level. The fast flowing river may also speed up your paddling.

We set out to paddle on kayaks that Gutte had rented in Mustio. If you are not in a hurry, go check out the magnificent Mustio manor. The manor is situated only a few hundred meters from the starting point. But we had to get going, because the sun sets quite early in the fall. The paddling route to Billnäs is more or less 20 kilometers, so it’s a decent muscle workout at the same time. I have paddled quite a lot, but I’m not really used to kayaks, so this trip was also a learning experience for me.

Gustaf ”Gutte” Ahlroos

Gutte is a nature-loving guy and a versatile entrepreneur who works in the Billnäs area. Gutte’s company Lyfte hires out kayaks and mountain bikes and organizes guided tours like this paddling trip on Mustio river. It is also possible to experience a combined biking and paddling tour.

Gutte is also a Certified Mental Trainer as well as a Personal Trainer. He is also currently studying to be a hiking guide.

Read more about paddling and biking in Billnäs on Gutte’s Facebook pages.

This paddling route is perfect, if you have never done any kayaking and want to practice it safely with an experienced guide. The first three kilometers are pretty easy. The river flow is relatively slow, and the stretch is largely sheltered from the wind. During the first three kilometers, you will have time to get used to kayaking and practice different paddling techniques.

Just as I started to get the hang of some basic techniques, we passed by the small Junkarsborg island with ancient castle ruins. The castle dates back to the 12th century, the late Iron Age, and has presumably also been inhabited by Vikings. Tradition has it that the castle was first called Raseborg, and that name was later on passed to The Raseborg Castle in Snappertuna. My family is related to the former Lord of The Raseborg Castle, and that is why it was quite special for me to be paddling in the area connected to my family’s heritage.

There is a strong current near Junkarsborg, and there are also quite a few big rocks. So pay attention at this point!

After Junkersborg, we paddled over Lake Päsarträsket, after which the river meandered through the fields for several kilometers. Gutte told me that in the summertime herding cows come to the river bank to stare at the paddlers passing by, and it is not unheard of that a curious gray heron starts to follow a group of paddlers. The river banks offered us a shelter from the wind, so it was easy to paddle for a while, but as we approached the Kyrksjön lake, a brisk wind started to blow.

Gutte told us that this part of the route is often very windy, and that there may be big waves, even though the lake is shallow.

There are many suitable places to stop for a picnic along the route, but we decided to enjoy our packed lunch before starting to cross the lake. Gutte also kindly made us a cup of coffee, but just as we started to eat, it began to rain. The weather forecast proved not be accurate, but that’s just typical… Fortunately, we had these waterproof drysuits on, so the rain didn’t really bother us. When getting ready for a paddling trip, you should always pack a rainproof jacket with you, even when there is no rain in the forecasts.

Next we paddled over the lake and arrived at the city center of Karjaa. After a short stretch of urban paddling, the rain really picked up and it started to get dark as well. But we were right on schedule and our route was coming to an end – we made it to Billnäs just before dark.

At dusk the Billnäs Ironworks looked just absolutely beautiful. The quacking ducks welcomed us back to the same bridge where I had been admiring the scenery before the start of our little paddling trip. Luckily we were dressed appropriately for the weather and didn’t get cold. On the contrary, I was a little hot when we paddled upwind. We also took several short breaks.

I have been paddling my packraft in many places from wilderness to urban environments. I was pleasantly surprised by this route, as it was truly atmospheric with rich cultural landscape. It was nice to paddle in a kayak on a river like this at a moderately brisk pace. We were a little late, but I can only imagine the landscape with fall foliage in all its glory. We decided to come back with my wife and next time take the combined biking and paddling tour and top off the day by eating in the Billnäs restaurant.

Read also:

An impressive cycling route in Raseborg: Presenting the 46-kilometre long Front Line Route

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

Article by Kukka Kyrö

A gentle giant lies next to the centre of Lohja, an hour’s drive from Helsinki. Lake Lohjanjärvi is the largest lake in southern Finland. A maze of numerous islands and coves offers places to explore for several days. The lake is the heart of the city of Lohja, and as such, efforts have been taken to ensure accessibility for as many people as possible. If you are a water person, you can hire an accessible fishing boat with a fishing guide or rent a canoe or a kayak or even a paddleboard.

? Lohjanjärvi on a map

Kayaking adventure on Lake Lohjanjärvi

The air is fresh and soft after rain. I am getting my red kayak ready at the equipment depot of Aquapro Suomi, a few kilometres from the centre of Lohja. I fix the kayaking route map to the net on top of my kayak, and secure a water bottle next to it. It is Saturday morning. The city is still sleeping while I get inside the kayak, put the spray deck in place and set off to the lake. My kayak glides effortlessly on the dark water. Even the lake seems to be still asleep, hardly managing to make even small waves. Following the shoreline, I paddle towards the city centre, admiring how green the beach vegetation is now in May.

Nature of the shores and islands of Lake Lohjanjärvi is marvellous. Temperate climate and calcareous soil make the plants grow exceptionally well and versatile. For example, different species of orchids and hardwood trees thrive here. The largest island of the lake is Lohjansaari, the home of the famous Oak of Paavola, which has deservedly received a title “The most beautiful tree in Finland”.

After paddling for a few kilometres, I land ashore the Hevossaari Island, on a small sheltered cove. There’s a lean-to, and a strange birch tree, also leaning over the water. The cove has a shallow, sandy bottom, which makes coming ashore easy even for an inexperienced paddler.

Hevossaari lean-to

I am soaking my feet in the cool water. The water glimmers invitingly in the rays of sun shining through the clouds. Too bad that I didn’t take my swimming suit with me. It would have been so nice to go for a little swim.

Lake Lohjanjärvi is a large and reasonably deep lake, so it warms up slowly. However, by July at the latest, it will be crowded by swimmers. Although the water in the lake is dark due to humus, it is still clean and safe to swim. However, sometimes in the summer, there might be blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the water. Then it’s not advisable to go swimming, because some of the cyanobacteria are toxic. If you are unsure if it’s safe to go in the water, please ask Lohja travel service centre.

From the Hevossaari island, my journey continues along an inlet called Ämmänperse which roughly translates as “Old Woman’s Arse”. What a name! For some bizarre reason, Finns have given many places names which will not be printable here. Cane-grass around my kayak is high. As I paddle along the passage, a single mallard appears beside my kayak, guiding me away from its territory.

In the early summer, nature of the lake is especially sensitive. Birds are starting to nest, and some of the fastest ones already have their hatchlings. Nesting places should be left alone completely at this time of the year. When you are planning to go ashore, try to use places that are intended for campers and have a campfire site, trails and an outdoor toilet, if possible. Nature likes it.

Finland has unique so-called everyman’s rights. They ensure that everyone can enjoy nature, but in addition to the rights, the hiker also has obligations to cause no harm to animals, plants and nature in general.

My next stage is the Kaurassaari Island about 1 kilometre away from here. It also has a lean-to which paddlers and such can use. The lean-tos of Hevossaari and Kaurassaari Islands are owned by the city of Lohja. They have campfire sites for which the city delivers firewood for the summer. Making fire is allowed only at these designated sites, and if the forest fire warning is in effect, you can’t make a fire even at these sites.

Making coffee in a pot and roasting sausages by the fire are age-old camping traditions for Finns. Some believe that it’s not camping if there’s no fire. If you want to ensure that you’ll be able to make a fire, consider bringing your own firewood, because at popular campfire sites the firewood sometimes runs out. Please note that you can’t take any kind of fallen trees to make a fire. Although it might seem logical that there’s no harm taking dead wood, dead wood still has an important role in maintaining biodiversity: many rare species in the forest are totally dependent on rotten and decaying wood.

My trip continues with a little stroll in the vicinity of the lean-to in Kaurassaari Island. Old spruce trees creak in the wind, when I walk to the western beach of the island. There, the mighty Lake Lohjanjärvi opens up. So far, the islands have sheltered me from the winds as I have paddled on my route, and my kayak has faced only moderate waves. Now, I can see whitecaps rise everywhere on the vast open section of the lake called Isoselkä.

As the name suggests, Isoselkä is the largest open water of Lake Lohjanjärvi. On Isoselkä, lies the deepest point in the lake. Called a cryptodepression, the deepest point is 23 metres below sea level, all the way to a depth of 55 metres. For a lake, that kind of depth is admirable. I wonder what kinds of fish lurk beneath the waves. Are the biggest fish there, in the deep dark of Isoselkä?

In Lake Lohjanjärvi, there are over 30 species of fish. Especially sander – or pike-perch – is a coveted fish for many fishers, but also perch and pike are common. The biggest sander caught from the lake so far holds a story that seems pretty far-fetched, but it’s true. The sander was about 15 years old, a little over 1 metre long and weighed about 12 kilograms when it met its match in the form of a fishing boat. The boat collided with the fish, and the collision was so hard that the fishermen thought they’d hit a sunken log. The event has been documented for example in a Finnish daily newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.

As I gaze towards Isoselkä, I see dark clouds building up. Rain is coming, so I get back to the lean-to to eat my lunch and start packing up my kayak. Wind is picking up, and the rain clouds are looming ever closer, so I decide to turn my kayak back towards the place where I started from.

Dark clouds follow me as I paddle briskly back. Ripples swell up to bigger waves, but I am glad that the wind is blowing from behind, giving me much needed assistance. The sky is almost black and blue when I arrive. First drops of rain fall on me as I pull my kayak ashore. As soon as I have started driving back home, it begins to pour. Nature gives me another demonstration of its strength. First, peaceful and serene as ever, and now – completely different.

Tips to experience Lake Lohjanjärvi by water

Canoe and kayak rental: The website is mainly in Finnish, but they also provide service in English. The equipment depot is located a few kilometres away from the Lohja bus station.

Fishing trips: TheraFish. They arrange trips for first-timers and more advanced fishers as well. The Day offline trip takes you fishing on the lake and hiking in the coastal forests. TheraFish is specialized in arranging accessible fishing trips, and they have seats for wheelchair users on the boat.

Stand-up paddleboard rental: Cafe Aurlahti, located by the Lohja city centre. For a more “uplifting” experience, try the flyboard!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

➡ Paddling distance 20km
? 2 Campfire spots: Fladalandet ja Modermagan
ℹ Area information
ℹ Ekenäs Archipelago National Park
Departure point on the map

Everyone I know has some kind of a ‘soul landscape’ – a landscape in which they feel they truly belong. I know people who feel at their most alive in mountains. I know many, who feel most at peace resting on a green bed of moss or wandering in the woods. My heart beats stronger and steadier than ever when I’m in the archipelago of the Baltic Sea.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park includes lush coastal inner archipelago as well as more rocky and exposed outer archipelago right up to Jussarö lighthouse. Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is a great paddling location. There’s enough to explore for a multi-day trip, but if you’re pushed for time, a lot can be packed into two days. My friend and I decided on a two day route that took us around three islands.

Planning a three island tour

If you’ve completed a paddling course and want to try sea kayaking for the first time, Ekenäs Archipelago National Park is the perfect place to start. Our three island tour is relatively easy to navigate with a sheltered route but all the atmosphere of sea kayaking – the feeling of distance, wind and waves. If for any reason you need to suddenly get to shore, land is never far away.

Ekenäs Archipelago National Park’s 52 square kilometres is made up of many islands, big and small. We chose the inner coastal islands of Älgö, Fladalandet and Mordemagan, which provided the most sheltered route, as well as services to make camp life easier, such as dry toilets and designated campfire and tent sites. Another thing that helped make up our minds was access to marked nature trails, so that we could go stretch our kayak-cramped legs. A map of the overall area is available for download Metsähallitus’s Outdoor.fi page.

A strong and experienced paddler could complete our three island tour in one day – the route’s length is around 20 kilometres with 4-6 hrs of total paddling time, depending on paddling speed and wind. However, we wanted to paddle at a relaxed pace, spend the night in the national park and enjoy peaceful island life, so a two day trip suited our needs better.

Before heading out to sea, we went to the national park’s nature centre, which is next to the guest harbour, to absorb some of the archipelago vibe. The exhibition, which tells you about archipelago life and nature as well as protection of the Baltic sea, is primarily designed for children, but there is plenty for adults to learn too. Near the entrance you can pick up a more general map of the national park, which we took along as a spare.

A good departure point for a kayaking trip is Sommarö Stranden, which is actually 13km from Tammisaari. There’s a restaurant and a small shop, if you want to have something to eat before heading out or have a last minute panic about having packed enough food. There’s a small stretch of beach, as well as a concrete slope, from which kajaks are easy to launch into the water and you can leave your car at the guest harbour.

The three island tour can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise. Check the weather forecast and wind direction before choosing which way to go. Even though the route follows a sheltered route between islands, the wind can still have considerable impact on your paddling. And if you want to sway in a hammock at night, make sure you check which islands have trees and which side they’re on!

Älgö’s Nature Trail and Rödjan’s fishing hut

From Sommarö Stranden we decided to paddle around Älgö island anti-clockwise, aiming for Rödjan fisherman’s hut and the starting point for the nature trail. We were accompanied by an easterly wind and the island sheltered us for the first part. After paddling for an hour, we stopped, carried the kayaks onto the rocks, had something to eat and drink and went for a swim.

We navigated with the help of a marine map and an app on our phones. My friend had the nature centre’s free area map, which is not detailed enough for navigation on its own, but is helpful if you want a quick overview of where you are in relation to the rest of the national park. Mostly we followed the coast of Älgö, but after the stretch of water marked as Mörnsfärd on the island’s north west side, it makes more sense to go around the west sides of Heimosholmen and Halsholmen.

Even though the coastal inner archipelago is mostly sheltered and relatively safe, remember that you’re still at the mercy of the sea and the elements. The weather and direction of the wind can change suddenly and visibility can drop to nothing. This is all worth keeping in mind even on an easy, relaxed paddling trip. Make sure you always know where you are on the map. The route crosses a few boat channels, so be aware and careful of fast-moving boats and the waves that they create.

After about 2,5 hours of paddling, we reached Rödjan. The journey was about 10 km. By the time we arrived, we were already hungry and also quite tired. At the guest harbour there were a couple of beautiful wooden sailing boats and a larger motorboat at the fisherman’s hut. There were a couple of places for kayaks on the right hand side of the fishing hut, on the beach in the nook of the rocks. After we had already spread out our picnic, we realised that we had picked a bad spot, right in the middle of the nature trail’s starting point!

In the postbox at the beginning of the trail, there’s an interesting information pamphlet that tells you about the island’s history, which you can borrow while you walk. For thousands of years, Älgö lay under continental ice, and then water until the land rose. Seals have lounged about on the low outer islands, which have over time become Älgö’s high rocks.

Älgö’s nature trail has a lot of steep climbs and descents. Along the route you can see many bays which become overgrown, different forest types and Älgö’s inner lake. Only half a kilometre along from the starting point is the observation tower, with a view that stretches out across the national park.

After an hour we arrived back at Rödjan’s fisherman’s hut and thought about whether we should continue to the next island. But the evening was drawing in and the idea of getting into our hammocks felt much more appealing than that of paddling. We found the official camping spot on the left of the guest harbour (looking out to sea). The rays of the evening sun danced on the ferns on the leaves, and water lapped on the rocks. This spot had good places for tents as well as perfect trees for hammocks, so the decision was made quickly. We moved the kayaks to a different beach, hung our hammocks in the trees and had strawberries and cream for our evening snack.

Out into the open via Fladalandet bay and fascinating coves

We enjoyed our breakfast in the sun on the rocks, about 50 metres west of our camping spot. After packing our kayaks, we navigated towards Fladalandet, which was just under an hour’s paddling away.

Even though we didn’t go ashore, it’s definitely worth paddling around Fladalandet! On the northern edge is a natural harbour and lots of narrow bays and coves that go deep into the island which can only be reached by kayak or paddleboard. I recommend going to explore each one, for they are all different and interesting in their own way. In windy weather, Fladalandet’s bays provide many sheltered places to come ashore.

On Fladalandet’s south side, is open sea. If you have time and the weather allows, then it’s worth taking a detour to the outer archipelago, for example via Stora Björkskar. But do check which islands you can land on during the summer on the national park’s general map . Many islands are protected due to nesting birds from 1.4-31.7. If you have experience paddling in the open sea, then reserve an extra day and paddle to Jussarö lighthouse island.

A surprise find on Modermagan

During our trip we stayed in the inner archipelago, and after Fladalandet our third island destination was Modermagan. It only takes about half an hour to paddle between the two islands, which we did easily in a light wind. Over the boat channel we paddled a bit faster. There was a lot of boat traffic around midday on the summer’s day. Being so close to the water’s surface, a kayak can’t necessarily be seen from a fast-moving motor boat, so paddlers need to take responsibility for themselves and be aware of boats.

On the southern side of Modermagan, a bay opens out from the inside of the island, into which we paddled. We got some advice on where to shore from a couple of paddlers coming towards us from the opposite direction. At the base of the bay, behind the last reed bed is a shallow beach, which is hidden by the reeds. If you keep paddling along edge of the rocks nearest the reeds, you will find a place to come ashore.

The bay has sheltered places for boats, and even the tent spots are out of the wind. There’s a nice atmosphere on Modermagan. It’s a laid-back holiday island, where you can stay and swim and enjoy camp life for a second day if you wish. We headed out onto the nature trail, which amused us with its signposts. I don’t know who writes and illustrates these, but thank you wherever you are. The sign about mosquito’s paradise made us laugh.

Both Modermagan’s and Älgö’s nature trails are easy to follow. The Rödjan trail on Älgö is marked with blue pinecone shields and Modermagan’s with white wooden posts. Both trails are quite hilly and demand good basic fitness as well as healthy feet.

Just as we thought that Modermagan’s nature trail had ended, a pond appeared in front of us. I’ve never seen so many waterlilies. Archipelago nature is usually quite rocky and bare, so this lily pond stuck out by contrast. It was as if in a fairytale. The only thing missing was a frog prince looking for his princess. You can also swim in the pond, something that we tried and tested.

We went back to our kayaks, had a light meal and exchanged greetings with some boaters. Afterwards we paddled back along Älgö’s east side. In calm, favourable conditions, the journey should only take an hour and a half.

Our car was waiting for us at Sommarö Stranden. We emptied our kayaks and lifted them onto the roof of the car. With our souls feeling so fully restored and recharged, it felt like in only two days we had experienced two weeks of summer and archipelago.

Article by Mia Sinisalo

Translation: Becky Hastings

Fancy paddling, supping, biking, climbing or yoga whilst enjoying old culture and nature? If you’re spending holidays near Helsinki, this is your place.

Only one hour drive from Helsinki, towards east, along the coast. After passing Loviisa you come across signs pointing to “Strömforsin ruukki“. Follow the signs and you end up to the most picturesque village, a true hidden gem that not even many Finns know about. It is like taking a time warp back to olden days. A time warp with all modern outdoor equipments you can dream of.

Strömfors is an idyllic old village. Perfect destination if you want culture, sights, nature and sports in one place. Photo: Kukka Kyrö

Photo: Joonas Talka

The cute little village of Strömfors is an old iron mill. Nowadays there is a hotel, cafes, artisan shops… and Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Kayaking in the jungle

Strömfors has a variety of activities to offer with local guides. I personally recommend kayaking. The area is very unique, located in the delta of river Kymi (“Kymijoki”). There are many river branches to paddle. No roads, no houses, just water and bushy forest banks, teeming with all sorts of creatures. As a nature lover, I was in heaven! Rarely I get that WOW feeling so effortlessly and close to settlement, not having to drive hundreds of kilometres to reach the wilderness.

Photo: Kukka Kyrö

The islands are in fact nature reserves, hence there are no summer cottages on the banks as one would expect to see in southern Finland. We even saw an otter, normally a very shy animal to spot in the summertime. Also the delta next to Strömfors is fantastic for birding.

The roundtrip ends with a narrow jungle route.

You can paddle a short half an hour route around the islands closest to the iron mill, or take a longer 10 km round route to truly get the feeling of the surroundings, as I did. There is one point of extra physical work on the longer round route though – you need to carry the kayak over a dam.

Play with your favourite toys

The Strömfors area is known among climbers for some good rock walls. For the fans of trail running, there are nice trails, shorter and longer routes. You can also try fat biking here, but the longer routes are only for experienced bikers. All equipment and guidance you get from Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Supping is one of the many activities you can try. These guys woke up at dawn to go for a paddle. Photo: Noora Säily.

After a hard days’ play, try some relaxing yoga and sauna – you will sleep like a baby in the old clay building from the 1800’s.

The Outdoor Factory yoga room is very zen. Soft, mindful yoga is taught here. Beginner friendly and relaxation guaranteed. Kuva: Karoliina Kaski.

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Strömfors Outdoor Factory homepage

Repovesi is one of Finland’s most popular national parks in the summer time, but when winter arrives, there is hardly anybody. November is perhaps the least popular month to go in the nature. That is why I believe it is the best time to see familiar places in a new way.

In November, the day in Finland is short. When the weather is cloudy, there is almost no light.

That’s why we were in Repovesi in November. We wanted to find a different view to it. To experience a familiar place with a new twist. We also wanted to test an idea to fill an Orukayak with bright LED-lights and see what happens.

Tony from Tentsile Finland prepared the kayak. I tried to make a fire, just because of security. In less than 15 minutes the angular box was transformed to a real kayak. In this point we read through the plan. Let’s fill a rickety kayak with the electrical equipment, and then go to paddle on the over-frozen water. After it gets dark, of course.

On the water you are as close to the nature as possible. Now it was the last chances this year. A few days later, all lakes could be frozen.

We walked to the shoreline. The snowy forest that we passed was illuminated by the kayak. It was so beautiful that we needed to stop for a couple of times just to shoot some photos. Even I had had some doubts in the morning, but now I had a feeling that all the effort is surely going to pay off.

Now it was time to put the kayak on the water and jump aboard. I was amazed. The sight was something incredibly beautiful, way finer than what I had imagined.

The only colors in nature were black and white. Calm water and the reflected image in the middle of the silence.

The kayak glided silently. The moment was so perfect, that it felt almost bad to break the surface of the water with a paddle stroke. This moment was not for the busy ones.

The bright light made the darkness surrounding us feel ever deeper. The water surface reflected light. The darkness was filled with magic. Light in the darkness is an unforgettable experience. Long live the darkness!

May the forest be with you.

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