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In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

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

Relatively easy trail, length approx. 3 kilometres

Travel time 2 hrs

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

Map showing the starting point of the trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mist is floating above the surface of the lake.

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

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

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

It is so beautiful that I almost forget to breathe.

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

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

The cultural landscape from the Iron Age at Lake Lepinjärvi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the bird plate is quite full at Lake Lepinjärvi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pelican Tower of Lepinjärvi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only a few squirrels are afoot, foraging for nuts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diverse natural experiences in historical surroundings

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information and links

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

Article by Onni Kojo

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

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

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

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

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

The Amazon of the North

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to plan a multi-day SUP trip in Lapland

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

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

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

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

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

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Kukka Kyrö

The Embankment Route takes you on an adventure to Fiskars to experience culture and art in many forms. Combining both train and bicycle, it’s easy to embark on it from Helsinki by taking the IC train to Karis. Just remember to reserve a place for your bike in advance to Karis and also for the return trip. The length of the bike ride from Karis to Fiskars and back is 24 kilometres. You can also split it for two days to check out the romantic accommodation available in the Fiskars region.

Length of the route from Karis train station to Fiskars: 12 km (using the same route to return)

Easy route, click here for the map.

You can find the starting point of the Embankment Route on a long map attached to a wire mesh fence next to the Karis Sport Centre. The starting point is just one kilometre from the Karis train station. You won’t get lost, because the Ratakatu Street running parallel to the track leads you directly to the sport centre. The route is marked with brown and white markings, first of which you will find when making your way towards the sport centre.

A resident of Raseborg, Jan-Peter Stenvall, joins me on my outbound trip. He knows all the possible, and some impossible (as far as a Sunday cyclist like me is concerned) cycling routes in the region. The Embankment Route between Karis and Fiskars runs alongside old railroad tracks, as the name suggests. Stenvall tells me that it took a very long time to get the route realized. The project was finally launched by the help of the local Billnäs horse riding club. The club asked the town if they could have a safe riding route at their disposal, and the result was this magnificent lane for light traffic, running through forests and fields, accommodating both horses and bicycles as well as hikers.

(caption) Horseback riders have a dedicated, gravelled lane through the whole length of the route at their disposal.

The first four kilometres from Karis to Billnäs are tarmac, but from Billnäs onwards, it is gravel. The gravel section might be uncomfortable to pedal if you have very narrow tyres on your bike, but most of the time a regular bike is quite sufficient. I have an old trekking bike which works just fine on gravel. After a while, the Embankment Route proves to be an excellent route for Sunday cyclists like me. The tyres roll on so effortlessly, that it feels like I don’t have to pedal at all, when riding on the straight and flat sections. I can follow my progress from the kilometre signs along the route. Several interesting rest stops along the way provide a chance to hop off the bike and cool down.

Even though you could chug on like a train from start to finish, there’s nothing to stop you from taking an extra break off the road. A perfect chance for that is right in the beginning of the route, at Billnäs. Extending on both sides of the Mustionjoki River, the ironworks village provides an impressive milieu for an outdoor snack, for example. Behold and listen to the roaring of the water as it makes its way towards the sea through the floodgates of a magnificent dam. At a certain time of the year, you might also see the fish as they make their way up the fish steps of the hydroelectric plant, and wish them good luck on their journey up to their spawning ground.

The light traffic bridge over the Mustionjoki River provides a great view towards the dammed reservoir of the Billnäs power plant.

If you’re interested in ironworks villages, you might also want to stop by at Åminnefors. If you are not only interested but in love with the ironworks villages, you have seen nothing yet: the Embankment route is part of a longer Ironworks Village Route which boasts five or even six different ironworks villages. My guide Mr. Stenvall is responsible for designing the Ironworks Village Route. In addition to that, he has also designed two other thematic cycling routes for the town: the Castle Route concentrating on castles and fortresses, and the Front Line Route concentrating on war history.

When I said that the Embankment Route as a cycling route is easy, it was almost true, as there is one section that will bring sweat on you. After passing Åminnefors, we arrive at Pohjankuru, where the route runs over a high hill on a long and steep gravel road. “I don’t like this part very much”, says Stenvall when we reach the top of the hill. Luckily, after each uphill, there is inevitably a downhill, and in this case, an equally long one. Rolling down the hill, the sweat dries off and pedalling on feels fun again. When the trains still ran here, obviously they didn’t go up and down the steep slope but rather through a tunnel that goes under the hill. Stenvall says that hopefully one day, the tunnel will be made safe to travel on a bike and attached as a part of the Embankment Route.

As for an icing on a cake, the most beautiful section of the Embankment Route from Fiskars to Pohjankuru, is a gravel road running alongside the shore of Borgbyträsket. Large black alders, oaks and other big deciduous trees border the landscape. I am thinking about what it would look like in the spring when everything is bright green, or in the autumn when the leaves explode in multiple colours. I have to get back here then! Trains still ran here a hundred years ago on tracks that are now gone. A little steam engine called Pikku-Pässi ( Little Ram) used to operate between the harbour and the ironworks, and the tracks were named after it as Pässinrata (Ram Track).

If you want to experience the Embankment Route during the wettest season, you should be aware that the elevation of the route at this section is not much higher than the surface of Lake Borgbyträsket. Last winter, one section of Pässinrata was out of commission for a while due to flooding. In normal conditions, the route is open year round, even in the winter.

A beautiful cultural landscape opens up before my eyes in Fiskars. Every detail seems to be carefully considered. People walking by are dressed so stylishly that I don’t quite know which country I am in right now. Maybe Southern Sweden, as the majestic trees by the riverside would suggest? Or maybe even somewhere in Central Europe?

If you look at the map, the main street of the village seems short. However, as you are on it, time seems to lose its meaning, because you can easily spend several hours exploring it. What the village has to offer owes everything to the numerous artisans, artists and designers working in Fiskars. Thanks to them, many quaint little shops are like galleries – or really ARE galleries. I notice myself holding my breath as I carefully walk among the shelves displaying beautiful glass decorations, skilfully-made ceramics and wonderful wooden utensils.

The fascinating items on display seem endless, and I find myself going over most of the shops twice.

There’s more to see in the ironworks than just the shops and galleries on the main street. My favourite place turns out to be at the south end of the village, next to a building called the Granary. The river at that point flows exceptionally gently, and the tree canopies lean out above the crystal clear water which is so shallow that I can see the sand bottom. Providing a strong contrast, the Granary is an impressive sight to see. Made of black slag bricks, it is a testament to the bygone industrial era, noise of the machines, smoke and long, and heavy work days.

At the opposite side of the village lies the Karin Windnäs’ KWUM Museum of ceramic art. On a bike, it takes only a short while to get there from the Granary. In the summer season, the museum is open every day for visitors. Even the building, designed by the architect Tuomo Siitonen, is a sight in itself.

When I visited the museum, the changing exhibition in KWUM was displaying lovely snowy owl artwork by Kyoung Kim.

There were also works from Margaret O’Rourke on display upstairs. She combines light and almost paper-thin porcelain in her art.

I pedal back to the village from the museum on a gravel road. I relax in a lovely Café Hammarbacken, trying to get my head around the cultural extravaganza I have experienced today. Fiskars is without a doubt a village for those who love art, good food and drink and atmospheric cafés.

The summer season in Fiskars is short, from June to August. The village might be crowded especially on the weekends, but you can try to avoid the crowds by starting early in the morning and/or staying there until the evening. The pace of the village is on the slow side until around 10 AM during summer mornings, and things start to wind down again by 6 to 7 PM when most of the shops close for the day. That doesn’t mean that you have to leave just yet, on the contrary. Why not stay for an hour or two to enjoy some cold drinks on the terrace of Café Bar Pesula, which, by the way, is Bicycle Friendly.

For those who prefer more peaceful times, the ironworks is at its best during the coolest seasons. I find myself already planning to come back here again in the autumn, Christmas and spring. Bear in mind, though, that some of the shops and exhibitions close up for the winter, and others may be open only at certain times. So, please check for the opening hours here.

If it turns out you feel that you can’t get your fill of cycling on the Embankment Route, there’s an extensive MTB trail network in the forests of Fiskars. If you don’t have your own bike or can’t bring it with you, you can rent one at the Fiskars Village Trail Centre.

© Translation Mikko Lemmetti

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mika Puskala

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

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

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

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

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

The Empress Dagmar’s spring and the beautiful Vitsand 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bunker Museum and the impressive Irma 302

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanko Front Museum

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

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

Back to the beginning

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

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

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

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

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Front line Route

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

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

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

In partnership with Visit Raasepori

I mount the bike and let the lift pull me up the bare skiing slopes. On the summit I take my time to admire the landscapes in all directions while a fresh breeze clears my mind. For a while I consider tempting and versatile route options and finally choose the one speedy and curvy enough for me and my bike. Adrenalin spreads all around my body as I hit the trail downhill and exhilaration grows along the meters ridden.

Downhill mountain biking is a captivating way to enjoy speed, mountain biking, trails built on skiing slopes and nature. This sub-genre of traditional mountain biking brings riders to the slopes, where a wide range of routes serve speed seekers. The location is perfect for the activity in summer and autumn, when the slopes are empty of skiers.

In Påminne Bike Park, the downhill biking centre of Raasepori, also the beginners have the possibility to try the sport. Previous traditional mountain biking riding and handling experience is required as the sport asks a little skill. Proficient and open-minded rider will grasp the tips for technique and riding from a pro, when the basic handling of the bike is familiar.

Anders Pyy tells about biking centres routes and riding techniques for Marjo Ojala, who knows about traditional mountain biking and is now having introduction to downhill mountain biking.

What the downhill mountain biking actually is?

Downhill mountain biking has a reputation of an energetic and even a bit dangerous sport. The key principles are rather simple and the difficulty level of trails vary. Skiing lifts, which take skiers to the top of the hill in winter, serve also bike riders in the summer and autumn season.

Aders Pyy advices Marjo Ojala how to safely travel up the hill with the lift.
Ropes can be added to drag lifts, which are easier for the beginners to loosen from the bike on top of the hill.
Drag lift can be also placed between one’s legs when all the way to the top is travelled as standing on the bike.
The lift drags the rider onwards with a steady pace.
On the first meters of the climb pedalling can be done but during the rise one simply enjoys the ride without pedalling.
The climb was a little exciting for a first-timer, but was in reality easier than expected.
Cheerful mood and a smile on one’s face tell about the delight of being introduced to the sport.
On top of the slope one catches the strap and gently pulls towards oneself which releases the bike from the lift.

From the top of the hill one can choose from a generous variety of trails according to their preferences in the level of difficulty or trail map. In downhill mountain biking the objective is to ride down the marked trails with style and speed whilst paying attention to the curves, built platforms, hillocks, drops and other possible obstacles.

The expert in downhill mountain biking Anders “Andy” Pyy considers it possible for beginners to get a quick grasp of the sport even with little less experience if one has enthusiasm and time to be spent on the slopes.

– Regular mountain biking on more traditional trails is also good practice for downhill riders as technique and reaction rate will develope on smoother ground too, Pyy says.

Anders Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. He developes versatile riding routes in Påminne Bike Park and welcomes all mountain bike riders in the Southern Finland to his centre.

Pyy himself has been fully concentrating in traditional mountain bike riding for already five years. His previous sport was Motocross. The reason for changing the league is simply the fact, that he finds downhill mountain biking way more fun.

Påminne Bike Park was bor from the passion of the active downhill mountain bike riders

Påminne Bike Park is the most southern slope centre in Finland and also Anders Pyy’s “homefield”. The place was practically engendered by the dream and devotion of the riders to create Påminne Bike Park THE place for downhill mountain bike riding in Finland.

New routes will be examined by foot when necessary.

According to Pyy in the future the aim is to further develop the route selection focusing on trails suitable for beginners as more riders would be warmly welcomed. The objective is also to get some rental gear and equipment for the visitors of the centre. Up until the end of October it has been possible to ride in Påminne Bike Park for two consecutive hours by paying the 20 euro entrance fee or by showing the season ticket. The centre has already been serving even up to about a hundred visitors every week indicating stable and growing interest towards the sport.

It’s fascinating to watch Anders Pyy’s pro-tricks at Påminne Bike Park.

Here’s how you’ll get on to it

Slopes at Påminne will open for downhill mountain bike riders after winter season.

Påminne is conveniently located within only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki through Inkoo and Karjaa. From Lohja the distance takes just half an hour and from Turku about one and half hours.

New riders are always warmly welcomed to the sport and slopes. The culture guides more experienced riders to look after beginners.

– Beginners are highly encouraged to have a chat with more experienced riders to ask for advice and tips, Pyy explains.

Anders Pyy’s motto is to boldly hit the slopes as learning by doing is definitely the best way. He is often there to be asked about the sport in general or to tell about techniques and tips in more detail. Ha may also give a little guidance or tell about the trails in Påminne. The lift crew is there to help beginners get familiar with the lift.

It’s the sense of freedom that lures one to the slopes with a bike

Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. We concentrate on all his tips of how to get on top of the hill as we first grasp the handle bar at the bottom of the slope. Every driving tip is greeted with delight for it asks for a sharp eye, quick reaction skills and ability to perceive terrain to ride down the trails. New routes can of course also be first familiarized by foot when necessary.

The knowledge of the sport increases massively whilst riding down the slopes, as downhill mountain biking needs uninterrupted focus. It is easy to imagine someone already enjoying mountain biking to be carried away by the slopes too.

– The best part of the sport is the sense of freedom and the ability to go anywhere with your bike, Pyy says.

The second he finishes the sentence we see him agilely racing down even the most difficult slopes, almost as if his bike had wings. The smooth turns and accelerating bumps tell about years’ riding experience and never-ending enthusiasm.

Find Påminne Bike Park on map

Translation: Karoliina Säkö

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

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

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

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

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

Above: Another photo from that night.

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

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

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

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

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

Above: Misty birch forest.

Above: Another misty autumn scene.

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

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

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

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

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

See you out there!

Kökar is a tiny municipality in Åland. It has only about 240 inhabitants. To get to Kökar one has to take a ferry either from Långnäs (main island) or Galtby (Korpo). The journey in both cases takes about 2,5 hours.

I spend 24 hours on this beautiful island surrounded by the waves of the Baltic Sea.

Here’s what I saw.

Above: Heathers are purple, junipers are green – and the sea is blue. In Kökar this is a very typical view.

Above: It was a beautiful summer day so we went for a morning hike to this beautiful hidden place.

Above: A grass snake came to say hello. Grass snakes are completely harmless.

Above: We found this beautiful secret lagoon and went for a swim.

Above: This is what I saw underwater. There were lots of jellyfish but they are harmless.

Above: There are also forests in Kökar.

Above: Look at those colors!

Above: We also went to see what the local flea market looked like. It’s not everyday you find a seafront flea market.

Above: Buildings in Kökar are typically red and quite small. Looks really nice.

Above: Local dog admiring the sunset.

Useful links for you who wish to visit Kökar:

Ferry timetables and fares

Ålandstrafiken: Kökar

Visit Åland

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

Article by Tomi Pohja

Have you ever heard of the word Yggdrasil? If you have read fantasy books, delved into old Scandinavian mythology or maybe seen the movie Avatar, you would have come across references to a large and mysterious “tree of life” in one form or another. Then you may have wondered if those kinds of trees really exist. They do.

📌 Parking area for the oak of Paavola: Pietiläntie 23, Lohja

Growing in Lohja, the oak of Paavola reaches for the sky, spreading her branches over a large area and taking the spectator to a place known only from fairy tales and fantasies. I have been visiting the oak at least once a year, because I can’t get enough of it. I have lost count of how many times I’ve made the journey to see the fabled tree. This is one of those times.

Estimates say that the ancient oak is over 300 years old. It grows in Lohjansaari Island, about an hour’s drive from the centre of Helsinki. Driving to the island is an experience in itself, and visiting the site where the tree is, only adds to it. Green landscapes follow one another, and time goes fast by.

We turn from Hankoniementie to Lohjansaarentie. After some old railway tracks by the roadside, the road is lined by countless fields and orchards. Then we move on to Jalassaari Island and after that we cross the bridge to Lohjansaari Island. We can feel that we’re getting close to the oak of Paavola.

There is a boat launching site by the bridge of Lohjansaari Island.

Along the way to the island we have been transported to another world. The sounds of traffic or the city don’t carry here. Instead, the air is filled with the song of at least half a dozen different birds. At this time of the year, the symphony of natural sounds is almost overwhelming.

Soon after crossing the bridge to Lohjansaari, we see the first signs pointing to the oak of Paavola. There’s a nature trail of about 1 kilometre leading from the parking area to the oak. Some might mistake a huge oak growing by the parking area for the oak of Paavola, but that’s not “The” oak. The one and only oak of Paavola is growing deeper in the forest.

Parking is free, and so far there has been room for cars every time I have visited the oak. This time I can see few other cars as well.

On the other side of the parking area, there is an old school of Lohjansaari. It was founded in 1898, and the last classes were held in 2014. In 2018, a café called Ö Cafe was established on the premises. Currently, it’s open on weekends and during the summer. During our visit, however, the café was closed.

If you are planning to come here for a coffee, please check for the opening hours. Please also note that the schoolyard is private property, so if you have no business there, don’t trespass.

The nature trail starting from the parking area goes up to the cliff in front of the school. Already during the first few metres, you get a glimpse of the diverse vegetation that exists on the island. Smaller oaks are also growing in intervals along the path.

Stopping for a while to admire the beautiful colours of the red campion.

After the cliff, the path goes deeper into the deciduous forest, giving us some relief from the heat of a sunny day. Oaks, linden (lime) trees and hazels surround us when we walk on the path, having no worry of getting lost off the trail.

There are also 15 information boards along the trail with facts on the flora and nature of the region. If you take plenty of time to stop on each checkpoint, you’ll get the most of it. Unfortunately, the information is provided in Finnish only.

The 8th information checkpoint says that cones and nuts are important food for many animals.
There are several nesting boxes in the trees, and many birds are indeed nesting, by the sheer sound of them.

A little before the oak of Paavola, the trail turns into a wooden causeway. This is one of my favourite legs along the trail, since I’ve always found wooden causeways somehow intriguing. I feel like rolling on without effort.

On the left, the dense grove of oaks, lindens and hazels gives way to birch trees for a while. This place is at its best in the summer, when the shades of green mix with white, providing a simple but beautiful colour palette.

Eventually, the causeway ends and the path splits in two branches. One of them leads to the oak of Paavola, and the other to the last leg of the nature trail. We are obviously taking the one to the oak.

The path branches off towards the oak of Paavola and to the final section of the nature trail.

When the deciduous forest finally gives way entirely to spruces, we know that we are close to our destination. A little while ago, we saw lilies of the valley and ferns, but there is also a lot of wood horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) around the oak. We haven’t even noticed that we are walking faster now. The oak is clearly pulling us towards it.

I clearly remember how I felt when I first saw the oak of Paavola. At first, I couldn’t believe that it was true. Then, I acknowledged that the tree was actually there and started measuring the height, breadth and girth of it with my eyes. Still, everything about the tree defied belief. Finally, I was so mesmerized by it that I didn’t want to leave its presence at all.

If I remember correctly, this is the sixth time already I’ve been here. However, I still feel the same as on the first time. Standing in the middle of a clearing, on top of a mound, the oak is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen.

The oak has been so popular that to protect its delicate trunk, roots and other vegetation beneath it, causeways and a fence has been built. According to some estimates, the oak of Paavola is over 300 years old. Some oaks can live up to a thousand years when they are left alone. This tree is protected by law as a natural monument. Moving on the area is restricted, and climbing the tree is strictly forbidden. You must also stay on the paths. Littering and firemaking is also prohibited.

It is not exactly sure how old the oak is, but it is old nonetheless – and beautiful.

The oak of Paavola is so huge that it seems to defy laws of nature. Its limbs reach as far as 10 metres from the main trunk, and its height is about 12 metres. One of the most prominent features is its girth: almost 5 metres. The roots of the tree are in many places visible above ground. By the looks of it, the tree must have been a place of worship during the centuries. However, it’s only a speculation.

There’s something unreal about the moss-covered limbs overhead and the rays of light shining through.

We spend a while in its splendour. Then, it’s time to get back to the crossroads of the nature trail. The oak has nourished our hearts and minds.

After the crossroads, the trail continues as beautiful as before. We slow down to enjoy the atmosphere and wildlife as long as possible.

The scenery changes completely after a few hundred metres. Here is the fruit orchard Fruticetum. The path turns to the right, running alongside the orchard fence for a while until it goes back into the forest. In addition to the birdsong and fantastic flora, the smells feel almost tangible. Air here feels really clean.

Before we get back to the parking area, we spot a dead old oak – impressive as well.

Instead of getting back home, we head to the beach. We have packed our swimsuits and some lunch with us. The heat of the day and almost cloudless sky demand a dip into the clear waters of Lake Lohjanjärvi.

We turn right from the parking area, which is the opposite direction where we came from. The signs by the roadside tell us that it’s about 2 kilometres to the beach. After a while, we see another sign saying that there’s only 1 kilometre left. Eventually, the road ends on an iron bar and to a small, unmarked parking area. We leave our car in the shade of the trees and continue on foot down the gravel road towards the beach. There are also few other swimmers enjoying the hot summer day.

Dipping into the lake in water which is nice and warm, crowns the day already filled with experiences. Fording on the sandy bottom was nice, and swimming was easy. There is also an outdoor toilet and information board on the beach. On the board, you can see how clean the water is and when the water samples were taken.

We packed up our things and headed home. Any trip to Lohjansaari Island is different each time, but always as rewarding. The oak of Paavola is an exceptionally beautiful tree with enormous presence in itself, but the total experience with the lake scenery and nature trail is always more than the sum of its parts.

In addition to the oak, there’s a lot more to see and visit, like the café Ö Cafe, the apple wine farm Alitalon omenaviinitila, the old estate of Martinpiha and the antiquities and green room Antiikki ja viherhuone Elegans. This makes sure that when you’re planning for a trip to the oak of Paavola, you can see much more!

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti