The story of nature
Nature is the main Tourism attraction in Finland. But so it is in many other countries and we need to find the way to differ from the competitive destinations. I think one way to be different is to tell our visitors the story of nature – the story of how we still have authentic connection to nature in our everyday life.
Because we do – and because we can. We have pure nature and clean air. Finland is a country of contrasts – we are well known because of high tech – industry but in the same time we maintain old habits connected to nature. Let´s be proud of them and let´s tell our story to our visitors.
I have travelled quite a lot with my son as part of the Education I wish to offer him. This summer we didn´t travel abroad but decided to carry out active holidays in Finland. Koli National Park in Eastern Finland was selected to be our destination; this post is the story of our hiking tour. Hopefully this post offer some useful tips for those planning to travel to the same area.
In our way to Koli
In Koli we have it all! Koli has many stories to tell! Koli has been important place for Finnish artists seeking for inspiration and one of the first Tourism destinations in Finland. Finnish artists like composer Jean Sibelius, painters Pekka Halonen and Eero Järnefelt and author Juhani Aho used to travel to North Carelia at the end of 19th century and at the beginning of 20th century.
The Koli scenery has been selected to be one of the 27 national sceneries in Finland – the most common known, I think. In the area we also can live the atmosphere of our national epic Kalevala.
The main attraction for us was nature and great hiking possibilities. We didn´t make complete plans beforehand but it was easy to find information in internet during our 6 hours´ drive from southern Finland to Koli. We had bought the hiking map and it was worth of it – it was nice to follow the route reading the map even though the signs along the route are very good and you can´t get lost.
We were in slow travel mood and had some stops in our way to Koli; we visited nunnery in Heinävesi and monastery in Valamo.
Getting prepared in Responsible way
When we reached our final destination we had a nice dinner in Sokos hotel in Koli and took some nice pictures of the scenery ( Ukko-Koli).
We stayed the first night in a modest cottage (Karhunpesä) in Koli area. The cottage was modest but we had all we needed; wooden heated sauna, nice swim in natural waters and place to have a good sleep.
I am interested in Responsible and Fair Tourism and I think that one of the most important things when travelling is to support the local entrepreuners – abroad and in Finland. So we started our tour having a nice breakfast in a local cafe ( Ryynänen) and then headed to the local supermarket to complete our equipment for three days´ hiking.
I had bought very practical ( and surprisingly delicious) expeditions meals (Blå Band) but we needed some water, coffee, snacks and oat flakes to make porridge.
We were ready to start our hiking tour of about 44 kilometers ( Herajärvenkierros) on Monday, the 1st of August 2016 at 11 am. I had a walking counter in my iPhone and we checked the kilometers after finishing the tour.
1. Day: Ukko-Koli to Kiviniemi 22km
As you can find complete and good descriptions of the routes in internet (Koli National Park info) I am focusing my text to share some hints, experiences and pictures.
We started our tour counterclockwise as most of the hikers do. We were aware that there were not many places to stay overnight in the route before Kiviniemi in the southern part of the lake and decided to walk till there. Twenty kilometers doesn´t sound too heavy and it wasn´t, but it took more than seven hours with some breaks to hike it and yes – we were quite exhausted when arriving Kiviniemi.
After about 3 hours walk we prepared lunch in Ryläys campfire and met some other hikers. It´s always so nice to meet other people and share the best experiences as well as good practical advices.
One good advice is to fill water bottles when you find a sign of clean water. There were not so many places to fill the bottles in this route and all the campfires were not located by natural waters.
The route is quite heavy to walk because of height difference but it´s also beautiful! There are so many different kind of landscapes and we defenetly didn´t get bored! Close to Ryläys campfire you can find stonefalls – remembrance of the last ice age.
We had planned to sleep in tent but when we arrived to Kiviniemi grange and 6 years old Rasmus (!), son of the owner, started to offer us accomodation in very reasonable price, we accepted the offer and ended up sleeping in modest but clean granary ( aitta) with electricity and beds. We also had shower and toilets at our disposal in same price! Yes – it´s worth of having some money when hiking to support the local people! In Kiviniemi you can also buy some mineral water, soft drinks and chocolate.
There is nice sauna for free just before Kiviniemi as well as campfire and hut with fireplace. We joined other hikers and had nice bath in Sauna, refreshing swim in Herajärvi lake and delicious dinner in the hut – and then we were ready to go to bed and have a very deep sleep.
2. Day: Kiviniemi to Hiekkaniemi 14 km
There is an option to take longer hiking route from Kiviniemi to southward. It is more than 20 kilometers longer route, about 61 km all together.We had decided to take the shorter route already when making the plans. Hopefully we can go back and hike the missing part at another time.
We also decided not to hike all the way back, the missing 20 kilometers in one day, even though it would have been possible. We were lucky to have great weather and enjoyed staying outdoors one more day. We had lunch-break in Ylä-Murhi by Pitkälampi pond. It was much nicer than Lakkala campfire where we first thought to stay for lunch and even to stay the night over.
We were lucky to meet a hiking couple when trying to find a nice place to stay the last night. They told us how to get to a place where they had stayed the night before; it was out of the route and out of national park in Pielinen lake shore – but legal place considering the ”everyman´s rights in Finland. It was worth of walking some extra kilometers to find such a beautiful and peaceful place!
We didn´t have sauna but we had nice swim in the evening before the dinner and again in the morning before the breakfast. We also had beautiful sunset and landscape just in front of out tent and we had total silence and peace to get asleep. I am so grateful for such experiences!
3. Day: Hiekkaniemi – Akka-Koli 8km
The last hiking day in Koli started with lighter backpacks as we had eaten almost all the food and we didn´t need to carry so much water with us any more.
At the end of our tour I was happy to notice that I had estimated the need for food quite well – two portions of dry food per person per day was enough. Porridge is always a good choice for breakfast and we were lucky to find plenty of blueberries to give flavor. Energy bars, biscuits and hot chocolate were nice luxurious snacks and not too heavy to carry.
We were happy to get back to Koli, to take the boots of, change the clothes and have a nice lunch in Koli harbour. But in the same time we were already missing the feeling of freedom, tranquility and the connection to nature.
I am also missing the meditative walk in silence, swimming in clean natural waters and the beautiful views. This journey is one of our stories to tell and remember and I am so happy and grateful we have done it!