The Kuusamo area in the North of Finland is often referred to as the "Land of National Parks". The area has 5 surounding National Parks and in this post you can read about our slow adventuring in and around the Riisitunturi National Park. It had some of the most amazing views we've seen in Finland. Easily accessed through 42 kilometers of well marked trails. This National Park was a real treat! We also tried both Sauna Yoga and SUP boards with varying success and a lot of laughter. We hope you like this post and you're more than welcome to give some feedback by commenting at the bottom of the page!
This post was made possible with help from the Slow Adventure in the Northern Territories (SAINT) project. Read more about our fantastic sponsor here! Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are our own.
Nature hike in Riisitunturi National Park
We met Ralph from Ruka Adventures at the Ruka Holiday Resort, and drove out to Riisitunturi National Park, north of Lake Kitka. Our guide Ralph is Austrian, has a deep love for nature, and has furthered his passion by living in Finland for 5 - 6 years, working as a nature guide. We quickly picked up on his special interest; plants and mushrooms, which got him talking about what we might see as we explore.
As we started on the trail we got talking about berries, and he stopped to introduce all the common berries found here and other places of the boreal forest. Cowberry, bunch berry, crow berry, bilberry and bog bilberry were here in abundance, cloud berry is also very common - but we were too late!
Ralph was great at describing the subtle differences in leaves and plants, making it easier to identify species, even without the actual berry. We took more a lot more than berries home with us!
Looking at nature through a looking glass
Looking at nature through a looking-glass is something most people stop doing after a certain age. Often our curiosity starts to dwindle and our attention span becomes shorter. For some, nature becomes a space to move through; on our way to the top of a mountain or by the shore of a lake. Learning about plants, berries, trees and mushrooms helps us slow down and it gives us something to focus on.
Wilderness tea made with heather flowers
The mountain hillsides where decorated with pink heather and Ralph explained how heather flowers can be picked (patiently) and used for tea. Just take a few twigs home, and pick the flowers to make a calming, soothing tea.
Finland inspired us to write a blog post about wild tea and how they can be made: How to make wilderness tea.
Hiking on well marked trails
We hiked to the view point of Lake Kitka, which was stunning. Clouds giving perspective to the vastness of forest below. Just a 400m walk gave us amazing views for miles in all directions. It's unbelievable how flat this area is, together with the expanse of the forest. After a well documented stop at the top we continued towards a forest-cabin to have a lunch.
It is not allowed to light fire in the forest, unless you are at an approved site with a fire pit. These places are maintained by Metsähallitus (the forest authority) and there is usually a wood shed where you can find dry wood, and a place to sit.
Warm sausages, Finnish rye bread and blueberry juice
For lunch, Ralph laid out sandwiches with sweet Finnish rye bread and sausages. Thea was the "grill master" and used the campfire grill provided at the fire pit. Since the fire pits are few and far between, they become a natural place for people to stop and most people are curious of where you came from and where you're going. Almost like a quaint harbour or rural pub.
A mindful introduction to Iisakki Village
After completing our hike with Ralph we continued our journey to Iisakki Village, where we'd be staying the night. We were excited, not only to spend the night in this lovely calm place, but also because we were going to try Sauna Yoga for the first time! Ready for anything, we met Hanne, the manager for this family run business, at one of their saunas.
Heated to just 50°C, the sauna was warm but still comfortable. In contrast to our imaginative mental images, and to our relief, the whole session was performed sitting down, and with clothes on!
We started by doing some simple stretching poses. The heat of the sauna helped flexibility and it was nice to sweat out the strains from hiking. It was great to see Finnish sauna tradition meeting yoga, these two cultures had something to gain from one another in this exchange. It was both mindful and cleansing at the same time. We really liked the accessibility of it too, as there's so many saunas here in Finland that using them for other relaxation and wellness purposes makes perfect sense!
Indian summer on the lake
Next morning we headed out to play with all the different water sports gear by the lake shore. The weather was wonderful and fuelled by the power of an Indian Summer, Thea went for the SUP board.
It was VERY difficult - Thea was so excited about the late summer feeling she went all-in without any instructions. It was hilarious, the feeling of almost falling into the freezing autumn lake made Thea laugh so much that it really didn't improve her technique. Mark came out to support (and giggle) in a canoe.
Making time to "do nothing"
Slow adventuring is a wonderful way to make time, instead of spending time.
After laughing on the lake we needed time to do nothing. The amazing weather made it impossible to stay indoors and we both had some quality time for ourselves. Mark brought the 105 mm macro lens out, hunting for dragonflies while Thea enjoyed some time knitting socks in the sun.
Living close to wildlife at Iisakki Village
As a perfect ending to our day, two curious reindeers gave us a short visit. The reindeers in this area are half wild, half tame. They're fed by farmers though the winter and the result is friendly animals who are not afraid of humans. You can easily get close to them as long as you remain calm.
Tourism plays a very important part to the local economy of Northern Finland, and many of the tour and accommodation providers are run by families.
Most of the large-scale tourism happens during the winter months, and it was amazing to spend time is this wild region without the big rush of other tourists. We highly recommend to visit this place in autumn! The mosquitoes are gone, the colours are intense and there are berries and mushroom around every corner and dinner plate.
Have a look at the links below if you're planning your next slow adventure in Finland:
For more information about guided experiences in the Ruka area: http://www.rukaadventures.fi
Check out the oportunities in Riisitunturi National Park: http://www.nationalparks.fi/en/riisitunturinp
Iisakki Village is a family run adventure company with multiple options for accommodation. Visit their website for more info on Sauna Yoga, SUP and other activities! www.rukasafaris.fi
We'd like to thank SAINT, the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, and the European Union for their support in making this post happen!
The SAINT project: www.saintproject.eu