Why visit Finland? A redundant question. Instead ask yourself: when?
2017 marks Finland’s 100th year anniversary and this weekend is the launch of Hossa National Park. A former hiking area, Hossa is a stunning location of natural beauty; a multitude of crystal clear lakes encompassed by dense pine trees creating unsurpassable fresh air.
Hossa, an area previously abandoned by young Finnish adults is now attracting entrepreneurs from across the country, offering activities from ‘forest yoga’ to ‘SUP boarding’. It is to witness the ice melt that the animals return from hibernation and this area springs to life.
Location: Martinselkonen Wilds Centre, Suomussalmi
Season: 15th April – 10th August
Martinselkonen is a family run business which offers both evening and overnight bear watching safaris from a hide. They have B&B accommodation with 12 en-suite rooms and an apartment.
We waited. Poised in position, our eyes fixated upon the forest that lay in front of our hide, afraid to blink in case we missed the arrival of a bear. Within the first hour, one emerged from the thick grasses in search of food. Before long we spotted another six bear including two large males. With only 1,200 brown bears left in Finland, we were aware that this was an extraordinary opportunity.
Mountain Biking and Hiking
Location: Hossa Visitor Centre, Hossa
Season: All year round
Trail lovers and outdoor enthusiasts: listen up! With more than 150km of mountain biking trails, intertwining through the thick forest, you can ride for miles without spotting a single footprint. Whether it is a 10km loop around Lake Hossa or a vigorous 50km trail for the more experienced rider: there’s something for everyone.
One can taste and smell the rivers of water, take refuge against a tree while drawing on the crisp, clean air purified by its peaceful surroundings. Mesmerised by the crackling log fire that warms the body and soul, replete with the homemade lingonberry pie and chaga mushroom tea, both traditionally and deliciously Finnish, we laid beneath the midnight sun, in one of the many shelters around the National Park. A place where light never fades as dusk becomes dawn at a blink of an eye. It’s no wonder then, that Hossa is known as ‘Hikers’ Paradise’.
Canoeing, SUP Boarding and Floating in Rapids
Location: Lake Hossa and Hossa Visitor Centre
We launched our canoes onto the crystal clear bed of water, reflecting the islands which lay ahead of us like a mirror. The sheer volume of open water in Hossa makes the park one of Finland’s best canoeing destinations, offering multiple-day camping excursions.
Our beautifully Scandinavian cabins lay meters from the water’s edge. An entirely glassed side of the cabin enables a visitor to admire the picture perfect Lake Hossa where we later went SUP boarding (stand-up paddle boarding). This optimises that authentic, simplistic ‘cabin life’ which captured my heart in Finland. Waking up in Hossa made the distance from London seem like a million miles, a total escape from the chaotic culture of ‘many things’.
Location: Lake Pyhäjärvi, Ruka
Season: All year round
A visit to Finland is not complete without a sauna experience. We spent our final night at Ruka Ski Resort and made our way straight to Pyhäpiilo sauna. The sweltering heat of our ‘smoke sauna’ was soon forgotten when plunging into the pristine, icy lake still partly frozen. Left gasping for breath, this juxtaposition between baking hot and stone cold was ‘refreshing’ to say the least!
Finland is an understated beauty. It’s not dramatic nor attention-seeking; it’s simply raw and tranquil and that’s the true charm behind this largely unexplored country.
Midnight calmly fell upon us, the sun still glowing a warm golden hue over the lake, cracking on the remaining ice. A mist rolled over the waters as we rowed out in the canoe; not a cloud obscured the deeply serene scene.
Hossa is awaiting all those who seek the outdoors; those who are ready to put down their devices and pick up their trainers because it is only when you are running through the woods or paddling down the river that you can truly appreciate what it means to explore Hossa.
Finnair flies from the UK, via Helsinki to Kuusamo with fares starting from £225 return in Economy Class including all taxes and charges. (www.finnair.com / 0208 0 010101).