Finnish national parks self-drive
On this self-drive itinerary you’ll enjoy easy driving on traffic-free roads while travelling through the sparsely populated taiga forests of north-eastern Finland. There are even five national parks with their hiking, canoeing and fishing possibilities easily accessible from the route. Close to the Russian border you can participate in bear or wolverine observation tours which give you a unique chance to watch and photograph these animals safely. In an information centre you’ll get to know Finland’s large carnivores – bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine.
Accommodation varies from hotel rooms to apartments and cosy cabins. Each night you will get to enjoy local delicacies and the genuine Finnish sauna is also available daily.
* Easy driving on traffic-free roads
* Walks in the national parks
* Wildlife watching
* Varied, small accommodations
* Interesting sights (winter war history, Finnish wildlife)
Day 1. Arrival at Kuopio
Kuopio–Metsäkartano, approx. 130 km
Arrival at Kuopio airport where you will collect your hire car. If you arrive on an early flight you can visit the city of Kuopio which is full of life especially in summer. The city, in the centre of the Savo region, is famous for its marketplace, harbour and cheerful people. At the market you can taste the local speciality, “kalakukko”, a Finnish fish pie. Several cruises depart daily from the harbour of Kuopio to lake Kallavesi. The symbol of the city is Puijo tower from where you can admire beautiful views over lake Kallavesi. For the first night you will drive to Metsäkartano outdoor centre situated in a tranquil spot in the heart of nature. Dinner and possibility of a sauna.
Day 2. Hiidenportti and Tiilikkajärvi national parks
Today you can choose between two national parks that are both within easy reach of Metsäkartano. Tiilikkajärvi national park offers quite easy routes, beautiful lakeside scenery and beaches. By contrast, the scenery at Hiidenportti national park is quite rugged; trails include more hills and are a bit more demanding. The heart of Hiidenportti national park is the majestic Hiidenportti Gorge with its vertical rock walls. Both national parks have some good hiking trails for a few hours’ day tour. For the evening, it’s possible to book a wolverine observation excursion, if you opt for that, you’ll spend the night in a wilderness hide instead of Metsäkartano.
Recommended self-guided trails in national parks: Hiidenkierros 3-5 km, Kitulankierros 10,5 km, Uiton kierto 7 km.
Wolverine watching excursion
Place: Lieksa, 120 km from Metsäkartano
By 2 pm - Arrival at Keljänpuro lodge (no room available)
4 pm - Departure to the wilderness hide. The night will be spent in a wilderness hut, opportunity to observe and photograph wolverines and also other animals like brown bears, wolves, lynxes, beavers, goshawks, golden eagles, white-taled eagles depending on the night.6 am - Return to the base camp 7-8 am - Breakfast - After breakfast the tour goes on according to the itinerary towards Kuhmo.
Please note: If you book this excursion, you will skip the second night in Metsäkartano. The excursion is not suitable for small children.
Day 3. Karelian culture
Metsäkartano–Kuhmo, approx. 105 km
It’s time to say goodbye to Metsäkartano and head via Nurmes in Karelia to Kuhmo. In Nurmes you can visit the Karelian Bomba House and the Karelian village around it. Bomba House might be a good place to enjoy lunch as well. By the end of the day you’ll arrive at Kuhmo which is a small village where you can see the Finnish national epic Kalevala reflected in the architecture, events, research, museums and the food. You can learn more about Kalevala and Karelian culture at the Kalevala Information Centre Juminkeko. For two July weeks Kuhmo is full of guests enjoying the annual Chamber Music Festival which is famous and appreciated throughout the world.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES IN KUHMO
Exciting but safe floating takes place in the Pajakkakoski rapid in the centre of Kuhmo. Duration: 3 hours. Price includes: Guided swim down the rapids, warm underwear and waterproof rescue suit, rafting life jacket, helmet, hot chocolate after swim by the open fire and diploma. Note: The excursion is not suitable for children.
Guided cycling tour on the countryside. Duration 2 hours. Price including bike and helmet.
Day 4. Brown Bears and Winter War history
Kuhmo–Juntusranta, approx. 170 km
In the morning you will have the opportunity to visit Petola Visitor Centre which is an information center on Finland’s large carnivores – bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine. From Kuhmo the route goes toward north through some very sparsely populated areas following the Russian border. You’ll pass through the beautiful village of Lentiira and cross the road leading to Kostamus and to the international frontier crossing point of Vartius. Some 25 km south of Suomussalmi is the historical area of Raate which was the stage of some heavy battles during the Second World War. In Raate it is possible to visit the Winter War exhibition and the Raate Frontier Guard Museum. Your accommodation for the next night will be in the tiny village of Juntusranta just beside the Russian border. Arola, Helena and Eero’s former dairy farm, is well-known for its delicious local food. The farm is surrounded by remote woodland inhabited by European brown bears. In the evening you can take part in a bear safari and observe these majestic animals from the purpose-built log cabins. Finnish eastern border area is one of the best areas in Europe for seeing and photographing European brown bears in their natural habitat. A special hide is a safe place to watch the wildlife up close while they eat and play by carcasses which have been laid out for them. Large windows give clear viewing and there are specially adapted camera holes in the walls for photographing. Hides are equipped with seats, beds and a toilet.
Bear watching excursion
6 hour safari: Departure to the hides at 3-4 pm and return to the accommodation at 9-10 pm. Minimum age 5 years.
Overnight safari: Departure to the hides at 3-4 pm and return to the accommodation at 7-8 am. Overnight excursion is not suitable for small children.
Note: The excursion is available until 17 August.
Day 5. Hossa national park
Juntusranta–Kuusamo approx. 135 km
Heading north again you will first arrive at Hossa national park – the newest national park in Finland – known for its crystal-clear lakes and ponds and handsome pine heathlands. In Hossa you can walk in the footsteps of Finland's Stone Age settlers, who made mysterious shamanistic paintings on the cliffs at Värikallio thousands of years ago. Hossa Visitor Centre offers information on trails and rents equipment like canoes and fatbikes. In Hossa you can also visit a reindeer park and get to know the semi-wild animals inhabiting the northern area of Finland better.
Your base for the next two nights will be Ollila Holiday cottages, hosted by Tuomo and Marjo. The cottages are located on the shore of Lake Muojärvi, in the heart of Kuusamo’s lake-area and surrounded by beautiful pine woods. They have private saunas, wood-burning stoves and rowing boats. Breakfast and dinner are served in the Juomuskota, restaurant whose menu comprises of dishes of local, fresh produce and meats. You can spend the afternoon relaxing in the cabin, heating up sauna and rowing on the lake, or you can walk a 5 km circle route to Muovaara hill.
Recommended self-guided trails in Hossa national park: Hossa nature trail 3 km, Ölökyn ylitys trail 5 km, Värikallion kaarros trail 8 km
Day 6. Kuusamo – Oulanka national park and Ruka
Today you can head to Oulanka national park or Ruka, which is one of the most popular skiing resorts in Finland. Oulanka national park’s heart is the crystal-clear River Oulankajoki. Steep sided ravines and river valleys, which traverse the park, ensure that the views are unforgettable. There are many trail options available but a very nice, though demanding one, is the Small Bear’s Trail starting from the village of Juuma. The hanging bridges along the route will take you to the most impressive waterfalls in Finland. If you prefer canoeing, there are rental canoes as well as guided tours on River Oulankajoki. You could also try rafting, tours vary from easy family tours to speedy tours that will make your heart race!
At Ruka you can climb up to some of the hills and admire the beautiful views over forests and lakes. An easier way to get to the top is the Ruka Lookout Lift that takes you up to the hill. If you are brave enough, you can descend on a speedy summer sled.
Recommended self-guided trails: Small Bear’s Trail 12 km, Hiidenlampi nature trail 5 km, Valtavaara nature trail 8 km.
Recommended canoeing route: Oulanka canoeing route 7-23 km
Rafting excursion in Oulanka national park. enjoying the tranquility of the national park, all the way to border zone. Duration 4,5 hours. Picnic included. Age limit 8 years. Available June-September, please check exact departure dates.
Introduction to paddling
Learn basic paddling skills with kayak or canoe. Getting in and out the kayak/canoe, basic strokes and paddling safety. Location: Oulanka national park. Duration 1,5-2,5 hours. Available June-September, please check exact departure dates.
Day 7. Arctic Circle and Riisitunturi national park
Kuusamo–Rovaniemi, approx. 210 km
This will be your last and longest day of travelling, ending at Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. If you are still willing to do some hiking you can easily visit either Riisitunturi national park or Korouoma nature reserve which both offer the opportunity of some nice day trips. Both destinations have their characteristics and especially the 30-km-long fracture valley in Korouoma is very special. If you take the longer, southern route from Posio to Rovaniemi you will have a chance to visit a Wildlife Park situated in Ranua. There are about 50 species of arctic and northern wild animals at Ranua Zoo, including bears, the only polar bears in Finland, lynxes, wolves, wolverines, moose and many more. The city of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi, offers plenty to do. Santa Claus’ Village on the Arctic Circle takes you to the atmosphere of Christmas, even if it is summer. The Arktikum, a science centre and museum, is also worth a visit. The exhibitions of the Arktikum lead you through the Arctic areas’ and Finnish Lapland’s history and modern day providing a unique insight into the way of life, culture and history of the North.
Recommended self-guided trails: Riisin Rääpäsy trail 4 km, Riisin Rietas trail 10,5 km, Koronjää trail 5 km
Day 8. Return
Breakfast and drive to the airport of Rovaniemi where you will leave your hire car.
Included in this programme
- Accommodation 7 nights:
Days 1-2 - apartment or room
Day 3 - hotel room
Day 4 - apartment or room
Days 5-6 - cabin
Day 7 - hotel room or cabin
All accommodations with private facilities.
- Breakfast daily
- 6 x dinner
- Sauna daily
- Tour information documents by email and online maps
- Dinner on day 7
- Parking fee (only applicable in Rovaniemi city hotel)
- Car hire
You will need
For the hikes you need hiking shoes (on dry weather trainers are fine) and outdoor clothing for varied weather conditions. Don't forget rain clothes!
Good to know
- This is a self-guided tour and no meeting with the tour operator is organized.
- Tour information documents will be sent by email prior to the departure.
- The best airport to arrive is Kuopio or optionally Kajaani. The best airport for the homebound flight is Rovaniemi. All airports are serviced by Finnair through Helsinki. Flights are not included in the tour price. Travel by train is possible too, schedules and prices: www.vr.fi
Deposit: 15 % of total amount will be charged at the time of booking.
Full payment: Due 14 days before the departure. The invoice for full payment will be sent by email.
- It is essential that a passenger is covered by adequate travel insurance.
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