Tag Archives: kayaking

National parks of Finland for kayaking and canoeing

A friend of mine asked what national park would be good for paddling. Good question, what would be the best and most suitable national park of Finland for paddling. When choosing one you should ask some questions from yourself first.

  1. Are you going to paddle with a kayak or canoe?
  2. How far from your home can you travel?
  3. Are you familiar with streams and whitewater paddling at all?
  4. How long a trip are you planning? How many kilometres a day are planning and are used to paddle?
  5. Do you want to paddle a circle route, starting from and ending to same place?
  6. Do you have your own kayaks/canoes or do you need to rent them?
  7. Do you want to combine paddling and hiking?
  8. Do you want to make day trips or are you going to go camping?
  9. When are you planning to go?

Knowing answers to these I was ready to suggest some places I have visited myself. In fact there are a lot of places I would recommend. These are not listed in any particular order. Just two of them includes streams of some short, others are all on lake areas, big and small.

1. Päijänne national park

  • Suggested boat: Kayak
  • Location: In central Finland, 120 km from Jyväskylä, 160 from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Moderate/good, have to be able to cope with strong headwind and big waves on open waters
  • Suggested stay: 3-5 days
  • Circle route: Can be done, one starting point Padasjoki village
  • Rental services: In Padasjoki
  • Paddling and hiking: 8 km long hiking trail on Kelvenne island (16 km back and forth)
  • Day trips: Can be done but it takes time to reach the park and the area is quite big
  • Best time to visit: June or August, July is the busiest time though probably the warmest
  • Extra: Nice sandy beaches. See my blog post on Päijänne np
Päijänne national park – Isohieta beach

2. Kolovesi

  • Suggested boat: Kayak or canoe
  • Location: In Eastern Finland, 210 km from Jyväskylä, 380 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Moderate, have to be able to cope with occasionally headwind on lake area
  • Suggested stay: 2-4 days
  • Circle route: Can be done from Käkövesi or Kirkkoranta starting places
  • Rental services: available at both starting places (booking needed in advance)
  • Paddling and hiking: not really, two short (3,3 km and 3,5 km long) nature trails
  • Day trips: not suggested, the area is large and has so many bays to paddle
  • Best time to visit: June or late August, in July and August quite popular
  • Extra: Possibility to see Saimaa ringed seal if lucky. See my blog post on Kolovesi np
Kolovesi national park – near Ukonvuori hill

3. Linnansaari

  • Suggested boat: Kayak
  • Location: In Eastern Finland, 190 km from Jyväskylä, 370 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Moderate/good experience, have to be able to cope with strong headwind and big waves on open waters. I would not recommend it to inexperienced paddlers unless you really know the weather and wind forecasts.
  • Suggested stay: 4-7 days
  • Circle route: Can be done from Oravi or Rantasalmi
  • Rental services: Available at Oravi or Rantasalmi (Porosalmi)
  • Paddling and hiking: not really, a 7 km nature trail in Linnansaari island
  • Day trips: If only want to visit Linnansaari island
  • Best time to visit: June to August
  • Extra: The other park where you can spot Saimaa ringed seal. Lots of interesting islands. See my blog posts of Linnansaari np
Linnansaari national park – from Linnavuori hill

4. Tiilikkajärvi

  • Suggested boat: Canoe
  • Location: In Eastern Finland, 270 km from Jyväskylä, 510 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Very modest experience, lake is quite small, for easy paddling
  • Suggested stay: 2-3 days
  • Circle route: Can be done, return partly same route, either from southern or northern access
  • Rental services: Not easily found, check the list of outdoors.fi
  • Paddling and hiking: Can be combined easily, moderate 20 km of trails
  • Day trips: Can be done if you are passing by the area
  • Best time to visit: June to August
  • Extra: Fine sandy beaches to camping. See my blog post on Tiilikkajärvi np
Tiilikkajärvi national park – the tip on the peninsula

5. Petkeljärvi

  • Suggested boat: Kayak or canoe
  • Location: In Eastern Finland, 335 km from Jyväskylä, 500 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Modest/moderate, small quite sheltered lake routes if staying in the park
  • Suggested stay: 2-3 days (longer if leaving the park)
  • Circle route: From Petraniemi camp site
  • Rental services: At Petraniemi camp site
  • Paddling and hiking: A couple of trails of in the park, total 10 km) and one longer leaving the park (Taitajantaival).
  • Day trips: Most suitable for day trips, for longer trips also if leaving the park either south or north.
  • Best time to visit: June to August
  • Extra: Very peaceful place by the Russian border. See my blog post on Petkeljärvi np
Petkeljärvi national park – view from Korkeasärkkä

6. Patvinsuo

  • Suggested boat: Kayak or canoe
  • Location: In Eastern Finland, 335 km from Jyväskylä, 520 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Very modest, lake area is quite small, only a few kilometers long
  • Suggested stay: 2-4 days
  • Circle route: From Suomu Nature
  • Rental services: At Suomu Nature Information Hut
  • Paddling and hiking: Very good, 80 km of trail in the park and several trail leadin out of the park
  • Day trips: If passing by it can be done but camping is suggested
  • Best time to visit: July, no rush. Should be interesting also from June to September.
  • Extra: Great camping sites on sandy beaches. Strong bear population in the park and surrounding area, avoiding people though. See my blog post on Patvinsuo np
Patvinsuo national park – Pokkaniemi camp site

7. Lemmenjoki

  • Suggested boat: Kayak or canoe
  • Location: In Lapland, 910 km from Jyväskylä, 1180 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Moderate, knowing how to handle streams both up and down. River at some places as wide as a lake.
  • Suggested stay: 4-6 days
  • Circle route: From Njurkulahti to Kultasatama and back, not really a circle route
  • Rental services: At Njurkulahti
  • Paddling and hiking: Very good with 60 km of trails in the park.
  • Day trips: Not really
  • Best time to visit: June to August, July depending of the mosquitos
  • Extra: If you don’t mind pulling your canoe upstream on a few spots. Great wilderness area. See my blog post on Lemmenjoki np.
Lemmenjoki national park

8. Oulanka

  • Suggested boat: Kayak or canoe
  • Location: In Norteastern Finland, 600 km from Jyväskylä, 860 km from Helsinki
  • Experience needed: Very modest, more experience needed earlier in summer when the river is wilder
  • Suggested stay: 1-2 days
  • Circle route: No
  • Rental services: Several companies offer rental and pick-up services
  • Paddling and hiking: Very good with 80 km of trails in the park and along the canoe route
  • Day trips: Can be done easily by day trip
  • Best time to visit: June-August, amount of mosquitos vary
  • Extra: Reindeer by the river. See my blog post on Oulanka np
Oulanka national park

In southern Finland there is also Repovesi national park of which I have no paddling experience but seems to have nice and interesting waters. In parks Liesjärvi and Leivonmäki you can go for a couple days of paddling trip. In Isojärvi national park you can also paddle on 20 km long lake Isojärvi which has two camping sites on its shore.

If you are an experienced sea kayaker you can of course visit Finland’s national parks by the sea; Archipelago np (see seakayakingetc’s blog post on that), Botnia Bay np, Ekenäs Archipelago np and Gulf of Finland np.

These are the best national parks to paddle. Totally my own ranking. Combination of proven peace, good camping sites and protected nature is something that attracts me to visit these parks again and again.


Kayaking in Kolovesi national park

Probably the most well known and popular national park of Finland among kayakers is Kolovesi national park. About one third of visitors arrive at the park by kayak/canoe or boat, not by cars! If you are an experienced paddler one good place to start is Oravi village by lake Haukivesi (part of Saimaa) from where you can paddle either through Linnansaari national park along lake Haukivesi or shorter way through lake Joutenvesi (lots of protected islands). Either way is beautiful. There used to be a carry-over path from Joutenvesi (through lakes Ruunavesi and Vääräjärvi) to lake Käkövesi but last time I visited the route was blocked by private lot so you might have to use the northern access. From Oravi you can rent a kayak and shop last supplies.

If arriving with a car there are two points, Käkövesi beach (a few kilometers from the park) and Kirkkoranta beach (in the park), see the map.
No motor boats (except few locals) are allowed at the park which offers rare experience of silence in the popular lake area of Finland.

For camping there are several sites but quite few good spots per site so if you move with a bigger group it is not guaranteed that there’s room or even spots for everyone. I guess Syväniemi site is suitable, I have seen one big (loud) group staying there when passing by. Camping in the park is allowed only at these sites.

Be aware when paddling especially early in the mornings and late in the evenings, the park is inhabited by Saimaa ringed seal, see pdf, the most endangerad seal of the world. You might get a glimpse of it in the water or even lying on the rock by the shore.

Kolovesi has very rocky shores, not too many sandy beaches there. The lake area is quite narrow so it’s suitable also for canoeing. Here are some pictures of my trips to Kolovesi from previous years.

Beautiful shores of Kolovesi
Ukonvuori hill must be the most visited place in the park
By the shore of Ukonvuori you can climb the stairs to see rock paintings
Rock paintings at Ukonvuori - not very visible and clear but there they are at the middle
There's a path to the top of Ukonvuori hill
Paddling near Ukonvuori
Paddlers near Ukonvuori shore
Rock formation at Ukonlahti bay
View from Lapinniemi tent site in the evening at 8 pm
Shores near Joutenlahti, on the western side of Vaajasalo island
Lots of cliffs
Western entrance to Vaajasalo tent site
Good signs to campers - this one outdated by now
Vaajasalo tent site
Camper's friend - lizard
Because of uneven terrain there are decks for tents

Kayaking in Päijänne national park

Paddling along Kelvenne island

You can enter Päijänne national park by kayak from several places but the most popular place for take-off is from Padasjoki village from the western side of the park or from Pulkkilanharju from the south-east direction. In either case it is better to check wind forecast because there are huge open lake to cross and weather can turn from the sunniest day to the very windy and murky in no time.

Kayaking in Päijänne national park can be exciting, lake Päijänne is the second largest lake in Finland. The national park itself consists of several islands of which Kelvenne is the biggest with fine sandy beaches. Good site for overall information of Päijänne national park is nationalparks.fi.

My trip started from Padasjoki harbor though I learned later that there is a better place for start a kilometre north of the harbor near Mainiemi.

Leaving from Padasjoki
Clear water of lake Päijänne

Best places for more quiet camping/stops are those harbors which can be reached only by kayaks, canoes or smaller boats. Those sites are:
1. Isohieta beach on Kelvenne island (long beach, enough room even in “tourist” season, best choice)
2. Nimetön on Kelvenne island (a bit dark shore, check the western side)
3. Lietsaari (sandy beaches on both side, not for camping unfortunately)

Check also Hinttolanhiekka on the eastern side of Kelvenne island, sandy beach and quiet popular. There are a lot campfire sites and harbours but camping is allowed only in a few places.

Quiet Isohieta beach on Kelvenne island
Kayaks on Kelvenne island

You can easily find place place for your tent on Isohieta beach on Kelvenne island and enjoy your day either hiking the 8 km trail from one end to another of Kelvenne island or swim or snorkel in the shallow waters by the beach. When camping make sure to protect your food properly because there is a at least a small population of nosy badgers on the island and they will check your supplies in the night.

Tent places on Isohieta beach
Nice setting at the camp
Panorama of Isohieta beach
Big boats like Likolahti bay
Paddling in Nimetön bay

Because Päijänne national park can be reached quite easily from Padasjoki, it is suitable for weekend trips though there are a lot of places for longer exploration. There can be a lot of boats around in July which is the busiest season, but on other times there is peace and space.

The top 5 places outdoors in 2010

In 2010 I had a joy of visiting a lot of interesting places, some of them familiar before, some totally new. The visits to some places were one time only, some I visited more than once, one almost daily. The visits lasted from daily short walks to a few days canoeing trip. I enjoyed them was by walking, biking, cross country skiing, kayaking and canoeing.

There were a lot of other fine and memorable places I had a chance to see in 2011. These five I picked because each of these left me with great lasting memories.

1. Riisitunturi National Park

The day trip to Riisitunturi National Park in March was done in perfect weather, sunshine and crisp -10C cold. Riisitunturi fell is quite a winter wonderland, with ice and snow “tykky” covered spruce, great views to lake Kitka and slopes with really deep snow.

Riisitunturi national park, Finland
Riisitunturi National Park

We entered the park from Riisitunturi starting point. From there you can either ski to the wilderness hut beside the fell. Or if you are with snowshoes, go first to the top of the fell along the route called Riisin Rääpäsy and then to the hut.

If not following the maintained ski tracks for other starting point in Tolva village, you might be better off with wider skis, like forest skis. Going down from the fell with skis is marvellous, you can make your own tracks anywhere in the park. In March snow is quite deep and surface is not yet turned into ice, so called “hankikanto”. There is a chance or great telemarking down the hill off the trails in case you do no mind sinking into armpit-deep snow where your poles do not reach the bottom.

Absolutely a lovely place worth visiting if you are around Posio, Lapland or Kuusamo. For more information see nationalparks.fi.

2. Lake Pihlajavesi, Saimaa

Lake Pihlajavesi is part of greater lake Saimaa. Pihlajavesi is full of islands and protected areas, a paradise for a kayaker or canoeist. My trip in July by a canoe was around island called Kongonsaari.

Canoeing at Lake Pihlajavesi
Pakarhiekka, Lake Pihlajavesi

It was very hot in July, so hot that canoeing at midday was not a good option. Canoeing was therefore done early in the morning. Horseflies were abound and very hungry. Swimming was the only reasonable thing to do, several times during the day.

Kongonsaari Island has a few tent sites and harbours which are favoured also by boaters. To find more peaceful shores in Pihlajavesi I advise to have a look of the harbour information site and then choose those with fewer stars, no docks for boats and shores with shallow water.

For those interested to see Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) which inhabits in lake Pihlajavesi, this is the place to spot it. One evening a fellow camper got a glimpse of it in the waters near our tent site but still after patient wait it did not appear again.

3. Helsinki from a kayak

Helsinki offers fine conditions for sea kayaking. There are some private tour operators and kayak rentals but most natives leave for their trips from their local kayak clubs. Last summer and fall I did some evening trips along the shores of Helsinki. Photographing from the kayak in the evening is quite challenging as you can see.

kayaking in Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki from a kayak

The urban surroundings in the evening make kayaking quite unusual experience. Going through West Harbour beside those huge sea ferries makes you feel very very tiny and hope that those floating houses are not right now leaving the harbour (check their schedules).  Entering Ruoholahti Channel with reflecting lights is very interesting (see picture above), gives you a new perpective of Helsinki.

Anyway, it is wise to go with a group as the boat traffic near Helsinki is quite busy, especially in daytime. In the evening you must have good lights to give other boaters some mark of your existence.

Pihlajasaari is an very popular island nearby and to get there by kayak you have to cross very busy and many crossing boat routes. At the same time you have to be aware of those big ferries coming and going and sometimes quite rough sea.

There are many other great islands and spots, some equipped with fire places and on some camping is allowed. See for more information on Helsinki and Espoo archipelago.

4. Vaarunvuori

Vaarunvuori is a jewel in the middle of Finland, a protected area near lake Päijänne, high on the steep cliff. There is a varying nature trail of 4 km which goes past two lakes and the cliff called Vaarunjyrkkä.

Cranberries in Vaarunvuori, Finland
Cranberries in Vaarunvuori

It is a nice place for a day trip either from above the hill via nature trail or from lake Päijänne below. There are no tent site but one fire place along the trail. There are plenty of berries (blueberries, cranberries, cloudberries) and mushroom to choose from if you know right places..

It is also the most valuable area of middle Finland with over 60 endangered species. Luckily the plans for power plant were stopped in the 90’s by Vaarunvuori movement.

5. Shores of Helsinki

Shores of Helsinki  are along my almost daily walking routes. The seashore is always different depending of the light, wind, weather etc. There is always something interesting to photograph.

shores of Helsinki
Shores of Helsinki

The sudden encounters with a city fox, rabbits and spotting of variety of birds gives an unexpected nature to each walk. The nature is not really that far away anywhere in Helsinki.

In summer you can bike along the shores or on other 750 kilometres of bike paths. Helsinki is almost surrounded by sea, the coastline is of 122 km long, so there is plenty to explore.