Vaarunvuori is a protected area in the middle of Finland near lake Päijänne. high on the steep cliff. I visited the nature trail in November after a cold night had frozen the two small lakes in the area. It was about -6C and a nice sunny day. The trail of 4 km goes to the viewing place on the cliff called Vaarunjyrkkä.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.