As the October rain makes the day dark and gloomy, it’s the perfect time to look back on bright summer days in one of Finland’s most unspoilt locations. Koli, about an hour’s drive from Joensuu, is often referred to as Finland’s national landscape. For some, this perhaps has a rather outdated ring to it, but with the booming trend towards nature travel, Koli is actually the place to visit. Last July we started our 4-week holiday with a short visit to Finland’s Eastern corner.
Breathtaking hike up the Mäkrä hill
As two kayaking enthusiasts our plan was to spend the day out on the lake, but heavy wind and foamy waves of Lake Pielinen decided otherwise. As holiday is all about flexible plans, we decided to go hiking instead and didn’t regret that for a moment. Koli area has a number of scenic hiking trails ranging from short 30-minute walks to longer overnight hikes. Whichever you choose, make sure to bring your camera because the views are simply spectacular and whether a local or a foreigner you can only admire the natural beauty of this area. We decided to take the Mäkrän polku trail (https://www.nationalparks.fi/kolinp/trails/summerhiking#makra) which is a 7- kilometer hike in spectacular landscape up the Mäkrä hill. The trail is said to be challenging and it was a sweaty climb indeed, but definitely worth it! You get to see many of Koli’s peaks on the way and yes, your quads are tested, but there are also some beautiful meadows along the way. And if you’re looking for the unbeaten track, this was pretty much it on a quiet July afternoon with basically no one else there but us.
With your legs still aching after the climb up the Mäkrä hill, nothing felt better than the thought of spending a quiet evening in the privacy of the beautiful and inviting log house, Kolin Keisari. Koli Royal (https://koliroyal.fi/en/) offers various types of log houses in the Koli area and Kolin Keisari is their absolute star offering unbeatable, luxurious premises for shorter breaks or longer stays. It was the owners’ hospitality and welcoming attitude, beautiful location in the peace and quiet surrounded by tall pine trees, modern architecture and the spacious, beautifully detailed house that really made us love every moment at Kolin Keisari. When enjoying the gentle steams of the sauna and seeing the pine trees bending gently in the wind the hectic days at the office seemed like a very distant memory.
Surfing waves and outdoor lunch
The following morning the wind was still heavy, but after a good night’s sleep we decided to give kayaking a try. It wasn’t the longest of our trips and it was a bit of a struggle with tall waves (yes, Pielinen is a fairly big lake), but we were out on the lake long enough to see the narrow islands and beautiful sandy beaches that will most definitely make us return. For many, Koli is about rocky peaks and breathtaking views, and while that is true of course, one shouldn’t forget it is also surrounded by a majestic lake, fourth largest in Finland actually.
Kayaking in the Koli area is possible even if you don’t have a kayak of your own as renting shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re a beginner however, you might want to choose a route where islands give you some shelter from the wind. For various rentals and other activities, Nationalparks.fi which provides up-to-date information on Finnish national parks lists some private tourist services on their website https://www.nationalparks.fi/kolinp/services/partners
After a couple of hours of kayaking, the sun finally came out and we found a nice tranquil spot in the island of Laitosaari to make lunch and unwind while enjoying the bit of sunshine and smell of water coming in off the lake. For us this was the perfect moment to plan our next visit to Koli, which will most probably be when the winter comes and the skiing tracks are ready to welcome us!
by Liisa Ruuskanen
The writer is a translation and writing professional, a keen traveller and a kayaking instructor (and enthusiast) who loves to relax exploring new places near and far.