Watch out – bears!


I haven’t been very active on my blog lately, but boy do I have a story for you now! I finally crossed this amazing experience off my bucket list, that is observing wild bears in the Finnish nature! As the COVID-19 situation makes traveling abroad impossible, it was a good time to take some time off exploring Finland’s greatest offering.

I went to Suomussalmi, which is close to the eastern boarder of Finland in July 2020. There is a place called Martinselkonen Wilderness Center that organizes bear watching in safe environment. The viewing happens inside of a simple wooden hide, and the wild bears are attracted to the site with food (typically meat or fish). Although the organizer cannot guarantee that you will see bears, since they are wild animals and come and go as they please, they give almost 100% chance for seeing some. I think we saw about 30 (!) different bears during one watching, which lasted from 5pm to 11pm.

The timing to watch bears was excellent as the nights are bright in the summertime, and cottongrass was blooming in the swamp areas, beautiful!


Just look at this fella, doesn’t he look happy?

We observed this very gentle looking greeting between a male and female bears, kisses were exchanged in European style. It was great watching the different interactions, how some of the males drove other (competitors) away and how the younger bears showed their respect to the elder by circling around the place before getting their share of the free treats offered. Although there were some very impressive huge size male bears, the cutest were by far the bear cups.


These three were happily playing around and didn’t seem to have any care in the world while their mom was eating.


I wonder what this story is about..


Usually the mom bear instructs the cups to climb to a tree if there is anything threatening.. however these two were up to their own shenanigans, climbing up just for fun and play.


This one is almost too cute to be true, doesn’t he look like a teddy-bear? Even though these cups look adorable, you really have to follow the instructions of the guide and stay quietly inside the hide. Leaving the hide and facing mom bear with cups could be dangerous. Many people are scared of bears and hiking in the forest in the areas where bears live, but putting these hides aside, the chances to see a wild bear in the nature are limited. As soon as the bear notices you, it will very likely choose to go away. Bears are curious, but not so curious that they would want to meet in you in person. Most likely a bear has seen you in the forest many times, even though you haven’t seen any!


Visit to Martinselkonen really exceeded my expectations and I wish I could have stayed there more than one evening. Make sure you book your trip in advance! I definitely recommend putting this on your bucket list if you visit Finland during summertime. There are also other wilderness companies that offer bear watching, such as Wild Taiga, Wildlife Safaris and Erä-Eero.

Different organizers offer overnight viewing where you stay in a private or a group hide overnight with basic bunk bed (well, you don’t go there to sleep but to watch animals) and dry toilet/outhouse. I did an overnight stay this July also in a different place to watch wolverines, I’ll tell you more about that later.

As I hadn’t booked accommodation from Martinselkonen, I drove to Paltamo where my travel partner stayed playing golf. Even the drive from the bear watching place was an experience of its own, driving in the nightless night when mist was covering the swamps and blooming cottongrass, reindeer and foxes were occasionally running on the road (good way to stay awake!) and clouds were reflecting from the calm lakes and ponds. Totally worth the drive up North-East from the capital!

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Winter wonderland


For the past week we’ve had quite a snow blizzard in Finland. Even here in the southern Finland we’ve had a chance to enjoy such snowy landscapes that you would normally see further north.


The lakes and the Baltic sea is frozen. This view is from Lippajärvi lake in Espoo. It was -20C and the snow was sparkling and crunching under our shoes. It would have been better to have snow shoes on!


Small river is still open even in -20C.


Trees are covered with snow.. there were paths made by deer. Some had even come by our house during night to find food.





You can see how low the sun is even during mid day. Luckily the darkest time of the winter is already over, the day is slowly getting longer and even in Utsjoki the sun has risen above the horizon for a couple of weeks already.


After a walk in winter wonderland and enjoying the crisp and frosty air, it was nice to take a cup of hot tea and enjoy Shrove bun, ‘laskiaispulla’. This is a special type of bun which can be found in the cafés and supermarkets around January-February. It’s filled with whipped cream and either by almond filling which resembles marzipan or then with strawberry or raspberry jam. Both flavors have their supporters.

Hiking in Valkmusa National Park


In July we did a round trip in the eastern part of Finland, and drove through towns like Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Imatra, Punkaharju and Kotka. All very nice places to visit during the summer and the eastern part of Finland is famous for its sunshine.

On the way home we stayed one night in city of Kotka in a place called Kartanohotelli Karhulanhovi. We didn’t stay at the manor house but one of the guest houses, which we actually got all to ourselves including kitchen and the friendly staff even offered to heat the sauna for us, luxurious! We also enjoyed the art exhibition inside and outside of the manor house. (This is by the way not a paid advertisement, we just genuinely liked the place so much that I want to recommend it to you too!)

After a good night sleep and delicious breakfast, it was time to find Valkmusa National Park. Valkmusa offers an easy 2-4km hike in beautiful swamp scenery.


Valkmusa immediately became one of my absolute favorites of the Finnish National Parks. The duckboards were in good shape and the nature was absolutely stunning. There were simple benches along the way where you could sit down and enjoy the scenery. I’m sure you would be able to see elks and perhaps even bears if you stayed there long enough! We didn’t spot any animals this time.


Cotton grass was blooming and cranberries and cloud berries were growing alongside the duckboards. Seeing the cranberries and smelling the stunning scent of marsh labrador tea flowers took me right back to my childhood when my family was living in a house nearby a swamp. My Mom used to pick the cranberries and make whipped porridge. I loved hiking in the swamp as a child, it was exciting to walk there and try to watch out for the bog eyes. Back then there were no mobile devices so getting really stuck to a bog eye would have really meant trouble! I remember pulling my rubber boot out of the peat many times and walking home with a wet sock..


Valkmusa is really a hidden gem that not too many people know about. I highly recommend to visit it, it’s only 1,5h from Helsinki and you can visit the beautiful city of Porvoo on the way.



Throwback to Finnish summer


The first snow has already fallen on the ground in Finland and clocks have been set to winter time (1h difference to summer time). Although I love autumn and snowy winter, I don’t ever quite feel ready for the winter… I thought I’ll make a visual trip back to summer, join me!


This year summer was exceptionally fantastic in Finland. We had an early start when we had summer temperatures already in May. This made the water in the lakes and rivers warmer than usual. I did remote work from the lake house and it was lovely to take a swim in the lake in the middle of a working day.


We sup paddled along the river Tainionvirta a few times. Lots of waterbirds and this year especially whooper swan families.


Air temperature was around +30C, and not even a breeze of wind! The water was +29C so it was very tempting to jump off the board and swim, which we of course did!


We like to paddle along the river Tainionvirta because there are a few places where you can easily land and call for a pick up. Because our sup boards are inflatable, they are easy to pack for transportation.


After enjoying the river scenery, it’s nice to relax at the lake house and watch how the sun colors the horizon. Below is a view from July evening. Every evening the nature paints a new beautiful view! Put Finland on your travel bucket list for next summer, you’ll love it!


Autumn colours


Autumn is here and ‘ruska’ is at its best at the moment. Ruska is a special name for the beautiful colours that emerge in the nature when the plants prepare themselves for winter.


Last weekend I went for a hike in the Nuuksio National park, this time around Sorlampi. I had read in advance that the trail would be approximately 5km but I think I ended up hiking for more than 10km. Probably I didn’t pay attention to the trail marks while admiring the colourful nature..


I started my hike in Espoo but at some point of time the sign boards pointed to Helsinki.


I feel the bright yellow, red, purple etc. give a lot of energy to the autumn days. This is definitely needed as the daylight time is getting shorter as winter is approaching.


I love the four seasons in Finland, the nature keeps continuously changing. All seasons have their unique character.


Make sure you put Finland ruska time on your travel bucket list! Nature is beautiful in the capital area but many people prefer to visit the northern part of Finland, Lapland, to experience ruska as well as the Northern lights. We experienced amazing Northern lights just a few days ago all over Finland, the sky was lit with green flames and the next day social media channels were full of photos of the mesmerizing lights.



Forest enchantment in Leivonmäki National Park


In the beginning of July we did a day trip to Leivonmäki National park. It’s a large forest and lake area about 2 hours drive from Helsinki, Finland. We decided to hike the Mäyränkierros trail which is a circular track that you can hike in about one hour.


The forests was quite impressive place and the hiking tracks were in good condition. The capital area has also many forests where we go for hike, but there you can almost always hear distant sound of cars somewhere. In this national park the silence made the place enchanting.


Seeing “beard moss” (‘naava’) grow on a tree is a guaranteed sign that the air is pure, as these lichen don’t grow in any polluted areas. They really do look like an old man’s beard don’t they?


The trail had also duckboards through the more damp swamp areas. It was nice to have a lot of variety in the scenery. The trail passed also several small lakes.


Forest offered also these tasty treasures, cloud berries (‘hilla’). It’s easy to understand where their English name comes from, because they do look like little clouds. These berries are highly valued in Finland and a traditional way to enjoy them is to eat them with “Finnish squeaky cheese”, which is specific kind of cheese made from cheese curd which is processed into flat-bread like cakes. The cheese makes a squeaky sound when you bite it.


The forest also offers a glimpse into the history. There are glacial erratic, rock formations from the ice age.


I was hoping to hear the nightjar (‘kehrääjälintu) singing, this national park is among the most significant territorial areas of this bird. Its singing resembles the the whir of a spinning wheel. Maybe next time!


Beautiful surprise


Last weekend we left the lake house quite late in the evening. When we drove by some fields, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. There were tens of whooper swans! Those are the national birds of Finland.


During spring time when the birds return from the south they gather to the fields to rest and to eat. I had never before seen so many of whooper swans in one place!


I counted there must have been around 50 swans altogether. Usually you see these only in pairs, swimming at a lake. The birds stay together for a lifetime once they have chosen their significant other, and they return to the same place to nest. In Finnish the name is ‘laulujoutsen’ which actually literally means ‘song swan’. The name comes from the “singing” that the birds do when they fly. If you have never heard it before, you can listen to a recording here.

Flower power


It’s that time of the year again… The flowers in the Haaga Rhododendron park are blooming!


Last year when I visited this place it was near mid-summer, but this year due to the early and warm summer start the flowers are already at their peak.


If you are visiting Helsinki, I definitely recommend that you stop by at the park. You can find it at Laajasuontie 40, Helsinki. Here’s more information about the park.


People are saying that this year the blooming isn’t as lush as last year but I don’t know, looks pretty colorful in any case!



Early start for summer


For the past couple of weeks we’ve really been pampered in Finland, the temperature has been as high as +28C in the capital area. It feels like the nature decided to skip spring and go straight for summer!


I just love the delicate shades of green in the nature this time of the year. There are so many flowers blooming, even the cherry trees took an early start. If you are in Helsinki you should definitely make your way to the Roihuvuori kirsikkapuisto for the Hanami this Saturday. There are 250 cherry trees blooming! Absolutely beautiful.


The sound of hundreds of birds singing everywhere is wonderful after the long winter. Especially blackbirds and nightingales, their songs are mesmerizing.


It’s truly a blessing to have clean and versatile nature to enjoy… Even a short walk out in the nature will put your mind at ease. Enjoy the early summer!


Exploring Tainionvirta river


This summer I bought myself a stand up paddling (sup) board. Even I say it myself, I think this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being able to paddle at lakes and rivers gives a totally new experience into the beautiful Finnish nature. Thanks to the inflatable sup boards it’s easy to take the board with you when traveling.


Last weekend we were staying at the lake house and decided to paddle through a river called Tainionvirta. This was something we had been wanting to do for a long time, but there are unfortunately very limited opportunities to rent sup boards (some kayak rental is available). Now with our own sup boards this was easy to arrange. Tainionvirta starts from lake Jääsjärvi in Hartola and it flows through some lakes and then ends in lake Päijänne. We had ambitious plan to paddle the whole way from lake Jääsjärvi all the way to Päijänne, which is approximately 40-45km long route.


Lake Jääsjärvi has some beautiful scenery, which is like text book classic of how the nature in Finland looks like during summer. Clouds reflecting from the blue lake, water lilies floating here and there. The river starts from Jääsjärvi, nearby a public beach called Aurinkoranta (“sun beach”) in municipality of Hartola (located between cities Jyväskylä and Lahti). It begins with a rapid called Ekonkoski, which is very easy to paddle through as it’s wide and deep enough even during the summer months. The only thing you need to watch out for are the fishermen who are fly-fishing trouts from the rapid. You will see trouts jumping from the water – maybe some of them will try to hitchhike with you!

If you don’t want to paddle through the first rapid, you can also start your paddling nearby the Hartola golf course. There’s a public place for rug washing (yes, you read it correctly – it’s very traditional summer activity to come and hand wash your rugs outside.. the scent of pine soft soap belongs to the childhood memories of many Finns) where you can easily decent into the water from a pier.


The first part of the route goes through inhabited area. You will pass a beautiful hanging bridge (mind your head!) nearby the museum of Itä-Häme (East-Tavastia) and Maila Talvio salon (art gallery). Paddling via the river gives you a sneak peak into the homes and summer houses of Finns, which are nicely hidden from the roads but open up towards the river. Beautiful places! The people will likely smile and wave when you pass them by. It takes about 20-30 minutes to paddle from the beginning of the river until the Finnish main road 4 (Valtatie 4), it’s less than 4km. There’s a gas station and cafeteria, if you want to stop for restrooms or to get something to eat. Approximately 800m from the main road is the next rapid called Vuoteenkoski. Follow the right side of the rapid and mind the stones, the water was quite shallow as it hasn’t been raining a lot lately. You will pass by camping area Koskenniemi. If you want to experience the Finnish summer cottage life or need a camping site where to park your camper, this is a great place to stay overnight (and why not start your paddling straight from the pier of your rental cottage).


Within couple of kilometers from the camping area we faced the only challenging part of the paddle, rapid called Vanhanmyllynkoski. It’s a popular place for fly-fishing salmon, trouts and whitefish. There the rapid current was quite strong but water was very shallow, and a tree had fallen down into the river, blocking the best paddling route. My board got stuck into the stones by its fin and the current took my partner’s board straight into the fallen tree. Luckily, neither us nor the sup boards suffered any damage (except for maybe bruised egos as the fly-fishers were watching our endeavors…). Since the water was so shallow, we could simply step off the board and carry the board to a better place and continue paddling. It’s actually possible to bypass that rapid by carrying your board or kayak if you so wish, but we decided to take a risk.. After the rapid the views were amazing, as we passed by some forests, swamps and fields.


There were couple of places where we had to bypass some dam and carry the boards on the other side. First one was Hotilankoski, which has a beautiful old water mill.


Next one was Kirveskoski dam, where we had to carry to boards for approximately 150m by a field.



The remaining part didn’t have any rapids so it was very peaceful to paddle. Even though we were paddling along the flow, the river was for most of the part so calm that you really have to paddle all the way. That’s why the rapids were actually nice change as you could simply ride the flow.


Finally, we reached the first lake: Joutsjärvi. By this time we had already eaten our snacks and drank all water (consumption based on sports tracker was 1500kcal!). So in the end, we finished the paddling to Tenninranta beach, on the other side of the lake, from which we arranged a pick-up back to the lake house. In total our route was approximately 15km and it took us 4h plus the snack breaks. You could paddle it much faster, but we were enjoying the sunny day, paddling slowly and taking a photos along the way with our mobile phones.


This was a very nice experience and I’m sure next time we’ll be better equipped with water and snacks and continue the route all the way to lake Päijänne. Perhaps next time we’ll pack a tent with us, so we can stay overnight by the river. If you got interested of this route, you can download and print the river guide (both in Finnish and English) or visit the Outdoors Finland pages where I also checked some guidance before the paddling trip.