Some of Finland’s most amazing attractions are the national parks, where you can admire national landscapes and other natural wonders, as well as go hiking, camping, berry picking and fishing. There are 40 national parks in Finland with a total size of 10,000 square kilometers. A total of 13 percent of Finland’s area is covered by various protected areas.
Hiking and camping in Finnish national parks is completely free. Parks are managed by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife, and free services include marked hiking trails, dry toilets, picnic areas with firewood and lean-to shelters, and wilderness huts where anybody can spend a night for free. Believe it or not: some wilderness huts even have a sauna!
Hiking in Finnish national parks is completely safe. There’s no need to worry about crime, not even breaking into your car in the parking lot. And if the idea of wild beasts lurking in the forest troubles you, just remember: bears and wolves are much more afraid of you than you are of them. Encountering a bear on a hike is as unlikely as winning the lottery. If you want to see the national animal of Finland in its natural habitat, you can do so from a photography hide on a bear safari.
Top 10 National Parks in Finland
Finland’s most legendary trekking trails can be found in the north, but many national parks in Southern Finland are highly recommended for day hikes or short camping trips with children.
National parks in this article are not ranked, only presented by their location from south to north. Among them are both large wilderness areas and small day trip destinations. The criteria for selecting them in Top 10 is that they all have something exceptional to offer.
At the end of this article is a map showing the location of national parks and other outdoor attractions in Finland.
Nuuksio – near Helsinki
Nuuksio National Park is a hugely popular day hiking destination, as it’s located right next to the Helsinki metropolitan area.
Nuuksio can be reached by local bus from the center of Helsinki. The journey takes about an hour. In Nuuksio, it’s worth visiting Finnish Nature Center Haltia, whose exhibition tells everything about Finnish national parks.
The most popular trail in Nuuksio is the four-kilometer-long Haukankierros (Hawk Trail). There are several shorter and longer routes in the park. Along the trails of Nuuksio, there are many campfire sites with firewood where you can sip thermos coffee or grill sausages.
On peak times (like weekends and holidays) Nuuksio may feel quite crowded. A more peaceful alternative near Helsinki is Sipoonkorpi National Park. Sipoonkorpi, dominated by gloomy forests, is especially popular with mushroom pickers in August and September. The easiest way to get to Sipoonkorpi is through Lake Kuusijärvi in Vantaa. The bus journey from the center of Helsinki takes less than an hour. Kuusijärvi has a small beach and a public sauna.
Torronsuo – Lappish Landscapes in Southern Finland
Torronsuo and Liesjärvi National Parks are so close to each other that it’s possible to visit both parks during the same day. They are located near Forssa, about 100 kilometers drive from Helsinki, Turku or Tampere.
Torronsuo is, as the Finnish name implies, a vast swamp – in fact, it is the deepest swamp in Finland. When walking along the duckboards, you might think you are in the wilderness of Lapland. There are more than a hundred species of birds nesting in the Torronsuo area. In addition to birdwatchers other visitors, too, should climb the Kiljamo observation tower rising on a hill.
Torronsuo has a 1,5 kilometer long duckboard trail called Kiljamon Kierros (Kiljamo Tour), as well as much more duckboards on the 10-kilometer ring route. In winter, cross-country ski trails cross the swamp. In the adjacent Liesjärvi National Park you will find a traditional farm that exhibits life in the Finnish countryside 100 years ago.
Repovesi – wilderness for the whole family
Repovesi National Park near Kouvola is the best national park in Southern Finland. The landscapes of Repovesi are dominated by gloomy spruce forest, vertical cliffs and blue lakes. Repovesi is one of the smallest national parks in Finland, and therefore it’s best suited for a day hike or a night trip with kids.
Repovesi National Park has marked forest trails of various lengths (the longest is the 26-kilometer Kaakkurin Kierros), service roads suitable for mountain biking, and narrow lakes that are ideal for kayaking. Canoes and kayaks can be rented outside the park. The rock face of Olhavanvuori hill is the most legendary rock climbing spot in Finland.
Camping is allowed anywhere in the park, but lighting an open fire is only allowed at marked campfire sites. Elsewhere you can use a camping stove. If you want luxury in Repovesi, you can rent a Lapp-style hut. Our favourite is Mustavuori Hut next to a high hill with observation tower.
Read more: Repovesi
Kolovesi – the best canoeing destination for beginners
Kolovesi National Park is one of the best places in Finland for a canoe trip, because motor boats are prohibited in the park. Renting a canoe is ideal for novices, too, as the narrow lakes of Kolovesi are sheltered from the wind. There are many beautiful camping sites on the islands and peninsulas.
Kolovesi is part of Finland’s largest lake, Saimaa, the home for the endangered Saimaa ringed seal. These freshwater seals do not live anywhere else in the world.
Even a better place to spot a rare ringed seal is nearby Linnansaari National Park, where you can join guided boat trips. The best time for a seal safari is May, when ringed seals often laze on the shores. In summer, seal safaris start late in the evening, so after a trip it’s a good idea to spend the night at the modern Oravi Villages apartment hotel.
Koli – Finland’s national landscape
Finland’s most romantic national park is Koli, whose landscape, which opens onto Lake Pielinen from its highest peak, was captured by painters from the “golden age” in the turn of the 20th century.
Koli is such a popular travel destination that you might not even feel like being in a national park at all. Quite exceptionally, there is even a real hotel inside the National Park area, Break Sokos Hotel Koli. When relaxing in the hotel’s lovely spa, it’s easy to agree that Koli is the most luxurious national park in Finland.
The most famous landscapes of Koli are right next to the hotel: the climb to the top of Ukko-Koli hill takes just ten minutes. Those who want to enjoy several days in Koli National Park can hike a 60-kilometer trail around Lake Herajärvi.
Patvinsuo – bog and beach
Patvinsuo National Park, dominated by open swamp, is located east of Koli, halfway between Lieksa and Ilomantsi. The most interesting of Patvinsuo’s hiking trails is the three-kilometer-long Lakkapolku, which runs along duckboards through the magnificent Surkansuo swamp. Walking around the ring route takes one hour. In the middle of a vast landscape you feel like you are on another planet.
Another recommended trail in Patvinsuo is the 15-kilometer-long Suomunkierto. It’s a ring route around Suomunjärvi lake and easy to walk in a day. Along the way you will find wonderful deserted sandy beaches as well as rest areas suitable for a lunch break or overnight camping. You can also rent a canoe in Suomunjärvi.
Hossa – rock paintings and fishing
Located south of Kuusamo, near the Russian border, Hossa is a long-known destination for hikers and fishermen. Hossa became Finland’s newest national park in 2017, when Finland celebrated its 100th anniversary of independence.
The landscape of Hossa is dotted with incredibly clear lakes. Between them are narrow isthmuses, covered by a dry pine forest. An extensive network of trails connects numerous lean-to shelters and wilderness huts. Thanks to great facilities and easy trails, Hossa is ideal for families with children. The place is also known as the “fisherman’s paradise”.
But Hossa has much more to offer than hiking and fishing. There are relatively easy canoeing routes in the park, making Hossa a popular destination for short canoe trips. The forest trails are ideal for mountain biking, and Hossa even has well-preserved Stone Age rock paintings.
Read more: Hossa
Oulanka – Finland’s most international national park
Oulanka National Park has one of the most beautiful landscapes in Finland, thanks to its roaring rapids and spectacular viewpoints. Oulanka is also one of Finland’s most popular outdoor destinations among foreign hikers. In the international press, Oulanka has been selected several times as one of the best national parks in Europe.
Oulanka is best known for Finland’s most popular hiking trail, the 82-kilometer-long Karhunkierros (Bear Trail). If you don’t want to hike for multiple days, the highlights of the route can be explored on the 12-kilometer Little Bear Tour. Next to its starting point is the idyllic wilderness hotel Basecamp Oulanka.
Pallas-Yllästunturi – Finland’s most popular national park
The fell scenery of Pallas is one of the most magnificent in Finland. No wonder, then, that Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park has the oldest official hiking trail in Finland. It was marked on the terrain as early as 1934, four years before the national park was established.
The 55-kilometer trail between Hetta and Pallas meanders through treeless fells and occasionally deviates into gorges and wild forests. There are many wilderness huts and reservation huts along the route, so the duration of the hike can be decided at will. Usually the hike from Hetta to Pallas takes three or four days. At the end of the hike, you can sleep in style in Finland’s first fell hotel, Lapland Hotels Pallas.
The most popular day trip in Western Lapland begins at the hotel and the adjacent nature center. Taivaskero Tour is a 9-kilometer trail that takes 3-4 hours to walk. Despite the steepness, the path is easy until you reach the top ridge covered by rocky ground. From Taivaskero you can see tens of kilometers in clear weather. At the top of Taivaskero is a plaque marking the spot where the Olympic flame of the Helsinki Olympics was ignited in 1952 – with the help of the midnight sun, of course.
Urho Kekkonen National Park – Finland’s best trekking destination
Urho Kekkonen National Park in Eastern Lapland was founded in 1983. It was named after the legendary president of Finland, Urho Kaleva Kekkonen. It is the second largest national park in Finland.
Urho Kekkonen National Park is also one of the most popular: more than 300,000 hikers and skiers visit the park every year. The place may sound crowded, but since most visitors only go on a day trip using the nearby Saariselkä ski resort as a base, there is a huge amount of wilderness in Urho Kekkonen National Park.
The uninhabited area of the park is 2,550 square kilometers, twice the size of Hong Kong or three times the size of Madeira. Northern part is dominated by treeless fells, while the southern part of the park is covered by forests and swamps.
Urho Kekkonen National Park has everything a hiker can wish for. The trawils are clearly marked, and tens of kilometers of duckboards run across the bogs. There are 37 wilderness huts, 24 lean-to shelters, 130 campfire sites with firewood, and 85 dry toilets. The park even has 7 saunas.
You can hike and camp wherever you want – even outside the marked trails. Open fire isn’t allowed everywhere, but there are enough official campfire places and of course a camping stove can be used anywhere. The water of small streams is clean and drinkable.
Finnish Wilderness Areas
In addition to national parks, there are official wilderness areas in Finland. From the hiker’s point of view, there is no difference: wilderness area facilities such as huts and shelters are similar to those in the actual national parks.
If you are a loner and want to wander far away from other people – and you have the necessary gear and know how to use it – head to Tsarmitunturi, Vätsäri or the northwest corner of Finland, Käsivarsi. All three are wilderness areas where you can hike for a week or two outside of the marked trails.
Käsivarsi Wilderness Area has the most beautiful and wild fell landscapes of Finland. This place is – as the name implies – a huge uninhabited area where an inexperienced hiker should never go without thorough preparation. For example, not all routes are marked on the terrain, in the open hills the weather may change really rapidly, and on top of all that, mobile phones do not have coverage everywhere. In case of an accident help is far away.
The most legendary trail in Käsivarsi is the trek to the highest point of Finland, Halti (1324 meters above sea level). This hike takes about a week in snowless time of the year, and in winter it can be done by skiing. On the way there are a few wilderness huts. The hike to Halti is tough and by no means suitable for beginners.
Fortunately, the breathtaking scenery of Käsivarsi can be explored with easy day hikes around the village of Kilpisjärvi. The most popular day route is the ascent to the top of Saana fell. There are also wonderful hiking trails around nearby Lake Tsahkal.
Finnish national parks on the map
The map below has the best national parks in Finland, and many other recommended outdoor attractions like best day hikes, wildlife safaris, fishing spots and canoeing routes.
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