Summer fun in Karelia, Finland

Summer fun in Karelia, Finland

Koli National Park Koli National Park

As we are starting to feel a little more optimistic about getting away this summer, I began thinking about destinations that are on the top of my list for a summer getaway and I recalled an amazing trip courtesy of Visit Finland that I took a few summers ago to North Karelia.
Densely forested and wonderfully remote, the region of Karelia spans across Finland and Russia and has a distinct culture, language, music, religion, cuisine and even architecture.

Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, Joensuu Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas, Joensuu
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Joensuu - capital of North Karelia

A short flight or even better a leisurely more sustainable 5-hour train ride from Helsinki will take you to Joensuu. This lively university town is the capital of North Karelia and was founded by Tsar Nicholas I in 1848, so expect a few Russian architectural gems such as the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas.
What better way to enjoy a long Finnish summer evening than taking a cruise on the River Pielinen. On board I enjoyed meeting and listening to the most famous folk music artist in Finland, Mrs Sari Kaasinen.

SUP courtesy of Arctic Trainers SUP courtesy of Arctic Trainers

With all the pristine lakes in Finland, it would have been remiss of me to pass up the opportunity to try a Stand-Up Paddle boarding. So, I headed to Arctic Trainers Activity Centre for my first experience of SUP, where I only fell in once, but it did take several attempts to get back on the board!

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A visit to the stunning Koli National Park is a must when visiting Karelia. Take a walk on the oldest bedrock in Europe and understand why the landscape of Koli and Lake Pielinen has served as a source of inspiration for many famous artists in Finland over the centuries. Looking like a beekeeper I met a local guide for hiking tour and listened to some fascinating stories about the myths and legends of this area.

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I headed over to Ruunaa Recreational Area, just 90 minutes from the Russian border, for an exhilarating white rafting excursion along Ruunaa Rapids on a wooden boat. Absolutely brilliant on hot summer’s day!

In the late afternoon I met up Mikko from Karu Survival for an introduction to Finnish bush craft skills. The Finns are at home in the forest and I learned some skills on how to survive, find and prepare food from the ingredients foraged from nature. All the while I was thinking my nephew who is 15, would just love to experience this, so imagine my delight when I heard they can take your teenagers off your hands for a few hours to teach them some different skills other than loading videos up to tik tok!

This area is great for fly-fishing, hiking and river adventures, as well as being well famous for its bear and wolverine population.

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In the evening I arrived at the Puukarin Pysäkki Guesthouse for the most amazing night of Karelian culture and cuisine. I had to earn my keep by helping prepare the most delicious Karelian pies with the lovely Anni Korhonen. All the dishes were made from ingredients found locally including all the wild herbs and the tastiest little fish. Dinner was accompanied by traditional Kantele music.

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On the doorstep of the Sokos Hotel Bomba (which I really recommend a few nights staying here to enjoy their incredible spa and hot tubs overlooking Lake Pielinen) is the Bomba House. This impressive black log building is a replica of a typical 19th-century Karelian family house and here you can learn a little of the history of Finland and Karelia.

Karelia, where the summer is perhaps short but the days are long is certainly on my list of  summer destinations to head for once hopefully travel is allowed. 

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