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Finnish people are most characterized by their love and close relationship to nature. It has traditionally been the source of livelihood but most importantly is it the place where we retreat to from the hussle and bustle of the modern world. Nature makes us happy, one of the happiest nations in the world. It has also been the source of inspiration for artists for centuries. Iconic landscape, like Koli in Lakeland has given us some of the most meaningful pieces of art in Finnish history

Day 1 Kuopio

Arrival in Kuopio by plane and rent of an e-car. For a whole sustainable trip, you can reach Kuopio from Helsinki by train in 4 hrs or by bus in 5,5 hrs.

Welcome in the sauna land and let’s start the trip with it! You can choose between the new design sauna Saana or try the smoke one at the Lumberjack Lodge where, at the end, you can taste local food, listen to the traditional music and attend the ability performance of a lumberjack walking on logs in water.
Overnight at Sokos Hotel Puijonsarvi 

Day 2 Kuopio-Valamo-Joensuu

Kuopio is the city of thousands of flavours with events around the year in the middle of the beautiful green nature and the genuine people.

Start the visit from the Puijo rotating tower recently renoveted to admire the surrounding panorama. Visit of Riisa Museum one of the most notable Orthodox church museums in Europe. More than 800 icons and 4000 religious vestments are on display in the 11 rooms, as well as documents, maps, drawings and photographs that reconstruct the history of the Orthodox church in Finland. Many objects come from churches and monasteries located in the territory of Karelia, now occupied by Russia.

During the year, Kuopio offers several important cultural and sport events: Finland Ice Marathon (February), Kuopio Dance Festival (June), Ironman Finland (August).

Kuopio and the province of North Savo was the first region in Finland to receive the European Region of Gastronomy Award for 2020-2021. The award will be celebrated during the whole year and the main theme will be foraging: picking berries and mushrooms, hunting and fishing and the programme’s themed weeks include berry- and mushroom-picking trips, picnics, cooking courses, workshops, pop-up restaurants, culinary tour packages and food festivals.

Departure for the Valamo monastery in Heinävesi, North Karelia. The monastery of Valamo was originally on an island in the Lake Ladoga, in the part of Karelia that today belongs to Russia. During the Winter War of 1939-40, the lake froze that year and allowed a rapid evacuation of 190 monks who brought icons and sacred art to safety and founded the monastery of new Valamo. The monastery has nowadays three churches and three chapels. Most of the icons and church items in the churches of the monastery come from the original monastery.

Continuation to Joensuu, founded by Tsar Nicholas I, was an important commercial port with the opening of the Saimaa Canal. Unfortunately, many of the oldest buildings were razed to the ground by the 23 bombardments that the city suffered during the Winter War and the Continuation War and for this reason it has a largely modern appearance.

We suggest a visit to the Carelicum museum, which displays exhibitions on themes concerning the Karelian territory on the sides of the present border, the tormented wartime past, the evacuation of Karelia and the importance of the sauna.

Short stop at Taitokortteli a complex of old wooden houses with a lovely café, craft workshops and shops where you can see weavers at work, buy clothes, toys and household items made by local designers.

Dinner at Teatteri ravintola where you can taste the local cuisine.

Overnight at Lietsu Boutique Aparthotel, in perfect Karelian style 

Day 3 Joensuu-Ilomantsi-Koli

Departure for Ilomantsi, known for its location as the easternmost continental municipality in Finland and in the EU. Ilomantsi has some sites of military history to visit and the national epic Kalevala comes alive here. The region is known for wilderness, apex predators and Karelian culture.

The Orthodox faith is very prominent in Ilomantsi: in fact, it is the oldest Orthodox area in Finland and it has the largest wooden Orthodox church in Finland.

Take a break at the winetower, the paniramic balcony of 33mt while tasting local berry wine of the Hermanni Winery

Visit of Parppeinvaara Bardic village. Parppeinvaara was named after Jaakko Parppei, who lived on the hill in the 1800s. He was renowed player of the kantele, a traditional musical instrument. Parppeinvaara Bardic Village has been built little by little since the 1960s to commemorate the traditional Karelian architecture and bards. The tradition of poem-singing, Karelian cuisine, war-time events, nature in Ilomantsi and the connection between the people and their surroundings are brought to life in the exhibitions and the buildings in the village where it’s possible to taste the delicious Karelian specialities in Parppeinpirtti restaurant.

Departure for Koli, known as Chamonix of Finland. Koli has stunning landscapes, steep slopes with the highest and longest slopes in southern Finland and beautiful cross-country ski trails through snowy forests.

Dinner and overnight at Break Sokos Hotel Koli 

Day 4 Koli

Full day to explore the beauties of the Koli National Park. Visit the Koli Nature Centre Ukko, the heart of park, where culture meets nature: the exhibitions of Ukko provide both information, art and experience. At the permanent exhibition on National Landscape you will learn about history, geology, nature and culture of Koli. In the auditorium, you can watch Koli-related movies and presentations. You can buy maps and other printed materials, handicrafts as well as Koli and nature-related souvenirs, textiles, postcards and camping gear.

The Koli Nature Centre Ukko is the starting point for a short trekking on the Trail of the Tops, a scenic circle trail 1.4km long, easy to walk (also for pram) over Lake Pielinen. The area has been selected as one of the national landscapes of Finland: the view from the steep hills has been eternalized by famous artists. The Park has a vast network of hiking and skiing trails. The Koli hills are rests of an ancient mountain chain of Karelides, formed 2000 million years ago. 

Day 5 Koli-Vuonisjärvi-Lieksa-Nurmes

Departure for Paalasmaa Island where, after a 3km path, you can climb up to an 18mt wooden observation tower from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding area. In summer the island can be reached by a free chain ferry, while in winter it can be reached via the 7km long icy Koli-Vuonislahti road.

Continuation for Vuonisjärvi, located 27km from Lieksa, and visit of the home-atelier of the famous artist and sculptor Eva Ryynänen (1915-2001). Paateri was Ryynänen’s home even before her career as a sculptor. There she farmed and raised cattle with her husband Paavo Ryynänen. The museum, located in beautiful surroundings on a lake shore, consists of Ryynänen’s unique and personal house, completed in 1953, as well as her roomy atelier, a round gallery cafe and a church made of sturdy timbers. All of the buildings were designed by Eva and inside them one can marvel at her handiwork: sculptures, reliefs and other unique works.

Visit of Pielisen museum, located by the Lieksanjoki river, near the town centre of Lieksa. It is 2nd biggest open-air museum in Finland with around 70 buildings. The permanent exhibition focuses on the living and building conditions. Photographic and documentary archives. The open-air museum area comprises three farmyards from the 18th to 20th centuries, forestry department with lumber cabins, a mill, farming and fire sections.

Departure for Nurmes, dinner and overnight at Break Sokos Hotel Bomba 

Day 6 Nurmes-Kuhmo

The main attraction of the Bomba Karelian village in Nurmes, which is a copy of a house build by Jegor Bombin in 1855 in Suojärvi, part of the Karelian areas that Finland lost at the end of Continuation War. The current Bomba house in Nurmes was built in 1978. A full Karelian village was built around the replica to supplement the atmosphere and the experience of the area. Traditional Karelian building expertise were honored in making the replica of the Bomba house: it was built from long, round logs and no iron parts were used.

Idyllic wooden houses and the Karelian village in Bomba make Nurmes an especially charming small town. The center of the city is located between two lakes and is known for its magnificent esker landscape, culturally important area of Wooden Nurmes and thousands of birches - which is why Nurmes is also known as the City of birches.

Before leaving for Kuhmo we suggest to experience a nice cooking class to prepare the typical karelian pies at Männikkölän pirtti.

Departure for Kuhmo, that since 2019 has been designated as Unesco Literary City of Literature (previously only Helsinki belonged to the network as Unesco Design City).

Kuhmo is the home of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic that was translated into more than 60 languages. Kalevala and the cultural heritage with its runosinging have been the cornerstones of culture and identity of the Finnish people and Finland. Elias Lönnrot, a composer of the Kalevala, worked in Kainuu for twenty years. Many karelianists made their trips to the Kalevala land – Viena Karelia – from Kuhmo. The Finnish national painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela seeked for inspiration for his Aino triptyck and other Kalevala works right from Kuhmo.

Dinner and overnight at Kalevala hotel 

Day 7 Kuhmo

Kuhmo is famous for its Chamber Music Festival held in July.
Kuhmo Cultural Promenade takes you to the most important cultural sites in the center of Kuhmo - through the beautiful landscapes of Lake Lammasjärvi and Pajakkakoski and the streets of the center.

We suggest the visit of Visitor Centre Petola where you can find information on the Finnish forest, flora and fauna (reindeer, bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine).

To be more in contact with nature, according to the season, try one of these exciting experiences like  floating in the rapids wearing a waterproof rescue suit or let’s follow the tracks of wolverine, elk and hare in the snow. Otherwise, relax in nature with a herbal foot bath or a sauna in the yurt.

From May to September we suggest the evening bear watching excursion (the excursion can be done in the evening, returning back to the hotel for the overnight or it is possible to sleep in the hide where a sleeping bag will be provided).

Day 8 Kuhmo-Kajaani

Departure for Kajaani or Kuopio, drop the car off at the airport or at the railway station and return to Helsinki. For a sustainable trip you can travel by train (6hrs).


Total route apprx. 680 km

Kuopio-Valamo-Joensuu 160 km
Joensuu-Ilomantsi-Koli 180 km
Koli-Vuonisjärvi-Lieksa-Nurmes 155 km
Nurmes-Kuhmo 80 km
Kuhmo-Kajaani 105 km

Driving in Finland

Driving in Finland
Driving tips

Sustainable Travel Options

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Follow the weather


Bring along

  • International driving permit
  • Comfortable outdoor clothing
  • Swimsuit for sauna


Sustainable Travel Finland

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Useful links

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