When you talk of Finland, people can probably name Helsinki and Lapland, and characterise Finnish identity as a blonde haired, blued eyed nation with an extremely difficult to grasp language. While that’s partially true, the core of the Finnish culture is about having a close relationship with nature. It wasn’t until I adventured through Finland’s Southwestern landscape that I truly understood what that meant, and the sense of wellbeing that defines the national ethos.
That said, it’s of no surprise that the country’s national parks, islands and open spaces are preserved – they are considered an important part of the natural heritage and the most treasured attraction for locals and international visitors alike. Importantly, Finns know all to well the health benefits of being within such vast, open spaces and as a result introduced ‘Everyman’s Right’ to make them freely accessible to everyone.
- 1 What Outdoors Space is Freely Accessible?
- 2 Experiencing ‘Everyman’s Right’ in Nuuksio National Park
- 3 Everyman’s Right – The Outdoors Revolution
- 4 Why Southwestern Finland?
- 5 Things To Know:
- 6 Pin It!
What Outdoors Space is Freely Accessible?
Everyone can roam free in the rather large garden of Finland. Rules permitting, every single person is free to visit every open space, and by that I mean…
35 national parks
2,212 hectares of restored forest
7,000km of marked trails
3,000 picnic sites
2,380 ancient heritage sites
312 protected buildings and thousands of islands
That’s even before you’ve thought about swimming, kayaking and boating in the lakes, seas and beaches.
Mind blown? Welcome to outdoors Finland.
I learnt all about this at the Finnish Natural Centre Heltia that sits on the edge of Nuuksio National Park. This ecological centre, which opened in 2013, not only exists to educate and promote nature conservation, but it’s a hub where people can come and plan everything from small walks to grand treks with outdoors experts. They even have map services, because everyone loves maps (and in the more remote parts of Finland you really need them).
Experiencing ‘Everyman’s Right’ in Nuuksio National Park
Around 30 minutes from the centre of Helsinki is the incredible forested and lake paradise of Nuuksio National Park. Now I’m one of those people who, after seeing the Himalayas, can’t help but see a lot of natural space as inferior, but Finland pretty much surprises you – especially with space like this so close to the chic capital city.
After a mini trek through the marked paths of the forest, we came to the lake, where some swam in the lake waters and others relaxed and reflected. We then cooked sausages and giggled around the campfire before trekking out of the park via a different route. As studies prove, time spent surrounded by flora and fauna and out in the fresh air, increases happiness levels, encourages being active and records a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. It certainly was a happy afternoon for me. Wouldn’t you feel like that surrounded by all this?
Everyman’s Right – The Outdoors Revolution
It’s incredible how much freedom you have to roam within Finland’s natural landscapes, with so many measures put in place to encourage you to get out there and enjoy.
- You are allowed to walk, ski, boat and cycle anywhere outside of private yards and fields
- You can spend 1-2 days in a tent or on a boat at any spot throughout the country, except on privately owned land
- You may swim and wash yourself on the shores of the sea, the lakes and the rivers
- Everybody is allowed to pick forest berries and mushrooms, and angling and ice fishing is allowed at lakes without a permit
- You can light a fire at any of the designated campfire sites. Fire wood is freely supplied by the government, which I thought was a great touch
These are all permissible providing you do not venture on private land or disturb provide property; disturb wild animals and plants; make too much noise; use liquid waste or put rubbish in the natural waters or on land; damage trees, plants and rare species. Hunting and fishing are restricted activities for which an official permit is required, although the National Heritage Services is making the granting of permits more readily available.
Why Southwestern Finland?
According to the National Heritage Services (NHS), more than half of the turnover of Finland’s tourism comes from the Helsinki area and more than half of Finland’s foreign visitors come here for the nature. Closer to home, it has been said that there’s been an increasing unfamiliarity of urban residents with nature, especially in Helsinki (the lures of city living). Therefore, encouragement of the great outdoors is heavily promoted in this region, with more than half of the NHS workers situated in Southern Finland.
It really is a big deal down there.
What landscape and activities will you choose to check out?
Things To Know:
- For further information on the outdoors life in Finland, check out this comprehensive resource where you will find guides you to the best hiking, cycling and canoeing trails in Southern Finland. At the moment portal covers Southern Finland, but in the future it will expand to cover the whole Finland
- Here you can find all published route guides. There are three more guides to be published soon. Also German and Russian versions will be published this autumn
- Here you can find information how to download free topographic maps of Finland to a GPS device
This trip was a part of my mini ‘Outdoors Finland’ adventure, in association with Visit Finland. All opinions remain my own and really you just should visit Finland and feel the happiness. You can’t lie about that.