Whether you’re a city dweller or a country lover, a visit to Helsinki won’t disappoint. After you’ve gotten a chance to traverse the city streets of the Finnish capital, take a day trip to the many national parks that lie within a short driving distance of Helsinki. The stunning vistas, natural wonders, and cultural landmarks are well worth the trip!
Closest city: Helsinki
Get there by: Car — the drive will take around an hour. You can also access the park via public transport — take the E, U, L, or X train from Helsinki to Espoo Centre, and then get on the 245(A) bus, which will bring you to the eastern and northern sections of the park. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: Stunning lakeside scenery, the Finnish Nature Centre in Haltia, Finland’s rare flying squirrel
Why you should visit: Nuuksio offers a stunning array of scenic views due to its unique location — it borders an oak forest zone, as well as the country’s southern boreal forest. Once you arrive, marvel at the area’s stunning gorges and valleys that date back to the Ice Age. For scenic overlooks, take the Haukankierros Trail and keep an eye out for Finland’s most-prized fowl, the wood lark and the European nightjar. Continue your exploration along the path, and you’ll stumble across some of the 80 lakes and ponds located inside the park — and look out for the old-growth pine forests nearby. If you’re quiet enough, you may even glimpse the country’s elusive flying squirrel gliding through the trees.
Closest city: Helsinki
Get there by: Car — the drive will take approximately 45 minutes. You can also access the park via public transport — take the 717A bus from Helsinki to Sotunki or the 711K from Tikkurila to Sotunki. Disembark at the Kalkkiuunintie bus stop, and walk to the southern entrance? of the park. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: Spruce mires, bogs, stunning cliffs, wildlife (including lynx, capercaillie, and the northern eagle-owl)
Why you should visit: Sipoonkorpi is the heart of Finland’s biodiversity. The area is a geographic medley, complete with mires and bogs, sharp changes in altitude, stunning cliff faces, and incredible wildlife. When you visit the park, you’ll be struck by the towering spruce forests and the abundance of wild herbs, rare plants, and mushrooms. Venture farther into the park and you’ll stumble across Byabäcken River Valley, a heritage farming site covered in lovely meadows. You’ll notice that this area of the park attracts a variety of birds, including gray-headed woodpeckers, spotted nutcrackers, thrush nightingales, and eagle-owls.
Closest city: Turku
Get there by: Car — the drive will take around three hours from Helsinki. You can also access the park via public transport — take an InterCity train from Helsinki to Turku, a bus from Turku to the ferry departure location, and a boat to the islands that comprise Archipelago National Park. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: Meadows, wildflowers, rocky islets, lush islands, Örö Fortress Island, charming villages
Why you should visit: One of the largest archipelagos in the world, this stretch of land is home to over 2,000 islands. Its features were created by ice sheet activity during the last Ice Age. Due to the area’s unique ecosystem, the landscapes at Archipelago are both varied and beautiful, ranging from agricultural fields and coastal meadows to mossy forests and rocky inlets. Lucky visitors will spot moose, ringed seal, and gray seal alongside over 130 species of bird that nest in the archipelago, including the white-tailed eagle. What’s more, the park is equally stunning past the water line as well. Venture via kayak; you’ll spot seabed vegetation, mussels, barnacles, and algae zones. At Archipelago, it’s the best of both worlds.
Closest city: Turku
Get there by: Car — the drive will take just under two hours from Helsinki. You can also access the park via public transport — take a train from Helsinki to Salo, and then take a taxi to Teijo. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: The village of Kirjakkala, traditional ironworks, lakes, marshes, a starry night sky
Why you should visit: Teijo is ideal for outdoor adventurers — its verdant hiking trails wind through pine forests and over streams, its pristine lakes are perfect for fishing or sightseeing, and its meandering mountain trails and snowy peaks are prime for cycling, skiing, and hiking. For a change of pace, you can also explore the national park’s historic ironworks village, where you can watch craftsmen and women practice traditional methods of ironworking. If you can, camp overnight to enjoy the serenity of the Finnish wildlands and the sprawling, star-spangled sky.
Closest city: Joensuu City
Get there by: Plane or train, followed by a bus or taxi — the journey will take between three and six hours depending on your preferred method of transport. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: Finland’s “best loved” national landscape, heritage meadows, farmlands, sweeping views, towering mountains
Why you should visit: The sights from Koli are perhaps the most beloved of any in Finland, and there’s a good reason why the view of Lake Pielinen from Ukko-Koli Hill is famous. The lookout is a fantastic spot from which to take in the sweeping views of the lake, the Kolinuuro Gorge, and the immense sprawl below. When you’re back down at sea level, be sure to enjoy the park’s traditional clearings, which hold archaeological clues to the area’s history. While at Koli, you can also explore the park’s old-growth forests, snow-fueled waterfalls, and ancient sacrificial sites (such as Uhrihalkeama).
Closest city: Kouvola
Get there by: Car — the drive will take just over two hours from Helsinki. You can also access the park via public transport — take a train from Helsinki to Kouvola, and then take a taxi to Repovesi. For more information, refer to this helpful transportation guide.
Distinctive features: Olhavanvuori Rock, the view from Mustalamminvuori Hill observation deck, towering forests, Aarnikotka Nature reserve, red-throated divers
Why you should visit: If you’re bound for Repovesi, get ready to hike — the locale is home to a number of stunning views from heights such as Olhavanvuori Rock or Mustalamminvuori Hill. If you climb the former, keep an eye out for the prehistoric rock paintings that grace the cliff face. As a whole, Repovesi is not for the height adverse, and visitors are challenged to traverse its Lapinsalmi hanging bridge — a swinging crossing made out of wooden planks strung nearly 33 feet or 10 meters above a roaring river — upon entering the park. Once safely on the other side, head for Elving Tower, which offers yet another stunning vista. Repovesi is a delight during every season, so now matter when you decide to visit Finland, plan to put it on your itinerary.
Header photo by Tommaso Fornoni