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North Karelia, in the heart of Lakeland,  is a perfect destination for active nature lovers. You will discover a region covered by thousands of lakes and pristine forests.

People’s livelihood has been, and still is in many cases, based on different uses of forest. Finnish people are said to be born in forests and here you get to experience some wilderness areas of Finland. The legends and myths upon which the world-famous Kalevala Epic is based are originally from Karelia region. The region is still today known as the land of bears and wolverines. Many of these legends tell about people's encounters with bears. But not to worry, it is quite hard to meet a bear in a forest. If you are interested in bear observation, you may book a wildlife observation activity.

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The landmark of Lakeland and North Karelia is the famous Koli hill, located in Koli National Park. The views that open from the top of the hill towards lake Pielinen have inspired many Finnish artists, such as Jean Sibelius. Koli is located app. 1 hour drive away from Joensuu, the regional centre. There are marked trails in the national park to be enjoyed freely, or why not book a guided tour. Within the national park is located Sokos Hotel Koli offering comfortable rooms with a view opening over the Finnish national landscape. You find also plenty of holiday houses for your stay from the Koli village. 

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Koli National Park

 
 

National Parks

Koli National Park is the most famous one in the region, a must place to visit in Lakeland. The reason for its popularity is the Finnish national landscape and breathtaking views opening from the top of Koli hill. There are suitable trails for day hikes, and 60 km long circuit trail for those looking for a multi-day hike. You can get trail information and buy maps from the Nature Centre Ukko located in the national park. The trails are well marked. Some vertical meters are guaranted if you start your hike from the Koli village or from the lake-side. Tip: There is a guesthouse Kolin Keidas located in the nationalpark close to the Koli village. Kolin Keidas offers rustic but charming accommodation in an old barn and a genuine Finnish sauna experience. Read more about Koli National Park

Petkeljärvi National Park is located close to the Russian border in Ilomantsi, app. 1 hour away from Joensuu. This is the smallest national park in Finland, perfect for nice day hikes. Here you walk along ridges formed by the ice-age and then walk accross beautiful marshlands. There's hiking center in the national park serving meals and trail information. The center offers rooms for accommodation and a splendid traditional sauna by the lake. Read more about Petkeljärvi National Park

In Patvinsuo National Park you find a genuine feeling of wilderness. In Patvinsuo you walk through vast marshlands, a different kind of soothing landscape. The trails pass by wildnerness lakes with beautiful sandy beaches - perfect spots to have a picnic. Most convenient way to access Patvinsuo is by car. You may also rent a canoe and spend a day paddling on crystal clear waters and have a break on a beach. This park is suitable for longer treks too, the trail network is about 80 km long. Please note that you need to bring your own camping gear and food. Read more about Patvinsuo National Park

Ruunaa Recreational Park is perfect for both hiking and fishing. Ruunaa is famous for its rivers and many rapids, lakes and wildnerness close to the Russian border. Ruunaa is suitable for day treks and longer overnight hikes as well. From the rivers you may catch trout and grayling. In Ruunaa you can choose to stay in cosy cottages or in a camping area. Once in Ruunaa, you should try some river rafting too! Read more about Ruunaa

Tips for your Holiday

Find Accommodation

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Where to eat?

If you want to eat local Karelian food while your stay, here are a couple recommended choices:

Recommended by locals

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How to get to North Karelia

Fly to Joensuu from Helsinki

Joensuu is the regional hub of North Karelia, located some 400 km to the North East from Helsinki. There are several daily flights operated by Finnair from Helsinki to Joensuu. The flight time is app. 1 hour. Book flights with Finnair You can pick-up a rental car for your holiday from the airport.

Take a bus from Helsinki to Joensuu

Enjoy the Lakeland landscapes while taking a bus to Joensuu. The travel time is app. 6-7 hours. Book your bus ticket from Matkahuolto

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Take a train to Joensuu from Helsinki

An eco-friendly choice to travel to Joensuu is by train. We recommend taking the train also for the sake of beautiful sceneries - you will be travelling along lakes most of the time. Book your train tickets with VR

Rent a car

Driving in Finland is easy and stress-free, there are no traffic jams and very little traffic in the rural areas. Stop by little villages, find a public beach on a lake and go for a swim. The national parks are easiest to reach with your own car. Rental companies: Europcar, Hertz, Sixt

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