Nature Sites

Open Your Heart to the Beauty of Nature

Nature Sites on Via Karelia

Via Karelia is a feast for nature lovers. En route you can find fine cultural sights, untouched wilderness, short and longer hiking routes and nature trails, water routes and lake sceneries, and observation towers for birdwatching and enjoying the view from above.

Via Karelia runs some 750km from the Gulf of Finland to southern parts of Lapland, representing a cross-section of different natural and cultural characteristics.

North of Lappeenranta, Via Karelia runs along the route of the watershed between Finland and Russia, and the land becomes less inhabited and more rugged, the upper north you travel.

The change of seasons, too, has it's own rhythm. The winter lasts one or two months longer in the north, stealing time from the summer. Days are of different lengths as well. In the Midsummer, north of the Arctic Circle in Salla, the sun shines through the night, and fails to show at all around Christmas time, even though there's a lighter period of five hours daily.

Even though Midsummer Night is still light in the south, sun goes down for about five hours. On Christmas Day, the sun barely comes above the horizon for about the same time.

You have chosen a route that has plenty to offer. Take your time and stop for a while, and take in the beauty of nature manifesting itself in so many ways. Open your heart to the beauty of nature.

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Nature sites on map

List of nature sites

Jämäsvaara Recreation Area

Level (*) One bear Almost the entire catchment area of Lake Jämäsjärvi at the centre of the Jämäsvaara area is in it’s natural state; no logging or ditching. On the…

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Elimyssalo Nature Reserve

Level: ( * * ) Two bears Close to the national border, east of Kuhmo, Elimyssalo is the home of the second coming of wild forest raindeer. The species had…

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Raesärkät Trail

Level (*) One bear Raesärkät in Nurmes is a lovely spot for a day-trip in a scenery of rolling ridges. The area has been named after a narrow stretch of…

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Bird Watching Tower in Rautalahti

The three-metre-tall, open tower with one platform is by a bay, bounded by horsetail, bushes and trees. In early May, large quantities of swans will gather to Rautalahti. If you’re…

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Änäkäinen Recreational Area

Level: (* *) two bears The Änäkäinen area in Lieksa has recreational fishing grounds surrounded by forests. Trees are logged only moderately and respecting the recreational values. The area is…

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Jonkerinsalo Nature Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears Jonkerinsalo Nature Reserve is in southern Kuhmo, on the western side of the canoeing route on the Jongunjoki river. The area is ruggedly beautiful, characterized…

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Ukonsärkkä

Level: ( * ) one bear Ukonsärkkä in the very eastern part of Lieksa is perfect for a day trip. There’s a lovely ridge and old forests. Ukonsärkkä is a…

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Iivaara

Level (*) One bear The Iivaara Natura area in south Kuusamo has age-old hunting and fishing grounds. More recently, hikers have started to become interested in the area. Iivaara’s nature…

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Oulanka National Park

Level: (* * *) Three bears The Oulanka National Park has two major attractions: the great rapids of Oulankajoki and Kitkajoki, and the Karhunkierros Trail. The Oulanka region is well-known…

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Petkeljärvi National Park

Level: (* * *) Three bears The Petkeljärvi National Park in Ilomantsi is the smallest one in Finland, but it’s packed with the best examples of ridges, pine heaths and…

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Nature and Culture Trail in Kontiolahti Church Village 4km

The round-trip trail runs in the surroundings of Kontiolahti church village and on the waterfront of lake Höytiäinen. You’ll see forest trail, duckboards, narrow roads and a stretch of the main village street.

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Herajärvi Trail 40km

The Herajärvi Trail is a round-trip trail, starting from the peak of Ukko-Koli. The trail runs partly in the Koli National Park. The trail goes around lake Herajärvi, on the south side of Koli. Marked in blue, the trail is a demanding one because of great differences in height.

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Bird Watching Tower in Hurppu, Virolahti

The location is a piney tip of a cape, overlooking the sea. The tower is great for observing the migration of Arctic birds in May. The tower has one open platform. It was built in 1983.

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Hiking Trails in Joutseno, approx. 70km

There’s a vast network of hiking trails around the Joutseno population centre. Many trails run in the vicinity of Myllymäki ski centre. One trail runs via Hinkanranta, following the shoreline of Saimaa to the Imatra Spa. Another branch takes you via Kähärilä village to Soskua floodgate, the Saimaa Canal.

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Lauttavaara Nature Study Forest

Level (*) One bear The Lauttavaara Nature Study Forest is used by Metsähallitus to give school groups and other visitors an insight into biodiversity and environmentally friendly forestry methods. You…

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Säynäjäsuo – Matalasuo Mire Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears The area is one of the largest swamp areas in Kainuu, with very diversified bird species. Lake Säynäjärvi and smaller ponds add variety. The area…

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Koitajoki Nature Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears Koitajoki Nature reserve, east of Hattuvaara village nearby the border zone, is an excellent hiking site for wilderness lovers. The Koitajoki River runs calmly through…

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Parikkala – Mikkolanniemi 35km

The route starts from the Parikkala railway station and ends at Mikkolanniemi Activity Centre, on the east side of Akonpohja in Saari and Lake Pieni Rautjärvi, by the road 4014. The marked route is actually a cycling route, because it runs on roads.

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Bird Watching Tower in Haapajärvi

Haapajärvi is classified internationally as a valuable bird lake, surrounded by forests and fields. The spring migration brings many waterfowl, waders, gulls, and terns. In July and August, the area…

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Bird Watching Tower in Vilkkiläntura, Virolahti

The tower is by the sea, surrounded by a shallow gulf. It’s a great place for watching waterfowl and waders resting on their migration routes. The best season is from April to May.

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Koli National Park

Level: (* * *) Three bears The scenery over lake Pielinen from the top of Koli is one of the most Finnish sights you can imagine. The area is also…

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Virolahti Kurkela

Kurkela is the go-to place in Finland, if you’re after black stork, black kite and greater spotted eagle, all nesting on the other side of the border. The tower is a great place for observing the migration of Arctic waterfowl, and especially in autumn, that of the birds of prey.

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Martinselkonen Nature Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears Martinselkonen is a 6200 hectare nature reserve in Suomussalmi, close to the Russian border. Martinselkonen is a Natura area, and one of the most important…

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The Friendship Park and the Friendship Nature Reserve

Friendship Park is a network of nature conservation areas established in the Kuhmo and Suomussalmi region. It has five Nature Reserves, each independently presented in this site. On Via Karelia,…

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Näränkä Natural Forests

Level: (*) one bear Näränkä Nature Forest in Kuusamo has pristine nature that is unique in Finland and the entire western Europe. In addition to forests, the small bodies of…

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Taitajan Taival Hiking Trail, Ilomantsi 31km

Taitajan taival is a Hiking Trail starting from the Petkeljärvi National Park and running to Mekrijärvi village north of Ilomantsi, and more specifically to Sissola, the home of folklore singer Simana Sissonen. The trail does not enter the Ilomantsi village, but there’s a connecting path (8km) to Ilomantsi at Hirsijärvi lean-to.

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Ruunaa Hiking Area

Level: (* *) two bears Ruunaa is best known for its rapids. The rapids on the Lieksanjoki river take you from Matkalahti to Ruunaa Nature Centre in Naarajoki over some…

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Peurajärvi Recreational Area

Level: (* *) two bears Peurajärvi is the go-to place for families. The area is small and quiet enough for a day-trip, but there’s enough to see and do to…

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Valtavaara

Level: (* * ) Two bears The Valtavaara Nature Reserve is located north-east of the Rukatunturi fell. One of the highest in Kuusamo, the hill is a bounty for nature…

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Bird Watching Towers in Konnunsuo

In Konnunsuo, on a wide open field, there are two bird watching towers, 500 metres apart. One of the main migration routes for birds migrating via South-East Finland stops at…

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Pöröpeikon polku – Parikkala 30km

In mid 2000s Parikkala had a development project ”Liiku Lintuinmaan luonnossa”. It was about repairing and constructing hiking routes. There are about a hundred kilometres of trails altogether. They are divided in three distinctive parts, each separately introduced. The first part is the 30km stage, Pöröpeikon polku – Parikkala.

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Bird Watching Tower in Pohjanranta

An open tower with a single platform is by a shallow bay, surrounded by lakeside meadows and fields. In springtime, the place is teeming with mallards and pochards. Driving instructions:…

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Lentua Nature Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears Lake Lentua is the largest unregulated lake in the basin of the Oulujoki river, and the most valuable example of lakeland nature in Kainuu. The…

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Kieverrysjärvet

Level: (*) one bear Kieverrysjärvet is a recreational area in southern part of Kuhmo close to Via Karelia and where the Russian border reaches it’s most western spot. This is…

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Sallatunturi Fell Area

Level: (* *) two bears The Sallatunturi Area, south of the Salla village, on both sides of Via Karelia (950), has many types of nature reserves, encompassing open string bogs,…

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Hossa National Park

Level (* * ) two bears Hossa is one of the state’s hiking areas. It’s a great destination for hiking, skiing, canoeing and fishing. The forests are mainly easy and…

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Kolinpolku Trail 63km

A service station in Uuro, Kontiolahti, in the crossing of roads 6 and 73, is the starting point to the Kolinpolku Trail. The route passes via the Kolvananuuro Nature Reserve to Kiviniemi and joins the Herajärven kierros Trail to Koli. En route, there are about 15 resting spots, maintained by municipality of Kontiolahti.

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Kuhasalo Nature Trails 1 and 2km

Close to Joensuu centre, two short round-trip trails run in the terrain of an old Orthodox monastery and a forested island, on the waterfront of open Pyhäselkä. The trails are quite easy, apart from the Pyhäselkä shoreline, where there’s rocky.

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Pieni Ritojärvi Lake

Level: (*) one bear Pieni Ritojärvi lake is a lovely destination for a day trip. The round trip trail, Ritojärven kierto (5.2 km), is a nice way to see all…

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Kylmäluoma Hiking Area

Level: (* *) two bears Founded in 1979, the relatively large Kylmäluoma Hiking Area is in Taivalkoski, by main road 5, about 45km south of Kuusamo. The terrain is mainly…

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Murhisalo Nature Reserve

Level: (* * ) Two bears Murhisalo has forever been the hunting and gathering grounds for Finland’s only White Karelian villages, Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi. There are still signs of hunting…

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Patvinsuo National Park

Level: * * * (three bears) Have you ever wandered on a large swamp? It’s an experience worth having. The size of the Patvinsuo swamp makes its horizon look like…

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Iso-Palonen – Maariansärkät Nature Reserve

Level: (* * ) Two bears The Iso-Palonen – Maariansärkät Nature Reserve is one of the five nature reserves of the Friendship Park in Kuhmo. Situated in eastern Kuhmo, the…

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Juortanansalo – Lapinsuo Mire Reserve

Level: (* *) two bears The Juortanansalo – Lapinsuo Mire Reserve represents the real wilds of the Friendship Park. It is a genuine find for hikers, who love mires and…

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Reposuo Area

Level: (*) one bear Reposuo is a valuable bird area and a mire conservation site by the Pankakoski village. It’s a great place for observing bird nesting habits and migrating…

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Mujejärvi Hiking Area

Level (* *) Two bears The Mujejärvi area in Nurmes is perfect for hikers after some peace and quiet. The area is close to Peurajärvi Recreational Area, but on the…

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Imatra–Ruokolahti–Rautjärvi Hiking Trail 89km

The trail starts from Imatra Spa in the south, makes a detour to Ruokolahti sports centre and ends at Simpele, the centre of Rautjärvi municipality. There are often many route…

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Teerisuo – Lososuo

Level: (* *) two bears Teerisuo – Lososuo Mire Reserve, south-west from Kuhmo is located by the road 5284 from Kuhmo to Valtimo. The area is a prime example of…

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Aconitum Round-Trip Trail 6.5km

In Tohmajärvi, there’s a protected grove, where the Nordic Wolfsbane (Aconitum lycoctonum) grows. A round-trip trail runs through the grove and in a cultural landscape by the lake.

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Jauhovaara

Level: (*) one bear Recreational Forest of Jauhovaara is in south-western Kuhmo. Known as a vantage point, the peak of Jauhovaara is 253.2 metres above the sea level. The north…

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