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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

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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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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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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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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Bird Watching Tower in Kellovuori, Virolahti

At its best during the autumn migration, the tower is well worth visiting also in the spring. The tower is a good place for spotting birds of prey and Arctic waterfowl. Located on a hill, the tower overlooks the Gulf of Finland and Vilkkiläntura.

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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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Kalmosärkkä

Level: (*) one bear Kalmosärkkä in Suomussalmi, south-east of Juntusranta village, is a prehistorical settlement. Kalmosärkkä is protected by the Finnish Heritage Agency and maintained by Metsähallitus. The area is…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Kaltimon kierto Round-Trip Trail and Patvinpolku Trail 80km

Kaltimon kierto is a 25km round-trip trail in Eno, north of road 73 (Road:Uimaharjuntie). Via Kolvananuuro, the route is connected to Koli trail, and via Suppuralampi, the Patvinpolku Trail goes all the way to the Patvinsuo National Park via Uimaharju and Kivilahti.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Kitee Wilderness Trail 4.7km

Kitee Wilderness Trail runs near lake Orivesi, forming two round-trip trails. The trail introduces you to forest nature, forestry, game management, and hunting traditions.

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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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Hiidenportti National Park

Level: (* * *) Three bears Hiidenportti National Park is situated between two water systems. The Park was established in 1982 to preserve the regional wilderness. The main attraction of…

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Salpapolku Trail 50km

Salpapolku is a hiking trail, starting in the south from Majaniemi in Virolahti, and ending in wilderness forests of Takamaa in Miehikkälä, south side of lake Syvä-Valkjärvi. The route is marked in blue, with “Salpapolku” signs, and an otter emblem.

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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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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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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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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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Kolvananuuro Nature Reserve

Level: (**) Two bears Kolvananuuro is a magnificent gorge, millions of years old, between main road 6 from Joensuu to Kajaani and road 73 from Joensuu to Lieksa. The site…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Kalliojärvi Round-Trip Trail 4km

The Kalliojärvi round-trip trail in Pyhäselkä goes around Suuri Kalliojärvi, on the bottom of a ravine. The route has forest trails, duckboards, uphill ad downhill and steep cliffs without safety rails. You need to be careful with children also in the campfire site, where the shoreline quickly drops to the lake.

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Jaama Round-trip Trail 47.7km

The Jaama trail in Joensuu and Kontiolahti areas is best suitable for cycling, because it runs on roads. It starts from central Joensuu, and visits six beaches and the Höytiäinen channel and Jaamankangas before circling back to the town centre.

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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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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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