Finland, a great and beautiful country that we propose you to discover in three weeks. At the beginning of Helsinki, you will return to the land, cross large natural parks, discover forêts forests and majestic lakes before visiting the mysterious Lapland of Santa Claus and gold researchers. An unforgettable journey.
Capital in kaleidoscope. Visit of the city and its monuments. The Market Square with the double-headed eagle, symbol of the Russian era, then the Senate Square dominated by the imposing Lutheran cathedral with its green dome and surrounded by the Empire buildings of the architect Engel. Visit the Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral on the hilltop of Katajanokka, Kaivopuisto Park with its marina, Temppeliaukion Kirkko Church built under the rock, the Sibelius Monument in honour of the great Finnish composer, the Finlandia Palace in Italian white marble, and the Esplanadi Alley with the statue of Havis Amanda.
Visit of the Kiasma Museum to discover Finnish contemporary art, and the Finnish audacity in this matter, and then visit the Ateneum, which houses the treasures of the greatest romantic Finnish painters: Gallèn-Kallela, Edelfelt, Rissanen... Shopping in Missisquoi, the largest store in the Nordic countries, and an inescapable excursion on Suomenlinna fortress island classified as World heritage of mankind.
Departure from Helsinki to Porvoo, the second oldest city in Finland. Located on the banks of a river, the old town is famous for its beautiful collection of red wooden houses, craft shops and pastries. It was in the medieval cathedral of Porvoo, in 1809, that Tsar Alexander I (1777-1825) officially integrated the Grand Duchy of Finland into the Russian Empire. The autonomy it would then enjoy was a first step towards independence, acquired in 1917. Stop in the picturesque village of Ruotsinpyhtäää to admire the forges dating back to 1695. On the road to Imatra, linger on the beautiful Langinkoski rapids. Tsar Alexander III (1845-1894) owned a fishing residence there, which has now been converted into a museum that traces its fishing grounds surrounded by its courtyard. See in particular the memories of the imperial family and the flag of the Rumanovs. In Imatra, admire the rapids of the Vuoksi River, which Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) immediately decided to protect because he thought they were magnificent. Hotel Valtionhotelli is also worth a look. You can spend the night there (spa and disco).
Punkaharju is reached by the famous road that winds over a 25 m high isthmus between two large lakes, occupying only the width of the road. Then towards Savonlinna: in the centre of the city is the medieval castle Olavinlinna founded in 1475. In July, it hosts one of the oldest music festivals in Europe in July: the. Opera Festival.
Canoë canoe departure for Linnansaari Island. Saimaa Lake is the largest lake in Finland and the fourth largest lake in Europe. It extends from Lappeenranta to Mikkeli and Puumala. Purity of landscapes, originality of the frame between pineraies and sandy beaches conducive to bathing, small islands with rounded shapes or cliffs plunging into the depths of the lake. At the rhythm of the paddle, take the time to taste the Saimaa delights and delights. By docking in Linnansaari, dégourdissez your legs on the hiking paths. Grill your sausages (makkara) in the wood light and relax in the sauna. Life is sometimes so simple. You have become Finnish! Good night's sleep in one of the small chalets, mökki.
If you have not yet seen the protected seal species (saimaa seal), evolving near the lake islands, this is the time (spring). Enjoy a small journey in the nature reserve of Linnansaari before returning quietly to Oravi, happy...
You leave Karelia to reach the heart of the lakes region, which has been widely promoted abroad. All of these lakes are roughly equivalent to the area of Belgium. This labyrinth of lakes, rivers and canals links the towns of the region like Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Jyväskylä and Kuopio. Therefore, the most pleasant way to go to Kuopio is through the Saimaa Canal. From Savonlinna, you get onto a real steam boat that goes back to the canal. Sit comfortably and watch the show. You will arrive in Kuopio in the evening.
Before extending on Kuusamo, stay at Kuopio. Founded by Governor General Peter Brahe in 1653, it did not acquire its city rights until 1775 by decision of King Gustav III of Sweden. It is considered, from the 19th century onwards, as one of the centres of Finnish culture. Music, literature and art did indeed emerge in Kuopio at the end of the 19th century. The city was then home to major intellectual and artistic figures. Start with the exceptional Musée orthodoxereligious art with its superb icons. Another interesting site: the Market Square, Kuopio's nerve centre. Taste fish like muikkku on the spot. Finally, go to the heights of the city to the Puijo tower, which rises to 75 m. A breathtaking panoramic view of the lake region from above. On the bus to Kuusamo (6 hours 50 minutes' journey), a reading advice, Philippe Guicheteau's Letters from Finland.
The city of Kuusamo, 800 km northeast of Helsinki, is close to the Russian border. In a few years, the region has established itself as one of the major tourist sites. The striking beauty of nature explains this craze. Woods and forests stretch as far as the eye can see, interspersed here and there by lakes, rivers, rapids and other torrents. Waterways, strategic for the Finnish economy until the middle of the 20th century for the transport of wood and materials, cover 799 km². They attract canoeists, swimmers, fishermen, and all sportsmen who love nature. Assisted by professionals, try the experience of a rafting trip. In summer, the rapids are bubbling and deafening. The category of courses differs according to your level. During the summer months, it is one of the most popular activities in the region. If you prefer dry land to rough water, Kuusamo also offers motorcycle cross safaris. You will follow the trails that go into the heart of the forests and stretch into the streams. To fill up on excitement before leaving Kuusamo, take a run on the Runis slide on Mount Ruka. The 1 km long descent takes you to 60 km/h. An elevator transports you to the top of the mountain. If the weather is sunny, take the opportunity to admire the scenery as far as Russia.
Nature is beautiful and wild in that part of Finland. Take a hike to immerse yourself in the heart of this magnificent biotope. The national park of Oulanka (Sámi name literally meaning "tumultueuse river") is known for the purity of its landscapes. It also houses the famous Bear circuit, or Karhunkierros (80 km), a dream for every hiker. The golf courses on the course will allow you to organise your stay in the best possible way. Some sites are impressive. See, in particular, the Rupakivi rock in the Savinajoki River, Oulanka Canyon, Taivalköngäs and Kiutaköngäs rapids and Jyrävä falls. From the information centre of Hautajärvi to the Refuge hut. Do not ignore brochures and maps of the information centre, they will be useful to you. On the way! After a few kilometres in the Finnish taiga you face the most impressive site of the park: the canyon of Oulanka. To take a little more of the site, get off at the bottom of the canyon. Then extend along the Savinajoki River to Savilampi. Night at the Refuge refuge.
Pass the Suspendu suspension Bridge, along the Oulankajoki, along the Falaises cliffs and enjoy a good night's sleep in Taivalköngäs.
After a few hours of hiking along the Oulankajoki, the second great time of this journey: Arrival in Kiutaköngäs. You can admire the rapids before enjoying the camping sauna. A delight after three days of walking. Night in bungalow.
The road always runs through the Oulankajoki in a quiet and gently wooded setting. The terrain is now much less rugged. Night at the Refuge refuge.
More than kilometres to admire the fauna and flora. You will pass in front of Lake Porontimajärvi and contournerez the falls of Konttainen, Valtavaara and Ruka. Preserve your strengths to the end. The road ends with a very large difference. The terrain is also rough. Once the hundreds of steps swallowed, your efforts are rewarded by a magnificent panorama. The Bear Circuit ends at the tourist centre of Ruka.
Regular buses from Ruka, located on the Kuusamo-Rovaniemi route. On the way, stop at Ranua Zoo, which has about sixty Arctic species (lynx, elk, brown bears, wolves...). Apart from polar bears, all these animals still live in Finland. When you arrive in these new latitudes, let yourself be carried away by the charm of the long days of Lappish summer and the magic of colours. Lapland remains the dream land of explorers, just like the time when hunters, loggers and gold diggers found themselves in Rovaniemi on the road to the Far North. Don't miss the exciting Artikum Centre, which focuses on nature and Arctic peoples. In addition to its resolutely modern architecture (beautiful glass roof), the building houses a scientific research centre on the Arctic. Before the end of the day, admire the surroundings of the heights of Mount Ounasvaara, and feel free to take the fastest way down from it: the summer toboggan run.
Santa Claus village, located 8 km northeast of Rovaniemi, is at the Arctic Circle level, or Napapiiri. His house is "actually" not far away, under the mountain of Korvatunturi. But respecting the tranquillity of this brave man, his village, with elves and elves, was built on the polar circle. Santa Claus can easily impose his visits. Always surprising arrival. The spirit of Christmas and his songs is at the rendez-vous... even in the summer. You can also visit the postal centre! Yes, all letters sent to the North Pole arrive here and are sorted by the elves. So let's also say hello to its reindeer, waiting for the great Christmas night nearby. After the traditional photo in Mr. Noël's arms, you will finally enter the Arctic Circle line, the Napapiiri, and even get a diploma.
After a few hours of journey to Enontekiö, the bus is deposited at the Gold museum in Tankavaara. This museum, lost in Arctic forests, really deserves a Glance. From the history of Finnish gold researchers to the practical orpailleur of nature open to the public, you can initiate the techniques of the gold universe. So retroussez your sleeves and open your eyes.
On behalf of Finnish President Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (UKK), this park is one of Finland's largest and certainly the most savage. Don't forget your compass. After a coffee in a nice chalet of Laanila, outline the Sami tent (kota) and enter the national park. In comparison to the well-maintained forests of the Oulanka park, nature is almost a brutal side. This is the beginning of the northern tundra. Trees are stunted, rare streams and slightly hilly terrain. Climb the tunturis ("mountains" in Finnish). Then, take a 10 km drive to the centre of Kiilopää where you can spend the night.
After this good night's sleep, back to the wilderness. Go down Kiilopäää, walk along reindeer enclosures, follow rivers, walk around ponds. You have now returned to the Tankavaara Information Centre.
As a centre for Sami culture, Inari deserves attention to discover the culture of these Arctic peoples. The Cultural Centre (SIIDA) presents their history and lifestyle. Take advantage of the immense lake Inari, the third of the country by its area. Survol is a bit of the icing on the cake before overnight on the bus to Rovaniemi.
Departure to the west towards Kemi (Gulf of Bothnia). Take hour by train and two hours by bus from Rovaniemi. It is one of the cities of the Finnish paper industry, bordering Sweden and Lapland, and located on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Go and drag your feet in the sea sand and visit the Sampo icebreaker before resuming the night train for Tampere.
Tampere, founded in 1779 on the banks of the Tammerkoski Rapids, became one of the industrial centres in the 19th century. Today it is the third largest city in the country and the largest city in the Nordic countries, located inland. After visiting the Finlayson district, the Spy Museum and the famous Lenin Museum as well as the Cathedral, stay in the Särkanniemi amusement park. On the programme: discovery of the surroundings from the top of the Näsinneula lookout, which culminates at 168 m, Planetarium, Delphinarium and attractions, including the Tornado alone, which is full of sensations.
From Tampere (one and a half hours by train, two hours by bus minimum), head southwest to Turku, the former capital of Finland, now a modern and student city. Visit of the cathedral, the musée de plein airold quarter and its castle.
After all these discoveries, it is the head full of memories that you will return Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette