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8 days - Self Drive - Bear Safari, Wildlife and Hiking in Finland
This self-drive itinerary takes you through the sparsely populated taiga forests of north-eastern Finland. There are even five national parks with their hiking, canoeing and fishing possibilities easily accessible from the route. Close to the Russian border you can participate in bear or wolverine observation tours which give you a unique chance to watch and photograph these animals safely. In an information centre you’ll get to know Finland’s large carnivores – bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine.
Accommodation varies from hotel rooms to apartments and cosy cabins. Each night you will get to enjoy local delicacies and the genuine Finnish sauna is also available most nights.
- Day 1
- Arrival at Kuopio
- Day 2
- Hiidenportti and Tiilikkajärvi national parks
- Day 3
- Karelian culture
- Day 4
- Brown Bears and Winter War history
- Day 5
- Hiking in Hossa national park
- Day 6
- Kuusamo Nature's Own Amusement Park
- Day 7
- Reach the Arctic Circle
- Day 8
- Depart Rovaniemi
- Start Place
- Kuopio, Scandinavia
- End Place
- Rovaniemi, Scandinavia
- Countries Visited
- 8 Days
Self-Drive Itinerary with hire car. Pick up is at Kuopio Airport and drop off is at Rovaniemi airport.
- All accommodation in hotels and log cabins
- Half board (dinner & breakfast) throughout the trip, except day 7 the dinner is not included
- Hire car: VW Golf or similar - manual, including free mileage,CDW & GPS
- One way fee
- Daily Saunas
- Wolverine observation on day 3, season May to mid Aug (min. 2 persons)
- Bear watching tour 6-hours on day 4, season May to mid Aug
- Exclusive travel documentation package including personalised maps, itinerary and driving directions
- 24-hour emergency service
- Taxes and service fees
- Lunches and drinks with meals
- If you wish to hire an automatic car, these are 'on request' and can be difficult to obtain. Please seek further advice with us
- Optional extra: return flights from Helsinki (HEL)
Day 1 - Arrival at Kuopio
Arrival at Kuopio airport where you will collect your hire car.
If you arrive on an early flight you can visit the city of Kuopio which is full of life especially in summer.The city, in the centre of the Savo region, is famous for its marketplace, harbour and cheerful people. At the market you can taste the local speciality, “kalakukko”, a Finnish fish pie. About 20 cruises depart daily from the harbour of Kuopio to lake Kallavesi. The symbol of the city is Puijo tower from where you can admire beautiful views over lake Kallavesi.
For the first night you will drive to Metsäkartano mansion situated in a tranquil spot in the heart of nature. Dinner and possibility of a sauna.
Transportation130 kilometres driving distance. Direct flights from Helsinki fly into Kuopio Airport, 17 kilometres north of Kuopio.
AccommodationMetsäkartano holiday centre
Day 2 - Hiidenportti and Tiilikkajärvi national parks
Today you can choose between two national parks that are both within easy reach of Metsäkartano.
Tiilikkajärvi national park offers quite easy routes, beautiful lakeside scenery and beaches. By contrast, the scenery at Hiidenportti national park is quite rugged; trails include more hills and are a bit more demanding. The heart of Hiidenportti national park is the majestic Hiidenportti Gorge with its vertical rock walls. Both national parks have some good hiking trails for a few hours’ day tour. Remember to carry the picnic lunch with you because there are no opportunities to purchase food in the parks.
Recommended walks: Hiidenkierros 3-5 km, Kitulankierros 10,5 km, Uiton kierto 7 km
AccommodationMetsäkartano Hotel and Holiday Centre
Day 3 - Karelian culture
It’s time to say goodbye to Metsäkartano and head via Nurmes in Karelia to Kuhmo. In Nurmes you can visit the Karelian Bomba House and the Karelian village around it. Bomba House might be a good place to enjoy lunch as well.
By the end of the day you’ll arrive at Kuhmo which is a small village where you can see the Finnish national epic Kalevala reflected in the architecture, events, research, museums and the food. You can learn more about Kalevala and Karelian culture at the Kalevala Information Centre Juminkeko. For two July weeks Kuhmo is full of guests enjoying the annual Chamber Music Festival which is famous and appreciated throughout the world.
TransportationMetsäkartano–Kuhmo approx. 105 km
Day 4 - Brown Bears and Winter War history
In the morning you will have the opportunity to visit Petola Visitor Centre which is an information center on Finland’s large carnivores – bear, wolf, lynx and wolverine. From Kuhmo the route goes toward north through some very sparsely populated areas following the Russian border. You’ll pass through the beautiful village of Lentiira and cross the road leading to Kostamus and to the international frontier crossing point of Vartius.
Some 25 km south of Suomussalmi is the historical area of Raate which was the stage of some heavy battles during the Second World War. In Raate it is possible to visit the Winter War exhibition and the Raate Frontier Guard Museum. Your accommodation for the next night will be in the tiny village of Juntusranta just beside the Russian border. Arola, Helena and Eero’s former dairy farm, is well-known for its delicious local food. The farm is surrounded by remote woodland inhabited by European brown bears. In the evening you can take part in a bear safari and observe these majestic animals from the purpose-built log cabins.
Recommended walks: Petola nature trail 0,5 km
TransportationKuhmo - Juntusranta approx. 170 km
AccommodationLocal Farm homestay in the tiny village of Juntusranta
Day 5 - Hiking in Hossa national park
Heading north again you will first arrive at Hossa national park – the newest national park in Finland – known for its crystal-clear lakes and ponds and handsome pine heathlands.
In Hossa you can walk in the footsteps of Finland's Stone Age settlers, who made mysterious shamanistic paintings on the cliffs at Värikallio thousands of years ago. Hossa Visitor Centre offers information on trails and there is an exhibition on the area's history.
In Hossa you can also visit a reindeer park and get to know the semi-wild animals inhabiting the northern area of Finland better. You can try your skills at lassoing reindeer or just pet and feed them. Your final destination today is Kuusamo, which is one of the most important tourist destinations in Finland thanks to its magnificent nature and the vast range of activities available throughout the year. Before settling down for the night at the cosy Ollila Holiday Cottages you could, for example, pop into the Tourist and Nature Centre Karhuntassu and visit a nature photography centre there.
Recommended walks: Värikallio trail 8 km, Huosiusjärvi circle trail 7,5 km, Hossa nature trail 3 kmJuntusranta - Kuusamo approx. 135 km
TransportationJuntusranta–Kuusamo approx. 135 km
AccommodationOllila Holiday Cottages - 2 nights
Day 6 - Kuusamo Nature's Own Amusement Park
This morning you don ́t need to pack your luggage because you will stay another night at the same place. Today you can head to Oulanka national park or to Ruka, which is one of the most popular skiing resorts in Finland.
The landscape of Oulanka national park is made up of pine forests; river valleys with sandy banks and rapids; and, in the north, vast marshes. The area is rich in animal and plant species. Hikers can get a general picture of the park’s nature even on daytrips. There are several routes available but one very nice (though very demanding) one is the Small Bear’s Trail starting from the village of Juuma. Departing from Oulanka Visitor centre you can visit the Kiutaköngäs rapids which are some of the biggest rapids in Finland. Many safari companies organize river rafting in Oulanka National Park varying from easy family tours to speedy tours that will make your heart race!
At Ruka you can climb up to some of the hills and admire the beautiful views over forests and lakes. An easier way to get to the top is the Ruka Lookout Lift that takes you up to the hill. If you are brave enough, you can descend on a speedy summer sled. The safari companies also offer many other activities, such as canoe trips, mountain biking and walking tours. The night is spent again at Ollila Holiday Cottages.
Recommended walks: Small Bear’s Trail 12 km, Valtavaara nature trail 8 km, Hiidenlampi nature trail 5 km. Recommended canoeing route: Oulanka canoeing route 7-23 km
AccommodationThe night is spent again at Ollila Holiday Cottages.
Day 7 - Reach the Arctic Circle
This will be your last and longest day of travelling, ending at Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. If you are still willing to do some hiking you can easily visit either Riisitunturi national park or Korouoma nature reserve which both offer the opportunity of some nice daytrips, though there are no circular routes available. Both destinations have their characteristics and especially the 30-km-long fracture valley in Korouoma is very special.
If you take the longer, southern route from Posio to Rovaniemi you will have a chance to visit a Wildlife Park situated in Ranua. There are about 50 species of arctic and northern wild animals at Ranua Zoo, including bears, the only polar bears in Finland, lynxes, wolves, wolverines, moose and many more. The city of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi, offers plenty to do. Santa Claus’ Village on the Arctic Circle takes you to the atmosphere of Christmas, even if it is summer. You can visit Santa Claus in his office, send a postcard from Santa Claus’ Post Office and visit a Christmas Exhibition presenting Christmas traditions around the world.
The Arktikum, a science centre and museum, is also worth a visit. The exhibitions of the Arktikum lead you through the Arctic areas’ and Finnish Lapland’s history and modern day providing a unique insight into the way of life, culture and history of the North. For the last night of the tour you will stay in a well-appointed cabin with a genuine Finnish sauna where you can refresh yourself after a week full of activities.
Recommended walks: Riisin Rääpäsy trail 4 km, Riisin Rietas trail 10,5 km, Koronjää trail 5 km
TransportationKuusamo - Rovaniemi approx. 210 km
AccommodationChalet Hotel Rovaniemi
Day 8 - Depart Rovaniemi
Breakfast and drive to the airport of Rovaniemi where you will leave your hire car.
Transportation7 kilometres to the airport
All prices listed are per person. For last minute bookings: prices are subject to availability.
Please note that 2019 prices are indicative only.
30 Sep 2019
30 Sep 2019
Optional extra: return flights from Helsinki (HEL).
For a greener option, please ask us about changing your vehicle to a 'green' car; either a diesel or a hybrid.
Interactive Tour Map
Travel insurance is compulsory for all tours with 50 Degrees North. Please ensure that you have this organised as we will need to see proof of this upon issuing your tour documentation. Please contact us for a quote or visit http://www.suresave.net.au/
A guide to berries of Scandinavia
Take a Hike: The Berries of Scandinavia by Ivy Thompson
Scandinavian summers are magic. With their long, bright days and midnight sun you have the amazing opportunity to experience Nordic nature at it’s best. What would it taste like if you could bottle some of that magic?
To me, the taste of Scandinavian summer is found in the abundant wild, seasonal berries. They ripen throughout early summer till late autumn and are an important part of Nordic cuisine. Best eaten fresh straight off the bush- but also lovely as jams, jellies, cordial, juice, pies and cakes- or my favourite: sprinkled on top of freshly made waffles.
One of the greatest joys of hiking in Nordic forest and bush-land during the summer-months is without doubt the berry-picking. Like most Scandinavians I’ve enjoyed it since I could barely walk. It's a wonderful way of fuelling long hikes whether you’re going at it hard and fast, or slow and leisurely. Here’s everything you need to know about the delicious berries of Scandinavia:
Season: early June till July
Wild strawberries are tiny but incredibly sweet and flavourful. You’ll be lucky if they last till the end of your hike - these are like nature’s own lollies! In Norway we serve them crushed/ stirred as a sugar-free alternative to traditional jam. It’s amazing topped on anything from buttered toast to pancakes and waffles. Another summer dessert-favourite is simply wild strawberries topped with a dash of cream.
Season: Mid-July till August
Unlike the oversized store-bought, pale-fleshed blueberries we get at the supermarket; Scandinavian blueberries are small and deep purple all the way through. Their low-growing bushes cover entire forest floors during summer. Eager locals get in early to fill their buckets with fresh berries, ready to freeze them for later in the year. Wild Nordic blueberries are tart but more flavourful; they taste absolutely amazing topped with cream and a sprinkle of sugar. They’re also beautiful in a pie or a berry-crumble. Wild blueberries pack a serious antioxidant-punch too; eat till your heart's content.
Season: Mid-July till August
It’s not unusual for us to find wild raspberry-bushes next to a bus-stop or on the side of a quiet residential street. It’s always a pleasant surprise; wild raspberries are tasty although slightly less sweet and smaller than their farmed, store-bought relatives. My kids all love them and eat them up on the spot. These are commonly found growing on the edges of forests and fields.
Season: Late July till September
If you’ve been to IKEA you’re probably familiar with their meatballs and side of lingonberry-jam. Lingonberries are quite sour and the jam is made with large amounts of sugar to make it more palatable. In Scandinavia you’ll find the homemade jam-varieties are less sweet. Lingonberry-jam offers an amazing balance to rich red-meat dishes such as meatballs, venison-roasts and meatloaf. Don’t knock it till you try!
Season: Late July till September
Gooseberries tastes similar to kiwi-fruit and look like a small, somewhat hairy grape. They commonly grow in Scandinavian gardens as the bush does well in cooler climates. They might not grow abundantly in the wild but if you see them at a local grocer or on a cafe-menu, give them a go. Gooseberries have a grape-y, floral-like flavour, and taste best when ripe.
Black/ Red currants
Season: Late July till September
Black- and red currants can be quite sour but really makes a dessert, pie, cake or jelly “pop” with their refreshing fruitiness and flavour. Commonly used as a base in both home-made and store-bought cordial-mixes In Scandinavia, currants remind me of the picnics, warm toddies and long summer-nights of childhood. They commonly grow in gardens but you can also find them in the wild in and around residential areas.
Season: August till September
Cloudberries look like small orange raspberries, and are often called “Mountain Gold” due to their golden skin and expensive price-tag. They grow in mountainous areas spanning from from mid-Norway/ Sweden/ Finland all the way up north towards the Arctic. They are notoriously fussy and a good cloudberry season depends on many, many factors. A typical Norwegian Christmas-dessert is cloudberry whipped cream piped into “krumkaker”; a light, crisp waffle shaped into a cone. Cloudberries are considered a Norwegian delicacy, and if you are lucky enough to come across them during a hike or trek, make sure you try them for yourself.