Over five thrilling days in the heart of Europe’s summer I ventured into the upper reaches of Finland, close to the Russia border. It was an area I knew pretty much nothing about – but after time spent exploring the beautiful countryside, and taking part in a series of active outdoor activities, I came away entranced with it. If you are looking some somewhere natural, healthy and still off the mainstream tourist track then I recommend considering visiting. It is affectionately called “Europe’s Last Great Wilderness” by the tourist board and locals. I think with a lot of justification. You can read the ten surprising things I discovered about the Ruka-Kuusamo region.
I travelled as a guest of the Visit Finland tourist board who wanted to showcase what the Ruka-Kuusamo and nearby parts of the country has to offer summer tourists. The peak season is winter when hundreds of thousands travel there to take part in snow-based activities and sports in the pristine snow.
Whilst there I went bear watching in Karhu-Kuusamo, hiking with Era-Susi Huskies in the Oulanka National Park, canoeing along the River Oulankajoki with Outdoor Passion Finland, visited the Pyhapiilo Sauna, went white water rafting with Ruka Safaris on River Kitkajoki, horse riding at the Nurminiemen stables in Kuusamo, did an 11-kilometre bike safari with Iso Syote Hotel and Safaris and attended the Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu. A packed and active schedule. I loved every minute of it.
Hopefully the images below showcasing each of these will inspire you to visit this beautiful region of the world. I was totally taken with its remoteness, local passion for the area, sights and things to do. The fact that it is still largely an undiscovered summer destination made it feel more unique and special. It is ideal for travellers looking to venture somewhere that many will not (yet) have experienced.
The 9 Must-Do Activities in Europe’s Last True Wilderness in Finland
#1 Bear Watching with Karhu-Kuusamo
#2 Guided husky hike in Oulanka National Park with Era-Susi Huskies
#3 Canoe trip along River Oulankajoki with Outdoor Passion Finland
#4 White Water Rafting on River Kitkajoki with Ruka Safaris
#5 Horse riding tour in Kuusamo around Lake Kuusamojarvi with Nurminiemi riding stables
#6 Sauna tour visit to lakeside Pyhapillo Sauna
#7 Guided mountain biking around Syote hills with Iso-Syote Hotel and Safaris
#8 “Wild food Movement” Restaurants
Finnish people, certainly in this region, are focused on healthy eating and sustainable sourcing of produce, meat and fish. They have fostered the “wild food movement” which is to source as much food from the wild. So it is not even “organic” as this requires formal farming methods. Here are some of the dishes I had that were part of this movement. There are restaurants that are focused on only serving “wild food” such as Rukan Kuksa in Ruka Village.
#9 Local privately owned places to stay
There are many small privately owned places to stay, such as the Isokenkaisten Klubi run by two sisters that we stayed at. This intimate hostelries offer home cooking, using food from the local area and using family recipes, comfortable accommodation and welcoming hosts.
My Must-See 9 Finland Wilderness Activities Video
If you are looking for somewhere different to venture for your next summer vacation then consider Finland. Kussamo is easily reached by daily flights from Helsinki and has, as the above shows, a multitude of activities. To find out more and see more videos and photographs visit my dedicated page at tipsfortravellers.com/finland
Note: Visit Finland Tourism Board invited and hosted me whilst visiting the region.
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