Many people who visit Finland only see Helsinki or Lapland. These are of course excellent destinations, but it’s time we gave some of Finland’s lesser-known gems some well-deserved attention. If you’re looking for amazing scenery, the cleanest air in the world and untouched nature to enjoy without the usual throngs of tourists, a trip to Koli could be right up your street! Although the changing seasons might be something many sun-loving Finns wish to escape, four distinct seasons give a welcome variety. Each season has the capability of bringing out something different in nature, be it the display of colours during fall, the silence of the falling snow or the famous nightless Nordic summer nights.
Koli National Park is an excellent place to truly experience the different seasons. The hardest part will be deciding which season to visit, since they’re all magical in their own way. To help you out here’s a guide to the pros and cons of each season.
This post has been updated in January 2022.
1. Famous Nordic Summer
Want to sleep outside in a tent, have a swim in Lake Pielinen and enjoy warm weather and sunshine? Then summer might be the best option for you to visit Koli.
Out of the four seasons, summer comes with the best odds of getting fairly warm weather, making camping and sleeping outdoors a viable option. If summer in Koli had a motto it would be “Live this day as if it were your last”. This short, but extremely intense growth spurt that is the Nordic summer will give you the opportunity to spot beautiful butterflies, admire fields of flowers and go skinny-dipping in Lake Pielinen after sweating in the sauna. The only downside is that the live-this-day-to-the-fullest-vibes apply to all living creatures, including insects. Here you’ll have to endure the most diabolic blood-sucking mosquitos you’ll ever come across.
Activities: Camping outside, swimming, fishing, hiking, berry-picking.
Have you always wanted to see autumn colours at their most intense and breathe in the magical scent of fall? Would you like to experience the cleanest air in the world without millions of mosquitos disturbing your peace and quiet? Then autumn is the right season for you.
Few places can rival the breathtakingly beautiful colour parade the North Karelian nature puts on every autumn. Intense nuances of yellow, orange, red and everything in between will mesmerise those who visit Koli during fall.
The Finnish language actually has its own word for the time the fall foliage is at its best, “ruska”, and I have yet to come across another language with a similar word (let me know if you have!). The exact time for the “ruska” is at its best varies from year to year, but it’s usually around the last week of September and the first week of October.
Activities: hiking, picking mushrooms, camping outside, checking out the yearly blues festival Koli Ruska Blues or the trail running marathon Marathon of Dangers.
Love the idea of a layer of snow so high it’ll reach your waist? Are you a huge fan of all kinds of winter sports and don’t mind cold weather? Then head to Koli during winter and experience what a real winter is like.
With temperatures possibly hitting as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius, this is not for wimps. But with warm layers, the right clothing and the chance to warm up with a sauna or a spiked mint chocolate, winter is an excellent season to visit Koli. It’s also the best season to spot the magical Northern lights on the night skies. Koli might not be able to rival the slopes you find in the Alps, but they’re decent enough. Try out one of Finland’s steepest slopes; the Ukko-Koli slope, at 33,8 degrees.
Activities: cross-country skiing, downhill-skiing, snowshoeing, driving on the ice road over the frozen lake.
Love the idea of snow, but can’t stand icy cold temperatures? Enjoy sunlight and birds chirping and the rhythmic drip-drip-drip from the rooftops as the sun slowly makes the thick layer of snow sweat? Then Koli’s spring might just be your thing!
Around March the sun seems to regain its power after having spent the winter practically in hibernation. During daytime temperatures can climb over the zero mark, making outdoor activities more enjoyable than during the iciest winter months. Daytime and night temperatures can vary greatly and the constant freeze versus melt battle transforms the powdery snow into a hard crust that will carry your weight. Finally, you can walk in the forest without snowshoes! The late spring when the nature bursts into bloom is also beautiful, but such a fleeting moment it’s hard to time your visit right.
Disadvantages of this season include crowded slopes during Easter brake and plenty of puddles once the ice starts to thaw.
Activities: cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, hiking (once the snow gets a hard crust making walking over its surface possible without snowshoes).