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Best Outdoor Destination of 2023

Best Outdoor Destination of 2023

The Koli tourism area in eastern Finland has been voted the best outdoor destination in the Nordic countries.

The Scandinavian Outdoor Awards rewards Nordic nature destinations that have made a significant contribution to the development of tourism in their region  This year, the prize went to the Koli tourism area. The award was announced at the international tourism fair, ITB Berlin, on 7 March 2023. 

The jury was convinced by the holistic four-season concept for several target groups in the Koli area. The region combines different types of accommodation, responsible nature tourism and a focus on integrating locals with growth that meets the needs of the region.  

Photo: Erä-Eero

Welcome to the Best Outdoor Destination of 2023

The Koli tourist area (Koli, Lieksa and Juuka) is a diverse nature destination offering a variety of experiences in all seasons. The region is providing top services to outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who would like to experience true nature and spectacular environments. 

You can easily get to Lieksa by train, plane or by car. We recommend the train as its convenient, eco-friend­ly and af­for­dab­le. Liek­sa can be reac­hed with a coup­le of chan­ges and you can ea­si­ly ta­ke your bi­kes and ot­her items with you. More info can be found here. Flying is the fas­test way to get to Ko­li and Liek­sa. Clo­sest air­ports are in Joen­suu, Ka­jaa­ni and Kuo­pio. You can also get there by car and explore the area without any schedules. 

Gorgeous nature and natural parks

In the Koli-Lieksa region, there are two large and unique National parks, many protected natural sites and well-maintained hiking areas, all of which have a different soul, landscape and history. Koli, with its unique national landscapes, and the wilderness of Patvinsuo natural park invites all nature lovers to enjoy hiking and mountain biking. In addition to those activities, you can also go rafting in the unique Ruunaa hiking area in the Lieksa river. 

summer in lieksa

There are also large lakes, small ponds, rapids and forest streams that colour the landscape almost everywhere. The area is a destination with genuine diverse forests, natural life, peace and silence, and it offers a hugely rich and clean nature coverage. 

In 2019, the City of Lieksa launched activities to develop the digital visibility of hiking trails. This work was later continued in a development project in the Pielinen region, where the routes and the services along them were documented, licensed under Outdooractive and systematically marketed through an international service. Sustainable tourism is an important theme in the National Park area, so guidelines for responsible hiking have also been included in each route description.

“The work continues and the city is currently renovating the 127-kilometre-long trail, Karhunpolku, in Lieksa,” says Mari Mustonen, business specialist at Lieksan Kehitys Oy LieKe. 

Lieksa offers year-round experiences

You can travel and enjoy the magnificent nature in the Koli-Lieksa region all year round. Different seasons always give a new perspective on a nature-based adventure in the region. Tourism Companies offer various guided tours and hobby equipment all year round. 

The whole North Karelia region, where Koli and Lieksa both belong, was also awarded this year. The first Scan Magazine issue of the year 2023 (no. 150)  featured North Karelia as one of “The best experiences in Finland in 2023.” 

husky safari north karelia

The wilderness of Lieksa offers an opportunity to observe the versatility of nature, space to breathe and a place where you can just stop and listen to nature. In winter, you experience the darkness and the starry sky, the silence in the middle of the snow.  Summer brings bright nightless nights, sounds of forest animals and the hum of trees in the wind. 

You can experience Finland’s four seasons on hiking and mountain bike trails, which total around  250 km in the area. There are rest stops at suitable distances and along the routes, there are also hospitable accommodations where you can try a Finnish sauna, eat local food and rest.

A speciality of the area is the opportunity to watch nature and animals from observation huts or nature towers, which you can also do all year round!

Get inspired and check out all-year-round activities in the gorgeous Lieksa area here. 

Winter activities in Lieksa

The season brings extraordinary beauty, with the snow-covered landscape and the midnight stars and the moon shining on the white snow. 

husky safari koli

The most popular activities in the winter in Lieksa are skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, hiking, mountain biking and husky safaris. Lieksa is home to several snowmobile trails, which offer a great way to explore the area. The trails are well-maintained and offer a variety of terrain, from flat to steep.

During the coldest winter months, you can go ice fishing, hiking and open-water swimming on lake Pielinen. Read more about the winter activities in Lieksa here. 

Gorgeous spring and summer 

In the summer months, Lieksa comes alive with an array of activities and events, making it the perfect destination for a summer getaway.

In spring and summer seasons, in addition to hiking and biking, the adventurous can find rapid or lake fishing, rafting, sup-boarding, mountain biking or kayaking trips and swimming in the clean water by sandy beaches. 

Pielinen, one of Finland’s largest lakes in the heart of the region, offers a  wonderful Finnish experience on the water or on the ice. Secret little outdoor spots and  North Karelia’s hospitable services guarantee a perfect visit. There are also great inland water cruises from Vuonislahti and Koli in the summer. In midsummer, it is bright throughout the night and in nature, it is a unique experience. 

Lieksa has a rich cultural heritage, and visitors can explore this through its many museums, art galleries, and local festivals. During the summer months, there are numerous cultural events that take place, such as music festivals and exhibitions.

Paateri, Lieksa
stand up paddle koli

Mystique autumn season 

The autumn season is a mystique one, giving you an unforgettable experience when enjoying it in nature as the autumn colours are truly unique.  

The dark nights begin in autumn and then there is an opportunity to admire the starry sky and silence, stay in a warm cabin or in the warmth of a campfire. The opposite is the bright white snow of a winter day. 

kayaking in Finlans

During the autumn months we can also finally say goodbye to mosquitos and enjoy nature’s treasures, such as berries and mushrooms. The autumn time is perfect for enjoying nature, going hiking and mountain biking as the air is starting to be a bit cooler and fresh compared to the summertime. 

Sustainable travel in Finland 

Ensuring sustainability is a top priority for us. Our city and surrounding destinations boast stunning, pristine nature that offers visitors an array of outdoor activities and adventures. It’s our duty to protect and preserve these natural treasures. Supporting the local community is also a vital part of our ethos, and we aim to develop tourism in a responsible manner, ensuring that it remains sustainable for generations to come.

Lieksa is home to numerous protected natural sites. We’ve implemented a conservation program to maintain and safeguard these areas while providing visitors with guidance on how to behave responsibly. To ensure visitors stay on designated trails and campsites, we’ve installed markers and maintained camping areas. By following these guidelines, we can offer nature experiences to as many people as possible while minimizing our impact on the environment.

Accessibility is another key focus for us. We’ve worked hard to improve access to nature trails and observation platforms, making them available to families with children’s carriages and visitors using wheelchairs. We’ve also included instructions on responsible behaviour in our route guides to raise awareness and educate visitors.

Entrepreneurs and operators in our region also play a crucial role in promoting responsible tourism. We encourage everyone to make conscious choices in their daily activities, which will help guide Lieksa’s tourism industry in a more sustainable direction.

Our commitment to sustainability is an ongoing process. We continually strive to improve our practices and share our knowledge with others to make a positive impact.

Welcome to the best outdoor destination of 2023!  You can check the full interactive travel brochure here. We would be delighted to show you around.