Nature is our national treasure – our green gold. The diversity and purity of Finnish nature provides us with endless inspiration and a source of well-being. A great way to enjoy our magnificent nature is to explore it through our well-managed and diverse national parks.
Our county’s nature offers a wide range of national park experiences. The nature of North Karelia is a forest kingdom, characterised by dunes, swamps, coniferous forests and large lake areas. In Koli National Park you can enjoy the dune landscapes, in Patvinsuo National Park you can explore the marshlands and in Petkeljärvi National Park you can see the ridges and wilderness landscapes.
Koli National Park
Koli National Park was established on 10 April 1991. It is located on the east side of the highway 6 and on the west bank of the Pielinen river. The distance from Joensuu to Koli National Park is about 63 km. Created 2-3 billion years ago from the remains of the ancient mountain range of the Karelids, our national landscape charms visitors year after year. The diverse nature of Koli National Park offers something to see and experience all year round.
In Koli National Park you can admire the majestic Ukko-Koli, Akka-Koli, Paha-Koli and the Pielinen River, and enjoy traditional landscapes through meadows, groves and forests. The rich fauna, flora and birdlife of the Koli region will delight you to no end. In summer, the area’s natural well-being is ensured by Finnish horses, eastern Finncattle and Finnish sheep. Koli is also the southernmost place in Finland where you can admire the trees in the winter under the “tykkylumi” heavy snow. The high perches above the cloud cover also provide a great stage for stargazing and admiring the northern lights.
The proximity of the Pielise provides a great playground for water sports enthusiasts in summer. You can go frogging, canoeing, boating and swimming on Koli. In winter, Pielinen freezes over, offering more ways to enjoy the water element. During the winter season, skating, skiing, open-air swimming and, depending on the year, even driving are possible in the Koli National Park area. Deeper into the nature of Koli, you can dive into the nature with good hiking trails, for example by horseback riding, cycling or snowshoeing. The routes are varied and everyone will find a way and route to enjoy the National Park that suits them. Day trips allow you to discover many natural attractions, such as the Devil’s Church. Or admire the scenery of Koli from Mäkrävaara or Räsävaara observation tower. Koli National Park also offers something for the more demanding hiker and walker, for example, the Herajärvi tour allows you to experience the varied terrain of Koli and challenge your fitness.
Especially in the summer, there is a wide range of cultural offerings both in the village of Koli and in the surrounding area. During the winter season, the Ukko Nature Centre, for example, offers visitors with a cultural appetite something to eat through a variety of exhibitions. A symbol of Finnishness for over a hundred years, the Koli landscape has fascinated artists and people from decade to decade and generation to generation, and its cultural heritage continues through contemporary artists.
It’s worth taking the time to explore the Koli region, which is made possible by the rich and varied choice of accommodation. The National Park offers a wide range of accommodation all year round, from igloos, cottages, hotels and camping sites.
Patvinsuo National Park
Patvinsuo National Park is located east of Kantatie 73. The distance from Joensuu via Uimaharju is 90 km and from Koli about 80 km. Patvinsuo National Park was established in 1982. In Patvinsuo National Park you can admire wilderness, primeval forests and extensive marshland.
Nature is very diverse in the Patvisuo area and is home to many species of animals and organisms. Even the large carnivore population, from bears to wolverines and lynxes, is thriving. The primeval forests have been allowed to develop in peace for over a hundred years. Among the scrub and old pines and large aspen trees, the visitor can study the natural cycle of decaying trees to new seedlings, which is everywhere. Wasps, fungi, midges, insects and the rare Lesser Spotted Eagle live comfortably in the forests of the Patvinsuo area.
While admiring the primeval forests, you can dip your toes in the sand along the 24 kilometres of shoreline in Patvinsuo National Park and even take a dip in Lake Suomusjärvi. Suomunjärvi is located in a ridge area formed at the end of the Ice Age and also has a large fish population, so you can enjoy the lake even while fishing. The lake can also be admired by following the Suomunkirkko circular route around the lake. To the north of the area, there is also Iso Hietajärvi, a clear-water, sandy lake. Efforts are being made to keep human impact in the area to a minimum for research purposes, so you can only admire a limited amount of the natural Iso Hietajärvi.
Patvinsuo National Park’s wetlands are varied and particularly attractive during the lacquer season. Along the long trees you can admire the different types of wetlands. You can explore oasis and meadow pastures and swamp forests. More than half of the park is marshland. While picking jam and cranberries from the marsh treasures, you can observe the life of the marsh birds.
As well as experiencing nature, Patvisuo National Park is also worth a visit to see the charcoal mine and the karsikkopuu tree. The Suomu nature hut is located near Lake Suomunjärvi. The nature house offers advice, accommodation and food services.
Petkeljärvi National Park
Petkeljärvi National Park is located about 20 kilometres from the Finnish-Russian border, east of Kantatie 74. The distance from Joensuu to Petkeljärvi National Park is 90 km and from Ilomantsi 23 km. The national park was established in 1956 and is one of the earliest national parks in Finland. The Petkeljärvi landscape – the ridges were formed 10 000 years ago when the glacial ice sheet melted. As the melting occurred, lakes and pine-clad ridges formed, which we can admire today.
As well as being a natural wonder, Petkeljärvi is also a great place to get out and about. There are several marked trails in the area. Petkeljärvi is also home to the oldest hiking trail in North Karelia, the Taitajan taival, which is 31 kilometres long. In addition to hiking, Petkeljärvi offers canoeing, fishing, swimming, cycling and, in winter, skiing. In Petkeljärvi National Park you can also learn about military history. There is a World War II era corsair and a trench.
Petkeljärvi Nature House offers a wide range of services for hikers. You can get advice, hire equipment, have a coffee, buy souvenirs and learn about the history of the national park through an exhibition. The Petkeljärve Hiking Centre offers accommodation, so you can explore the National Park in your own time.
The UNESCO-listed national park is a wilderness destination that is an experience to be savoured in its own right.