Oulanka National Park is one of Finland’s many treasures. Ever since 1956, it has been a perfect destination for those who enjoy the nature and all the activities that bring us closer to it.
Whether you choose to visit Oulanka national park in the winter or in the summer, there’s plenty of things to do either way. Therefore, here are our top 5 picks and suggestions!
Hike the Bear’s Trail
Oulanka National Park is most famous for its amazing hiking trails. There’s a wide variety of them, starting from 0,3 km up to 82 km for the more adventurous visitors. Hiking is the best way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and, if you’re lucky, you might spot some animals along the way!
The most famous one is also Finland’s most popular hiking trail – Karhunkierros Trail. It’s also known as the Bear’s Trail or Bear’s Ring.
Physically, it’s very demanding, but, on the other hand, also very rewarding. Depending on your stamina and allowed time, it might take you up to 6 days to finish it. The circuit can be walked in whole or in parts since it’s split into 4 sections.
The trail has two main starting points: Hautajärvi and Ristikallio. Hautajärvi can be easily reached from the town of Kuusamo. The trail is well marked (watch out for the orange paint markings on trees!) and the wildlife is abundant, to say the least.
Keep in mind that, despite being called the Bear’s Ring, the trail is not circular, so you may want to plan your transportation for the way back in advance.
When it comes to accommodation, you have a choice of spending the night in one of the cabins that are free of charge for visitors or you can bring your tent. If you pick the cabin, keep in mind that there are no reservations, which means that who gets there first gets the cabin! Booking also has some properties in Kuusamo listed on their site.
However, if you don’t have a lot of time, you can explore the Pieni Karhunkierros Trail, which is one of the most iconic trails in Finland.
The Small Bear Round, how it’s commonly called, is 12 km long. This circle route can be finished in a day, but the views are still spectacular. Other than that, there are other options suitable for every type of hiker.
Explore by canoe
A great way to get to know Oulanka National Park from a different perspective is from the water. Actually, the Oulanka river is ideal for canoeing and other activities on the water. It’s suitable for beginners and even children, so if you’re looking for a relaxing trip through the untouched nature of the region, you must try this.
You will probably see all kinds of wildlife, such as reindeer, eagles, or, less likely, the bears. Also, if you’re into fishing, there are areas where you can do that as well. You can get the fishing permit and all necessary information in the Oulanka Visitor Centre.
However, our recommendation is making your canoeing-trip a two-day experience at least. For a complete stress-free getaway, consider spending the night and waking up to another day of paddling.
Some of the most stunning things to see from the canoe are the Oulanka Canyon, Myllykoski and the Jyrävä falls in the Kitka River, the hanging bridges etc. Some tours offer a ride all the way to the Russian border.
Also, part of the Karhunkierros Trail can be travelled by canoe.
For an adrenaline-filled ride, you should consider rafting. Unlike canoeing, this activity is set in Oulanka’s rapids, from class I to class IV wild ones. The best time to get involved in this activity is at the beginning of summer.
The Wild Route is one of the most difficult ones.
Even though this isn’t an activity or a place you must visit, it’s definitely part of an overall unforgettable experience. Oulanka Park is special since it’s the most valuable conservation area in all of Finland. Dozens of plant and animal species you see here are those you won’t be able to see anywhere else in the world.
Notable among the wildlife are the 7,000 insect species (for example, wood ants, which build nests that are around three feet tall), eagles, bears, wolves, wolverines and many others.
You can pick berries and mushrooms freely, walk through the pine forests, observe the eagles and the semi-domesticated reindeer, and smell the orchids along the way. Yes, you can experience all of this in one place. 🙂
Finally, the Oulanka National Park is great for witnessing one of nature’s greatest phenomena: the northern lights. You have a great chance of seeing them very early or late in the season. Ideally, you should visit in October and November or in March or April. Combined with the stunning nature everywhere around, this is a perfect location for Aurora Borealis hunting.