4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

 In Active Travel, Europe, Finland, Finland, Scandinavia, Winter Sports

Waking up for the second time in North Karelia was like waking up to Christmas.

We woke, snuggled up in our hotel sheets at Break Sokos Hotel Bomba before taking a second to remember where we were. Lilly peaked through the curtains and revealed our snowy forest view as the sun began twinkling through the trees and lighting up the snow. We soon jumped into action once we opened the hotel window and the fresh, crisp, cold air from outside entered our lungs.

4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

We had yet another night in this hotel so, with no need to pack our bags, we layered straight up in thermals, popped on our snow boots and headed down to the hotel restaurant excited for another breakfast of rye porridge and Finnish forest berries.

You’ll also see also a Karelian pie in my breakfast pics. These little pockets of mashed potato or rice are a delicacy up here in Karelia and they were no stranger to our spreads during our time here. If you come, make sure you try one!

  • 4 days in Finland: Driving the Koli Ice road and Koli National Park
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Driving the Koli Ice road and Koli National Park
  • 4 days in Finland: Driving the Koli Ice road and Koli National Park
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

We would have absolutely loved to have used the Bomba Spa again this morning but fortunately for us, an alternative adventure had been planned.

After our Husky Sledging and open fire lunch yesterday, we were pretty content with the beauty we’d witnessed and knew that anything now would just be a bonus.

We also knew, somehow, that we hadn’t seen anything yet…

Top tip: Open this Google Map during your trip to Karelia to navigate between all my hotspots!

We arrived at 9.30am at Hyvärilä Youth Center,  one of Finland’s 9 Youth Centres financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Hyvärilä has functioned as a national youth centre since 1982. Located on the north shore of Lake Pielinen in Nurmes, they provide accommodation and catering as well as facilities for events and celebrations.

Our first adventure of the day was set to be snowshoeing across Lake Pielinen – the fourth largest lake in Finland which freezes at this time of year. The water spreads 894.21 kmand at it’s maximum depth it’s 60m deep. The drainage area of the lake is equally split between Finland and Russia! When we went, the snow on the lake was between 1-2 metres deep – true winter wonderland. There’s also the possibility you might see a lewd or lynx during the adventure!

Fun fact: I’d never heard of snowshoeing before we arrived here and the technique was a rather odd one to grasp. The ‘shoes’ look like skis but the back of your foot releases and you push into the ski’s and slide, almost like ice skating but a lot more stable! The idea is that the snowshoe has a much larger surface area that a normal boot, so you don’t sink!

We spent a couple of hours venturing across the frozen lake and over to some beautiful woodland where we took off our snowshoes and went for an additional wander.

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

Snowshoeing is an awesome way to get up close with the winter wonderland here in Finland and perfect for those that prefer a lower level of adrenalin in their adventure. It was easy to pick up and was a super calm way to spend the morning soaking up all the rich fresh air and landscape that is in abundance in this region.

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

We returned to the same place we started, took off our slideshoes and headed into the youth centre’s Riihikota Hut where we were welcomed with another gorgeous open fire with lunch being cooked upon it: delicious soup, lettuce, real rye bread and butter, traditional dessert with blueberries & vanilla cream and coffee.

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

By the afternoon we’d headed back to Nurmes to pay Bomba Action a visit, who’d invited us to have a taste of the adventure they offer, also on Lake Pielinen. That’s how big it is! The safari starts at Kalevan Hovi safari house (right next to our hotel). All safaris include riding, gear and clothing.

Now this 1-hour safari is certainly designed for those that seek the adventures with adrenaline. Of course you don’t have to hit speeds of 80km/h but if you want to… wow wow wow. The frozen lake offers the perfect playground with no obstacles to really let out your inner speed demons.

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

Top tip: You’ll want to wrap up in all your thermals for this and you’ll be given an additional thermal jumpsuit which will protect you from the -15° temperatures that soon feel like -25/30° when speed kicks in and the breeze hits your bare skin. Even though only small areas of my face were exposed, I really felt it.

This evening was our final evening, and though we’d been treated to two epic adventures already today, the excitement was far from over. After popping back to our hotel room, having a hot shower and popping on a change of clothes, we drove to Guest House Puukarin Pysäkki where Anni was awaiting our arrival in her gorgeous countryside home.

Anni owns this gorgeous guest house with a variety of single, double and family rooms (book your stay here). It’s the cosiest little hut in the heart of Finnish woodland and nature and would be the perfect stop off on a Finnish road trip or location for a few days of relaxation.

Not only does Anni offer accommodation, but she also has a Karelian restaurant and sauna experiences!

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

One thing Anni is so well known for is her incredible talent in the kitchen. The way she uses local produce and carefully curates dishes rich in flavour, tradition and comfort.

We actually requested to dig a little deeper with Anni and come explore what goes on behind the scenes and in the kitchen. We didn’t know if we would be overstepping the mark by asking to but Anni welcomed us with open arms and together we cooked up a meal of traditional Finnish fish fingers and all the sides: kapitsroles with mushrooms.

Fun fact: we used pike fresh from the lake for the fish fingers!

  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson
  • 4 days in Finland: Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and a traditional Karelian cooking lesson

I can honestly say that my evening spent here with Lilly and Anni was one of my favourites on my travels yet. It was so pure and filled with goodness in every form. We cooked, we laughed and we indulged in not only Anni’s incredible food but in each others lives and the things we had in common even though we lived very different lives on paper.

The evening we spent together reminded me of just how fulfilled travel can make you feel. Cosying up after a day of fresh air and countryside to the warmth of food, laughter and conversation is the ultimate recipe in my eyes. 

I would not hesitate one bit to add Guest House Puukarin Pysäkki to your Finnish itinerary and would actually be extremely jealous if you did so. You can also book and enjoy a cooking experience with her! Please give Anni a big squeeze for me if you go!

Stay tuned for our final day of adventure as we uncover Koli National Park. Some might say I have saved the best for last!

Watch these adventures come to life in my Finland video here…

Have you been to Finland?

What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know!

Love as always + happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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4 days in Finland: Husky safari with an open fire lunch and Spa Bomba4 days in Finland: Driving the Koli Ice road and Koli National Park