Introducing Koli National Park
The magnificent sweep of islands strewn through Lake Pielinen is the landscape equivalent of the Finnish national anthem. Though relatively small, the 347m-high Koli National Park inspired Finland’s artistic National Romantic era with artists including Pekka Halonen and Eero Järnefelt setting up their easels here.
Accessible by ferry from Lieksa, Koli was dubbed Finland’s first-ever tourist attraction and continues to draw holidaymakers year round. It is a winter sports resort but boasts hiking, boating and of course that impressive scenery in summer. While the lake views are panoramic and nature trails are enjoyable leg-stretchers, without the Finnish cultural context it could just be a pleasant pine- and birch-covered hill.
Koli was declared a national park in 1991 after hot debate between environmentalists and landowners, mainly about the placement of the hulking Hotel Koli on the hill. The area remains relatively pristine with over 90km of marked walking tracks.
The hill has road access with a short funicular ride from the lower car park up to the hotel and there’s also a longer summer ski lift that sweeps you from the shore of Lake Pielinen up the east side of the hill to the same point. From here it’s a brief walk to Ukko-Koli, the highest point and 200m further is Akka-Koli, another peak. On the western slope of Akka-Koli is a ‘Temple of Silence’, an open space for contemplation, complete with a stone altar and wooden cross mounted in the rock. Further south is Mäkrävaara, a hill that offers great views. For a slightly longer walk, it’s 2.6km from Ukko to Koli village or a steep 1.9km walk to Satama.
Also at the car park, Luontokeskus Ukko is a modern visitor centre with exhibitions on the history, nature and geology of the park, and information on hiking.