I love Finland and feel very connected to the country. Especially with my love of water and nature. With almost 188,000 lakes, more than 30 important rivers with the length of over 100 km and the Baltic Sea, the water is omnipresent in Finland and in the Finnish lifestyle. Canoeing and kayaking in Finland is truly the way to experience the beauty of nature. I decided to do it by stand-up paddleboard.
Finns enjoy simple pleasures – like clean air, pure water and walking around in the woods – to the fullest. Finnish happiness is the calm and peaceful type; it’s an appreciation for how things work and the ability to pause and admire the little things in life. Things such as: spending time in nature from forests to fells, enjoying a good steam in the sauna, that quintessential Finnish steam bath, and soaking up the endless sports and cultural offerings from live music to visual art, biking and skiing.
Summer in Finland is a spectacular time of the year. For those who venture north of the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set at all from May to August, while further south the sun can be visible for nearly around the clock during June and July. When nights are almost as light as day it is possible to do all the same things that you would do during the day.
In July I went off for a solo paddleboarding adventure in Finland. After a short flight to Helsinki with my paddleboard I took a taxi ride to the canoe centre I launched from, Natura Viva. After some lunch and pumping up my board I set off on the choppy Baltic Sea to reach Malkasaari island. This small island features various services for visitors. There’s a covered outdoor kitchen with a fireplace and a charcoal grill, a recycling spot and a compost toilet. Overnight camping on the island is allowed on this island (not all of the islands in this area allow this). There is also a sauna, although this wasn’t currently in operation.
I had a little wander around the island and chose a spot I thought would be good for camping. I wanted to be out of the way, not too overlooked with a view of the water. I think I accomplished that. With my tent up I had some food before going to bed. I had a whopping 12 hours sleep and felt a lot more refreshed. I had a leisurely breakfast of baked apple porridge and a cup of tea.
After that I went off, paddling again. I was nervous as the day before was hard and my arms still ached! Luckily conditions were much better and I passed a big seal sunning itself on a rock. I didn’t notice it was there until it jumped into the sea near me! Things were going well until I had to cross a boat lane. It’s very tricky trying to navigate, paddle and keep an eye out in all directions for the boats whizzing by. After a while of paddling I was getting tired and decided to alter my course. Paddleboarding is about knowing when is safe to go out and I wasn’t feeling very confident at that point so decided to stop and regroup.
I ended up paddling to the island formation of Villaluodot & Kotiluoto, these are three small islets, the Villaluodot, and a bigger main island, Kotiluoto. I pulled up onto Pohjoinen Villaluoto. Finding a great spot to sit on some rocks I ate and enjoyed the sun. I had a stroll through the forest and then paddled home. Thankfully I crossed the boat lane without incident and got back.
The beach was so beautiful when I got back to Malkasaari I just had to swim in the sea. Glorious! I decided to swim again as it was so nice. I was then getting a bit cold so I carried the board back to where my tent was, got changed into warm clothes and had a drink.
I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to paddle in the morning. There was a moderate wind warning and it was currently showing rain and 16 knots, with gusts of up to 26 knots. My priority is safety as well as adventure so I decided to assess in the morning. That night I stayed up to see what the night time was like. The sun didn’t set until 1opm and whilst it was getting a bit darker it was more like twilight. The sky was still bright blue and there was a big orange moon. I wanted to stay up until midnight to see how light it got but my tent and sleeping bag were calling me!
Weather warnings were still the same the next day, a strong wind advisory so I opted for just chilling out on the island today unless the weather changed. I was feeling a bit down at the thought of no paddle that day and the prospect of a day doing not much, which felt like a waste of a day. But I decided to do some research and see what I could do.
The island I was on is not covered by regular waterborne transport but during the summer, you can travel to a few other islands by electrically powered Callboats. So I called a boat taxi and was on my way to Reposalmi! It was super choppy en route so was glad I wasn’t paddling. From there I hopped on another boat to get to Vartiosaari, an old villa island in southeast Helsinki.
After a quick pit stop of cake and juice I set out on a 3.5 mile nature walk around many of the attractions on the island. There are many geologically valuable sites in Vartiosaari: the scenic viewpoint of Vartiokallio, one of the largest granite boulders in Helsinki, a giant glacial pothole (known as a giant’s kettle) and ancient coastal rocks. I loved the old forests and forest church too. After this it started pouring down so I gladly got the boats home, crawled into my tent to get dry and wait for the rain to stop.
The following day I was so relieved it had stopped raining that when I woke up at 6.30am I was up and getting ready for the day. I broke camp and said my goodbyes to Malkasaari. Paddling back was thankfully much calmer and pleasant. I arrived back at Natura Viva and sunbathed for a little while – at 9.30am. After packing up my paddleboard and getting my cases back from Natura Viva, who had kindly stored them for me.
As I had an early flight the next morning I had booked a cheap hotel in Helsinki so I could go straight to the airport in the morning without having to paddle back from the island first and get to the airport. I also wanted to take the opportunity to explore the city at the end of my adventure. I got an Uber (first time using one!) from Natura Viva to a hotel in Helsinki. Dropping off my luggage I set off to enjoy the city in the sunshine. I saw sights such as the Presidential Palace and Helsinki Cathedral.
I walked 15 minutes to Allas Sea Pool where I’ve always wanted to go. It was just 22 euros here for 3 hours of 3 pools, 5 saunas and a sunbathing deck. Swimming outdoors at in the centre of Helsinki, next to the SkyWheel Helsinki and a busy harbour with boats to Stockholm and Tallinn has to be one of the most surreal and beautiful places I’ve swum!
My last day, time to say goodbye to beautiful Finland. After a lovely breakfast of porridge, bacon, toast and fruit plus blueberry juice I packed up my gear and went to the airport. Can’t say I’m going to miss dragging a large suitcase, backpacks and a big SUP around with me! All in all a fantastic adventure and a great way to experience Finland from the water.
Natasha Sones has an outside adventure travel blog: www.natashasoneseditorial.com/blog. With three children, three dogs and a husband she enjoys days out, travelling, walking, paddleboarding, camping, stargazing and much more! Follow her blog or her Instagram account: @natashastarseeker if you love adventure lifestyle articles.