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Discovering the Finnish National Landscape: Koli
2 minute read
A man is sitting on a rock in front of a Lake landscape in Finland

Credits:: Harri Tarvainen / North Karelia

All those paintings in the Finnish National Gallery and the Instagram shots reveal the same thing: it’s one heck of a view

Koli is the hill at the heart of the lush Koli National Park. Its family tree is impressive, as the peak is a predecessor of the Karelian fold mountains, a prehistoric geological site formed by tectonic plates crashing some 1800 million years ago. When the ice-age ended, the mountains eroded away over millions of years, leaving behind Koli as we know it today.

The Ukko-Koli summit, reaching 347 m, is the highest peak in the southern half of Finland and consists largely of white quartzite stone. As the world around the peak has shifted and changed over the years, fragments of the rock have been deposited throughout the area. Geologically speaking, it’s the oldest soil you can walk on in continental Europe.

The Koli peak overlooks Pielinen – the fourth largest lake in Finland – and the islands that stretch across its surface. The picture-perfect view is the archetypal Finnish scenery, and few national landscapes have captured imaginations quite like Koli has.

A woman sitting on a rock in front of a Lake landscape in Finland in Autumn
Credits: Julia Kivelä

Why do Finns love Koli?

Many renowned Finnish artists, such as the composer Jean Sibelius or painter Eero Järnefelt, made pilgrimages to Koli in search of inspiration. Here, they struck artistic gold and produced notable works in response to Koli’s awe inspiring beauty, embedding the landscape in the nation’s imagination until it finally became synonymous with Finland and the Finnish psyche.

Even without this knowledge, anyone can sense the area’s potential for artistic plundering. Taking in the view from the top of the fell, it feels like you’ve walked into a postcard or a painting in Ateneum, the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki.

Of course, the national romantic era artists weren’t the first people to visit Koli. There are multiple sites, like ancient caves and pagan sacrificial sites, that tell the story of Koli’s rich history and its importance to every generation.

A piece of the classic Finnish art 'Maisema Kolilta' paiting by Eero Järnefelt
Credits: Eero Järnefelt / Ateneum

Things to do when visiting Koli

Finns have travelled to Koli since the late 19th century, but in recent years it has become increasingly popular with international travellers seeking the great outdoors. Koli is a year-round destination, where it’s possible to swim in the summer, ski in the winter and hike all year round. 

Take a look at activities in Koli National Park.

A skier holding up skies and admiring a snowy forest
Credits: : Elina Sirparanta
Nordic walking in the Finnish national landscape
Credits:: Krista Keltanen
A couple canoeing in a lake surrounded by forests
Credits:: Krista Keltanen

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