Koli Harbour and Alamaja  
Kolin Ryynänen Art and Culture Centre  

Views from the Peaks of Koli

Many of the sights in Koli National Park require a hill climb, as the breathtaking views from the peaks are the best in Koli. The view opening up from Ukko-Koli Hill to Lake Pielinen is one of the most famous national landscapes in Finland. The peak of Ukko-Koli is 354 metres above sea level and 253 metres above the surface of Lake Pielinen. The Koli peaks are the southernmost summit areas in Finland where loads of crown snow accumulates. From a projecting quartz rock on Paha-Koli Hill, you will see Lake Pielinen behind the Kolinuuro Gorge. From Akka-Koli Hill you can admire the lake scenery on both sides of the Koli hill ridge, where Vesivaara Hill, famous for its views, looms southernmost. Below the Akka-Koli lookout point you will find the Temple of Silence, a popular site for wedding ceremonies. There are also views from the Mäkrävaara, Paimenenvaara, Pieni-Koli, Jauholanvaara and Hirvivaara Hills that are worth the climb.

Photo: Tiina Hakkarainen

Clearings and Cultural Landscapes

There are rare traditional clearing environments at Koli. The flora in Mäkränaho, Purolanaho, Ikolanaho, Havukanaho and Mustanniityt is representative and charmingly beautiful when in bloom. In addition, the clearings of Vaaralanaho, Turusenautio, Soikkeli, Ylä-Murhi and Ala-Murhi, sheltered by hill forests, are also amongst the most valuable clearings in Koli National Park. Remains of settlements, such as stone bases and turnip storage pits, can be found in several of these clearings. The most active cultural environments can be found at Ollila, Turula, Vaarala, Mattila and Lakkala. These are managed by cattle grazing, slashing and burning, and mowing.

Native Cattle Breeds at the Ollila Farm

In summer Eastern Finncattle graze behind the fences. Other native cattle may also move around the pastures: Northern or Western Finncattle, Finnsheep and Grey Finnsheep. The cattle carry out valuable nature management work keeping the landscape open. Elsewhere in the national park sheep are also grazing at the Lakkala, Mattila (www.kolinkeidas.com) and Seppälä farms.

Photo: Tiina Hakkarainen

Tarhapuro Waterfall. Photo: Jarkko KuiriTarhapuro Waterfall

The rippling Tarhapuro Waterfall in the middle of a lush herb-rich forest is a refreshing sight. The waterfall is at its most handsome in spring when the snow is melting.

On a winter hike you can explore the waterfall's smooth, icy surface. The Tarhapuron polku Trail starts out from Rantatie Road.

Old-Growth and Herb-Rich Forests

On the Kaskenkierros Nature Trail, on the slopes of Ipatti Hill, you may be surprised by the size of the spruce (Picea abies) and aspen (Populus tremula). The forest has not been cut for a century. There is decaying wood on the terrain offering habitats for rare insects, mosses and polypores. There are lush forests on the hill slopes with a large diversity of flora. Various large grass plants, ferns, mosses and orchids thrive in the moist, nutrient-rich environment. The easiest way to explore the herb-rich forests is to take the Paimenenpolku Trail (the "Shepherd's Trail").

Koli Is One Single Geological Sight

Amongst the geological entities that clearly stand out in the landscape are the Kolinuuro Gorge right below the Koli peaks and the Hiekkasaaret esker chain on Lake Pielinen. To counterbalance the steep quartzite cliffs of the Koli peaks, smooth sandy beaches open out onto the shores of Rykiniemi. Amongst the individual landmarks are the Mäkrä rock, transported by ice to the summit of Mäkrävaara Hill, the Pirunkirkko ("Devil's Church") boulder cave, and the ancient sea bottom visible on a rock with ripple marks along the Ikolanaho Trail.

Historical Sights, Art and Stories

Koli National Park offers information, culture and other services in several different settings that are all worth experiencing. Koli Nature Centre Ukko, winner of an architecture competition, represents modern architecture. In addition to providing the national park's information services, Ukko Nature Centre also houses changing exhibitions. Besides this, there are other varying exhibitions (www.koli.fi) at different destinations in Koli throughout the year.

The yard containing red buildings in the centre of Koli village belongs to Café Kolin Ryynänen, which also provides accommodation in the old granaries in summer. In addition to the café, Kolin Ryynänen also houses exhibition premises and an artists' residence upstairs that is maintained by Kolin kulttuuriseura, i.e., the local art association (www.taike.fi), as well as the Koli local history museum (www.kolinkotiseutuyhdistys.fi, in Finnish) at the corner of the yard. There is a café and a restaurant at Koli harbour's new Alamaja, which resembles the old Alamaja. There is a café and small-scale accommodation at the manor-like Mattila (www.kolinkeidas.com). When staying overnight at one of the national park's rental huts, you may actually find yourself in an old loggers' cabin or small holding on a hill slope.

Uhrihalkeama

An ancient sacrificial site, is a story telling place protected by the Antiquities Act. There is a crack in middle of the rock that has been filled with coins thrown there over the course of the last century. Uhrihalkema is connected with Annikki's story, often told at the site, where the girl sacrifices riches to the crack's earth spirit in order to regain her fortune. There are several signatures in the Uhrihalkeama rock cut by Finnish artists inspired by Karelianism in the 20th century. Uhrihalkeama is located at the northern end of the Koli hotel building.

Pirunkirkko

Photo: Jérémie Barral

(Devil's Church) is a 33-metre-long Z-shaped boulder cave to which several mystical stories are connected. Pirunkirkko is located along Rantatie Road, 12 km south of Koli. There is a path with many steps from the parking area (located by the road) to the cave. It is easy to turn off from the Herajärven kierros Trail to Pirunkirkko along the Ennallistajan polku Trail (Nature Restoration Trail). Eero Järnefelt, a famous Finnish artist, once visited Pirunkirkko and wrote a poem on its wall:

"one secret, one spirit,
happiness for both
is this church
its holiness I remember forever"

Sataman polku

As far as we know, the Sataman polku Nature Trail ("Koli Harbour Nature Trail") is the oldest marked nature trail in Finland. At Koli harbour, there is an erratic boulder with writing cut into it. This boulder has functioned as the first signpost on the trail leading to Ukko-Koli Hill. The trail runs past the remains of the old Alamaja, which was amongst the first enterprises at Koli offering restaurant and accommodation services.

Sights in the Surrounding Area

Ryläys Hill

From the Ryläys Hill lookout point (located along the Herajärven kierros Trail), great views open out onto Koli National Park's hills and Lake Pielinen which gleams out from behind them. There are handsome scree stones that look like a stream of rock on the hill slope a short distance to the south of the lookout point. There is a Lapp ‘kota' hut and a campfire site close to the lookout point. The walking distance from the closest parking area at Jero to Ryläys Hill is about 2.4 km.

Räsävaara Observation Tower

The Räsävaara observation tower is only 18 metres high, but its location on the hilltop raises the lookout point to more than 300 metres above sea level. The view to the south from the tower is dominated by Koli National Park's hills and Lake Herajärvi. The opposite shore of Lake Pielinen as well as the Kelvänsaari and Hattusaari Islands are clearly visible to the east. When looking to the north, you will see Paalasmaa, the largest island in Lake Pielinen. There is forest landscape to the west, where you may see some of the more distant lakes, such as Lake Höytiäinen, in good weather. There are signposts from Kolintie Road to Räsävaara Hill. There is a 3-km drive from Kolintie Road to the parking areas and to the Räsävaara lean-to shelter. The walking distance along the trail from the parking area to the foot of the observation tower is a couple of hundred metres.

Other Sights in the Area

  • Koli village
  • The Finnish Stone Centre
  • The ice road on Lake Pielinen 
     

Harbour as a Channel to the World

Lake Pielinen has been the major local artery ever since the 12th century hunting culture. Steamboat traffic on the lake started in the 1870s, and the canalisation of the River Pielisjoki was completed in 1879, enabling even large vessels to access Lake Pielinen. The main route - first mostly used by freighters - led via Juuka, Lieksa and Nurmes, passing by Koli. Regular steamboat traffic to Koli developed in the first decades of the 20th century.

Even though the Koli harbour on the western shore of Lake Pielinen was not that impressive with its simple plank jetties, it was the most important connection to the outside world for a long time. The first hikers arrived at Koli via the harbour. Ukko-Koli, the motorboat owned by the Finnish Tourism Association, took passengers from Vuonislahti to Koli from 1908 onwards, but to reach the summit you had to continue on foot or by horse carriage.

When Metsähallitus bought the summit area in 1907, it marked the start of the development of tourism services, primarily accommodation and catering services. The Ylämaja building near the summit was extended, the trail network was improved and the ramshackle jetty in the harbour was replaced with a new one.

There is a large boulder that serves as a traffic divider in the harbour with the text "Matkailijamajale 2 km" (Hostel 2 km) carved onto it. It is the oldest Finnish nature trail sign still in use, and the oldest marked nature trail also leaves from the Koli harbour towards Ukko-Koli Hill.

Alamaja - Solution to Accommodation Shortage

Teacher Antti Ryynänen had Alamaja built on the slope above the harbour, in the grounds of the Rantala tenant farm. Completed in 1911, the building first served as the Ryynänen family's summer house, but Mr Ryynänen soon sold the house - originally designed for tourists - to be used as a hostel by Metsähallitus.

Surrounded by a graceful garden, Alamaja had five rooms with beds and a spacious terrace where you could sit and admire Lake Pielinen and observe the activities in the harbour. Visitors to Koli found food and guidance at Alamaja. Traffic past Alamaja started to wane in the 1930s, however, when Koli became accessible along the road from the west. The building fell into disuse in the 1960s and was pulled down at the beginning of the 1980s. Today, only the stone base on the slope reminds us of the original Alamaja.

Renovated Harbour and Alamaja

The harbour is still busy during the summer's boating season. Its structures repaired and completely modernised in 2003-2004, the harbour now offers new jetties, guest boat mooring, boat spaces for rent and a renovated road and parking area. The harbour is visited by boaters, fishing vessels and the ferry that runs between Lieksa and Koli. There is also a public beach in the harbour for all to enjoy.

Alamaja in the Koli harbour. Photo: Tarja Martin

The new Alamaja, built in the spirit of the old one, was opened for visitors and boaters in 2004. The new building stands tall right on the shore of Lake Pielinen, next to the harbour. The three-storey, villa-style building hosts an attractive, inviting café with walls decorated with pictures of the old Alamaja and harbour. The services, including guided tours, catering and sauna, are provided by a Koli Activ Oy (www.koliactiv.fi) in the summertime. 

The exhibition upstairs in Alamaja showcases various aspects of life around Lake Pielinen, such as its fish species, history and different forms of utilisation, including log floating. The exhibition was produced by the Finnish Forest Research Institute in collaboration with the Lake Pielinen landlocked salmon project, Järvi-Suomen Uittoyhdistys (the local log floating association) and Lusto, the Finnish Forest Museum.
 

Hikers' and Artists' Gate to the National Park

In the northern part of the Koli National Park, in the village centre, you will find the Kolin Ryynänen Art and Culture Centre, a handsome group of log buildings painted with red ochre. On your visit to the national park you can stop by at the café with a mix of international and North Karelian atmosphere and frequent art exhibitions. You should also visit the local history museum run by Kolin kotiseutyhdistys (www.kolinkotiseutuyhdistys.fi, in Finnish) in the same grounds and explore the area's old artefacts and photographs. Summertime visitors can even stay overnight in the granaries.

Services at Kolin Ryynänen

  • Café
  • Two separate seminar rooms for up to 40 people
  • Coffee and meals on a reservation basis
  • Fees: half a day 25€, full day 50€. Rooms equipped with an overhead projector and screen
  • Wood-heated sauna available on a reservation basis
  • Enquiries and reservations tel. +358  44 569 5757, e-mail: holidayfinland(at)gmail.com
  • Art exhibitions in the café premises, free admission
  • Artists' residence (www.taike.fi) upstairs in the main building
  • Accommodation in a former granary
  • Koli local history museum (www.kolinkotiseutuyhdistys.fi, in Finnish) in a separate building in the courtyard
  • Campfire site for hikers.

From Kallela to Ryynänen

In 1938, Antti Ryynänen, known for his active involvement in Koli's development, had a house built for his son Kaarlo, or Kalle, and his family, and named the house "Kolin Kallela". Kalle ran his grocery, café and accommodation business in the building until the 1950s, when he moved to Helsinki and Kallela became a place to which the Ryynänen family headed for their summer holidays. After the Ryynänen family moved out, the building was rented out to entrepreneurs and used as a grocery and handicraft store.

A senior adviser at the Ministry of the Environment became interested in the building in the 1990s, and the Ryynänen grounds were bought and repaired by the Ministry. A large granary was brought to the site for accommodation, the old outbuildings were replaced with museum and sauna buildings, and the main building was completely renovated. Today, Ryynänen is managed by Metsähallitus.

Kolin Ryynänen is also a base for artists. Many artists inspired by Koli have stayed in the Ryynänen artists' residence (www.taike.fi), which includes a flat and a studio. The residence programme is run by Kolin kulttuuriseura ry, the local art association.