There is a good reason to call Helsinki “the Nature Capital of the World”. No other world capital has seven national parks and dozens of other destinations for recreation within a two-hour travel time from the city centre. Wilderness feel, lush herb-rich forests, small lakes, beautiful rocky shores, and amazing nature experiences wait for nature loving visitors. Even a day’s visit to Helsinki is enough to experience some of it.
A green belt of nature destinations surrounds Helsinki in all directions. Green parks of Helsinki invite those who prefer to stay in urban areas, yet still want to taste nature. Located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, Helsinki has a stunning archipelago that offers an easy escape to those who want to be near water. Most destinations can be reached with public transportation throughout the year. In summertime, there is a ferry connection to the islands.
The most popular hiking destination near Helsinki, Nuuksio National Park has tens of kilometers of marked trails and several spots for camping. Slightly smaller in size, Sipoonkorpi National Park has fewer marked trails and other facilities but has a wilderness feel.
Hikers visiting both Nuuksio or Sipoonkorpi National Parks should be prepared for crowds and congested roads leading to the trailheads, especially in the spring awakening in May and in the sunny weekends of September and October, when mushroom picking, crisp weather, and autumn foliage attract the locals to head out in masses. The use of public transportation is strongly recommended.
It is good to bear in mind, though, that Helsinki’s great outdoors is not limited to National Parks. One can take an afternoon walk in the Central Park of Helsinki (www.hel.fi), where only the distant sound of traffic reminds you are in the middle of a lively city. Several other destinations, such as Porkkala Peninsula and Lammassaari Island (www.myhelsinki.fi) are worth visiting even for half a day. Haltia Finnish Nature Centre (www.haltia.com) is a good source of information for nature enthusiasts, and its exhibitions give an excellent overview on the Finnish Nature.
Some of the finest nature experiences can be found on islands off the shore of Helsinki, such as Vallisaari and Isosaari (www.myhelsinki.fi). Boat traffic runs from late spring to early fall. Rent a canoe or a stand-up paddle board to explore the archipelago and enjoy the skyline of Helsinki from the waters of the Baltic Sea.