Helsinki is the only capital in the world where one can in one day wake up in a good hotel, go to the opera and go to the forest to pick ceps. In half an hour, one can get from Helsinki Airport to the wilderness.
There is no other capital region of over a million inhabitants in the world with so much surrounding nature. Helsinki is surrounded by Sipoonkorpi, Nuuksio, the recreational forests of Petikko, Vantaa, and the outer archipelago of the Gulf of Finland in Porkkala. Of these, Sipoonkorpi and Nuuksio are national parks and Porkkalanniemi (Porkkala Cape) and the archipelago natural reserves.
These hundreds of protected and recreational areas surrounding Helsinki in a radius of 40 kilometres are called Viherkehä (Green Ring). Several strips, the most central of which is the Helsinki Central Park, reach into the Viherkehä from Helsinki and Espoo. The Helsinki Central Park is a unique, enormous green zone where hawks, foxes and deer have been sighted. The Helsinki Central Park covers a total of 2,200 hectares of land area and 4,000 hectares of water areas.
“You can put on a backpack in the courtyard of the Helsinki Opera House and walk along the park into the wilderness,” explains Tom Selänniemi, Director of Finnish Nature Centre Haltia.
Finnish Nature Centre Haltia was one of the six winners in the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) contest in 2015. Haltia is also the first museum in Europe to receive the award for sustainable development.
According to Mr Selänniemi, the wilderness areas of the Helsinki region are diverse, and you can hike from one area to another without suffering from traffic.
“Nuuksio has marsh, lake nature, versatile wilderness nature and good trail networks. Sipoonkorpi offers deep forest and wilderness. From Sipoonkorpi, you can walk or ski as far as Porkkala along the Viherkehä. You only have to pass underneath big roads via underpasses.”
The nature areas surrounding the city clean the air and bind impurities. The vegetation also reduces noise impact. Finland is one of the world’s top countries in the purity of air and quietness. This is also true of the capital region.
Mr Selänniemi says foreign visitors appreciate being able to be in peace.
“In the Central Park you get to experience quiet very easily. You can be in touch with nature without any filter in between. At the same time, you get directly into your own private space where nobody comes to disturb.”
Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, located in Nuuksio, has received international recognition for environmental education that encourages the young to go into the nature and to environmentally-friendly action.
“The Chinese are interested in sending their children to Nuuksio’s nature camp schools. Breathing clean air and ease of access to the national park are important to the Chinese. There are no gates and no passes required in Nuuksio or any other Finnish parks. Finnish national parks do not have borders between the park or the surrounding private forests, either.”
Mr Selänniemi considers it important that the national parks are state-owned. The areas remain well-protected, and the services are of high quality.
“The national parks have signposted campfire and accommodation places.
Cabins and unlocked huts in the wilderness with toilets are available for free. Chopped and dry wood is brought ready for visitors. The good trail network ensures that visitors stay on ready-trodden tracks.
An image of the ALOS satellite of Helsinki in June 2009 shows the greenness of the Helsinki region. The capital region of a million inhabitants is sparsely populated in comparison to other European capitals. The ten-kilometre-long Central Park starts from the city centre and connects with the green ring circling the city. The Nuuksio National Park shows in dark green on the left. In the quality of life index of The Economist magazine in 2016, Helsinki rated among the ten best great cities according to the quality of life they offer. Helsinki was ranked ninth. The criteria used include infrastructure, safety and the environment.
There are 40 national parks in Finland in total, visited annually by two million people. www.nationalparks.fi
The national parks have signposted routes, nature paths and campfire places. You can also stay overnight in the national parks. They have camping sites or structures intended for staying overnight. All Finnish national parks are managed by the Parks & Wildlife Finland. About 9% of Finland’s surface area is protected by virtue of Nature Conservation and Wilderness Acts.
“You can put on a backpack in the courtyard of the Helsinki Opera House and walk along the park into the wilderness.”
Finnish nature center Haltia is a wooden exhibition and event centre snuggled next to the Nuuksio National Park, only 40 minutes from downtown Helsinki. The exhibition of the ecological Nature Centre displays all of Finland’s national parks and hiking destinations.
“There are no gates and no passes required in Nuuksio or any other Finnish parks.”
Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland and its partners promote the well-being effects of moving in nature and provides visitors with good services, such as routes, stopovers, sign-posts, maps and information on Finland’s most magnificent nature destinations.
FinRelax-programme, Visit Finland