Along the Ice of Lake Päijänne

Tourism entrepreneur Ari Yrjölä tells us about an interesting regular customer of his. As Päijänne freezes over, he flies to Finland from the sand dunes in the Arabian Peninsula and rents a snowmobile. He uses it to drive back and forth on the frozen lake enjoying his own time in the lakescape. This happens every winter.

Finland’s second biggest lake, the Päijänne offers versatile opportunities for nature travel. On Päijänne you can go recreational fishing, hike to the national park’s ridged landscapes from the Ice Age, and in the winter go on a sled safari.

Pulkkilanharju, shaped by the Ice Age, is a part of the Päijänne National Park.

Fishing and swimming in drinking water

The southern Päijänne is Finland’s biggest well. A million people get their drinking water from along the 120 km-long Päijänne tunnel, the world’s longest continuous rock tunnel. The water catchment area is located close to the Päijänne National Park at Asikkalanselkä, 25 metres deep.

“Two weeks after we’ve had a sauna here the water reaches Helsinki where it is filtered to be drunk,”  says Ari Yrjölä with a smile. He is the owner of the Lehmonkärki cottage village on the shores of Päijänne.

The water quality is near its natural state. Water in Päijänne is so clean that it can be drunk straight from the lake. Because the water is so pure, it is no surprise that Päijänne is favoured by recreational fishermen. There are almost 100,000 recreation fishermen at Päijänne.

In turn, the recreational fishing has given rise to significant entrepreneurial activities. The world has been conquered from southern Päijänne by such lure developers as Lauri Rapala and Hannu and Kalevi Kangas. Rapala is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of fishing accessories. The Nils Master and Bete lures by the Kangas brothers are known all around the world. Lures are still being developed on the shores of Päijänne.

Kelvenne, one of the largest esker islands in Finland. It was formed of the gravel accumulated and sorted by the glacier streams of the latest Ice Age, while the continental ice sheet was withdrawing towards north-west.

Tourism of sustainable development

Lehmonkärki has been heating the cottages only with renewable resources since 1995. The cottages run on geothermal wells, air heat pumps and wood chip heating. From the lake they get lake heat. The cottage village also has solar panels.

In all their activities they try to preserve nature.

“People come mainly to fish at Päijänne. They troll and organise fishing competitions. Inherently you get brown trout from Päijänne,” says Yrjölä.

Lehmonkärki village is popular among foreign tourists. It is located close to the Päijänne National Park and serves as an excellent base for fishing. Lehmonkärki organises fishing trips and obtains the necessary fishing permits.

“From fishing trips we take back only as much fish as we can eat. Sometimes we freeze the fish for foreign customers who take them with them.”

Fishing trips are also organised in the winter. Ice fishing equipment is carried on snowmobiles. They drive to the middle of the lake, drill a hole and begin fishing through it.

Lehmonkärki offers various saunas and sauna treatments.

Snowmobiling on ice

The Päijänne National Park and southern Päijänne are lakescape formed by the Ice Age. Typical to the area are the long ridge formations that traverse zonally through forests and lakes. Kelvenne in the national park is one of Finland’s biggest ridge islands. Kelvenne and the nearby Pulkkilanharju ridge traversing across Päijänne were formed during the last Ice Age. The island and ridge are made of gravel piled up by glacier flows travelling north-west. The ridges have a strong impact on the weather. On the north side of the ridges it is colder than in the south, meaning that winter gets there sooner.

“Local snow flurries are often condensed from the lake. Then snowfalls at the shores can be heavy.”

Ari Yrjölä has especially wanted to develop winter tourism.

“The winter is more exotic for foreign tourists than summer. Seeing the vast watersheds in winter is a great experience. Sometimes I take a safari group on snowmobiles to places where the ice crackles. Even if there was half a metre of ice underfoot, you feel a sinkage of as little as 2 mm under your feet. Just walking on the ice of a lake can already be an unforgettable experience for some.”

The snowmobile routes are carefully planned. There are a lot of crevasses and streams on the Päijänne ice. So you need to know exactly where to go round the islands.

“We always first drive the route ourselves before going there with customers.”

Lehmonkärki also organises long snowmobile safaris that can cover up to 200 km. Snowmobiling on the frozen surface of Lake Päijänne is a unique experience for many town people. The landscape is open wide and the horizon is far away. You will not meet anybody. And then when the snowmobiles are turned off we are surrounded by the intense quiet of the wintery lakescape.

“Here we can drive on the lake without seeing the opposite shore. There are often snow flurries on Päijänne. When the sun shines brightly we often stay and wait for a snow flurry.”

Snowmobiling is a passion for Ari Yrjölä.

“I have always liked snowmobiling. I have driven a snowmobile as much as a car in my life. Because Päijänne is so vast, snowmobiling is a great way to show tourists the different attractions on the lake.”

In addition to the Päijänne, snowmobile safaris take place in the nearby forests.

“We often drive in forests where there are elk. Sometimes clients get to see elk running on the shore. Then we drive to a hunters’ shelter to make coffee. We learn about the Finnish hunting culture.”

Lehmonkärki snowmobile safaris begin in January. The idea is not to drive fast but to enjoy the lake and ridge scenery in peace.

“When we go into the Päijänne National Park we leave the snowmobiles on the ice and walk to the park’s campfire area.”

When you sit on a snowmobile you learn that snowmobiling is not as loud as you would think. Lehmonkärki uses the same snowmobiles that are approved in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone has the world’s strictest environmental standards.

“A boat’s outboard motor is louder than a snowmobile. Also the snow suppresses noise. The loudest sound comes from the skis slapping on the snow,” Yrjölä says and tells us that in the future he plans to get electric snowmobiles.


“We only organise guided trips and go to places where we are allowed to go. We travel along forest roads and planned snowmobile routes. This is the only way to go into nature without leaving traces,” Yrjölä says and adds that just by walking one can leave a mess behind.

Snowmobiling on planned routes offers an environmentally-friendly way to go to places that are far away and are inaccessible for those with reduced mobility.

Ari Turunen (19.2.2018), Uptopoint

Lake Päijänne

Päijänne is the largest lake of the Kymijoki water system and known for its purity. Helsinki’s economic region gets its water from this lake via one of the longest tunnels in the world. It is 400 kilometres from the shore of Lake Vesijärvi in Lahti to Laukkala, the northern port of the Kymijoki water system, located at Pielavesi.


A villa designed by Vertti Kivi and Samulli Hintikka can be transformed according to the customer’s wishes.

“Here we can drive on the lake without seeing the opposite shore. There are often snow flurries on Päijänne. When the sun shines brightly we often stay and wait for a snow flurry.”

At Lehmonkärki you can measure your own carbon footprint. The cottages’ footprint is 0.5 kg CO2e per day.
Walking on thin ice in thermal suits. At Lehmonkärki you can try getting on a life raft in a flotation suit without instructions with the help of lake rescue society experts. Not easy.

Päijänne National Park

The ridges of the Finnish Lakeland form unique landscapes of islands and capes. One such ridge is Pulkkilanharju, shaped by the Ice Age, and Kelvenne, one of Finland’s largest ridge islands, to the north of it. Both are located in the Päijänne National Park, which covers 14 square kilometres at the southern part of Lake Päijänne. There are more than 50 ridge islands and islets in the park. The ridge islands have beaches and sheltered natural harbours for boaters. A nine-kilometre-long ridge crosses Kelvenne. There is a nature trail along the ridge. There are 17 campfire sites in the national park.