When you think of the perfect winter wonderland there is usually one place that immediately springs to mind – Lapland. Every year hundreds of thousands of people flock there, especially Rovaniemi in the north of the country, for a holiday full of winter experiences. However there are many other parts of Finland that are ideal for snow and ice fans. Kuhmo in the east of the country, close to the border with Russia, is one such alternative.
Kuhmo is home to superb scenery, idyllic villages, ancient taiga forests full of wildlife and Karelian culture. It has all the trimmings to enjoy quintessential winter activities just without the crowds Lapland can attract. Apart from crossing the Arctic Circle, there isn’t much you can do in Lapland which you can’t do in Kuhmo. In addition, it gets much less busy!
How do I get there?
Kajaani airport near Kuhmo is just over an hour’s flight from Helsinki. Flights are generally a bit cheaper than those to Rovaniemi as there is less demand for them. Kajaani is a domestic airport whereas Rovaniemi has international flights from Ireland, the UK and Israel. However both airports have daily flights from Helsinki’s Vantaa airport.
What adventures can I have while I’m there?
Traversing Kuhmo on a snowmobile is an incredible way to spend the day. There are a wealth of options from two hour tours covering 20 to 25km right up to five and six hour excursions travelling 55 to 65km. All snowmobile safaris are guided through the forests and across diverse terrain.
They all come complete with a thermal suit, helmet and refreshments. Whichever distance you choose to cover, it’s guaranteed to be an exhilarating ride through the stunning snow-coated forests.
Husky sledding is one of the best ways to see Finland’s wild rugged landscapes. There are a variety of options whether you want to just spend a couple of hours in the company of these adorable and skilled animals or dedicate a whole week.
The week-long voyage is a real adventure which can’t be beaten. It takes you through beautiful forest, along the river and over frozen lakes, spending the night in a cosy wooden cabin. It’s also possible to arrange private tours suitable for the whole family.
While Lapland has Ranua Zoo, Kuhmo has Petola Nature Centre. At the centre’s Predators on the Prowl exhibition, you’ll learn about Finland’s large carnivores of brown bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines. Once you’ve learnt all you need to about these incredible creatures, head out on the Petola Nature Trail which takes you through their natural habitats.
Cross country skiing
It’s said Finns are born with skis on their feet. So it comes as no surprise cross country skiing is one of Finland’s most popular sports. Kuhmo has many networks of skiing tracks. One of the main hotels in town, Hotel Kalevala, has a ski school attached to it for beginners.
For those who are a dab hand at this Nordic past time, there is the option to strap on your skis, grab an eager husky and let them lead the way. This activity is only advised for those who have experience of cross-country skiing. Yet it’s fully recommended as it’s a thrilling way to experience Kuhmo’s remarkable countryside.
It’s a common known fact that Lapland is the home of Santa Claus who claims residence in the village of Rovaniemi. However this doesn’t mean he doesn’t tour and visit the rest of Finland, spreading the Christmas cheer as he goes.
Kuhmo’s Winter Village, where Santa Claus has an office, is a dream destination for the whole family. It’s a place where it’s impossible not to feel the infectious Yuletide joy. For the ultimate festive holiday you can stay in one the cosy cabin apartments.
What does it have to offer that Lapland doesn’t?
While there are many activities that can be found in both destinations, one thing that is unique to Kuhmo is the rich culture and heritage. The Kalevala is a work of epic poetry from the 19th century, pulling together Finnish folklore and mythology. It’s the national epic of Finland and you can discover the roots of this significant work of literature in Kuhmo.
This culture can be experienced in Juminkeko, the activity centre which holds one of the largest Kalevala collections. It can also be learnt about in the Kuhmo Arts Centre, which has a wonderful music auditorium.
Have you visited Kuhmo? Let us know in the comment section below.