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Photo: Clément Morin

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Relax with the help of Finland’s fantastic nature

Many people want to escape from everyday stress – being always connected and schedules planned down to the minute. We can learn from Finland, where the solution to the problem is to get closer to nature.

Annu Huotari in the forest Photo: Clément Morin

Finland offer the perfect inspiration for anyone wanting to get closer to nature and away from today’s stress-filled lifestyles. In 2019, this beautiful country was named best in the world for wilderness trips. And this very same year, Finland has also been named the happiest country in the world. Join us on a trip to the Finnish countryside where we investigate what is so unique about how the people here connect with their forests, lakes and tranquility.

188 000 lakes

There’s plenty of nature in Finland. Over 65 percent of the land area is covered by forest, primarily spruce, pine and birch trees. Finland is often called the Land of the Thousand Lakes, but there are a lot more lakes than that. Around 188,000 to be precise. Off the west coast is also one of the world’s most extensive archipelagos.

Joonas Halla, PR & Media Manager at Visit Finland, is convinced that having a close connection with nature is part of every Finn’s DNA.

“You don’t have to go back that many years in time to when our forests and lakes were home to many people. We love the silence and being surrounded by nature. Our culture with family summer cottages still entices people away from the cities.

Villa Maria, one of Hawkhill's cabins, at night. Photo: Clément Morin

Photo: Clément Morin

"Something in the closeness to nature"

Finns have more of a reputation of being taciturn and melancholic, than simply happy.

"That’s also how we see ourselves. When we were named the happiest people, everyone here started to laugh and thought it must have been some mistake. But maybe there is somethingPhoto: Clément Morin

in this closeness to nature we have,” says Annu Huotari, wilderness guide and part owner of Hawkhill, an exclusive property letting company, 45 minutes outside Helsinki.

Hawkhill’s properties are on the edge of the 53 sq. km Nuuksio National Park. We’re sitting on the veranda of one of their cottages and surrounded by total silence. In the lake 30m away, a rowing boat is gently bobbing in the water. Having worked in a tourist office for 20 years, Huotari felt the need for a change nine years ago and trained as a wilderness guide. She then took over her father's letting business together with her siblings. They have changed the enterprise from a standard letting company to something more exclusive. Their target group is just as much companies and executives wanting to organize meetings with something extra special, as tourists and families with children.

All the timber cottages are built in the classic style, close to a lake with their own sauna, rowing boat and jetty. The company offers guests various different types of services such as food catering, guided tours and kayak hire.

“But we want our guests to discover they don’t need to be on the go all the time with some kind of activity all hours of the day. Spending a whole day simply looking out over the lake, staring into a living fire and taking a sauna is a really good idea.”

5,5 milllion saunas

Sauna is a must do when visiting Finland. Photo: Clément MorinSaunas are perhaps what’s most characteristic about Finland and a word they’ve given to the world. There are around three million saunas in a country with 5.5 million inhabitants, so in theory, they could all take a sauna at the same time.

“I don't think I've ever seen a house without a sauna here. Even in the cities, there’s almost always a sauna in apartment blocks. It’s such a fantastic way to relax.”

Huotari has noticed an interesting behavior pattern among many of the business guests they have. “When they arrive, they’re totally wound up and run around trying to do a thousand different things at once. But, and this is almost always the case, they are much calmer a few hours later. It’s as though they become a completely different person.”

"The forest provide security"

She takes up on a shorter walk in the forest, right on the boundary of the national park.

Photo: Clément Morin

Photo: Clément Morin

Photo: Clément Morin

“Many Europeans seem to think forests are dangerous places and a bit creepy. For us, forests provide a sense of security. We use forests for protection and to forage for food in times of war, for example. They feel like home to us,” Huotari says.

The purpose of our walk is to find some ingredients for the evening meal that Huotari will prepare over an open fire. We find plenty of cranberries and blueberries, but not many mushrooms.

She halts by one of her favorite foraging places that’s a bit hard to reach, high up a large rock face where she finds a few Chanterelle that get dropped in her basket with the others.

“The world is becoming more and more hectic, and I therefore think there’s also a growing need to switch off. Many people would feel better if they were able to get out in the forest a bit more often.”

So, to relax in true Finnish style, you should head to a cottage close to water. Go for a long walk in the forest, pick some berries and mushrooms. Enjoy the views by the lake. Light a fire and let yourself be hypnotized by the flames. If you have access to a sauna, heat it up.

Breathe deeply and try to let modern stress run off you.

Photo: Clément Morin

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