Other tourist attractions
photo © Discovering Finland
There are many places to see in Finland that don’t fit easily into any one category, and this page will introduce you to a broad sample of some of the more unusual tourist attractions. Included are exhibition centres dedicated to Finland’s natural mineral wealth, an art sculpture park, some of the country’s most striking natural landscapes, and much more.
Other tourist attractions in Finland
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of Helsinki, the Temppeliaukio Church was designed by the architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and was consecrated in 1969. Located in the Töölö neighborhood, in the heart of the city, over half a million people visit it every year. The church is stone-hewn, and its unusual choice of form has made it a favourite with aficionados of architecture since it opened.
The interior is hewn out of the rock that has always been a feature of the square where it is situated, and although it is subterranean it is bathed in natural light which enters through the glazed dome. All the furnishings inside were also designed by the architects. The church has become a popular venue for concerts of all kinds thanks to its excellent acoustic properties, which are due to the uneven and virtually unworked rock surfaces which are its walls. While planning the building the Suomolainen brothers consulted with Paavo Berglund, an orchestra conductor, who described his experiences of the best music halls, and Mauri Parjo, an acoustical engineer, laid out the requirements for the wall surfaces.
The Finnish Stone Centre
Situated in the village of Nunnanlahti, just south of Juuka, in the Savo region, the Finnish Stone Centre is an educational gem, pardon the pun, where visitors can view an amazing range of mineral exhibits collected from every region of the planet, while learning the origins and processes that helped form them. The Finnish Stone Centre incorporates the Geo Knowledge Centre, and is a must see for anyone with even a passing interest in geology, volcanology or gemology. Visitors are shown the origins of man’s fascination with stone through exhibits and short films on how our ancestors first used stone thousands of years ago, and of our continuing reliance on it as they learn about modern quarrying and the industries that rely on stone today. The geology of the earth is explored, as is the nature of volcanoes.
Beside the Geo Knowledge Centre you’ll find the Stone Store where a fine array of jewelry and decorative stone souvenirs from around the world are available to buy. Among the Finnish wares on sale are the internationally renowned Kalevala Koru range of jewelry, HukkaDesign soapstone products, Kermansavi cookware, and much more. The village of Nunnanlahti is north of Joensuu on highway 6, or north east of Kuopio.
Kemi Gemstone Gallery
High along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, close to the Swedish border, the Kemi Gemstone Gallery is a must see for anyone visiting the area. The Gallery is located in the former customs office of Kemi, a delightful Art Nouveau building designed by the architect Walter Thomén which was completed in 1912, a setting worthy of the splendid exhibits within. Among the huge collection of diverse gemstones and minerals visitors will be enthralled to find a replica of the incredible 647 diamond necklace of Marie Antoinette, a replica of the Queen Elizabeth’s State Crown of Britain, the crown that was designed for the King of Finland by Eric O. W. Ehrström in 1917, and a perfect replica of the Russian Imperial Sceptre featuring the famous Orlov diamond.
LumiLinna SnowCastle, Kemi
Since 1996 the Kemi SnowCastle has attracted hundreds of thousands visitors every year. The biggest snow fort in the world, the area it covers has ranged from 13,000 to over 20,000 square metres, its towers have been over 20 metres high, it has been 3 storeys high, and its longest walls over a kilometre long. Every year the SnowCastle is rebuilt in winter with a new design, although every year certain elements remain. These are the SnowHotel, where visitors can stay in rooms fashioned from ice, the SnowRestaurant, and its popular SnowChapel, with seating for between 50 and 100, where couples from as far off as Japan and Hong Kong have come to be wed. The SnowCastle also hosts a variety of events, including theatre and performances by dancers and opera singers, ice sculpture and ice art exhibitions, and an adventure land for children.
Between 25 and 30 artists have spent the first two weeks in June every year since 2004, fashioning Finland’s largest sandcastle from 3 million kg of sand at the far end of the harbour of Lappeenranta, bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area. Every year a different theme is chosen, in the past these have included the jungle, fairy tales, space, and dinosaurs and volcanoes in 2010.
The Ojamo Diving Mine
Whether you’re an experienced diver or a new convert to this exciting sport, the Ojamo Diving Mine is a rewarding experience not to be missed. Located just outside the village of Lohja around 50km west of Helsinki, the Ojama Mine is a vast, flooded mine that is entered through lake Lohjanjärvi. There are excellent facilities here, including a warming hut, dressing trailer, safe dock entry and a fire pit. Exploration is possible to a depth of 138m, although there are deeper levels. In winter ice is controlled by running a small compressor to keep the entry pool open.
There is always a safety diver fully prepared to respond to overdue divers, and at every critical location throughout the underwater caverns there are safety bottles cached in case of emergency. The dive mixes the natural dive experience of natural caves with the feel of a wreck dive thanks to the numerous abandoned artifacts that are scattered throughout the caves. Many divers use rebreathers and even scooters, especially to reach the more distant passages like the ominously named Hell’s Gate.
Tampere Mineral Museum
With a collection of 7,000 objects from 70 countries, the Tampere Mineral Museum is another must-see for anyone interested in geology. The displays are of gemstones in both raw and cut forms, various minerals, ores, metals, decorative stones, as well as meteorites, dinosaur eggs and fossils. There are also displays of seashells, corals and stone carvings. There are over 400 specimens of Finnish rocks and minerals alone, including the oldest known Finnish rock which has been around for 3.5 billion years. Other notable exhibits include a 600kg amethyst case from Brazil, and a 100kg smoke-quartz from Luumäki.
Tankavaara Gold Prospector Museum
Situated in the district of Sodankylä, a region known worldwide for its gold, in Northern Lapland, KultaMuseo or Tankavaara Gold Prospector Museum prides itself on being the only international museum in the world which displays the past and present of gold panning and prospecting. The main exhibition presents the history of panning for gold in Finnish Lapland, and nearby under a giant goldpan-shaped roof is the international section which represents 20 countries around the world. In the Härkäselkä building there is an extensive collection of minerals and gems, and there is an outdoor section called ‘Auraria’ where numerous scale models of gold rush centres from around the world are presented alongside replicas of buildings from the same era. The museum also has an indoor pool where visitors can try their hand at panning for gold themselves.
Natural Landscapes of Note
The Björkö Moraine Ridges of the Kvarken Archipelago in Ostrobothnia is an impressive landscape formed between 10,000 and 24,000 years ago by De Geere moraines created by the melting of the continental ice sheet. This area is also remarkable as it is experiencing one of the most profound uplifts in the world, 8 to 10 mm annually.
Located some 30km due west of Jyväskylä near the village of Petäjävesi lies Karikkoselkä, a lake formed approximately 240 million years ago when a meteorite struck the planet. The impact crater is 1.4km, with a depth of 150m, although the present depth of the lake is 26m.
In the Pedersöre region of Ostrobothnia, a little north of Vaasa, visitors can view the tallest erratic boulder in Finland, the impressive Lostenen, at 16m high and 27 cubits in total size. And erratic boulder is a piece of bedrock that has been moved by a glacier from its original location.
Situated in Northern Ostrobothnia, near the municipal border between Kuusamo and Suomussalmi (close to the Hossa Hiking Centre), the Julma Ölkky canyon lake is rather impressive, over 3 km long with rock walls over 50m high in places. The canyon is quite narrow, less than 20m wide in places and less than 100m at its broadest, and reaches a depth of 42m. There are two natural features to admire along the canyon’s Eastern shore: the Pirunkirkko, or Devil’s Church, is a vaulting crevice in the rock wall reputed by local myths to have once served as home for Satan himself; Sateenkaarilähde, or Rainbow Spring, is one of several tumbling streams that cascade down the rock walls, but is noteworthy because of its very colourful reflections. Both can best be seen by taking the guided boat tour provided.
Perhaps the least viewed or visited of Finland’s natural gems is the Pihtsusköngäs Falls, mainly because of its very remote location. The hardiest trekkers can find it along the famous Nordkalottleden Trail – which runs for 800km through Norway, Sweden, and Finland – some 45km from the picturesque village of Kilpisjärvi. The Pihtsusköngäs is an impressive 17m high.
In Southern Savonia, about halfway between Savonlinna and Joensuu, lies Paasselkä, an oval-shaped lake that is part of Orivesi. Formed in an impact crater from 229 million years ago, this lake is unusual as it is devoid of islands unlike others in the region and is particularly deep – 75m at its deepest. However, it is famous for other reasons as well. In particular, the Paasselkä Devils. This is a will-o’-the-wisp`type phenomenon which occurs occasionally over the lake and in the marsh and forest area in the immediate vicinity. This unusual light phenomena usually takes the form of spheres of light which can either move at different speeds, remain at rest, or appear as several spheres at once. The crater itself has manifest magnetic anomalies, which may or may not be related to the appearance of the ‘devils’, as of now there is no one scientific theory to explain them.
Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Park
Situated close to the Russian border, between the small towns of Rautjärvi and Parikkala, deep in the forest lies one of the most bizarre tourist attractions in the world – the Sculpture Park of Veijo Rönkkönen. Regarded by experts as the most important collection of contemporary folk art, or ‘outsider art’, in Finland, the sculpture park can be quite an eerie, and occasionally intimidating, experience for first time visitors. Rönkkönen’s first sculpture appeared in his garden in 1961, and since then he has filled his yard, and the path leading to it, with almost 500 statues. Of these, some 200 are self portraits of the artist in various yoga positions that he has mastered over the years. The statues have been made in concrete, and the artist has used real human teeth, which is partly the reason some visitors find the experience quite unnerving. Another is the artists use of hidden loudspeakers in the statues to create his own unique idea of ambience.
Rönkkönen was given a state award in 2007, the Finland Prize. John Maizels, the British author, editor of the art magazine ‘Raw Vision’, and a leading expert in contemporary folk art, considers him to be one of the true masters of outsider art. The sculpture park is open every day of the year, and the artist has never asked for any admission fee, although he insists every visitor sign his logbook before they leave. Due to its growing popularity over the years, it has become the biggest tourist attraction in Parikkala, the local council has provided a car park and there is a stand there that provides coffee and snacks. The Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Park is located at 59130 Koitsanlahti, Parikkala, just off highway 6, which connects Lappeenranta and Joensuu.