The area on Finland’s eastern border around Kainuu, Kuhmo and Suomussalmi is called Wild Taiga. Wild refers to the area’s unspoilt wilderness nature, offering a unique opportunity to see large carnivores like bears, wolves, and wolverines in their natural habitat. Taiga refers to the evergreen coniferous forest zone of the north, which continues from Finland to the east to Russia and all the way to Asia.
You can get to know the big beasts, hike in the national parks, fish in the wild rapids of Kuhmo and enjoy the peace of The Silent People. Lovers of culture and history can dive into the fascinating world of the Kalevala and visit authentic Winter War battlefields and museums. Kuhmo Chamber Music and Sommelo are among the pearls of the Finnish summer music festival season, in a relaxed atmosphere for everyone.
Wild Taiga region offers the best opportunities for bear watching in Europe
Experience an unforgettable nature experience by seeing the bears in the wild of Kainuu! Wild Taiga offers the best setting in Europe for bear watching. Summer is the best time for European wild brown bear viewing trips and there is enough light to photograph these magnificent animals through the night. The bear watching season begins in early April. Big, hungry males wake up first while there is still snow on the ground. Mothers give birth to the cubs in the den in the winter during hibernation. They only bring the cubs out when the ground is completely thawed, usually by June. The best viewing season is June-September, but the season continues until October. There are several companies in the area that offer bear watching tours in the evening or overnight.
Wildlife safaris in Wild Taiga region
Predators are carcass eaters, and it is only possible to see them in their natural habitat by feeding. Feeding carcass are located in the vicinity of the viewing stands. As all these wild animals are nocturnal animals, the wildlife excursions are organized as evening excursions before dusk or as night-long excursions. In protected hides, people are hidden from animals, they are silent and talk in whispers, no sounds can be made, otherwise the animals are scared. The hides feature 2-metre chimneys that carry people’s odors up to heights, beyond the reach of the bear’s sensitive sense of smell. The stalls have dry toilets and bunk beds where you can sleep, but most of the time guests are too excited to sleep!
There are several companies in the area that organize beast watching tours. At the Martinselkonen Wilderness Centre guests can see mother bears with their cubs, while at Arola farm holidays you can take part in bear safaris. Boreal Wildlife Centre and Bear Centre organize high-quality viewing and filming tours, while Wildlife Safaris Finland’s excursions take you to the middle of the Russian wolf pack territory in the “No Mans land” border area of Finland and Russia. Or guests can take part in self-drive wildlife adventure packages for foreign tourists & photographers. There is no age limit for sightseeing trips, you have to know how to be quiet, so it is better suited for slightly older children.
Hiking and camping in national parks
The rugged wilderness trails and clear waters of Hossa National Park are a feast for hikers and camping! There are many levels and lengths of routes, there is enough space, things to see. Hossa National Park has 100 km of marked trails, 60 km of canoeing trails, dozens of sheds and campfire sites, Julma-Ölky which is Finland’s largest canyon lake, and the unique Hossa Värikallio rock paintings which are amongst the largest prehistoric rock paintings in Finland painted with red and yellow ochre. With the guide, you can learn more about the area and its history.
Fly fishing the rapids in Kuhmo
Kuhmo has over 100 rapids, making it a mecca for fly fishermen. The Paljakkajoki River flows through the centre of Kuhmo, full of fish, with Kainuu’s largest free-flowing Pajakka Rapids. The fly fishing season begins in late spring when there is still snow. Fly anglers can fish the river right in the centre of Kuhmo, or in winter they can try ice fishing with snowshoes. Fishing boats with rotating stools are also available for rent. Fishing is a must in Kuhmo during summer!
Wild Taiga’s rich cultural summer
There are cultural events held here throughout the year. Kuhmo Chamber Music, held in July, is the most significant annual event in the region. The high-class and relaxed chamber music festival blends music and summer days and evenings in comfort without need of a tuxedo or evening dress. The ethno music festival Sommelo is held at the turn of June-July. Sommelo is based on Kalevala poetry and Karelian heritage, but the festival serves modern, live folk music from around the world.
Kuhmo was UNESCO’s City of Literature in 2019, celebrating the regions Kalevala heritage. The Kalevala compiler Elias Lönnrot worked in Kainuu for twenty years. More than 60 translations have been made of the Kalevala, and have inspired Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s art and the classical music of Sibelius, among others, and has played a significant role in the birth of the Finnish language and Finnish identity. The Kalevala is visible and heard in Kuhmo all year round. The Petola Nature Centre tells how a bear was born in the Kalevala, while the Kuhmo Cultural Centre in Juminkeko has permanent and changing exhibitions about the Kalevala.
The Niittykahvila Cafe of the Silent People offers an unforgettable experience for all motorists driving along Highway 5. Nearly a thousand figures dressed in summer clothing in the field are an impressive sight and appeal to everyone. The Silent people are redressed in clean clothes twice a year, in early summer and autumn. Stop over and try some Finnish pancakes in the Niittytupa café and enjoy the installation.
Stay in a giant’s birdhouse or hay barn!
In Wild Taiga you don’t come across hotel chains but your stay is like in fairy tales! In Luxury bear cabins, you can stay luxuriously in the middle of the wilderness, admire the scenery from the large windows and see the bears moving in the area. In summer you can spot bears from the cottage windows, in winter time and in autumn there is a great opportunity to see both northern lights and wolves and wolverines at the same time! The cottages come with infrared binoculars, for viewing in the dark night. In the Arctic Giant you can stay in a birdhouse built by the giant. At the Puukarin Pysäkki you can sleep in a hammock for the night. Or sleep for free in a hay barn and wake up to the lively birdsong. Hotel Kainuu offers comfortable accommodation in the center of Kuhmo, Hotel Kalevala in a unique, Kalevala-inspired private lakeside hotel. In addition, there are several cottage accommodation and bed and breakfast options. Taiga Spirit – bed and breakfast organizes bear trips in the wilderness, to see the bear’s paw footprints and bear scratching trees. Hossa’s wilderness cabins offer unique accommodation for wilderness hikers.
In summer, the easiest way to visit Wild Taiga is by car.
TOP-10 experiences in Wild Taiga region:
- Bear watching
- Hossa National Park
- The Silent People in Suomussalmi
- Petola Nature Center
- Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival
- Fly-fishing the rapids
- Winter War Museum in Kuhmo and renovated trenches
- Visits to reindeer farms and Icelandic Horse stables
- Cottage accommodation
- Rönttönen ( A local delicacy, EU-protected round pie with potatoes and lingonberries)