Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to venture into the far North of Finnish Lapland to experience the bliss of Finnish nature and wildlife. Helsinki is close to nature – surrounded by National parks – and in Nuuksio, just a half-hour drive from the city, you can make the acquaintance of a bunch of reindeer who are on a perpetual tropical holiday here in the South of Finland. After my first visit with a media group in 2015, I’ve been back here every year – because it is just the best place.
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Explore Nuuksio National Park
Even though this winter is short of….well, winter – mainly snow – it didn’t stop us from venturing out to Nuuksio National park. A much-loved place of rough nature, hiking paths, great spots for berry- and mushroom-picking in the summer, but a true winter paradise in the colder months as well. Winter hikes can be great, with the right shoes and clothes, just beware of ice beneath the snow, and slippery hills. We went on a short hike across the border of the National Park, which is now everywhere marked clearly with a bunch of poles.
Meet the reindeer
The Nuuksio reindeer park is home to six little reindeer, that are just so cute with their fluffy noses (I can’t get over them), they are curious and friendly, a bit clumsy (I would be too with those giant antlers!). Also, they are always hungry. Reindeer feed off lichen which is moss-like, light green and extremely cold-resistant.
You can visit the park on the public visiting days, or book it for a private visit if you have a bigger group at hand. The visit includes the coffee and snack over the open fire and food for the reindeer. It’s a lovely excursion to visit with your family, the reindeer are very friendly and like children as well. For family and friends visiting you in Helsinki, this is an amazing trip to experience Finnish nature and get a true feel of the wilderness!
Some reindeer facts:
- Reindeer usually live up in the North, these are the Southernmost reindeer of Finland. There, they roam freely, but they all have owners.
- Both male and female reindeer have antlers, that can grow super fast, but they they lose them once a year (females in springtime, the males in mid-winter), and the antlers affect their status in the herd.
- Their fur is really thick, and keeps them warm in all seasons. They drop the winter fur after the end of the cold season and start growing a new coat at the end of summer. There feet are more exposed, but kept from freezing through effective blood circulation
- Reindeer have an extraordinary sense of smell, so they can find the lichen even under a thick layer of snow.
- They have four stomachs and they love to eat, so you’ll have a special place in their hearts when you feed them 😉
How to get there: You can reach the edge of Nuuksio and the hiking trails easily by public transport as well. You need the ABC-zone ticket to travel from Helsinki, and it takes about an hour.
About the Reindeer Park:
– check the visiting hours carefully before planning a trip!
– Entrance fees: 25 € adult, 10 € child (4-11 y.) includes lichen for feeding reindeer, campfire coffee, tea or berry juice) and bun over an open fire in the atmospheric Lappish Teepee or outside
– You can book your tickets in advance here
How’s a National Park different from any other forest? Mainly, how here are certain rules. Even though Finland famously has the “Everyman’s Right”, this does not fully apply here: you’re allowed to pick berries and mushrooms, but not hunt. You can also not pick anything else from the forest or break anything, such as twigs or moss. You can also only use designated campfire sites, you can’t let your pets off the leash – read more about the visitor regulations of Finnish National Parks here. But mainly, follow your common sense and respect nature.
What should you bring with you? You’ll be outdoors, so make sure you wear good shoes that keep your feet warm. I advise against wearing jeans! Also keep your head warm and your hands protected.