Finland is expensive country, but if you love nature and hiking, you can reduce your costs very easily. I will show you what are your options where to stay for free for a night or two.
Everyman’s right & Camping
First of all, good to know that in most Nordic countries, also in Finland, you have a right to access land, water and resources. You can pick mushrooms and berries, but for fishing you need permit in many places (exception is ice-fishing in winter).
It also means that you can pitch your tent basically anywhere. Just respect other people’s houses and then you will be fine.
Throughout the country there are thousands (3000+) of shelters which you can use for free. They are mainly located in national parks, nature protection or hiking areas (browse here too), but you can find the simple ones even close or inside cities. The shelters differ in look, quality and comfort level. While the simplest ones only have a fireplace and and probably no walls at all, other havesmall benches, and the best ones are regular houses with mattresses and all kitchen equipment. Let’s have a look on them.
This is not really a shelter, but they are everywhere. Lot of them have provided firewood, so you can have a campfire night with your friends or make a coffee or food while you are hiking. Often there are few benches or tables around. You can find them even in cities. In Joensuu you probably already met with them on Utra island, but there are even nicer ones near Kontiolahti.
Lean-to shelter (laavu)
The simplest shelter. Fireplace, few benches or whole sleeping areas and the roof. It has usually 3 walls and from one side it is open. Even tough they have walls, not all of them have floor. Double lean-to shelters can also be found. imagine two of the lean-t shelters turned to face each other. There is the fireplace in the middle and they give a pretty nice and closed structure.
In Pärnävaara you can find several of lean-to shelters. The firewood supply is sometimes quite low, but I’m sure you can find one nearby with enough food for a barbecue.
- it is flat so quite comfortable to sleep
- many people can fit
- protects quite well from the rain
- it does not really matter if you make fire or not, you will not get too much warmth while sleeping
- mosquitoes can attack you easily
Lapp hut (kota)
A polygonal shelter and a more closed structure (in most cases), having a fireplace in the middle. There are benches around. Only open on the top and probably a bit on the sides where it touches the ground – that’s where the air to the fire can come in. They may have a door, may not. For example, in the above mentioned Pärnävaara you can find them as well. Great place to spend the evening there.
- warmer than lean-tos (you can make fire in the middle)
- less mosquitoes
- the benches are usually quite narrow. For me as a smaller girl it is not a problem, but taller people may have to do some tricks to fit.
- mosquitoes can fly in
Day trip hut (päivätupa)
A house. A cottage. It has walls, door(s), roof. Benches, tables and a stove inside. Sometimes you can find kettle as well. Perfect place to warm up and have a hot coffee or tea on a cold, wet day.
Open wilderness hut (autiotupa)
A day trip hut with beds, so perfect for overnight stay. Usually they have two levels of wooden boards near the wallks. Sometimes even bunk beds or mattresses can surprise you. Kitchen equipment with pots, pans, utensils, table, chairs, etc. Stoves or gas stoves are also common. Everything you need and even some more!
These cottages are usually in the national parks of Lapland, but few can be found more south as well. Our favorites are in Hattuvaara, near Ilomantsi and close to the Russian border. Those are the best open wilderness huts in North Karelia!
- closed from all sides and top
- warm/you can heat
- bigger chance that you have to share with other people
Sauna buildings are not so common, but you can find them in many national parks, especially in Lapland. Some of them are rentable, other you have to pay a small fee to use, very few of them are free.
My very first “national park sauna” experience was in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The sauna was just next door to the open wilderness hut, and of course besides a cute small lake. The firewood is provided to heat it up, you just need to send a text message from the nearest hill (where the reception is good) to pay for your visit.
+1 Places where you don’t really sleep:
Look-out tower (näköalatorni), bird watching tower (lintutorni)
You will find plenty of them. If it is near a lake or on the mire, very likely they will be called bird watching towers. Often a book (diary) is there to list what species of birds you have seen during your visit.
In Joensuu you should visit the one in Noljakka, you can see a lot of birds on Lake Pyhäselkä. For look-out tower I can recommend Koli and Ryläys tower.
Do you need more inspiration before you go for a camping trip? Check out our other posts about places in Finland we have visited during the last years! Feel free to ask us if you have any questions or you need advice! 🙂