Where to sleep for free in the Finnish nature?

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.

Shelters

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.

Fireplace

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.

finland suomi fireplace

finland suomi fireplace

 

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.

Advantages:

  • it is flat so quite comfortable to sleep
  • many people can fit
  • protects quite well from the rain

Disadvantages:

  • 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

finland suomi laavu lean-to-shelter fireplace

 

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.

Advantages:

  • warmer than lean-tos (you can make fire in the middle)
  • less mosquitoes

Disadvantages:

  • 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

 

finland suomi lappish hut kota fireplace

finland suomi lappish hut kota fireplace

 

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.

finland suomi lapland päivätupa daily hut

 

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!

Advantages:

  • closed from all sides and top
  • warm/you can heat
  • well-equipped

Disdvantage:

  • bigger chance that you have to share with other people

finland suomi lapland autiotupa

finland suomi lapland autiotupa

finland suomi lapland autiotupa

Sauna

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.

finland suomi sauna

+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.

finland suomi bird watching tower lintutorni

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! 🙂

 

Free accommodation in Finland

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  • I really enjoyed this. My partner and I love hiking although I’m quite jealous of all the options that Finland has for outdoor adventurer. The day trip hut is pretty adorable!

  • I think it’s absolutely amazing that you can camp for free in more than 3000 places! It’s a great arrangement and more countries should learn from Finland!

    • Of course hikers have to keep them tidy and respect their usage. It is great from Finland that they maintain all these shelters and they are for public use!

  • Darling Escapes

    I’m torn here. I love the idea, but then I think of the cold- and being Canadian – I tend to run away from sleeping in the snow! 🙂

    • I think the closed huts would be the best for you! The daily huts and wilderness huts are proper cabins and you can heat them up as well 🙂

  • I’m super excited to get out hiking when I’m in Europe! I’d heard whispers of there being no rules when it comes to where you pitch a tent, but didn’t know it was true. And all the shelters – epic! I love that!

    • In the Nordic countries you have sooo much freedom when it comes to nature! Coming from Central/Eastern Europe, first I didn’t want to believe that all these shelters are for free! (Katalin)

  • Paulina Grabara

    that is a cool idea for the post!

  • This post is very interesting! My country (Singapore) is summer all-year round, I’ve never gotten chances to do things like this ever! Thanks for sharing =)

    • If you ever come to Finland, you have to try them! You can enjoy a lot of snow in wintertime and see northern light!
      ps. we love Singapore with its great summer weather – Karol’s favorite country where we’ve ever lived!

  • Danni Lawson

    That’s awesome! I had no idea there were all these sleeping options! I spent a week sleeping in car off the Icelandic ring road and all the time was half terrified that police would catch us, but maybe we shouldn’t have worried? An autiotupa would have been very handy!

    • We have no experience about Iceland, but in Finland you definitely should look for these shelter. Much more comfortable than sleeping in car 🙂

  • Anita Sane

    Interesting post. Looks quite cold to me. You are very brave. Have nice travels!

    • You just need a proper sleeping bag if you plan to sleep in the open shelters from autumn to spring. But in winter we prefer the closed huts too 🙂

  • I can’t believe these are all available for free in Finland. I would love to stay in a cabin, looks like an authentic camping experience. I remember the setting from the movie in The Revenant.

    How are your experience? Did you feel cold?

    • In winter time we prefer to stay closed huts – you can heat them up very well with the provided firewood (you just need to chop them before making fire).
      Few times we slept outside when it was under 0°C, with good sleeping bags. During the rest of the year it is pretty okay to sleep in any of the huts – in worst case the mosquitoes bother your sleep. 🙂

  • That is so cool they’re available for free! If only America had something great like this!

  • Fireplace is a bit more hardcore, but in summertime it is possible 🙂

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