Winter Wonderland at the Koli National Park – Eastern Finland

Ukko-Koli in winter

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Koli National Park is a must-see place near Joensuu, Eastern Finland, and we recommend a visit during your Finland road trip as well! Spectacular, easy to reach (especially by car) and ideal for a day trip but also for longer hiking adventures as well.

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How to get there

The Koli National Park is in Eastern Finland, about an hour drive away from Joensuu. It’s the closest national park to the city. On Saturdays there is a very cheap ski bus (5-15 €), price changes during the years), so we could reach it without a car easily. Few times we were hitchhiking, because, on other days, it is kind of impossible to approach by public transport. Yes, that is Finland. But hitchhiking always works, and was necessary for our multi-day hikes.

Where to stay in Koli: Hotels and Cabins

Do you plan an overnight stay in the park? For the brave ones, we can recommend one of the free shelters. But make sure you have a proper sleeping bag and you know how to make fire (and have tools for it). If you prefer a warm and cozy place to stay, on the top of Ukko Koli, there is the Sokos Hotel with spa (yay!). Check the prices here. You can admire the views, eat your dinner in the restaurant and spent a relaxing day in the national park. 

Besides the reputable hotel, you will find numerous cabins and guesthouses near Ukko Koli and Loma Koli on Kolinkylä.

Snow in Koli

We go to National Parks often. It is a perfect spot all year round to explore nature and spend time outdoors, and during the snowy part of the year, it is REALLY snowy. Its special micro-climate makes sure it is full of snow. In January, you can easily have a meter, while a couple of kilometers from here you have half of it. And that amount of snow is a unique view on the top of the granite rocks and trees. No wonder that it is an iconic place in Finland.

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Activities – What to do in winter

In winter time we often do downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing. You can also ride a snowmobile. It a more costly option, but I think once worth to try! We have done it in Lapland only, not here in North Karelia.

Ukko Koli

In case you want to rest more, just have a short but spectacular walk, that’s also possible. You can visit by a 30 min walk the 3 closest ‘peaks’ (let’s call them rocks) in Ukko Koli. You don’t need any special equipment, only proper clothing, and your camera 😉 After exploring outside, you can get a coffee or beer and visit the exhibition and the shop in the national park headquarters.

Snowmobile routes on the lake Pielinen


Skiing in Koli

Kind of ‘funny’ to call it downhill skiing center if you have ever been in the Alps, Rockies, or in any mountains. The whole national park is small, about 30 square km. Its highest point is Ukko-Koli, only 347 meters above sea level, but the longest ski slopes reach 1.5 km length, so you can easily spend a day skiing in the two separate locations where the slopes are. I am not a big fan of downhill skiing and haven’t tried snowboarding yet, so I usually choose other activity, even if others wanna stay on the slopes.

You can also go cross-country skiing if you have your own equipment it is for free, but you can rent skis is you need. There are over 50 km of trails if they are maintained. In most days only 20-30 km are ready for skiing. I prefer that! My personal favorite is skiing from Ukko-Koli to Loma-Koli, it is about 15 km and has a nice downhill in the beginning. After that small hills, up and down, all the way to Loma-Koli. Also, trails on the lake are open when the ice is safe. You can ski over the other side of lake Pielinen easily.

Cross-country skiing in Koli National Park
Cross-country skiing in Koli National Park

Snowshoeing and campfire in the national park

If you are not so comfortable with skiing, you can take a walk by snowshoes (those tennis-rocket-like things you step on), so you won’t sink in the snow. Most of the people go only to the peaks around Ukko-Koli, but it is definitely worth to visit Mäkrävaara, or even go further. There are several fireplaces with supplied wood, so you can make fire and bake your sausages or veggies there while resting.

Tips for winter clothing

Gorgeous views all the time

Do you still wonder why is the place so popular? Besides the variety of activities you can do, it has great views from the top of the hills and rock over the lake Pielinen. Imo only Lapland has picturesque scenery in Finland 😉 And in winter time the trees are totally covered by snow. Every time I go there, I feel like I am in wonderland 🙂

The view towards inland
The views
Stunning snow cover on the trees
Stunning snow cover on the trees
View over lake Pielinen
View over lake Pielinen


You can read more about Koli in other seasons



Winter in Koli National Park, Finland

Guide to Koli National Park | Ukko Koli | Where to stay in Koli | |Koli National Park is a must-see place near Joensuu, Eastern Finland, and we recommend a visit during your Finland road trip as well! #kolinationalpark #koli #finnishparks #ukkokoli

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11 thoughts on “Winter Wonderland at the Koli National Park – Eastern Finland”

  1. Hey there!
    I’m going to Koli with a friend in January. We’re too afraid to drive in winter and the carpooling (taxi sharing) is really expensive. We’re thinking hitchiking as well. Do you have any tips for that?

  2. Andrea Lelio

    You are great guys! Amazing place and great pics. I’ve visited Koli in early october a couple of years ago, but in wintertime is really fantastic. Could you tell me if i can use snowshoes to visit it in winter, or the snow is too deep for that? Thank you 😉

    1. Snowshoes are for the deep snow, go ahead and try them! Most of the used trails will have more compressed snow as others do trips there too. For example to Mäkrävaara. It will be easier than in the fresh snow, but even in that it is doable and lot of fun.

    2. Andrea Lelio

      Thanks for your reply. And which is the best winter month to see this fairy landscape? *_*

  3. Anisa Alhilali

    Wow so much snow! It looks beautiful. Is it absolutely freezing though? I get cold just looking at the pictures

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