Where to sleep for free in the Finnish nature? – Guide for accommodation options at the national parks

finland suomi lapland päivätupa daily hut

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Finland is an expensive country, but if you love nature and hiking, you can reduce your costs very easily. A network of wilderness huts and other types of shelters covers Finland that offers free accommodation.

I will show you options where to stay for free for a night or two in the serenity of Finnish nature. Read the free and wilderness camping guide below!

Disclaimer: The post may contain affiliate links.

Everyman’s right & free 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 a permit in many places (exception is ice-fishing in winter).

It also means that you can pitch your tent basically anywhere for a night. Just respect other people’s houses, cabins, and wildlife and then you will be fine.

Here you can find detailed rules in English.

Finland has a short summer yet the mosquitos are everywhere during that period. Take a mosquito net and with you while you are outdoors. A mosquito repellent bracelet may not work well.

Shelters in Finland (where you can sleep for free) 

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 probably no walls at all, others have small benches, and the best ones are regular houses with mattresses and all kitchen equipment. Let’s have a look at the accommodation options!


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 in these designated areas. Often there are few benches or tables around. You can find fireplaces even in cities. In Joensuu, you probably already saw several on Utra island, but there are even nicer ones near Kontiolahti.

Making fire is a basic skill you will learn while hiking in Finland. However, if you don’t master that skill yet, just pack a few lightning cubes to make your life easier to set a fire.

Fireplace outside of a cabin in Finland.
Fireplace outside of a cabin
Making fire during the winter in front of a shelter in Finnish National Park
Making fire during the winter in front of a shelter in a Finnish National Park

Lean-to shelter (laavu)

The simplest shelter. Fireplace, few benches or whole sleeping areas and the roof. It has usually 3 walls and on one side it is open. Even though they have walls, not all of them have floor.

Double lean-to shelters are something that also exists. Imagine two of the lean-to shelters turned to face each other. There is a 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 of sleeping in a lean-to:

  • 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

Whether you sleep here or in a more closed shelter, make sure you have a mosquito net for your hat. It will be crucial while hiking in the summer!

Sleeping in sleeping bag at a laavu in Finland.
Sleeping at a laavu

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 in a hut, frying your veggies or sausages and chat with your friends in a cozy and warm place.

Advantages of staying in a kota:

  • warmer than lean-tos (you can make a fire in the middle)
  • fewer 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
A closed Lapp hut from outside, Finland
A closed Lapp hut from outside
Sleeping in a Lapp hut during autumn in Finland
Sleeping in a Lapp hut during autumn.

Day trip hut (päivätupa)

A house. A cottage. A simple hut. It has walls, door(s), roof. Benches, tables and a stove inside. Sometimes you can find a kettle as well. Perfect place to warm up and have a hot coffee or tea on a cold, wet day. Our favorite ones are in Lapland, but you will find them in North Karelia and in the South too.

päivätupa - day trip hut in winter time in lapland - finland suomi
My favorite day trip hut is in Lapland.

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 walks. 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 of overnighting in open wilderness huts:

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


  • bigger chance that you have to share with other people
An open wilderness hut approached by skis during the winter in Finland.
An open wilderness hut approached by skis during the winter.
An open wilderness hut: benches for sleeping
Benches inside the shelter.
An open wilderness hut cooking facilities
Cooking facilities

Sauna for a small fee

Sauna buildings are not so common, but you can find them in many national parks, especially in Lapland. Some are rentable, other you have to pay a small fee to use, very few sauna are free.

My very first “national park sauna” experience was at 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. Typical Finnish arrangement.

Sauna at Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. Finland Suomi.
Wooden sauna

And here are a couple of more places where you don’t actually sleep:

Look-out tower (näköalatorni) and bird observation tower (lintutorni)

You will find plenty of towers all across the country due to the vast amounts of lakes and mires. Make sure you pack some of the best binoculars with you to see the birds better. If it is near a lake or in the mire, very likely, they will be called bird watching towers. You will find a book (diary) to list which species you saw during your visit. Make sure you add your observations if you recognized them. 🙂

In Joensuu, you should visit the one in Noljakka, you can see many birds on Lake Pyhäselkä. For the look-out tower, I can recommend Koli and Ryläys tower.

Bird observation tower in the middle of mires and lakes. Finland.
Bird observation tower in the middle of mires and lakes.

List of essentials for sleeping in the wild in Finland:

  • comfortable outdoor shoes,
  • matches,
  • knife,
  • thermos,
  • mosquito repellent,
  • mosquito net to protect your head,
  • good sleeping bag.

Good to have:

Read more on camping and hiking gadgets!

Do you need more inspiration before you go on a camping trip? Check out our other posts about places in Finland we have visited during the last years!

Winter activities in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Lapland (Activity Guide)

Snowshoeing and hiking in Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Finland (Winter-Summer Guide)

Winter Wonderland at the Koli National Park – Eastern Finland

Koli National Park without snow: the Herajärvi trail

How to search for free accommodation in Finland? Wilderness accommodation options.

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44 thoughts on “Where to sleep for free in the Finnish nature? – Guide for accommodation options at the national parks”

  1. Any chance you could provide me with actual map spots in lapland (thinking tromso to rovaneimi and around rovaneimi) to park a motorhome? We are 2 adults and 3 older kids, we will be in October, we would love to hike as well, after spectacular scenery, not keen on cities. Any suggestions most welcome

  2. Thanks so much for this article. I am thinking of getting out there this summer. I will be with my 8 year old daughter. Is it dangerous for a woman and child to travel and camp out in the wilderness in Finland alone? I am more concerned about wild animals than I am about people. But any advice would be helpful.

    1. Hi Shalin, it is extremely rare to encounter dangerous wild animals and Finland is very safe in this aspect too.
      A few bears live close to the eastern border, and of course, there are wolves and wolverines, but they don’t approach humans almost ever. We’ve never seen bears during the last 10 years, however, for example in Canada we met with them 3 times during 4 months. Most likely you will see only small rodents, birds, reindeer (in the north) and maybe foxes. You need quite much luck to spot even a moose.
      We spend extended time outdoors with our toddler too, so you don’t need to be worried about taking your daughter camping. Just bring enough mosquito repellent! 😉

  3. It is a cool article, Thanks for writing it. As a finnish person i would like to just point out some things here, which are not true. Every man’s right do not give you the right to put your tent on other people’s land without the landowner’s permission. Also starting a fire is only permitted in marked areas, and it is illegal to build a fire elsewhere. The huts and other stuff are great 🙂 Thanks guys!!

    1. Hi Alma, thanks for your comment, however, I think you are not totally right regarding the laws (and we didn’t state pitching tents or having a campfire everywhere is allowed).
      According to Metsähällitus, you can “camp out temporarily, a reasonable distance from homes”, without disturbing or destroying anything. Of course, we would never encourage anybody to put up their tent to someone’s garden or yard. About campfires, you need the land owner’s permission if it is not public land, but if you have, it is not illegal to light a fire elsewhere.
      I’ll add the references to the regulation to the article, so you can check it out too.

    2. Hi any APK like in Denmark or Estonia to find out nature walk and place to freecamp?

  4. This is great information and totally new for me. I did not know Finland has so many places for hikers. Are these shelters open for whole year or only for specific months?

    1. Our Life, Our Travel

      Yes, they are all year round open, but in certain seasons (usually during the spring thaw), some of them can be inaccessible or hardly approachable.

  5. I would love to see Finland, but it would have to be in a hotel lodge, I am not at about roughing it..ha…you are some very brave souls! Love your pictures..thanks for sharing !

    1. Our Life, Our Travel

      No worries, we also like the luxury of lodges too, but staying in the wilderness has its own beauty too!

  6. Anisa Alhilali

    Wow I didn’t realize there were places you could stay for free and in such beautiful scenery!

  7. Happy birthday to Finland. So many amazing places to sleep in and explore the local area. Love it

  8. Taryn Nicole

    I had no idea Finland had so many free huts and shelters. They look super cute. The idea of climbing a hill to text someone (on the honor system) to pay for using a sauna is just so cute to me! Sounds like people really trust each other.

  9. Free access to nature and free shelter are one of my favourite things about northern Europe. You can really reconnect with yourself in the woods, and feel so welcome. I personally never tried the experience of staying in one of those free cabins, but I know of one not far from where I live that is very popular aong international students for the authentic Nordic feel that sleeping in one of them gives you 😀

    1. These cabins are also popular among locals based on our observations. Most of them won’t overnight, but they still love having a lunch break or making a coffee next to the fire. 🙂

  10. 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?

    1. 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. 🙂

  11. 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!

  12. 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 =)

    1. 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!

  13. 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!

    1. 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)

  14. 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! 🙂

  15. 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!

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