Day trip from Helsinki: Nuuksio National Park

Advertisement with Visit Espoo. Within easy reach of the Finnish capital lies Nuuksio National Park, an area of crystal clear lakes, forests and rugged crags.

Nuuksio National Park, Finland

Nuuksio National Park

Getting there by public transport from Helsinki city centre takes just over an hour with a car journey taking around 40 minutes. We bought Helsinki Day Cards €12 (£10.45) allowing unlimited travel in zones A-C for our visit and headed to Helsinki Central Railway station to start our journey.

Helsinki Railway Station
Helsinki Railway Station

The station itself is an architectural masterpiece, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Passengers are greeted outside the art-deco station by two pairs of giant statues holding lanterns on each side of the entrance doors.

Train from Helsinki to Espoo Centre
Train from Helsinki to Espoo Centre

Local trains frequently depart to Espoo Centre (journey time 25 minutes) and from there a connecting bus, 245K departs from Platform 32 outside the station taking a further 25 minutes to Nuuksio. It’s a very pleasant bus journey and I recommend sitting on the left hand side if possible as from the bus windows there are some lovely lake and forest views.

Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo

Although the bus continues further, I suggest getting off at the Haltia Finnish Nature Centre as this is the gateway to the National Park and the starting point for numerous walking trails. Opened in summer 2013, the nature centre provides a window into wild Finland with its wooden exhibition centre blending beautifully into the natural surroundings. Its free to go inside to pick up leaflets, discuss possibilities for nature walks with the centre staff and to visit the gift shop and excellent restaurant.

Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo, Finland
Entrance lobby, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo

If time allows, I would also recommend viewing the three exhibitions in the centre which focus on wildlife, landscapes and natural phenomena. These are not only about Nuuksio but also Finland’s other 40 National parks as the idea is for Haltia to act as an introduction to the rest of the country’s natural beauty. Entrance to the exhibition area is €13 (£11.32).

Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo, Nuuksio

Reading the information boards we discovered that Nuuksio National Park forms the western part of the so called Nuuksio lake uplands, the most extensive and ecologically important continuous wilderness area in southern Finland. As this part of the country is affected by broken bedrock, the park consists of an intricate mosaic of habitats, where dozens of threatened and near threatened species live.

Panoramic screen, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Finland
The panoramic screen at the Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo

The centre’s main attraction is a huge panoramic screen, 18m in length which takes visitors on a seasonal journey from the Finnish archipelago in southern Finland up to the fells of Lapland in the north. This multi sensory experience uses the kinds of sights, sounds and feelings that can be enjoyed in the outdoors and is very enjoyable.

Gallery of art work, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
Gallery of local artwork, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo

Standing in another part of the building is a huge, wooden latticed structure shaped like an egg. This giant egg houses a unique artwork, ‘The Game of Life’ in which two swans play chess surrounded by ever changing images. The role of the centre definitely inspires visitors to go outside and enjoy the countryside by using art, myths, legend and artefacts to promote these wild places. All the exhibits have been very well planned to provide a memorable introduction to the country as a whole.

Event Field, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
The event field with large tepees

We then popped our coats on for a look outside. Located between the centre and the Pitkäjärvi lake stands the Haltia event field complete with Finnish tepees (Kota). Children on a school trip were enjoying lunch in one of them during our visit but we managed to take a look in another one which was very atmospheric with its candle lanterns and long wooden benches covered in sheepskin rugs beside a large campfire.

Outdoor exhibition area, Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
Part of the outdoor art exhibition

Popular activities are to cook sausages and make pancakes over the open fire and then enjoy them sitting round. The event field is also home to an open-air gallery of art work inspired by the natural surroundings of the National Park.

Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
The Haltia Finnish Nature Centre viewed from the event field

We were then feeling a little peckish so headed back inside the Nature Centre where we had reserved a table for 12.30 p.m. for lunch in Ravintola Haltia. Located on the upper floor and boasting a covered terrace with beautiful views over Lake Pitkäjärvi this 200 seat restaurant is a delight.

Ravintola Haltia
The Haltia lunch buffet

The daily lunch buffet is priced at €19.50 (£16.95) and it was just as well that we were hungry as it was a feast for our senses. The ethos of the restaurant is “nature on a plate” serving locally sourced, seasonal Finnish flavours. The buffet comprised a starter of a delicious thick tomato soup with home baked rye bread, butter and beetroot hummus. We then enjoyed mains of creamy salmon and potato casserole and roast chicken breasts accompanied with vegetables and a selection from the appetising salad buffet.

Outdoor terrace of Ravintola Haltia, Nuusio
The attractive outdoor seating area

Dessert of the day was strawberry panacotta which neither of us could resist and after relaxing with cups of coffee it was just as well that we would be spending the afternoon hiking in the surrounding area. It is worth noting that exhibition centre tickets are not required for dining in the restaurant. As it’s such a popular lunch spot for both visitors to the area and those living in the greater Helsinki area, I would suggest booking a table in advance to avoid disappointment.

Walking trails starting from Haltia Finnish Nature Centre
Numerous walking trails start from the nature centre

Returning downstairs, we met Karolina, one of the centre’s guides who had arranged to spend the afternoon with us exploring Nuuksio. From the visitor centre, a choice of five circular routes and many more longer trails can be taken. These are all clearly signposted and would be easy to follow on your own. Just remember to come prepared with walking shoes, waterproofs and drinking water.

Haltia Lake Lodge, Nuuksio
The Haltia Lake Lodge

Before starting our hike Karolina took us across the road to view the recently opened Haltia Lake Lodge, which overlooks the lake. The building was previously used by the nearby Sports Institute and has been completely renovated to comprise 23 stylish guest rooms and a cosy lounge bar serving snacks.

Haltia Lake Lodge Glamping Cabins, Nuuksio, Finland
Haltia Lake Lodge Glamping Cabins, Nuuksio, Finland

Located slightly further up the hillside and each with uninterrupted lakeside balcony views are several wood and canvas glamping cabins also operated by the lodge. Unlike a teepee or yurt glamping experience, these cabins are more substantial and as they have heaters can be used year round. We weren’t able to go inside one of them but from their idyllic forest location alone, I knew instantly that I’d like to stay in one on a return visit to the Helsinki/ Espoo area.

Hiking trails close to Haltia Finnish Nature Centre, Espoo
We followed forest trails in the fresh air

Back on track, we hiked through several kilometres of Nuuksio, our guide pointing out special features along the way. We paused several times to pick blueberries and Karolina pointed out low growing clumps of juniper so we sampled one of these berries too. Being a gin lover I’m well acquainted with juniper flavourings but it was the first time I’d tried a berry which tasted of pine and was slightly sour.

Views from Lookout terrace near Haltia Finnish Nature Centre
Views from the lookout terrace

The paths through the rugged scenery were quite easy with just a couple of steep sections to navigate. We stopped at a delightful lookout terrace with seating which overlooked the 8 km fjord like long lake of Pitkäjärvi. We rested awhile there taking in the stunning views and relaxed by sharing a bar of chocolate and sipping our water bottles. Karolina explained to us that with its numerous marked trails, cooking shelters, hotel and camping sites Nuuksio is ideal for short hiking trips lasting for one or two days.

Swinghill Ski Area, Nuuksio, Espoo
Swinghill Ski Area, Nuuksio

On our return to Haltia we passed the Swinghill Ski Area which offers downhill skiing during the winter months. The resort has three slopes with a lift serving each so if you find yourself in Helsinki in mid-winter and fancy some downhill skiing then you can be transformed from the urban city centre to a winter wonderland in less than an hour.

View from above Haltia Lake Lodge, Nuuksio, Finland
View from above Haltia Lake Lodge

Our day out at Nuuksio had been lovely and we’d enjoyed the fresh air and natural beauty of its crystal clear lakes and pine forests. Being easily accessible from the centre of Helsinki, I’d definitely recommend adding a visit to your itinerary.

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Helsinki – A guide to the perfect weekend break

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We were guests of Visit Espoo and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.

42 thoughts on “Day trip from Helsinki: Nuuksio National Park

  1. As someone who loves trains so much, I feel like that’s what gets me started on exploring other aspects including nature, travel, and recognizing the world’s beauty. I loved reading about your trip to Helsinki. Looking forward to reading more posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a neat national park with a wide range of activities. I’d say wanting to stay in one of the cabins is a great excuse to return to the park! I love the views of the pristine lakes and lush forests. Sounds like a wonderful day trip to reconnect with nature.

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  3. Never heard of Nuuksio National Park, but what a wonderful place! For it to be close enough to Helsinki and Espoo makes for a doable day trip…I can imagine it being a tranquil time, and the air to be so fresh and clean! Looks to be a great time, Marion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We absolutely love national parks, and this one looks spectacular. The big difference in Finland’s national parks (well, this one) and ours, is that we don’t find fabulous food in our national parks. Another great post, Marion, and another wonderful inspiration for our wanderlust.

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  5. Wow, what a lovely park to visit and stay the night or two under starry skies. It’s a blessing to have such a spectacular wilderness area so close to Helsinki offering people an opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I am glad to see you had a great time, Marion. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like that panoramic screen – this must be a great experience. I also find the outdoor activity of cooking sausages and making pancakes over an open fire a great idea to get tourists involved. Oh, and how cute are those glamping cabins! You’re right Marion, Nuuksio looks like a great place to explore with all the amenities available … and with such lovely views from the hiking trails, it looks like a great getaway from the city!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Corna for your lovely comments on my day in Nuuksio. It’s a beautiful National Park and the Haltia Visitor Centre was a great place to start to learn more about the area. After a tasty lunch our hiking trip was just what we needed and with the autumn tints very colourful.

      Liked by 1 person

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