Every Man’s Right and Finland’s Outdoor Culture

If there’s one thing I learned during my recent visit to Finland, it’s that the heart of the country is found outdoors.

Yes, the capital of Helsinki is home to cultural events, design stores, and cool cafes, but nature is where you get to experience the beauty of this country – the lakes, the forests, and the wild berries growing on the bushes.

Some visitors choose to stay in the capital because “the outdoors” seems too remote and hard to access, but what if I told you that the stunning Nuuksio National Park that you see in the photo below is only 40 minutes outside of Helsinki? Yes, this is nature at its finest and it’s only a short drive away.

Beautiful natural scenery in Nuuksio National Park, Finland.

My introduction to Finland’s Great Outdoors began at Haltia. Haltia is a visitor centre that showcases nature across Finland through various exhibitions. Basically, if you know next to nothing about the outdoors, then this is the place to come.

I spent part of my morning here, during which time I got to: walk through a snowy canyon and learn about Finnish winter and how animals and plants survive under the harsh elements, watch an animated landscape transport me through all 4 seasons in a matter of minutes, and experience ‘nature by night’ where I sat in a dark room and listened to the nighttime sounds of wildlife and streams. (This last experience is very soothing and apparently more than one person has been found sound asleep on the beanbags – Sam included!)

And here’s a fun fact for you: Finland has an estimated 13,000 trees for every Finn. That’s a lot of trees!

Hiking in Nuuksio National Park, Finland.

Enjoying the outdoors in Nuuksio, Finland.

It was during my hike through Nuuksio National Park that I learned about Every Man’s Right, a practice that essentially allows anyone living or visiting Finland to make the most of nature. This means:

  • You may pitch your tent and temporarily camp out anywhere in the country. The only rule is that you must be within reasonable distance of people’s homes – it would not be appropriate to set up your tent on someone’s front yard, or in a field where someone’s crops would be ruined – but anywhere else is pretty much fair game.
  • You can freely pick all kinds of berries, mushrooms and flowers from the wild so long as these are not protected species.
  • You are free to fish on any river, lake, or sea with a rod and line, and likewise, you are free to swim, bathe, and operate motorized vehicles in any of these bodies of water.
  • You are free to walk, bike, ride horses, or ski in the countryside.

The only restrictions are that you may not disturb people or damage property, disturb game animals or birds during mating season, cut down or damage standing trees, hunt without a permit, or leave litter behind.

I found this to be a mind-blowing concept, especially coming from Canada where signs that read “no trespassing, keep out, and this is private property” are quite common. Meanwhile Finland’s Nature Conservation Act states that “no sign prohibiting trespassing, mooring, and landing or otherwise restricting free public access is to be erected on land or water insofar as there are no legal grounds for doing so.” Imagine that! While this is not at all common in North America, I did learn that Every Man’s Right is practiced in most of the Nordic and Baltic countries. That makes this part of the world a great summer destination in my books!

Every man's right in Finland

The Finnish government has even taken measures to encourage people to spend more time outdoors. For example, when I visited Nuuksio National Park, I noticed that there was a large shed along the trails stocked with chopped wood. When I asked my guide Jukka Pekka about this, he explained that this is funded by the government, so that when people visit the park, they can easily gather wood and make a little fire to either cook food outdoors or keep warm for the night in a designated camp area.

Aside from this, the national park is equipped with cabins for shelter, each of which contain a raised cooking area and a bench for a picnic. Also, the park has clean, environmentally-friendly toilets located inside cute little red cottages, so, aherm, if you’re coming from the city and you’re used to having facilities readily available, fear not!

Chopped wood is readily available at Nuuksio National Park.

I should also mention, that just because you’re heading out to a national park doesn’t mean that you have to go on an arduous week-long hike à la Bill Bryson. There are trails for people of all ages and fitness levels. Even if you’re pressed for time and only have a few hours to spare, there is still a trail for you.

For example, from the Haltia Nature Centre which I previously mentioned, you can embark on 2 short hikes that are perfect for day visitors. The first one is Päivättärenpolku which is 1.4 kilometres in length, and the other is Maahisenkierros which is 2 kilometers. Both of these are circle loops which start and end by the nature centre, and the parking lot is located right at the start of the trail, so really, there’s no excuse for you not to enjoy the outdoors!

A red cabin for cooking and shelter in Nuuksio.

Getting to Haltia and Nuuksio from Helsinki

During the summer months (May – Septmber) there is a direct bus that runs from Helsinki’s city centre to Haltia. The bus leaves from the front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma at Mannerheiminaukio 2, and runs 1-3 times a day. (You can find the bus schedule here.)

You can also reach Haltia year round by taking trains S, E, and U, which run from Helsinki to Espoo, and from there you can catch buses 85 or 85K which will take you the rest of the way.

The entire trip from Helsinki takes about 1 hour via public transportation, or 40 minutes if you are driving your own vehicle.

Admission to the Haltia Nature Centre is 7 Euros for adults, and 2,50 Euros for children and students aged 7-17. However, admission to Nuuksio National Park is completely free of charge to everyone.

Have you been to Finland?
Did you get to visit any of the national parks?

29 Comments

  • This place looks beautiful. I’ve never been on a hike before, but this is certainly making me wonder whether I should try it sometime. I’m such a ‘city’ traveller that I’ve really neglected the great outdoors over the years…
    Andrea Anastasiou recently posted..The Long And Winding Road To Nowhere – The Start Of Our RTW TripMy Profile

  • Maria Falvey says:

    Wonderful post Audrey – you’ve wet my appetite and now I just can’t get enough of Finland.
    Maria Falvey recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – EuroTravelogueMy Profile

  • Renuka says:

    Finland looks like my kind of a destination. This is something commendable about the government that it encourages outdoor life. It’s wonderful to explore nature, go for long hikes, enjoy the flora and just breathe in pure air. Wonderful post!
    Renuka recently posted..How Has My Blog Changed Me – Celebrating Two years!My Profile

  • Katrina says:

    What an interesting concept! I like my personal property rights too much to advocate this taking effect in the U.S., but we have a plethora of federal parks that *could* operate that way if they’d get rid of over-regulation!
    Katrina recently posted..A Midday Brew at Midnight BreweryMy Profile

  • Love that access is free for anyone not just to public land, but national parks. Just think how many kids lives would change if they dropped the $20 per day fee for family access to Canada’s national parks!
    James Shannon recently posted..Photo: A Fine Day At The Floating Mosque, Penang MalaysiaMy Profile

    • Ville V says:

      Hi. I’m from Finland and just wanted to say that “Every man’s right” means you can go to even private property and without asking any permissions, not just so-called public areas owned by government or counties – or national parks. Only areas off limits for this right are military forces training grounds or people’s home yards/business areas(including crop fields). The Every man’s right gives you very open access to all nature. No-no’s: You can’t make fire without permission or chop any trees, and leave rubbish behind – that is pretty much it.

  • Ashley says:

    I love the concept of Every Man’s Right. North America needs to follow suit!
    Ashley recently posted..Shark WeekMy Profile

  • Jenna says:

    I love this! What a wonderful concept, especially with the research studies that have pointed recently to the positive connection between spending time in nature and mental well-being (for both adults and kids).
    Jenna recently posted..Unexpected Beauty: Windows & Doors of Minas Gerais, BrazilMy Profile

  • Tiana says:

    WOW. I am blown away by that mindset…Coming from California/US, where property rights and licenses reign (look into the current Martin’s Beach case -_-), it’s hard for me to imagine. I LOVE it! What a beautiful way of life.
    Tiana recently posted..Rent With AirbnbMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Whoaaa, just read up on the case and it looks like a pretty hot topic. It’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out…

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel says:

    Great post and nature shots! Finland is a very green place full of beautiful nature. Thanks for sharing your visit!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..10 Things We Love About West SwedenMy Profile

  • Justine says:

    Finland looks stunning! Ha, I love that there are so many thousands of trees for every person. And it’s wonderful that Finland is so progressive about allowing its citizens to enjoy the natural beauty of their country 🙂
    Justine recently posted..One Year in Jakarta: Pros and Cons of Living AbroadMy Profile

  • Agness says:

    I’ve never visited a National Park in Finland, but as you know guys, I’m a big fan of hiking and climbing so I would love to experience it one day. It’s so great to hear that the Finnish government has even taken measures to encourage people to spend more time outdoors! That is what we need in Poland as well. People are getting lazy and obese :-(.
    Agness recently posted..Taste Of Portugal: 15 Best Desserts You Can’t Afford To MissMy Profile

  • Peter says:

    Hey Audrey, such a lovely post. So much greenery and so calm and peaceful place Finland is. I wish I could be there. Love the place from the bottom of my heart.
    Peter recently posted..USVI Culinary Team Brings Home GoldMy Profile

  • Charlie says:

    What a beautiful place to hike! More countries should ffollow Finland’s example to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors more. It really is how it should be.
    Charlie recently posted..Hundreds of feet above Niagara Falls, and terrified of flyingMy Profile

  • Jo says:

    I love the idea of Every Man’s Right. The idea of people owning and blocking off access to land that they aren’t living on, farming or actively using in some other way makes me sad. Nature should be for everyone, and it’s great that Finland recognise this.
    Jo recently posted..Who wants to be a Guatemalan millionaire? An insight into life in a wealthy Guatemalan familyMy Profile

  • Ivana says:

    Awesome scenery, that I guess looks beautiful in each season 🙂 And the concept of freedom in their forest is just amazing! I wish more European countries implemented it in their laws.
    Ivana recently posted..Our Very First Outdoor Eco-Adventure in FinlandMy Profile

  • Jeffrey Rozier says:

    Great piece Audrey. This is something I really want to do but I would like to rent a car. Did you rent a car and, if so, how are the prices? Is there a big price difference between automatic and standard? Thanks for any info.

  • Laura says:

    I love that you can just freely camp! Finland sounds like an amazing place, I really need to get there!
    Laura recently posted..Weird WednesdayMy Profile

  • kami says:

    I was an exchange student in Finland, those were great times! Nature in this country is amazing and you just made me miss it big time! Guess I need to revisit it soon 🙂
    kami recently posted..Sunday with Pictures: touristy Athens, GreeceMy Profile

  • sofia says:

    Glad you enjoyed your stay! Finland is a beautiful country indeed! I live in Vasa, on the west coast (Finland). And every man’s right is a good rule. I remeber as i child i was surprised that it wasn’t that common in other countries, like USA.
    sofia recently posted..WDGC OPEN 16.8My Profile

  • Heather says:

    I just started planning my first trip to Finland for this autumn! We’ll be based in Helsinki, but definitely plan to venture out into the countryside. It looks like such an amazing place!
    Heather recently posted..Touring Karosta Prison and Liepaja’s Secret Soviet PortMy Profile

  • Youre all wellcome. Give me a email if Your coming to Tampere region. Ill show You around with pleasure. AND take you fishing. Spareroom available too. mikael.riippa@huom.fi

  • Hilpe says:

    The article was a very nice story about Finland. I can ensure that swimming in the lake is worth experiencing in case you visit in Finland. Summers can be hot (over 30 C = 86 F). You can swim almost in any lake in Finland unless you don’t go closer than 100m from the private summer house. There are almost 190 000 lakes in Finland. Some of them are bonds and some of them are very very big lakes.

    You can rent a summer cottage by the lake side. There are extreamly modern and fancy summer villas and also modest cottages available. Modest cottages are vary basic and may not have running water, electricity and other modern amenities. Many of them may have, though, the sun power system for electricity. Modern cottages and vilmas are equipped with amenities you may expect also at home. If they are located by the lake, saunas are also included. The climate in Finland may vary from cold to very warm (hot) during the summer. This year in July and August it was very hot also in North Finland (Lappland). This also means that nature turns to deep yellow and red during the fall. During the summer you may detect different shades of green in nature. Finland is full of forests and lakes.

    Bears are not walking in streets in Helsinki, though you may see them in rural areas especially near the Russia boarder. Mooses (European elks) you may see also elsewhere and deers, too. If Australia warns of kangaroos on the roads, Finland warns of elks.

  • Finland is on my ‘Bucket List” so your information is really appreciated…I thrive in the outdoors so your post was good news.

  • Jori says:

    Hi!
    Lakes, forests, SILENCE, four seasons – maybe these are the things I love most here in Finland. And democracy of course!
    Don´t miss canoe trips, a night in the forest / by the lake in a lean-to or a tent or in a free hut…

    But remember insect oil !!!!! And there are difficulties to get to national parks, if you don´t have a car. In many places there are no buses and using a taxi takes alot of money.

    Well, many foreigners like to go photografing bears and wolverines. It´s safe, because they are arrranged by local enterpreneurs near the eastern border.

  • Anna says:

    I love nature, especially in Northern Europe, so Finland’s always been on my travel radar for that. But I also want to go in the winter, to Lapland – the REAL home of the Santa Clause 😉

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