Alex van Terheyden
Jyväskylä - The gateway to the Lakelands of Finland
Lapland & Helsinki are places most will be able to visualise without even having to visit. They are the lifeblood of the Finnish tourist industry due to their magnetic draw for the tourists that flock to Finland every year. Both are on either end of Finland - so far detached from each other that they are often only connected with connecting flights. Helsinki in the South and Lapland in the far North. And yet locals and those in the know will tell you that there is more to Finland than just the top and the bottom.
If other countries in the world had the Lakelands of Finland to boast about, you would see adverts on every airport train, in every country around the world. And yet ask anyone outside of Finland, if they have heard of the Lakelands of Finland? Few will respond with a certain yes - most will look at you blankly. And yet ask a Finn where they like to holiday when they are staying in Finland - many will tell you about the Finland Lakelands. Although they will tell you about the Lakelands with hesitancy because they don’t want the whole world to know their little secret.
I recently found myself exploring the Finland Lakelands. It’s an all-year-round destination depending on one's enthusiasm for the great outdoors. As the name suggests the land is full of lakes. In the winter these lakes are frozen over for at least 3-to 4 months of the year. The winter months offer Snowmobiling, snow walking and dogsledding adventures to name but some of the activities you could partake in while the summer months offer visitors extreme water sports to leisurely boating escapes.
The further you venture from the major cities, towns and villages the more peaceful the surrounding nature appears to be. Although one must approach all nature with caution as this land is blessed or cursed (depending on your perspective) with randy Moose and shy but predatory wolves roaming the forests. As beautiful and unique as all these animals are, each would rather not bump into a lost tourist. So these graceful animals can stay hidden even for the beadiest eyes of nature hunters.
I tried my best to not only experience as many activities as possible. From Snowmobiling to Dog Sledding but also I tried my best to understand the unique cities, towns and villages that cut through this region. Regular viewers of my YouTube Channel “The Wondering Englishman” will have witnessed many of these adventures unfold.
In my latest adventure, I found myself exploring the city of Jyväskylä. Architects and fans of design have become regular visitors to this city over the years as it's considered a showcase for the now past Finnish designer - Alvar Aalto. Alva Aalto is loved by the Fins for his unique designs with food and this city offers up plenty of opportunities to try to understand what makes him so cherished.
To get to Jyvaskyla I flew into Helsinki and then from there, I took a bus north. However, Jyvaskyla is a very well-connected city so it’s very easily accessed via Train also. To see what Train travel is like in Finland I’ll be showing that in a future video. So make sure you subscribe to gain access to that release.
The city's most famous architect didn’t think much of what I liked the most in Jyväskylä. I very much enjoyed walking up the Harju steps which are to the north of the city, built-in 1925 and considered by Alva Aalto to go nowhere. Maybe true in his time but in the 21st century, these steps lead to a very fine view of the surrounding forests, the city and Finland's deepest lake (a favourite place for locals to ice skate on during the winter months). And as long as you venture up these steps from Tuesday to Sunday you will be able to gain access to central Finlands Natural History Museum and the City’s observation tower - Vesilinna.
I think visitors to the city of Jyvaskyla should use it as a springboard to the many activities and sights that can be had on the outskirts of the city. The city can be blitzed in a day so can either be used to connect the dots of Finland or as a base to take in the surrounding Lakelands throughout the forever-changing months of the year. Jyväskylä is going to be very different in peak summer from what you see in peak winter. The long days where the sun barely sets with a vibrant free population that isn’t constrained will certainly be of a very different vibe to what I witnessed while Finland was suffering under draconian curfew measures imposed by its WEF-endorsed government.
While I was in Jyväskylä I stayed at the Solo Sokos Hotel PavilJonki - an incredibly comfortable room with all the amenities one could ask for including a fantastic breakfast that set me up for the day to explore the sights and sounds of Jyväskylä. Although Jyväskylä has many fine hotels and apartments to suit someone from all budgets.
Jyväskylä is best known amongst rally enthusiasts for hosting the Finnish stage of the world rally championships. When the petrolheads invade Jyväskylä in the summer months I’m told the dynamics of the town change dramatically. Not only do visitors encounter more roaring cars parked outside the numerous hotels where rally parties can go onto the early hours. The place comes to life further with music festivals in the surrounding areas.
My hope is visitors to Finland will discover Jyväskylä before it makes the news for other reasons. With the recent Ukraine conflict, It got me thinking that should the Fins ever enter a conflict with the Russians again - expect Jyväskylä to make its presence known on the world stage as it hosts the headquarters of the Finnish Air Force. Let’s hope that time never comes!
Before leaving Jyväskylä I found myself taking in the small island of Haapasaari just to the east of the city centre. On this island are some incredibly old saunas from the modern to the incredibly old. The Island even has a Sauna Monument on the top of the hill is that devoted to the Sauna. I found it an incredibly beautiful place to watch the sun go down and reflect on all I had seen lately. Post sunset I recommend eating at the only restaurant on the island called Savutuvan Apaja Oy. Here I was introduced to some relaxing Yoga which I have to say enabled my mind to drift and reflect. I hope I get to return to Jyväskylä in the summer months - if you do before I do - let me know how it was. I'm certain it will be enjoyable and worth anyone's time of day.
I am not sponsored by the Finland Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel. As always, videos can always be found on YouTube & Odysee. I use both as sadly YouTube is now censoring content whereas Odysee is for Free-Speech.
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Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman