Finnish national parks still draw crowds after pandemic peaks – Eye on the Arctic

Perämeri National Park in Lapland. (Mina Aula / Yle)

Take a look at what continues to draw thousands of people to remote and pristine natural areas across the country.

In the first two years of the Covid pandemic, 2020 and 2021, Finland’s national parks and other natural sites have become extremely popular domestic travel destinations, but it seems that other attractions are increasingly competing for the attention of people.

Although official summer visitor numbers are not yet available, the parks have seen a slowdown in traffic, according to Pirkko Siikamakiregional director of the national forest management agency, Metsähallitus.

The drop in visitor numbers may have something to do with the fact that many people have trip abroad this summer for the holidays.

“Last year, natural sites were more popular than ever. It’s quieter now, although there are still a lot of visitors,” said Siikamäki.

However, interest in national parks had increased even before the Covid pandemic, Siikamäki noted, so their popularity is expected to remain high.

In 2021, the agency noted that the number of novice hikers, mountain bikers and young people visiting outdoor destinations had long been increasing, along with an increase in the number of families camping with children. The number of overnight stays in national parks has also increased steadily.

Kolovesi National Park in the Savo South region. (Juha-Pekka Inkinen/Yle)

Several parks have recently added parking spaces, including Oulanka and Riisitunturi National Parks. Many destinations have also upgraded their trails to accommodate more visitors.

Siikamäki said the renovations serve customers and improve safety, while ensuring the sites remain unchanged despite increased visitor numbers.

2020 pandemic-induced visitor boom

According to Metsähallitus, Finnish national parks welcomed more than four million visitors in 2020, an increase of 23% compared to the previous year.

The parks were so popular in 2020 that cars lined up to enter Oulanka National Park in Kuusamo. The year saw the number of visitors to the park increase by more than 45,000 compared to 2019.

Syöte de Pudasjärvi National Park in northern Ostrobothnia also saw one of the biggest increases in visitors in 2020, surpassing the 100,000 mark by a significant margin. The number of visitors increased by 35,000 compared to 2019.

Repovesi National Park in Kouvola and Mäntyharju. (Kari Saastamoinen/Yle)

Repovesi National Park in Kouvola and Mäntyharju also saw a sharp increase in visitor numbers in January 2020. It recorded up to eight times more visitors than the previous year, almost 6,500, compared to around 800 in 2019.

A total of 230,000 people visited the park in 2020.

Most popular Pallas-Yllästunturi in 2021

Visits to national parks again exceeded four million in 2021. Compared to the previous year, visits to national parks only increased by 2%, but still 25% more visitors compared to 2019 .

Linnansaari National Park in the Finnish Lake District. (Petri Aaltonen / Yle)

The most popular destination overall was Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in Western Lapland, which attracted nearly 700,000 people in 2021. Urho Kekkonen National Park, also in Lapland, was the second most visited .

Meanwhile, Nuuksio National Park in the municipalities of Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti near Helsinki came third.

“Last year showed that first-time visitors came to stay in national parks,” Henrik Janssondirector of Parks & Wildlife Finland in Metsähallitus, said of the park’s 2021 visitor numbers at the time.

Nuuksio National Park in southern Finland. (Benjamin Suomela / Yle)

The north attracts the most visitors

Growth in visitor numbers in 2021 has not been uniform across Finland, however, with parks in the Northeast region and Lapland seeing the biggest increases.

For example, Repovesi National Park in Kouvola, southern Finland, saw almost 60,000 fewer visitors than the previous year, down from 173,000 to 230,000.

The agency said visits to northern parks had increased thanks to an overall increase in domestic tourism and remote working.

Although visitor numbers to the southern parks declined from 2020 to 2021, numbers were still higher than in pre-pandemic years.

Lapland still popular in 2021

According to Metsähallitus, the number of visitors increased not only in northeastern Finland but also in Lapland in 2021.

In northeastern Finland, Oulanka National Park attracted the fifth highest number of hikers in the country, with over 253,000 visitors. Syöte was the second most popular park in northeastern Finland, with almost 118,000 visitors.

Of all the national parks in Northern Ostrobothnia, Rokua saw the biggest increase, with visitor numbers tripling to 63,000 from the previous year.

Riisitunturi National Park in Posio, Finnish Lapland, saw a third more visitors than the previous year.

Oulu’s Sanginjoki, a large nature reserve, attracted 73,000 visitors in 2021.

Although Lapland’s national parks saw the highest increase in visitors in 2021 and 2022, Perämeri National Park only attracted 6,000 visitors in 2021.

Metsähallitus has been monitoring visitor numbers in national parks since 2001 using visitor counters installed in the field.

Online services for nature travelers were also used more than the previous year. The number of individual users of the toiseen palveluun) the service grew by 49% to reach 3.2 million users.