By Katie Ford
Today I was in Helsinki, Finland, but I only saw the city through the windows of a car. This is super unusual for me because I almost always recommend seeing the city itself before you head outside of it to do other activities. I think that this happens to be the exception, with no disrespect to Helsinki, which I’m sure is a lovely city. When traveling, it’s very important to understand the place that you’re visiting, and figuring out what’s important to that place. In Helsinki, and all over Finland, it’s nature. Outdoor sports rule the land, so what better way to see the country than from a kayak in the fjords? Make sure to check out favorite local activities while you’re traveling so that you have the opportunity to truly experience the places that you travel to!
My adventure in Helsinki:
I opted to do a guided kayaking tour of the Finnish Fjords because I knew of the beautiful nature that Finland has to offer, and thought that it would be a once in a lifetime experience. I’m so glad that I was right. We started the day by being driven from the port of Helsinki to where the kayaks were located, and we were then “suited up”. Our suits included a life vest and splash skirt (a tarp-like skirt which wraps around the seat hole of the kayak to prevent water from getting inside, very handy!). Our guide mentioned that he also had waterproof jackets available for us, but we didn’t need them because the weather was so beautiful! I brought a camera with me, and was determined to take photos even though it was recommended that I leave it behind, so I stuffed that into a ziplock bag to prevent water damage and stuck in my life jacket’s pocket. It worked out great, and I got some really beautiful photos! After we suited up, we were again driven to the place where we would actually launch (it was more sheltered than our first stop, and therefore less windy).
We got into our kayaks with our guide’s help, and we pushed off. We spent a good few hours out on the water kayaking between beautiful islands, and saw some gorgeous birds that I hadn’t seen before, as well as some I had, like baby seagulls and an entire swan family. We stopped for lunch on a beautiful island (which conveniently also had a lean-to and toilet facilities) to have a picnic lunch. Our guide had brought sandwiches, and we hiked to the top of the mountain to eat them (I use the term mountain loosely, as the highest point in the Helsinki area is only about 20 m, and that’s where we were). After we finished lunch, our guide shared with us some juice from a Finnish “super fruit” Sea Buckthorn so that we would get to try it. It was extremely bitter, but with the same amount of vitamin C in one berry that’s in an entire orange, I’d say I could get on board with drinking it! After we finished lunch, we got back in our kayaks and headed back towards the direction of our launch point. It was a bit windy on our way back which meant some waves that didn’t seem so friendly, but our guide was fantastic with helping us navigate them, and we all arrived back safely. He collected our e-mail addresses to e-mail the photos that he’d taken, and then delivered us back to the port.
As is probably obvious from the story I just told, I absolutely loved our guide. He was so knowledgeable not only about kayaking, but also a bit about Finnish history, and he was really great about sharing some tidbits about Finnish culture. He and his father own the company that took us out on this tour, and their business offers all kinds of kayaking services. We had a chat on our way back to shore about visiting Helsinki, and I think that the guide really hit the nail on the head when he said that the best way to see Helsinki is to experience the nature surrounding it. Kayaking through the Finnish fjords was one of the most unique traveling experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad that I decided to try it. If you’re in Helsinki, I would most definitely recommend going out on a kayaking tour, you certainly won’t regret it!
Company website: www.naturaviva.fi
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