5 feel-good escapes in Finland

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From exploring the shores around Helsinki to unwinding on an herb farm, these five getaways will surely restore body and mind. 

Down-home foodie escape

Located in Mikkeli, two and a half hour’s drive from Helsinki, family-owned Tertti Manor is a popular stopover for summer vacationers and a leisure destination for city dwellers looking for a peaceful retreat – with the added delight of real food.  

Most of the vegetables, herbs, and berries in the summer buffet come from the gorgeous gardens surrounding the main building, a heritage site dating back to the 16th century, which now serves as a restaurant. The harvest is otherwise so ample that the manor has started its own product line, with an old stable serving as a shop selling jams, pickles, sweets, candles, and soaps. 

“We try to be as self-sufficient as possible. When we started, local production wasn’t a trendy thing – it was pure common sense for us,” explains Pepita Pylkkänen, who has been running the family business with her husband Matti Pylkkänen for 38 years.

While most guests pop by during the day, there is a small guesthouse for visitors wanting to extend their stay. Guests can also go hiking in the surrounding woods and lakelands, where mushrooming, wild herb foraging, and crayfishing can be arranged on request.

 tertinkartano.fi

Retreat from the rat race

Five years ago Mia Jokiniva and Mikko Harma noticed how the vicious cycle of stress and health issues was taking a serious toll on many people around them. 

 The couple realised it was their calling to do something about it. So in 2013 the couple opened their very own retreat, Villa Mandala, amidst the lush fields and forests near the southern Finnish town of Loviisa, an hour’s drive from Helsinki. 

Today, the centre operates year-round, offering wellness workshops to companies, yoga retreats, and Zensations stress-relief retreats. Offering a holistic fusion of useful information, restorative practices, and stress-busting nutrition, the retreats nourish both body and mind. The participants can also try less conventional methods of stress relief, from 12 hours spent in silence to soothing forest walks or bike treks across the fields.

Visitors leave the centre equipped with insights, tips, and exercises they can continue applying in their daily lives, the furrowed brows of the first day now smoothed into relaxed smiles and an energetic glow. Many return year after year. 

villamandala.fi

What’s SUP?

Stand-up paddle boarders have become a fairly common sight around Helsinki’s shores during the summer season. SUP lessons and tours are provided by TwentyKnots, a company founded by siblings Maria, Joel and Paul Mikkonen.  

 Among the most popular packages are the early-morning breakfast tours and midnight sessions around the coastline, but the team are happy to organise anything the customer might happen to request. 

 It can be scary to hop on the board for the first time, but anyone can SUP, regardless of age or level of fitness. After five minutes of practice the technique gets easier. And after picking up a good rhythm, there is something almost meditative about gliding through the water while admiring the views.

 For beginners looking to explore the beautiful islands around Helsinki, a three-hour Archipelago Experience is a great way to begin. The venture starts on Lauttasaari beach and takes around 30 minutes to reach Käärmeluoto island. After a short guided hike the group enjoys a picnic. The setting sun forms a beautiful backdrop – the serenest way imaginable to spend a summer night.

twentyknots.fi

Let off steam

Nestled amidst thick woodlands, the northern Finnish town of Kuusamo is best known for its buzzing ski resort Ruka. Recently, however, the town has made headlines as home to one of the country’s most curious wellness concept: the Sauna Tour. 

The concept was founded in 2013 by a group of local hospitality entrepreneurs who wanted to debunk some stereotypes and rethink this age-old wellbeing concept. A typical tour takes in three local saunas, but visitors can also take part in a more adventurous steam sampling tour that encompasses nine saunas in one day. 

This mindful form of sauna experience is a far cry from the traditional boozy after-ski sauna, with herbal tea, smoothies, and juices served instead of alcohol. After each sauna, patrons sample local delicacies prepared from wild herbs, mushrooms, fish, game, and berries. 

When all nine saunas have been tested, a hearty dinner rounds out the evening. Afterwards, the tranquil sensation and healthy glow lasts for days, if not weeks. 

wellbeinginwilderness.fi/en/saunatour

Thyme to unwind

Virpi Raipala-Cormier, a pioneer of organic living and owner of Frantsila herb farm, was making natural tea blends and herbal infused oils long before natural beauty care became fashionable. Her love of growing herbs, vegetables and grains took a new turn when she met her Canadian husband Jim Cormier. Together they turned the family farm into an organic herb centre. 

Little by little the couple started using herbs to make tinctures, salves, and other beauty products. Training and retreats are also offered at the Frantsila Wellbeing Centre, run by shiatsu therapist, vegetarian chef, and homeopath Aija Lento. More like a cosy country home than a fancy retreat, the centre is set up for guests to share communal areas and enjoy evening meals and meditation together.

The surrounding gardens and streamside are fun to explore by foot or bike. Guests are invited to take part in a perfume workshop where they can produce an all-natural scent to take home – a great way to bring back peace of mind once reality sets in. 

frantsilanhyvanolonkeskus.fi

Text and photos by Laura Iisalo and Amanda Soila

A longer version of this article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (May-June 2016).

Published May 13, 2016

Category: Local features

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