Another feature of this blog series will be a look into the outdoor possibilities of the region, with specific attention to its four main national parks.
With this in mind a group of friends and I headed to the Teijo National Park near the city of Salo for some fun mountain biking. Two of the guys I hit the trails with, Andy and Marlon, were seasoned trail riders who have been living in Finland for a number of years, whilst the third, James, was a complete newbie, both to Finland and to mountain biking. So whether you are a keen rider or a bit of a novice, this will give you a good run down of what to expect from the trails of Teijo.
Where to stay
We arrived early at our cottage apartment in the delightful Kirjakkalan Ruukkikylä, a little holiday village on the edge of lake Hamarinjärvi in the north of the national park. This is the place to stay if you’re there for mountain biking (more on why in a minute). Along with the village of Teijo a few kilometres to the southwest and Mathilda a bit further in the same direction, Kirjakkala is one of the three villages that serve as a base for exploring the national park (see the map). There are plenty of B&B’s as well as cottages to rent, and most of the services are uniformly signposted with the national park’s green and gold signs, but it’s worth making a few calls and asking around as some of the quainter places to stay might not be so well advertised.
Matilda for hikers!
One big tip for mountain bikers is not to bother going to the trails that circle lake Matildanjärvi. We did this on the first day, as it seemed to promise more possibility with a greater network of marked trails. However, we soon discovered these were much more suited to hikers as numerous boardwalks over marshes disrupted our flow and where the trails were rideable any rain will make the difficulty level too great for all but the most experienced rider.
Of course, if you are mixing it up this is definitely the place to put on the boots and get lost in the wilderness – just remember to have litres of mosquito-repellent with you, the little buggers are really aggressive!
For hiking, I recommend doing a loop of the lake so that you can stop in Mathildedal for a drink or some lunch. As well as a couple of nice restaurants around the marina down the hill, Kyläravintola Terho is a perfect little pub that has a great selection of beers and ales to quench your hiker’s thirst.
The best trails are in the north
So, using Kirjakkalan Ruukkikylä as your starting point (and remembering to ask the lovely owners, Eva and Risto, for help if you’re having trouble), you head south along the Santanokantie road, between lake Hamarinjärvi to the east and the small lake Likojävri to west. You have to hunt a little for the trail that comes off this access road and heads up to the top of a hill. Then when you reach some pylons at the top of the hill you need to look for a (very poorly) marked trail to the right (see the picture for how easy this is to miss).
Once you have found this point you’re onto some really good trails, mostly downhill with a pretty good flow, particularly if you’ve got some sweet kit under you rather than the wooden renters I was on.
For our resident experts, Marlon and Andy, they had a blast and said they are definitely coming back. It’s worth remembering that for beginners these trails are pretty technical as they aren’t being ridden regularly or having local riders smooth them out.
Having said this, I’m pretty average but even I managed to keep up speed and on a dryer day it would have been really good! You could easily double back to hit these going the other way as we found ourselves going up and down a couple of valleys.
Things to remember
I recommend you watch for future blogs where I will follow up with more mountain biking and other activities to do in the national parks, but here I’ll mention a few other things you can enjoy from the Teijo National Park.
The legal term ‘Everyman’s Right’ in Finland means that you can pretty much hike and bike anywhere! Also, around the areas of civilisation they have a vast network of hiking trails which, in many cases, double as great mountain bike trails.
As well as hiking and mountain biking, road racers will enjoy the smooth and undulating roads that traverse the park, as well as bikers of of the leather-clad variety!
You can access the park via boat by mooring up at Mathildedal marina, where, by the looks of it, you can also do some wind-surfing.
Other water-sports include fishing, canoeing and swimming.
With all the camping spots and lean-to shelters they have here (and all across Finland for that matter) it’s a great idea to head out for a few days rather than simply renting for the day.
As well as being picturesque, Teijo is rich in cultural history, with the ironworks villages being an attraction as a break from your more physical exertions.
Finally, stop by the Meri-Teijo action centre and ask for the super-smily Tapani! He rents bikes and for the crazier ones amongst you, the super-fast downhill cars and bike trails offer great variety!
N.B. This blog is sponsored by VisitTurku