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Best ways to experience fall foliage in Finland

3 minute read

Credits:: Julia Kivelä

Admiring fall colours is the northern version of hanami

Fall foliage, known as "ruska" in Finnish, is the process of leaves turning various shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. It is the northern equivalent of the famous Japanese hanami – here for only a brief second to remind us about seizing the moment.

Ruska colours in Rokua National Park.
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

When is the best fall foliage season in Finland?

On average, the peak fall foliage season in northern Finland lands on the second week of September and it lasts about ten days. However, this varies from year to year due to weather conditions. If it's sunny and warm, the leaves might stay in place longer – windy weather will do the opposite.  In southern parts of Finland, you will see ruska colours typically towards the end of September and early October. Ruska moves from the north to the south with the speed of 500 kilometers in just a couple of weeks. 

The fall foliage season typically starts in early September in Lapland.

Why do autumn leaves change colour?

Cold weather and decreasing natural light in the fall stop the process of photosynthesis in leafy trees, plants, and shrubs. The dissolving evergreen in their leaves results in the spectacular colors we see as "ruska". Maple trees and aspen turn into deep shades of red and orange. Rowans show off their multi-colored leaves and berries, whereas falling birch leaves give an impression of walking through golden rain.

Credits: Toni Panula

Best way to enjoy fall foliage is to go on a "ruskaretki"

Ruskaretki is a typical outdoors activity loved by many Finns and visitors alike. Basically, it means a trip or hike one takes in the city, forest, or fells to admire the stunning fall colors. It can last anywhere from two hours to two weeks depending on the enthusiasm of the hiker.

No matter where in Finland you go for a ruskaretki, look for open space that gives you the chance to see far. In addition to tree foliage, don't miss the foliage on the ground, especially in Lapland. Shrubs, which have been exposed to extreme weather conditions and lack of protection from tall trees, turn into a proverbial autumnal sea. It’s no wonder that Lapland's fells are a popular location to visit in the fall.

Oulanka National Park offers perfect autumn views for hikers.
Credits: : Julia Kivelä
Ruska season is a good reminder what life is all about: seizing the moment.
Credits:: Harri Tarvainen
Fall foliage on the ground is a unique sight in Lapland's fells.
Credits:: Harri Tarvainen

What to pack for a ruska hike?

In September, the temperature can go from +20 Celsius degrees during the daytime down to just +10 (or even minus degrees) during the night. Remember to pack enough layers to take off or add on. Water-proof shoes and a jacket are a must. If you're planning to stay longer, bring a tent for shelter should you run into a rain shower. For more information about hiking in Finland's national parks and necessary gear, go to Nationalparks.fi.

Taking breaks and enjoying snacks is what ruskaretkis are all about. Bring along a thermos filled with hot chocolate, juice, coffee, or tea. Sandwiches, fruits, and nuts are an easy way to get your energy up. You can also barbeque sausages or make a hot dog if you stop at a designated place to make a fire.

The stunning foliage is not the only wonder to look for – forests are full of mushrooms and berries, like bilberries and lingonberries, to pick. Bring along a small basket or a bag to make sure you don’t return home empty-handed. To be sure you are picking the right stuff, hire an experienced guide or take part in an organized tour – especially if you are picking mushrooms.

Read more about Finland's Everymans's rights to learn the dos and don'ts before your trip.

Lingonberries, abundant in Finnish forests in September and October, are high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E.

Best places to see fall foliage in Finland

In the autumn, ruska is everywhere in Finland from cities to parks. If you're looking for something a bit more special, below are a suggestions of great places to visit for autumnal views.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park offers breathtaking views, clean air, and impressive fall foliage for visitors to take in.
Credits: : Julia Kivelä
The old ironworks, like Strömfors and Fiskars, located in the Coast and Archipelago region, provide a magical backdrop for autumn visit.
Koli hill, located in Eastern Finland, is often described as Finland's national landscape, and has inspired Finnish artists over centuries. The hill and the natural park surrounding it attract nature-lovers throughout the year.
Credits:: Julia Kivelä