Tree huggers’ top picks for nature destinations and events in Levi

3 minute read

Credits: HaliPuu

Riitta and Steffan are the Finnish-Dutch couple behind the tree hugging world championship. Here are the summer events and nature destinations they go to.

Steffan Wunderink and Riitta Raekallio-Wunderink run Halipuu, a family-owned outdoor company based in Levi, Finnish Lapland. The Tree Hugging World Championships they organize has garnered attention from people all around the world.

The two met in the Netherlands and, after many years of living in central Europe, decided to move to Lapland in 2006. "I brought this souvenir with me," Riitta laughs while pointing to Steffan. Riitta was born and raised in the village they now call home along with their two teenage children.

As insiders in the local cultural community and with strong connections to the surrounding wilderness, Riitta and Steffan are eager to share their top picks for cultural events and nature destinations. 

Credits: Olli Autonen

The Silence Festival in Kaukonen in early June

The Silence Festival brings together a captivating array of performances and artists from Finland and beyond to Lapland. Located in the quaint village of Kaukonen 38 kilometres south from Levi, this multidisciplinary annual festival offers a unique blend of art, culture, and natural beauty.  

Taking place in the early days of June, visitors to the festival might have – if lucky – the rare opportunity to witness what Riitta describes as the ‘spring explosion.’ During this brief period, nature in Lapland comes to life in a matter of just a few days, with trees bursting with new leaves and flowers blooming in a blast of vibrant green.  

Credits : Vilma Lehtonen
Credits: Jussi Hellsten

The Solekko Fest in Köngäs in August

The Solekko Fest is an up-and-coming music festival located in the small village of Köngäs, just 10 kilometres north of Levi. "Solekko" is a local expression meaning "just do it," which conveys the hands-on, experimental spirit of this emerging festival. 

Solekko is all about a laid-back lifestyle. As Steffan puts it, "People of all ages dancing to all styles of music." The festival is a bit more underground and promises an unforgettable experience for all who attend. Even though information is currently limited to Finnish, the event welcomes an international crowd with open arms. 

This community-organized event is a good example of how, in the summer, everyone turns outward and connects. "The summer with the never-ending light brings this surge of energy: you can see it in nature but also in how people connect with each other," says Riitta. 

Credits: Visit Levi

Tree Hugging World Championships in Levi in August

An annual highlight for the couple is the Tree Hugging World Championships they organize themselves. "It's a competition, but everyone is a winner: It's simply lovely to hug trees," says Riitta. The competition consists of three parts: speed hugging, dedication, and freestyle, and the winner is determined based on their performance in all three categories. 

"Really, the main goal is to raise awareness of the well-being benefits of spending time in nature," says Riitta. "We invite people to have a bit of fun and not take things too seriously," adds Steffan. 

Participants in this unique event are in for a real treat. Not only can they pick juicy berries from the ground, but they will also be able to savour exceptional coffee made by Steffan, also known as the campfire barista. Using only the freshest well water and locally roasted organic coffee beans, Steffan creates delicious, award-winning coffee over an open fire. To add to the fun, Riitta will be whipping up mouth-watering marshmallows made with the very same berries foraged during the event. 


Credits : Harri Tarvainen
Ready to embrace nature like never before? Get ready for the Tree Hugging World Championships held every year in Levi.
Credits: Eat Shoot Drive
Steffan, the campfire barista, brews award-winning coffee over an open fire for the perfect cup.
Credits: Harri Tarvainen

Halipuu’s picks for nature destinations near Levi

"For me, the summer in Lapland is about being with nature and enjoying the light that changes throughout the day. The sun makes a full circle in the sky; it's like the whole universe is turning around you with a hue of reddish orange in the evening and yellow and bright in the morning," describes Riitta. 

Riitta and Steffan recommend visiting vast Pallas-Ylläs National Park, which is spread across multiple municipalities and is one of many national parks in Finland

"One of my favourite places is Ruoppaköngäs. It has spectacular rock formations next to a deep, clear lake and is easily accessible, making it a great spot for a picnic," says Riitta. 

"And from Levi, you can get to Kätkätunturi, a fell that is within a 10-minute walk from the centre of Levi. It has beautiful nature, and you don't need a car to get there; it's right there," concludes Steffan.

For more top things to do in Levi in the summer, have a look at this article. 

“In the summer, the sun makes a full circle in the sky; it's like the whole universe is turning around you.”
Credits : Visit Levi
Credits: Visit Levi

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