For a taste of the wildest Finland, transport yourself to Ähtäri Zoo for a simply unforgettable trip. This remote place is located right in the middle of Finland, and it’s a natural haven where people live very close to nature in between vast forests and beautiful lakes.
(My awesome group that I went to Ähtäri Zoo with as a part of NBEFinland 2018.)
While you’re in Ähtäri, you can also pay a visit to the incredible Ähtäri Zoo and find out why it is such a popular visitor attraction for locals in Finland as well as tourists from abroad.
Finding your way to Ähtäri Zoo
To find your way to this magical and fascinating zoo, catch a train heading up north from Helsinki Central Railway Station. The destination you’re after is Seinäjoki, and once you arrive there, you can find a connection to Ähtäri.
Taking the train system through Finland is a wonderful way to see more of the Finnish countryside all from the comfort of a train carriage.
Where should you stay once you get to Ähtäri?
Based on my own stay, I would have to say check in to Hotel Mesikämmen. It’s an architecturally unique hotel designed by the famous Finnish architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen.
A part of the hotel has been carved right out of the surrounding bedrock, and you can see and touch natural rock through three floors of this comfortable and striking hotel.
Go for a nature walk in the woods
Once you’re in the peace and quiet of Ähtäri, take yourself outside to truly surround yourself with nature and silence. If there is a clear night sky you’re in luck, as you might be able to spot the flickering lights of the aurora borealis if you’re lucky.
Try some Nordic Skiing
You’ll have to try out a bit of Nordic skiing too, with endless ski tracks to enjoy around the local lakes.
Flow Park at Ähtäri Zoo
Test your courage and take a climb to the top of the ecological adventure park Flowpark – right next to Ähtäri Zoo.
Adventure trails have been built right onto living trees without damaging them at all. It’s really a thrilling day out, and filled with natural wonder too.
Try snowpanda sumo wrestling
You cannot find a funnier attraction than the snowpanda sumo wrestling arena, ready for goofy competitors nearby. Whether you give it a go or not – that’s your own choice. Super fun even to watch, but I would highly recommend getting involved.
Head towards Reindeer Park Valkeisen Loma
A slice of Lappish atmosphere in the middle of Finland can be found at Reindeer Park Valkeisen Loma. This local family who moved here from Lapland will teach you the ways of the reindeer.
You can feed them by hand and can even go on a sledge ride.
Take a guided walk in the woods, and hear stories about Finnish nature and their close-to-nature way of living in the middle of vast green forests.
You get to know a small herd of reindeers by names. They’re so adorable and each have their own personality.
Finish up with a coffee break snuggled by a campfire next to an authentic Lappish teepee. We had homemade cinnamon buns as well – delicious.
Go for a sauna at Hyvölä Estate
Hyvölä Estate is one of the oldest family estates in Ähtäri, and features the stunning Hyvölä House as its crown jewel. Situated in traditional Finnish countryside surroundings right next to a lake, your wonderful host takes you around all sorts of traditional Finnish activities including ice fishing in the lake.
After that, it’s time for a guided Finnish smoke sauna experience at Hyvölä Estate. This essential Finnish tradition sometimes end up in a swim in the icy lake… if you’re brave enough.
The hot tub is also a Winter hit amongst guests after a refreshing ice dip.
Be sure to cook your catch from Ice Fishing over a cosy fire in the smoke hut, perfect way to end your Sauna time.
Meet farm animals at the Zoo Farm Experience
The Zoo Farm Experience shows you exactly what it was like to be a farm keeper back in the day.
We’ll get to know the friendly animals of the Zoo Farm, such as goats, hens, horses, Sheep and pigs – and feed them by hand under the eye of the farm keepers.
You can even give the Finnish sport of Hobby horse ago for those daring enough.
Treat yourself to the Zoo Experience
The Ähtäri Zoo has over 50 different species from all over the Northern Hemisphere and the Scandinavian forest zone.
The zoo keepers have plenty to tell you about the animals and conservation work to protect endangered species, which is an important part of any zoo truly doing its bit to protect nature.
The highlight of Ähtäri Zoo – the Snowpanda House
You absolutely have to go to the Snowpanda House to see these adorable but majestic creatures in their wonderful habitat here at the zoo. There are also plenty of opportunities here to learn more of the international program for giant panda conservation. The first and only panda couple at a Nordic zoo arrived to their new home in Ähtäri in January 2018. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see them yet as they were in quarantine at the time.
The Snowpanda House is accessible from the 17th of February.
Kuortane Olympic Training Center
To switch up the animal experiences with some adventure, head to the Kuortane Olympic Training Centre for winter outdoor activities and a thrilling experience of Cryo thermal therapy, where you spend 3 minutes in -110 C temperature.
This advanced therapy is widely used to relieve muscle pain, sprains and swelling and to improve your sleep. Find out how Olympic athletes train and recover, it’s fascinating.
Thank you for reading
Thank you for reading this article about Ähtäri Zoo and all the fun activities you can get up to on your next visit. Don’t forget to find a local frozen lake in the winter to take a fat bike or walk across on snow shoes. So much to do in this region.