Finland is your oyster whenever you want to test and explore snowy winter outdoor activities. Before jumping into the unknown without any experience, the best way to get started is to find a comfortable base where to stay overnight and take outdoorsy day trips to the nearby areas. Unfortunately, too often travellers looking for a winter outdoor trip to Finland think there’s only Lapland, and that’s it. To expand the options, at the end of January Daniel and I spent a weekend in Pori, a seaside city on the South-West Coast of Finland, testing the winter outdoor activities Pori can offer.
Our warm and comfy base for the weekend was Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna Pori, a historic hotel located next to the market square, right in the heart of the town.
The purpose of the weekend was to find out what kind of winter outdoor activities can travellers find in Pori, Finland. Pori is far away from Lapland, so the question is; are there any?
Spoiler: Keep on reading, as at the end of the post you’ll find out how you can win a stay in any of the fifty Sokos Hotels in Finland, Estonia and Russia!
Are there any reasons to take a winter trip to Pori, Finland?
I started exploring the outdoorsy activities in Pori area a couple of weeks before the trip to be able to pick the most interesting ones and schedule our weekend accordingly. Even if I have lived near Pori for almost all my life, I was surprised to find so many options that one short weekend simply wasn’t enough.
Trekking, snowshoeing, cross-country, skiing, snowboarding… A traveller looking for winter outdoor activities in Pori doesn’t need to do much else than pick the favourite kind and step out of the door.
Hotel Vaakuna is a convenient base also for travellers without a car, thanks to its central location. Almost all local buses stop at the market square which makes it easy to spend a day further from the city centre (where the best outdoor activities are).
Let’s have a closer look at different winter outdoor activities in Pori, Finland:
Porin metsä – Forest in the middle of the city
You’ve probably heard Finland is a real treasure chest for nature lovers. It’s no exaggeration; how many places do you know where it’s possible to go in the woods in the middle of a city? Well, it is in Pori.
Porin metsä (Pori Forest) is a vast forest full of trails that are suitable for running, jogging, trekking and even cross-country skiing. We were a bit unlucky with the weather as the rain had melted almost all snow in the town centre just before our outdoorsy weekend. Nevertheless, you could still do cross-country skiing in Pori Forest. The skiing tracks are maintained with snow cannons, so as long as the temperature stays around or below zero, you can experience this typical Finnish activity in the middle of Pori (Pori Forest on map).
We didn’t want to do cross-country skiing but trekking, and for that, Pori Forest offers a wide selection of easy trails. You can choose between well-maintained running and biking trails or narrow footpaths that are crisscrossing the forest. We took first a broader trail to Katinkuru shooting track and continued further along smaller footpaths.
During our 10-kilometre trek, we got to experience three out of four seasons; winter, summer and autumn. Near the starting point people were skiing while at the southern end of the forest, the mossy ground was glossing green. Couldn’t find any mushrooms though (if I said I wasn’t looking, I would lie).
Living less than 50 km away I consider myself as a local, and yet Pori Forest managed to surprise me. I had no idea I could spot signs of war in a forest in the middle of the city. Wooden duckboards lead hikers to grassy banks that were built to protect warplanes during the Continuation War.
Another delightful surprise was the ascetic but adorable outdoor gym close to the starting point of the trails. I just couldn’t resist the weights made of bars and wheels even if they were a tad too heavy for my biceps (that someone might call strings). To compensate the bitter disappointment, after our outdoorsy day I took a rematch with a bit more modern equipment at the hotel gym.
I can tell that sauna and dinner both tasted pretty darn good later in the evening after 10 km of trekking and two gym sessions.
Outdoorsy things to see and do in Meri-Pori
On our second outdoorsy day, we headed to Meri-Pori. The rough translation of the area would be “Seaside Pori” that tells you all you need to know; it’s located by the sea. Our first stop was Yyteri, which is famous for its long beaches and sand dunes that are extremely rare in Finland. Although in January you won’t be using the dunes for tanning but for sledging down the snowy slopes.
Even if there wasn’t almost at all snow in the city centre, by the sea a white blanket covered the ground. We walked along the white beach for a while and then aimed to a cape called Herrainpäivät and its nature reserve. Here you can find a short circular trail called Herrainpäivät Nature Trail with sea views and a campfire spot. The trail is only 1.5 km long, so it was the perfect length for our tightly-scheduled day.
Even if our visit was fairly brief, you could easily spend the whole day in Yyteri – even in winter. There are plenty of easy trails in Yyteri with solid duckboards and bird towers for admiring the snowy views (Yyteri on map).
After leaving Yyteri, we drove to a small island called Reposaari to where I was drawn by a wartime fortress hiding in the woods. I was so enchanted by Reposaari that I already wrote a whole post about the island with photos from the fortress and an amazing restaurant recommendation.
Even if Meri-Pori is located quite far away from the centre of Pori, you don’t necessarily need a car to get there. You can catch a bus from the centre to both seaside destinations, Yyteri and Reposaari.
Other fun winter activities in Pori, Finland
I wanted to share a few extra tips for winter outdoor activities in Pori, even if we didn’t have time for all of them.
An evening walk or ice-skating in Kirjurinluoto
This winter, Kirjurinluoto got an ice-skating track that’s open to everyone. There’s also a campfire place where you can barbeque some sausage or marshmallows, whatever tickles your fancy. As someone practising night photography, I also have to mention that on an evening walk in Kirjurinluoto, you can take lovely pictures of the Pori centre with its atmospheric lights.
Downhill skiing or snowboarding in Ruosniemi
Would you have guessed that Southern Pori has a ski centre? Even if I’ve lived nearby since I was born, I discovered Ruosniemi Ski Centre only about 10 years ago. Ruosniemi has three slopes and ski lifts, a street with boxes and rails, a slope for sledging, cross-country tracks and places for a campfire, of course.
Of course, compared to the slopes in Lapland, Ruosniemi is just a tiny mound, but I want to tell you there’s something unique with the place. It’s not only the first place ever I’ve managed to lure my British boyfriend on a slope, but the whole ski centre is run by volunteers and parents of local children who are competing in alpine skiing. The hill might be small, but many top skiers have started their careers here.
The small slopes are compensated by very affordable ticket prices and the fact that by purchasing one, you’re supporting vital local work.
Thirsty for more? Explore other outdoor activities in Satakunta region.
This photo of Ruosniemi Ski Centre is taken by my friend and a fellow blogger Johanna.
Sunday Brunch – What a perfect way to end an outdoorsy winter getaway in Pori
I seriously suck at eating breakfast, but if I were able to get up each morning and sit down at a ready-set breakfast table, I would most likely change my habits. There are a few specialities regarding the breakfast in Hotel Vaakuna – and the hotel itself – that aren’t too common in Finland. And I’m not talking only about the local treats like sea-buckthorn, groat sausage and hand-made pastries but the fact that on Sundays and public holidays, the breakfast turns into brunch and is available until 1 pm.
In case the lords of weather aren’t treating you too well, there’s no reason to panic. You can start the morning by sweating at gym and sauna and then enjoy a delicious brunch with some sparkling wine on the side. Doesn’t sound too bad, huh?
You can purchase some local specialities and fresh bread to go from this cute little shop that is open during the breakfast.
How about the other specialities that I mentioned above? Well, not many hotel guests know that Hotel Vaakuna is standing on the exact same spot where one of the most famous Finnish painters ever lived, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, was born in 1865. This is also where the hotel street, Gallen-Kallela Street, inherited its name. When you’re having breakfast, pay attention to the end wall of the restaurant cabinet; the decorative fresco is called ‘Cornucopia’, and it was painted by Gallen-Kallela’s apprentice Bruno Tuukkanen in 1939.
Win a night for two in any of the 50 Sokos Hotels in Finland, Estonia and Russia!
As promised, Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna Pori donated a gift card that entitles for one night stay for two people in any of the Sokos Hotels in Finland, Estonia and Russia. And any of you, my friends, could be the lucky owner of this gift card.
Breakfast is of course included in the stay. In Break Sokos Hotel Eden (Oulu, Finland) and Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge (St. Petersburg, Russia) also spa is included. The gift card is valid until the end of August 2018.
You can win this gift card either by
1 – Leaving a comment where you tell in which Sokos Hotel you’d like to stay. If you do this, I’d also love to hear would you consider an outdoorsy weekend in Pori based on this post.
2 – Clicking this link and joining the Dream Stream, an exclusive letter where I share my best tips and ideas for adventurous and affordable travels in Europe and beyond. Please note that after filling up the form, you’ll receive a confirmation link to your email. Remember to check your junk mail if it’s missing, as only the confirmed addresses will be added to the Dream Stream.
Make sure to leave your comment or join the Dream Stream by Sunday the 18th of February 4 pm GMT (6 pm Finnish time). As always, if you’ve already joined the Dream Stream, you’re automatically in – what a great reason to join and stay in the inner circle, right?
Good luck, pal!
Next week I’ll be sharing a bit different story about winter outdoor activities in Finland; I’m going to tell you how it was to sleep in a tent in -15 degrees. Stay tuned!