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Monochrome Majesty: Koli National Park’s Beauty Revealed in Black and White

I’ve had a deep appreciation for Finland for many years. This century-old country is full of surprises and mysteries. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind for a holiday, look at the pictures of Koli National Park, and you’ll change your mind.

Finland offers a different kind of holiday experience, far from the typical beach vacation with sun and cocktails. If mentioning Monty Python and the song “Finland, Finland, Finland” makes you hesitant, think again. I’ve written several articles expressing my love for this serene and frozen land, proving there’s more to it than just Santa Claus and saunas.

I've had a deep appreciation for Finland for many years. This century-old country is full of surprises and mysteries. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind for a holiday, look at the pictures of Koli National Park, and you'll change your mind.

Early in January 2023, I visited another fantastic place in Finland: Koli National Park. Known for being where Sibelius composed Finlandia and Järnefelt created some masterpieces, Koli remains a wonderful destination in Northern Europe. An excellent nature spot, perfect for every season.

There’s a mystery, a secret in Koli. It has been a holy place for centuries. Once you arrive, you’ll instantly feel the grace of the forest, the rocks, and the rivers.

Imagine a place in North Karelia, not far from the Russian Border, surrounded by thousands of pine trees and birches. Tucked next to two large hills overlooking Lake Pielinen, one of Finland’s biggest lakes, this is the hidden gem I visited.

Koli National Park boasts its own beauty and poetry in every season. Winter brings ice to Lake Pielinen, forming the longest ice bridge in Europe. Spring transforms the park with vibrant colors from blooming flowers. Summer offers the magic of light and the midnight sun. Experience “Ruska” in autumn when leaves turn red, yellow, and orange. And I need to go there in another season to see how gorgeous Koli is when it’s not covered in snow as it was on my trip.

Koli isn’t just a National Park; it’s a group of villages with numerous activities, a social scene, and a vibrant cultural life. Artists still come here for inspiration and creation. Throughout the year, enjoy various exhibitions and gigs in the area.

Photographing Koli National Park in analog black and white

While organizing my trip to Finland, I decided to document it with one of my analog cameras. The Lomo LC-A+ was chosen based on its ISO control and small size. The camera’s small size was perfect for the snow-shoeing hiking trip I did to the top of Koli. I couldn’t do this with a larger camera.

Since I expected the trip to be a bit darker since I knew that winter in Finland is not known for sunny days, I chose a few black and white films to bring. The one I used in Koli National Park was the Rollei Retro 400S.

Rollei Retro 400S is a black and white film produced by Rollei, a German company known for its photographic products and tradition. The Rollei Retro 400S film is acknowledged for its high-speed sensitivity, typically rated at ISO 400. It is a panchromatic film, which means it is sensitive to the visible spectrum of light. This film is often admired for its fine grain structure, sharpness, and contrast, making it suitable for various photographic applications.

Photographers who use Rollei Retro 400S often appreciate its versatility, making it suitable for different lighting conditions and photographic styles. Its characteristics make it well-suited for street photography, portraits, and other situations where a black and white film with a moderate speed and good contrast is desired.

I used this film before and knew it would respond well to being pushed to ISO 800. I tried to do this, but since I never took pictures of that much snow and in such cold temperatures, I was really open to different results. But, I love the photos I took in Koli since they feel vintage in an “Age of Discovery” way, and I loved it.

Where to stay in Koli National Park

If you’re wondering where to stay in Koli National Park or how to get there, don’t worry. The options are as diverse as the changing seasons of this picturesque landscape. But I have to advise you to stay at Sokos Hotel Koli.

Tucked away in the heart of Koli National Park, Sokos Hotel Koli is your go-to spot for a comfortable stay near the incredible peaks of Koli. The view from this place to Pielinen is basically never-ending, and the sky feels absurdly close. Seriously, the view from my balcony was amazing.

And here’s the fun part – if you’re into some action, the tricky slopes of Ukko-Koli are right there, like, straight from the hotel. This is how I ended up doing a snow-shoeing hike. Imagine throwing your ski boots in your room and hitting the slopes right from your front door! Or toss on your hiking kicks and explore the hiking routes from the hotel yard.

Book your stay in Koli National Park at Sokos Hotel Koli!

Sokos Hotel Koli isn’t just a place to crash in Koli National Park; it’s your ticket to a laid-back escape where nature mixes perfectly with your stay.

I've had a deep appreciation for Finland for many years. This century-old country is full of surprises and mysteries. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind for a holiday, look at the pictures of Koli National Park, and you'll change your mind.

How to get to Koli National Park

Pack your backpack, catch a plane to Joensuu (the closest city to Koli), and discover this extraordinary place without overthinking it! This is what I did, coming straight from Helsinki. Joensuu is well-connected by air, making your journey seamless.

From Joensuu, a scenic drive takes you to Koli National Park, allowing you to soak in the captivating landscapes before reaching your destination. Whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast, a culture seeker, or someone yearning for tranquility, Koli National Park promises an enchanting retreat that transcends the ordinary.

Koli National Park’s Beauty Revealed in Black and White

Ylä-kolintie 38, 83960
Lieksa, Finland


Frame Travel Roam Capture traveled to Koli National Park on a tour of North Karelia organized by Visit Karelia. And I loved every minute of it.

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani

Felipe Tofani is a passionate designer with a penchant for crafting unique experiences and a mixed taste in music. As the curator behind this blog's explorations, he takes pride in discovering fascinating destinations. Whether unearthing hidden gems or sharing captivating historical narratives, Felipe is the creative force driving the stories you find here. Join him on a journey of design, discovery, and the delightful rhythm of unconventional tunes.View Author posts