Nature’s own remedies
The surroundings of the River Teno are far removed from hectic urban lifestyles. In the far north, a traveller can find true peace and tranquillity. Here, it’s quiet everywhere until you learn to listen. Then you can hear the wind sighing, streams tinkling and gurgling, and birds singing.
The cold air crackles, snow crunches underfoot, and tree branches rustle in the snowy forest. If you allow yourself time to relax and unwind, you may sense nature enveloping you. It guides your thoughts far away. It strokes your head and heals your mind. And it charges you with new energy, as if sensing that is what you need.
‘Sometimes we need a counterbalance to the pressures of our hectic lives. Here, we call it fell therapy,’ explains Marjatta Holmberg, smiling.
Relaxing by an open fire
Travellers who come from bigger cities in particular are in search of the kind of peace and quiet that is hard to find in bustling holiday and ski centres. In recent years, the slow living theme has rapidly gained traction in the travel market. This is confirmed by study results indicating that people want to find time for themselves amid their busy schedules and are now seeking breaks far from the madding crowd. Having noticed this growing trend, travel businesses are on the lookout for such locations.
‘Fell therapy is all about relaxation, staring at the flames and enjoying the moment. The wide open spaces you find here have a soothing effect. They transport your thoughts away from your everyday problems, giving your mind a much-needed break,’ explains Holmberg.
Solitude and tranquillity on the fells
In Utsjoki, where the Sámi are in the majority, slow travel holidays are still mainly targeted at international visitors during the winter months, but Finns living in cities are also increasingly interested in taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday living. Smaller holiday centres do not have large numbers of guests at the same time. When visitors go out to the fells, they are unlikely to bump into other people. For many tourists on a winter break, this is exactly what they are looking for.
Natural beauty and tranquillity are also offered by Holiday Village Valle in the village of Utsjoki. During the dark winter months, solitude is guaranteed for those who want it. In Utsjoki, this has been turned into a resource.
‘We offer visitors something we have in abundance: peace and quiet. Here, our guests can relax and wind down,’ explains Petteri Valle, one of the family business owners.
In the Valle family’s brand new holiday village, the slow down theme is complemented by the magnificent natural setting, which has a powerful effect on visitors, even when glimpsed from the window of a hotel room or the resort’s restaurant. Here, visitors are surrounded by fells that stretch as far as the eye can see. With their very existence, they send the signal that here, time slows down. On the slopes of the fells, everything happens at its own pace.
Activities and slow living
The activities offered by Holiday Village Valle are in harmony with the ideals of slow living and the surrounding Sámi culture. When the locals want to relax, they go ice-fishing or hiking on the fells. These activities are also offered to visitors, and can be led by an instructor if the customer so wishes. Another option is to go snowshoeing in the forest, a pastime that is popular among Sámi people when they want to blow the cobwebs away.
Established in Nuorgam three years ago, Alma Arktika, which specialises in programme services, has never used the slow travel theme in its marketing.
While the company’s focus is on offering activities to visitors, almost a third of its customers are looking to slow down during their holiday. To begin with, this trend took the company’s owner Reetta Koski by surprise.
‘I’d try to tempt the guests to go fishing or hiking on the fells to offer them stimuli and new experiences, only to be told by many of them that they didn’t want to take part in any activities. The cottage and the hot tub were enough. And they spent their time here knitting, reading papers and just relaxing,’ Koski explains, laughing.
Older German tourists and, perhaps more surprisingly, young couples who prefer to pass on the opportunity to participate in any activities, number among the company’s unexpectedly high number of slow travel customers. This has spurred the owner to consider integrating slow living elements into their programme services.
TEXT BY TUURE NEITOLA