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Lake Pielinen and Koli Hills, North Karelia

Lake Pielinen is the sixth largest lake in Finland. It is a many-faced lake in the raw, with miles of beautiful sandy beaches but also barren and rocky stretches of shore. The registration of Lake Pielinen as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site is currently pending.

The Koli Hills are located on the shore of Lake Pielinen. They are remains of once several kilometre high mountains which were formed two billion years ago. The hard quartzite bedrock, among the oldest in the world, has withstood Ice Age erosion and frost shattering better than their surroundings to survive today as the Koli Hills. The peak of Koli (347m) is formed of two contrasting sides; Ukkokoli and Pahakoli offer panoramic views over Lake Pielinen, while Akkakoli over green forests.

Koli is a national park and hub for outdoor activities. There is an abundance of bird species. A large number of arctic aquatic birds, e.g. geese and swans, migrate annually across Lake Pielinen. Mammals regularly sighted in the park are elk, beaver, pine marten and lynx. Bears and wolves occasionally move through the area. The flying squirrel inhabits old mixed woods.

In ancient times Koli was considered a place where the gods lived. It was a site of worship and sacrifices. The highest peaks, Ukkokoli and Akkakoli owe their names to gods of the old.

When Finnish nationality was a big hit back in late 19th century, foremost culture people visited Koli to be inspired from the magnificent views and unspoilt and mythic Finnish nature. Koli provided the landscape for the Kalevala epic.