Recharge your batteries with nature therapy in Finnish Lapland
Wilderness guide and professional storyteller Raija Palosaari spreads her love of the rugged north by walking and talking.
Raija (Raiski) Palosaari was never meant to become an entrepreneur. Heck, she wasn’t even supposed to live anywhere near Lapland! Born in Savonlinna in Eastern Finland, she was well on her way towards a very urban lifestyle when she began her studies in Helsinki. Destiny, however, had different plans. Her studies eventually brought her to Kittilä, a small town in Finnish Lapland, where a local boy swept her off her proverbial feet. “Let’s not get too sappy here,” she thought, as they headed into the local wetlands in search of cloudberries. Knee-deep in the swamp, Palosaari heard her future husband yell: “Would you like to be with me?” To which she responded, naturally, “What… now?” A simple answer to a simple question led to a happy marriage, two daughters, and an expanding mini-business empire.
Lapin Luontoelämys, the company owned and operated by Palosaari in the town of Levi, a holiday destination some 1,000 kilometres north of Helsinki, was established in 1997. The small business took off after Palosaari started hosting family and friends on treks in the fells and mountains of Lapland. After a while, Palosaari noticed an increase in the number of women travelling solo. These visitors weren’t into dog sleds, Ski-Doos, or reindeer rides. What these women wanted was the peace and quiet offered by the spellbinding nature of the north (and maybe a quality linen robe at the end of the trip)!
When Palosaari first started her company, British and Dutch visitors were just beginning to discover Lapland, and she found they were looking for something more than a noisy motor vehicle adventure. “So I offered exactly that: I gave them time in the wild, on their own terms, yet in well-maintained conditions,” reminisces Palosaari.
The concept caught on like wildfire: Year-round she takes groups deep into the fells, pushes their kayaks into the river, and tells them stories she would tell her children – while keeping them safe, of course.
Today, with an international team of professional guides working with her, Palosaari still walks the talk. Having just returned from a strenuous three-week stint in the wild with clients, Palosaari heads straight back to where she belongs with her husband: the heart of the fells.
“It’s time for me to recharge my batteries in the crisp mountain air.”
Text Elena Sulin
Photos Hannes Repo and Visit Levi