Dancing with the stars in Kaavi

An astronomical observatory has been constructed on the roof of a nearly 200-year-old cow shed, and this years-long project has now been completed. Now, those of us interested in the dark, polar lights and space have an opportunity to observe the wonders of the starry sky. The man behind this project is Olli Reijonen and his company Syrjävaara Goodnight Oy - Finland’s first dark-sky preserve and astronomy park.


Pictures: Olli Reijonen/ Syrjävaara Goodnight Oy


The darkest place in Finland?

As indicated by its name, Syrjävaara (literally means “remote tree-covered hill”) is located on top of a remote hill. There are no larger settlements anywhere near, which means that there is hardly any light pollution coming to the area. From the top of the Syrjävaara hill opens a “dark pathway” towards the Arctic Ocean, you may even be able to spot the polar lights of the north low on the horizon on a clear night. The conditions here are ideal for observing the night sky - the other nearest places like this are found only closer to the Finnish-Russian border and in northernmost Lapland. It is probably worth mentioning that it is darker in Syrjävaara than in many ski resorts in Lapland, whose artificial lighting produces light pollution that covers extensive areas.


Light pollution is increasing by 2%

Large cities have so much light pollution that many residents may never have laid their eyes on an actual starry sky. The amount of light is increasing at the rate of 2 per cent per year as a result of the development of led lights. As life on earth is based on the variation between night and day, the lack of darkness disturbs all living things and creatures. We should protect the dark sky in the same way as we protect nature and the climate.

Syrjävaara covers an area of 14 hectares, which also includes a private nature reserve. There are plans to organize “star excursions” in this area, including nature trails where people get to experience real darkness. The park also has special lean-tos facing the north, and vantage points with telescopes and cameras pointed at the dork sky. Visitors are guided by an expert in astronomy. On a clear night, you can take photos of polar lights and distant galaxies.



Light pollution has swallowed up most of central and southern Europe. For more information, see: https://www.lightpollutionmap.info


Respecting nature and cultural tradition

Accommodation will be constructed in an old cow shed dating back to the 1700s, and a genuine timber cabin will also be moved to the area. Customers can bathe in an authentic smoke sauna built based on a 1800s model, by candlelight, of course. If necessary, larger groups will be provided with additional accommodation at the nearby Syrjävaara school. From late autumn to April, which is the optimal time for observing the dark, the local accommodation businesses and cottages have free capacity. Mass tourism is not planned for this area - high quality and individual service is deemed more important than quantity.

Currently, Syrjävaara Goodnight Oy has a FB page and the company’s website will be published in spring 2021. The service products designed for the company include a visit to an exhibition compiled in the “science park” in the culturally historical landscape, star excursions for small groups, including accommodation in a B&B, and training for photography and astronomy enthusiasts.



Find beauty in darkness

Reijonen’s long-term goal is to raise awareness of the importance of darkness and on how all of us can influence the amount of light pollution with our own actions. It would be good to have more dark sky preserves in Finland; Syrjävaara has the honour of being the first of its kind.

The concept developed by Olli Reijonen brings together tourism that follows the principles of sustainable development, and the preservation of nature, darkness and the cultural environment. It is a trip into the past and the future. We are kind of in the middle of nowhere - and yet in the middle of everything. After this visit, you will see darkness with brand new eyes.


Pictures: Olli Reijonen/ Syrjävaara Goodnight Oy



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