Utula Nature: A restorative nature retreat deep in the Finnish wilderness
By Lena Hunter | Photos: Utula Nature
Perched on the forested banks of Finland’s vast Lake Saimaa is a restorative retreat unlike any other. Hosted in remote lodgings couched in stunning Nordic wilderness, Utula Nature’s flexible programme of wellness activities for body and mind is a rare opportunity for a total reset.
“Our retreat experience is created to slow you down and give you space to reflect, by bringing you to the present moment and reconnecting you to your body,” says Utula Nature’s founder Maiju Vohlonen. A yin yoga teacher, Nature Therapy guide and Logotherapy Instructor, Vohlonen has considerable experience in therapeutic practices.
At Utula Nature, she and her partner, yoga and breathwork instructor Paolo Zambeze, curate and deliver an all-inclusive weekly programme, suitable for all levels, of mindful movement, yin yoga, restful meditation, reflective writing and sharing. The pair are warm hosts, while the comfortable lodgings and natural beauty of the forest and lakeside are irresistibly recuperative.
Tailor your experience
The woodland haven in Ruokolahti hosts a maximum of ten guests at once, to ensure it retains its sense of space. Silence is integrated into the concept of the retreat, with silent lodgings, breakfasts and ‘Mindful Mondays’, in which guests are invited to experience a whole day of silence.
“Cutting down on stimuli is a powerful way to bring your focus into yourself, hear your own thoughts, and to feel your feelings and body. Once you’re in silence, you realise how liberating the right not to engage is – to not have to ‘be’ for each other,” explains Vohlonen. Those yearning for a deeper experience can also take part in a digital detox and leave their devices in the care of the hosts for the duration of their stay.
Every aspect of the retreat can be tailored. It can be made fully silent, for example, and the duration can be adapted from three days to three weeks, as preferred. “You’re welcome just as you are. All the group activities are optional. Although we share the physical spaces, classes and maybe even our experiences in a sharing circle, Utula is more of an individual journey. That’s one reason why silence is essential. You can also come here simply to enjoy downtime, Finnish nature and soulful, nourishing food in a supported and relaxed environment,” says the couple.
Cocooned in nature
The retreat’s nearest city, Imatra, is less than three hours by train from Helsinki Airport, and there is plenty of Finnish nature to soak up on the journey. With the 2023 retreat season running from 16 May until 17 September, nights by the lakeside are likely to be long and light. “We have a yoga tent on a private beach, wooden buildings, hammocks, a forest shower and a wood-lit sauna. The way here leads you down beautiful forest roads, and the last three kilometres is a dirt road that leads deep into the forest, before suddenly opening onto a 180-degree panoramic view of Lake Saimaa,” says Zambeze. “It’s a very impactful transition. It feels like you’re crossing a threshold into a cocoon.”
But despite nesting in the heart of one of Finland’s most storied archipelagos and comprising harmonious, Nordic-inspired architecture, the essence of Utula Nature is cross-cultural. “I’m Finnish, but Paolo is half-Maltese, half-British, and we operate in Finnish and English,” says Vohlonen. “There’s a warmth and sensuality to Utula. There’s tasty food, gentle saunas, the beauty of the wilderness… It’s a space to return to your senses. I’ve been coming to this beach since I was a child, and I always knew it was special. Here, you really feel nurtured by nature.”
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