Lakes, nature, national parks, Jyväskylä city atmosphere and harbour, events at Himos, tranquillity, camping and once again the lakes. Those were the words I listed in my mind before I left in August 2022 to experience for myself what the accessible Jyväskylä Region has to offer me as a user of an electric wheelchair.
This article was written by Sanna Kalmari, the author of Palmuasema, Finland’s most popular blog on accessible travelling. This article has been accomplished in commercial cooperation with Visit Jyväskylä Region.
I have been to Jyväskylä before. I have toured the lake, partied once at the Suomipop festival and stopped to rest there on the way from the north to my home in the south. Keuruu and Multia, on the other hand, have become dear to me already many summers on cabin trips. I still knew to expect that the accessible Jyväskylä Region would offer much more, and certainly even more than what I had time to see in four days. And so it did! Our trip took me and my assistant Salla first from Espoo to Laukaa, from there to Jyväskylä, then to Jämsä and finally to Joutsa to Leivonmäki National Park. In this article, I will share my experiences of activities and gastronomic delights in the Jyväskylä Region. You can find my experience with hotels in separate articles, which are linked at the end of this article.
Arrival in the Jyväskylä Region
I travelled from my home in Espoo to the Jyväskylä Region in my own accessible car, which made it possible for me to move easily from one place to another. Jyväskylä can also be reached accessibly with a direct train connection from at least Helsinki, Tampere, Pieksämäki, Kuopio and Seinäjoki (a commuter train runs from Seinäjoki, which may have size restrictions for aids). Accessible OnniBus MEGAs run to the Jyväskylä Region from several directions, and depending on the line, they can take you at least to Jyväskylä, but some also to, for example, Joutsa and Jämsä. According to the website of the Jyväskylä local transport Linkki, traveling with a wheelchair is possible on almost all green buses used in the city traffic. However, the buses used vary on different lines, so traveling by bus does not sound completely reliable. However, I have no personal experience with this. Having your own car or using an accessible taxi is essential when moving around, especially between smaller localities. There are several wheelchair accessible taxis in the Jyväskylä Region. In the centre of Jyväskylä and the harbour area, as well as in the centres of other localities, it is easy to get from one place to another on foot or with assistive devices.
Accessible experiences in the Jyväskylä Region
The activities on our trip were selected according to my wishes and the summer weather. For this reason the proximity of water and nature and good food were emphasized in the programme. However, the Jyväskylä Region also offers a lot of culture, for example, and a well-rounded spread of different events. You can read more about the region’s opportunities on the website of Visit Jyväskylä Region. The tourist office in the area helps you with questions related to accessibility. The website of the tourist office also has detailed information about the accessibility of the tourist information offices if you want to visit them on site.
Spa hotel Peurunka
Peurunka is a spa and hotel surrounded by beautiful nature in Laukaa. The distance from the Jyväskylä centre to Peurunka is about 30 kilometres. In addition to the spa and hotel, Peurunka has several restaurants, versatile rehabilitation and wellness services, and various activities, most of which are also suitable for people who need accessibility. Peurunka is a popular rehabilitation place among people who need accessibility and one of the most famous accessible destinations in the Jyväskylä Region. However, Peurunka does not have the atmosphere of a rehabilitation centre at all, but is a genuinely cosy and versatile wellness centre, which is also excellent for accessible vacations. The hotel has several accessible rooms and the facilities as a whole are very accessible. This time we only visited the spa where you can buy an entrance ticket even of you not staying in the Peurunka hotel.
The spa has its own entrance and there are accessible parking spaces in front of the door. The doors open automatically. There is also an accessible entrance to the spa inside the hotel. There are separate accessible changing rooms for women and men, located on the entrance floor, near the service desk. These are not private changing rooms, but for the use of everyone who needs accessibility. At the time of our visit, it was quiet and there was no one else in the changing room. The women’s changing room had a wide, height-adjustable plinth for dressing, low and lockable cabinets and a spacious accessible toilet. In addition, the changing room had a portable lifting device, a rollator, a toilet seat riser and two different lendable shower wheelchairs. One was normal size, the other had a narrow seat and was also suitable for children. From the changing room there is access to the common shower room. Both the changing room entrance door and the shower room door open electrically with a button. The showers located closest to the changing room, include a shower seat that folds out of the wall and hand showers. The traditional sauna and steam room can be found in connection with the shower facilities. The infrared sauna is located in the pool area and is open to everyone. All saunas also have plenty of space for shower wheelchairs and the heat also reaches the floor level.
The heart of the cosy pool area is a 100-metre-long river pool. There is a strong current is on a couple of times a day (13:00-14:00 and 16:00-18:00), which makes swimming downstream very easy. At the time of our visit, there happened to be a current and I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to stay upright, but I actually managed very well, because on a weekday afternoon the pool was almost empty of people and the current was so steady. There is a chair lift in the river pool and the swimming pool supervisor used it expertly. The water temperature in the river pool is around +30° C. There is also a chair lift for the small pampering/therapy pool, where the water temperature is around 32 degrees. It was wonderful just to soak there, but you could also choose the water gymnastics of your choice from the screen. next to the pool. The pool also has massaging showers that you can turn on. The spa also has jacuzzis, a cold pool, children’s pools and water slides, one of which is the longest in the Nordic countries at 130 metres. The spa’s services and prices can be found on the Peurunka website. The assistant can accompany the assisted person free of charge.
Cruise on the M/S Satu ship from Jyväskylä harbour to Päijänne
M/S Satu is a 12.5-metre-long and 2-metre-wide vessel, whose operations are run by Ketään ei jätetä rannalle, Jyväskylä association. We went on M/S Satu’s Juurikkasaari cruise, which took place every Thursday during the summer. The ship departs from the Jyväskylä harbour in the near vicinity of the parking area and the harbour cafe. However, we agreed that we would board the ship a little further, near the new restaurant Sataman Viilu, where the ship could be brought more on the same level with the pier. When it comes to ships, I’m always a little sceptical beforehand as to whether I’ll get on board for sure, but I got onto M/S Satu perfectly. They had a separate wooden ramp (the gangway in the language of the ships) through which I could easily and smoothly enter on board. It stayed in place very well because it had a small groove that attached to the sill on the inside of the ship. There was a rather sharp turn in the interior of the ship towards the small rear deck, but my electric wheelchair was just able to make the turn. I was told that mostly manual wheelchair users have been on cruises in the past. It is a good idea, however, to make sure that the dimensions are sufficient for your assistive device, especially if the device is longer than average.
The trip to Juurikkasaari took about an hour and a quarter each way. We spent approximately 30 minutes in the destination In total, the cruise lasted about three hours. The crew of M/S Satu was really friendly and competent. The captain told us a little about the history of the lake district and during the trip you could buy soft drinks and ice cream. We enjoyed the trips on the back deck, which I couldn’t completely fit in, but having the rear tires inside didn’t spoil the atmosphere. The water gushed, the sun sparkled and we were surrounded by beauty everywhere! The summer 2022 cruise season has come to an end, but it is worth keeping an eye on the next summer’s selection. M/S Satu with its captain can also be rented for private use until the end of September. It is a really nice way to enjoy yourself and at the same time support the activities of an association run by volunteers. If you use a mobility aid, you should contact M/S Satu in advance.
The beautiful Juurikkasaari is a full-service party and event venue in a truly beautiful location. There is a lunch buffet on weekdays, a beach bar and grill on the beach, you can rent SUP boards on the island and a tent sauna is heated on summer Wednesdays. Many private events are also organized in Juurikkasaari’s Juhlatalo (banquet hall) and Pavilion. Juurikkasaari is located in Säynätsalo and can be reached by boat or car. We came abroad M/S Satu. By boat, the trip from the Jyväskylä harbour took about an hour, by car one could swish down in about 20 minutes from the centre of Jyväskylä.
The marina was challenging in terms of accessibility. I managed to get out well of the ship along the same wooden gangway as in the Jyväskylä harbour. However, a few metres’ section of the pier was hampered by a couple of high thresholds and raised cross boards, over which it was really difficult pass. The crew of M/S Satu helped and used the gangway as a ramp by always moving it in front of me and in this way I got through. The area after the pier is flat, with soft sand in places. The banquet hall can be accessed via a ramp, but it is a bit steep, and the Finnish Heritage Agency has not allowed a longer one to make it gentler. However, the short, steep slope of the entrance door will be softened. There are no high thresholds inside and there is an accessible toilet. We had an enjoyable and tasty lunch buffet in Juurikkasaari, even though there wasn’t much time. The banquet hall is really atmospheric and I would love to organise any party there! Maybe next summer there will also be an opportunity to enjoy the atmosphere and delicacies of the beach bar and beach grill.
We got to join Aki from the Lucky Fish after traveling 60 kilometres south from Jyväskylä to Jämsä. Lucky Fish specializes in fishing and boat trips, which Aki offers to various groups, from private individuals to stag/hen parties. Aki has trained as a water-based rehabilitation instructor for special groups and also has experience with the special needs of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities. Lucky Fish’s boat is not wheelchair accessible, so we met at Hulkkio harbour and fished from the pier. There are currently no services at Hulkkio Harbour, which is of course a bad thing, but on the other hand it was wonderfully peaceful there. We had a couple of hours of fishing time with the sunrays playing on the surface of the lake and the wonderful warmth. We used light worm-fishing rods, which suited our unhurried moment very well. Aki was really knowledgeable and you could ask him anything related to fishing. To my great joy I caught a fish for once, but it was so small that I let it free to continue swimming under the surface of the water. Fishing is really very relaxing!
Accessible trail in the Leivonmäki National Park
There are four national parks in the Jyväskylä Region. One of them is the Leivonmäki National Park located in Joutsa, which also offers the opportunity for accessible hiking and enjoyment of nature. Located in the national park, Harjujärvi’s challenging accessible trail is 700 meters in one direction, and at its starting point there is an accessible cooking shelter, a campfire site and a dry toilet. We extended the trail by leaving the car at the Kirveslampi parking area, from where, according to the sign, it was about 400 meters to Harjujärvi, where the accessible trail begins. That trail is a flat sandy road, but there are a few steep hills on the way, which is why that section cannot be called accessible. The hills were not a problem for my electric wheelchair. Persons with physical disabilities can also drive the car to the Harjujärvi cooking shelter, where the accessible trail starts. There is a barrier on the way, but the code needed to unlock it can be obtained
from Forestry Board’s customer service. I was just able to fit past the barrier with my electric wheelchair, but the barrier is actually an iron chain, which my assistant was able to raise enough so that I could also get under it. More information on the Finnish Forestry Board’s website.
Harjujärvi cooking shelter is located in a wonderful place by the lake. The cooking shelter is completely accessible and it is easy to get close to the fire place. In front of the cooking shelter there is also a separate campfire site, which is easy to access. The yard is even, and there is an accessible, wooden viewing platform on the shore. There we enjoyed the wonderful picnic lunches we got from the Countryside Hotel Morva. There is also a spacious accessible dry toilet in the yard, which was clean and tidy. A gentle slope leads to the dry toilet and the dry toilet has support rails that fold out of the wall on both sides of the toilet seat. There were campers in the yard and this spot is also excellent for barrier-free camping.
The accessible route starts directly from the Harjujärvi cooking shelter and is 700 metres in one direction. The road is even and sandy most of the way. On the way, there are some hills with a longitudinal gradient of more than 8%, which makes the trail a demanding barrier-free trail. However, the hills are not very steep. The last part of the trail is made of transverse duckboards. The trail ends on a platform with wonderful views of the Lake Turasenlampi. There is a bench on the platform where you can sit and enjoy the scenery for a longer time. All in all, the trail is really beautiful and varied in its scenery, and it didn’t bother me at all to travel on it back and forth.. We arrived at Leivonmäki National Park from Countryside Hotel Morva in Jämsä, which was 69 kilometres away. The distance from Jyväskylä adds up to little less than that. The national park is located near the E4 road and it’s easy to stop by on your way to other adventures or home.
Accessible restaurants in the Jyväskylä Region
There are of course a lot of restaurants in the Jyväskylä Region and many of them are accessible. The challenge of a four-day trip is that you don’t have time to eat all the time, so you don’t have time to experience everything. However, we left home from our trip very well fed. Below are my recommendations! You can find more restaurants and cafés on the website of Visit Jyväskylä Region. Accessibility can also be used as a criterion in the search. I’m pretty sure that there are still many more accessible restaurants than what the search gives as a result, but the businesses just haven’t published their accessibility information. Let’s hope that this will improve in the future.
Café & Restaurant Vesilinna, Jyväskylä
The panoramic restaurant Vesilinna is located on top of Harju ridge, above the roofs of Jyväskylä. The same place where Harju’s evening song is played every evening at 20:00 in the summer time. Harju’s evening song is called ‘Laulu Synnyinseudulle’ and it is composed by Aulis Raitala and the lyrics are made by Martti Korpilahte. The evening song played on the trumpet has echoed every summer evening from the top of Harju’s Vesilinna since 1976, so it definitely an essential part of a summer vacation in Jyväskylä. Our visit to Café & Restaurant Vesilinna fell on a beautiful summer evening, so we went there with my electric wheelchair/on foot, a distance of about one kilometre from our hotel in the centre of Jyväskylä. The final part of the route was a steep climb. The route should be chosen carefully, because the shortest route would have included the city’s famous Nero’s steps. You can also get to Vesilinna by car, which is of course a more accessible option. You can get to the top of the tower by lift. You should check the dimensions of the lift if you are going to arrive with a very long aid. My electric wheelchair, which is about 120 cm long, fitted in. Downstairs is the Natural History Museum, which also has barrier-free access.
I had my friend Katri as my dinner companion. The food at Vesilinna was really good and the delicacies in the cafe’s display case were very inviting. So, you can go to Vesilinna to enjoy the café’s delicacies, buffet lunches or the Á la Carte menu. The experience is crowned by the wonderful views that open in every direction, which are definitely worth delighted in also at sunset. There is also barrier-free access to the large outdoor terrace and the restaurant has a barrier-free toilet. The service we received was excellent.
Verso Bar & Kitchen
Verso Bar & Kitchen is located in the centre of Jyväskylä on Kauppakatu, in connection with Hotel Verso. The interior of the restaurant is really stylish and cosy and completely accessible. The food is made from pure ingredients and captivating flavor combinations. On top of everything one gets excellent service. Social media influencer Jasmine Repo joined me for dinner and we had a really great evening. We enjoyed the current seasonal menu: chanterelle soup for starters, pike perch with early potatoes for main course and seasonal berries with strawberry sorbet and marsala for dessert. The menu changes according to the season, so that the selection is always fresh. At Verso Bar & Kitchen, the elegance can be seen in all the details and it extends to the accessible toilet.
I stayed overnight at Hotel Verso and also enjoyed breakfast there, which was really high-quality and varied. At hotel breakfasts, I especially appreciate scrambled eggs fried to order and fresh Karelian pies, and I got both of them at Verso’s breakfast restaurant Silmu. You can also visit Verso Bar & Kitchen just for drinks. In summer, the barrier-free terrace can also be used.
Bistro Nemo, Peurunka, Laukaa
At Bistro Nemo, located in the Peurunka spa, we enjoyed lunch before spending the afternoon in the warmth of the spa. The bistro and café located in the lobby of the spa offers café products, ice-cream and refreshments, but also delicious burger meals, pizzas and our choices: Fish & Chips and sausage fries. Filling, unhealthy and absolutely delicious. Salads are also available if you want something lighter. The portions are served quickly and eating at Bistro Nemo is uncomplicated for the whole family. A limited selection of dishes and refreshments can also be ordered from the spa. Accessibility is at an excellent level and accessible toilets are nearby.
Café and Restaurant Elonen, Jämsä
There are several Elonen cafes and restaurants in the Jyväskylä Region. We had our lunch in Jämsä, at a cafe-restaurant right in the centre of Jämsä. Elonen is well-known for their bakery products, of which there also was a brimming display case in Jämsä. However, from Monday to Saturday there is also a delicious lunch buffet, which seemed to be very popular. The food, the cafe’s delicacies and atmosphere were completely convincing in the Elonen in Jämsä, but some improvements could be done in terms of accessibility. The door threshold was quite large and the toilet marked as an accessible toilet did not meet accessibility standards. The toilet was so small that I couldn’t fit in it, and there were no support rails in it. I have no experience with Elonen’s other café-restaurants.
Accessible Jyväskylä Region & accommodation options
There are several accessible hotels in Jyväskylä, of which I sampled this time Hotelli Verso and Greenstar Hotel Jyväskylä. In addition, I spent a day in the small Countryside Hotel Morva in Jämsä, which was something completely different from the city hotels.
The article was written by Sanna Kalmari, the author of Palmuasema, Finland’s most popular blog on accessible travelling. This article has been accomplished in commercial cooperation with Visit Jyväskylä Region.