The 3 Secret Underworlds of Finland

Finland, Cemetery, ChurchesAnne Samela5 Comments
 All images in the article are from Anne's husband and amazing photographer: Markus Salmela

All images in the article are from Anne's husband and amazing photographer: Markus Salmela

1. Pakasaivo – Sámi Underworld

In Northern Finland there is a place known as The Hell of Lapland – Pakasaivo. In old Sámi beliefs, saivos were thought to be the home to the deceased. 

Creepy Lake

A saivo was believed to exist beyond a hole at the bottom of a lake, with another identical lake upside down, and the deceased saivo-people, would live on the shores of the upside down lake. Like a parallel universe.

Creepy Cliff

The site is around 25 km from Äkäslompolo village. It is easiest to reach by car, although hiking there is possible, if you don’t mind a long walk. Take the road 940 from Äkäslompolo to the Kolari direction and turn to Pakasaivontie. The dirt road then continues around 10 km until you reach Pakasaivo. Pakasaivo is actually a gorge lake, surrounded by steep cliffs and is some 60 meters deep. There has been debate about the lake’s real depth – as they’ve been unable to fully prove how deep the lake actually is.

This is made even creepier, when you consider the old Sámi beliefs regarding the Underworld.

Pakasaivo is a meromictic lake, which means that is has layers of water that don’t intermix. Water is normal until 12 meters, then turning quickly low on oxygen, as the levels of hydrogen sulfide rise. The high levels prevent decomposition.

As a result, whatever was ever thrown into the lake, still remains unchanged – tree trunks, items from hundreds of years ago, maybe even bodies, who knows?

creepy cliff

The water is dark. My husband is normally an eager swimmer, but this time he doesn’t feel like going in. We sit on a top of a cliff with meters of free-fall under us. Shrieking birds add to the eerie feeling of the place. I understand why it was such a holy site of worship and sacrifice for the Sámi people – there’s something so mysterious about Pakasaivo.

What’s in the lake, remains a mystery. Will we ever know? Is there another world on the other side? Are they sitting on the other side, wondering the same things?

2. Kruunuvuori Ghost Town

Creepy Village

In Eastern Helsinki there is a hill that once thrived with summer houses and villas. The residents of the hill enjoyed short but beautiful Finnish summers. These days, those warm and joyful summers are nothing but a distant memory.

The idyllic villas now rot, swallowed by the depths of the forest. The place is Kruunuvuori Ghost Town.

Kruunuvuori is located in an island in Laajasalo, which is around 15 km from the city centre of Helinski. The beach cliffs offer a nice view of the city, probably one of the reasons it used to be such a popular holiday town.

Creepy Bridge

It was a warm afternoon when arrived in Kruunuvuori. Despite the pleasant weather, the place was empty. We were able to explore the area alone, the best way to explore a ghost town. We explored small cottages the once beautiful and dignified villas, and some structures so collapsed and decayed it was hard to tell exactly what they once were.

Creepy Town

For some reason, it’s hard to say why, the villas were abandoned years and years ago and now nature is reclaiming what belongs to it.


Flora spreads through collapsed buildings. Roofs collapsing, floors sinking in, these once grand structures are now ghosts of themselves. Some of them are still in quite a good shape, while others are nothing but a pile of rotting wood. They’ve been serving only as a shelters for wild animals, homeless and occasional young partiers.

Creepy Town

I can’t help but wonder, why were these obviously amazing structures of architecture left here alone? Why were they abandoned in the first place?

Kruunuvuori Ghost Town has been a popular recreational area for urban exploration* for years, sadly it won’t be for much longer. Bulldozers are coming to tear away the skeletons of these grand old buildings.  It’s a real shame that these gems of urban exploration will be lost. If you have the chance, go soon.

3. A Church and Cemetery of 9400 Bodies

petajavesi church

Petäjävesi Old Church is located in Central Finland, it’s one of seven Unesco World Heritage Sites in the country. I’m very interested in seeing different Unesco sites, so Petäjävesi church has been on my “bucket list” for a long time. The church was built in 18th century and is a typical example of eastern Scandinavia’s unique architectural traditions – the church is quite a spectacular view and is very well preserved. The church itself was only in use until 1879, but the cemetery in the churchyard continued in use until 1921. It’s still occasionally used for burials to family graves.

Creepy Graves

During the Finnish famine of 1866 to 1868, known as “the great hunger years”, about 15% of the entire population of Finland died. Extremely rainy summers, harsh winters and late springs resulted in poor harvests, and eventually, deaths.

The total death toll was around 270,000 in only three years.

During the famine, the number of deaths in Petäjävesi exceeded 200, whereas on average 40 to 60 people died per year. Between the years of 1729 and 2009, approximately 9400 bodies have been buried in the churchyard. The cemetery is quite small, resulting in many of the graves have been used more than once.

Creepy Fence

Burial methods in the old days didn’t differ from the present day that much. After a person had passed, the body was washed and dressed at home. Each village had certain people, usually women, who would wash the bodies.  The deceased then waited for burial in granary, then the body would have been transported by land in a horse drawn carriage with a black gelding, or by boat. Petäjävesi Old Church is located by a lake, so water was a convenient choice. The bodies would be blessed by a priest and until 1950’s it was common for family members to fill the grave.

Creepy Church

Petäjävesi Old Church is an interesting piece of history, both in architectural and religious aspects, depending on your cup of tea. We visited during bright daylight; but the old wooden church and its cemetery with nearly ancient tomb stones offer an excellent environment for excursions after dark too. There’s an entrance fee of 6 euros if you wish to see the church from the inside; but note, that it’s only open during summertime. The yard can be explored outside normal opening hours.

*Urban exploration is getting more and more popular and the etiquette is to keep the sites as secrets; but Kruunuvuori being already widely known, it’s OK to share.


Anne is a world traveler, (Asia, Europe and America) dog owner, and metalhead from Finland. Her and her husband have been traveling the world for years. While traveling, she maintains a pretty amazing travel blog called: Metallia Matkassa: metal alternative travel for couples. You will need to translate the page if you do not speak Finnish HERE. NOT joking, this person is amazing and we are so happy to have members from all over the world, just as creepy as us!

INSTAGRAM: @metalliamatkassa


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