Finnish Lapland, that's where people moan on a sunny August day at 23 degrees Celsius: "Phew, it's hot today!".
This is not normal, the temperatures here rarely crack the 20-degree mark even in high summer. And although it hasn't rained for almost a week, the landscape is wonderfully green. In general: around us a vastness that has become rare in Europe. Lakes and forests – and silence.
Sounds like a dream destination for those who find it too crowded, too hot or too noisy in the south? Are the regions Salla and Ruka/Kuusamo in Lapland Finland definitely.
Where is Lapland? Lapland, Finland's northernmost region, borders Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea. Sparsely populated and known for its subarctic wilderness, natural phenomena such as the midnight sun and the northern lights, and winter sports. But also between spring and autumn Finnish Lapland is an unforgettable destination.
Lapland Finland: Sights and highlights
Here are the ten most beautiful experiences in Lapland Finland, which are possible all year round, at a glance.
#1 With reindeer on du and Du
No, they can not fly. But pretty brisk walking, apparently also likes to walk on asphalt. Which is why you are often only allowed to drive 80 km/h outside built-up areas, despite the fact that the roads are deserted. This is very practical, so you can watch the beautiful wild animals as they pass by.
Even better, of course, in the reindeer park Salla. There lives a herd of about 60 animals, which can even be fed and stroked. The guided tours take place daily.
#2 Original Finnish smoke sauna
Toss the infusion? The Finns laugh about it, it's all folklore. Here, first of all, everyone is allowed to pour water on themselves, and secondly, to pour water on themselves – in the sauna. Or to clap off with wet birch twigs. Yes, it is allowed to muddy what the stuff holds. Before that, many stones are heated in the smoke sauna over six hours, often with a fire of birch wood. When the smoke has cleared, the sauna begins – as often and as long as anyone likes. Afterwards, to cool down, just jump into the lake – what a treat.
#3 Hiking at the polar circle
Touring through lonely birch forests and over fjells. Resting by a lake and enjoying freshly brewed coffee over an open fire, berry picking, mushroom picking. Breathe the clear air, according to a WHO study the cleanest in the world. Reason are the many trees, three quarters of the land area of Finland are forests.
The probability of meeting a reindeer is higher than a human being. Lapland Finland is considered one of the last wildernesses in Europe. Still very comfortable for hikers. More than 300 kilometers of well-marked trails help with orientation, the GPS tracks can be downloaded directly to your cell phone via QR code. In swampy areas, narrow boardwalks ensure that your feet stay dry. And everywhere you will find huts with open fireplaces. Wood? No need to carry it with you, it's in a second hut next door – free of charge. You only have to be able to light the fire yourself.
Tour ideas for every level of fitness and in different lengths are available in the reindeer park Salla or in the visitor centers of the national parks.
#4 Paddling in the moonlight
Almost silently the paddles dive in. The water as smooth as glass, so that the tree tops are reflected in the glow of the moon or the midnight sun. A nocturnal canoe tour on the lakes is one of the highlights in Finnish Lapland for outdoor enthusiasts.
Together with a guide, the boats head in small groups to a hut on the lake, where – what else – a cozy fire is made, coffee is prepared and a few snacks are grilled.
The way back goes by much too fast, promised. But you can rent a canoe the next day and go on your own, there are plenty of lakes to choose from.
#5 With the Fatbike on the Fjells and by lonely birch forests
With altitude marks around 500 meters, the fells in the Salla region do not seem very spectacular. If you want to climb them, your calves will be glad about a little electric support. Whereby especially fatbikes prove to be enormously suitable for the mountains. Thanks to their wide tires rocky paths or roots are no problem (if you have overcome the initial skepticism). The riding experience is great and nothing stands in the way of a tour over hill and dale. More variety is hardly possible on the total of 140 kilometers of marked trails. You can rent the fatbikes for example in the Salla Ski Resort. There are suitable tour suggestions as well as in the visitor centers of the parks.
#6 Making fire in the wilderness
Of course, in such sparsely populated areas as Lapland Finland is not every few kilometers a restaurant to stop for refreshments. The Finns take it pragmatically and take everything they need for a hearty snack with them into the nature. A backpack and a good knife (also a practical souvenir) are part of the basic equipment of the Lappis.
Half-roofed fireplaces, sometimes even whole huts, can be found at the most beautiful places in nature: on the Fjells, the mostly treeless peaks, at lakes or other places with good views. Dried wood is in a small hut next to the fireplace, everyone is allowed to help themselves. What could be better than sitting by a crackling fire and letting the magic of the landscape work its magic on you – no matter how late it is?. Time does not matter here, how beautiful is that please.
#7 Wild cuisine – from nature directly to the plate
Wild food characterizes the cuisine in Finnish Lapland: roasted, steamed, smoked, dried and very healthy – reindeer meat is on everyone's lips. And tastes so delicious that you almost get a bad conscience to look into the big brown eyes of the next antlered bear.
Maybe you'd rather have a burger with bear meat? They also live wild in Lapland Finland, but show up less often. Game is traditionally served with mashed potatoes and cranberries or jam made from other wild berries such as cloudberries, the Arctic blackberry, or blueberries, which grow in abundance here. And taste much more intense than the farmed ones.
A classic in Finnish cuisine is salmon soup with cream, potatoes, onions and dill. Typical Finnish: the Leipajuusto, a cheese made from cow's milk, which is baked like bread and therefore also called "cheese bread. Delicious and sweet taste, squeaky consistency. The Sami, Lapland's indigenous people, like to dip the cheese in black coffee. May sound unusual, but tastes delicious.
#8 Get down – in the middle of nowhere
This vastness … incredible. As far as the eye can see, only forest and water, so it seems from above. But if you dive in, you will discover an incredible variety: ancient forests, gorges and bogs, crystal clear lakes, and in between the fjells, the peaks covered with mosses and stones. With a little luck you can hear the call of the capercaillie, which is at home here – in the middle of nowhere.
Finland has designated a total of 41 national parks, five of which are in Finnish Lapland; the newest, Sallatunturi, opened in January 2022 and is located in the Salla region. Where more reindeer live than people, there is a lot of space for individualists. And to come down.
Salla region is pilot destination in Sustainable Travel Finland program. The national park is also accessible by public transport in a sustainable way. A direct bus line connects Kuusamo airport and Kemijarvi train station with the tourist center of Sallatunturi, from where many of the hiking trails lead into the national park.
#9 Baking or fishing with locals
If you feel like some company after days in solitude and are interested in the people of the region, you can learn from the locals how their everyday life was in the past and today, listen to old stories, bake bread with them in the traditional way or go fishing. At the subsequent meal together you almost feel a bit Finnish. Only with the language, that will probably nix. Don't have to, the hosts speak perfect English.
#10 Marveling at phenomena of the north
When it gets dark, the spectacle begins: glaring green and mystical blue, sometimes pink to fire-red: auroras dance in the sky. The Aurora Borealis are among the most impressive natural spectacles of our planet. The best time to see them is on clear nights between the end of August and the beginning of April.
But even if you are not lucky enough to experience the magic of the Northern Lights, you can still observe very special moments in nature. The new observation huts around Salla make it possible – depending on the time of day or season, the phenomena of the north can be seen: mystical fog in the morning, animals at dusk, the midnight sun or the rush of colors in the Indian summer.
Lapland Finland – everything you need to know at a glance
Getting there: FinnAir flies from several German cities to Helsinki, from there on to Kuusamo (approx. 1,5 hours). The best way to get around in Lapland is with a rental car. Pick up and drop off at the airport are uncomplicated, but be sure to book in advance.
Accommodation: There are various accommodations in the tourist centers of Salla and Ruka. We have stayed in the following apartments or. Hotel, which we can highly recommend:
- Holiday Club Salla (apartment): Revontulentie 2, 98900 Salla
- Villa Veskaranta, Rukan Salonki (Skyview Lodge): Veskantie 1, 93830 Rukatunturi
- Isokenkaisten (room and Aurora cabin): Heikinjarventie 3, 93800 Kuusamo
Food & Drink: Restaurants are few, but there you can eat good and regional food. Finns are self-catering (and love to picnic in nature, see #Firemaking), accommodations equipped accordingly.
More information at www.getlappi.en; visitsalla.fi and ruka.fi.