Lapland North Destinations covers a huge swathe of Finnish Lapland stretching all the way from Tankavaara, to Nuorgam 240 km north, and covering the Sámi villages between. The most authentic region of Finnish Lapland, there are three Sámi dialects spoken in different parts, and visitors can explore Inari Sámi culture and heritage in Inari and Sámi Museum and North Lapland nature centre Siida, whereas Skolt Sámi culture can be discovered in the northeast in the villages of Nellim, Sevettijärvi, and Näätämö. Nuorgam is the most northern tip of the EU, with easy access to the Arctic Ocean, Lemmenjoki lies in Finland’s largest national park, while Karigasniemi and Utsjoki are connected by Finland’s most beautiful driving route as it follows the River Teno, which also marks the border between Finland and Norway.
Lapland North is a year-round travel destination, with a unique and vibrant local culture, and numerous outdoor activities available amid the majestic fells and in Finland’s two largest national parks. Lapland North is a unique destination with pristine, living Arctic wilderness and high-quality services.
A Memorable Road Trip in North Lapland
Considering so much of this vast region is reserved for national parks and wilderness areas, it’s no surprise that the northernmost road trip in Finland is such an excellent way to become familiar with authentic Sámi villages and the incredible surrounding nature. Starting from Tankavaara, where you can try your hand at gold panning and learn about the history of prospecting in Lapland, the journey continues through Saariselkä, and on to Kaamanen via Ivalo and Inari. From there the route swings west, passing between the Muotkatunturi Wilderness Area and Kevo Strict Nature Reserve, to Karigasniemi, a riverside village famed for its fishing. From here the E6 follows the course of the River Teno, as does Finland’s border with Norway, all the way to Nuorgam via Utsjoki. Stretching for almost 145 km, the Teno River Valley Route features unique landscapes not found anywhere else in Finland, and is considered the most beautiful in the country. From Nuorgam the E6 highway continues into Norway and makes its way back south skirting the Arctic Ocean, before turning inland again as far as Neiden. From there, the route switches to Highway 92, which will loop back to Kaamanen, passing through the Skolt Sámi villages of Näätämö and Sevettijärvi along the way.
Stretching diagonally from just south of Karigasniemi to Nuorgam, the Utsjoki region of Finnish Lapland is one the least explored and most beautiful destinations in all of Europe. It also holds the distinction of being the only municipality in Finland where the majority of residents are Sámi. The three principal villages of Utsjoki, Nuorgam and Karigasniemi provide visitors with an opportunity to experience authentic local culture. The Teno River plays a significant role here, defining much of the border with Norway, and providing local fishermen with a livelihood, and seasonal anglers with some of the best fishing in Europe.
Of cultural interest is the Utsjoki parish village, consisting of 14 huts dating to the 18th and 19th centuries which were inhabited until the 1930s, and the Utsjoki stone church, built upon the commission of Nicholas I of Russia in 1853. Located in the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area, the Välimaa Sámi Farm was built in 1858, on ancient fishing grounds by the River Teno. Today, the farmyard is an open-air museum, a genuine piece of Sámi history, and a relic of the old way of life in the rugged but beautiful natural setting in northernmost Finland. Utsjoki is a year-round destination, where both the polar night and the midnight sun are the longest, thanks to its position under the aurora oval, where the Northern Lights often light up the skies.
Ivalo – Village by the golden river
Home to the EU’s northernmost airport in Ivalo, the village of Inari municipality is the gateway to the north. It is the largest population centre in the region, and the administrative centre for the municipality of Inari, and consequentially is also where visitors can find the widest range of services. Ivalo’s village centre boasts the best sandy beach by the slowly flowing Ivalojoki river – a unique feature in these latitudes.
Activities and Adventures in Lapland North
With Finland’s two biggest national parks, and vast areas of open wilderness, Lapland North is an ideal destination for hikers and bikers of every level. Unique to the region, Open Fell Biking is a one of a kind experience, a chance to explore the rolling chain of fells from the horizon. These were mountains before the Ice Age smoothed them off, and they are ‘open’ because on top of the fells trees can’t grow, making the terrain ideal for biking. Trails are numerous and extensive, for example from Saariselkä alone you have access to 230 km of routes in the summer, and over 80 km of winter biking routes.
Lapland North is home to Finland’s two largest national parks – The Lemmenjoki National Park and Urho Kekkonen National Park, with both featuring well-marked trails and an excellent network of wilderness cabins to create a unique setting for hikers. The Lemmenjoki River flows through Lemmenjoki National Park for over 70 km, making it perfect for exploring by boat. The river is known for its gold panning history, indeed gold is still panned for today, and visitors can try their hand at it on a guided tour.
The region is also defined by its waters – the Teno River bounds it on the west and north, Lake Inari also called the Sámi sea and the third-largest in Finland, and the rivers Lemmenjoki and Ivalojoki are significant. All of which means there are lots of options for water activities here, with destinations suitable for all paddlers, whether experienced or not. Lake Inari and the Lemmenjoki and Ivalojoki rivers provide a range of great canoeing and kayaking routes, with guided tours on offer, and canoes and kayaks available to rent. From SUP boarding on the River Teno to whitewater rafting on the River Juutua, there are plenty of options for the active traveller.
For those looking for a more relaxing day, you can take a riverboat cruise on the Lemmenjoki River to Ravadas Falls, where you stop to have reindeer soup at an open fire, with coffee and cake for dessert. While there you guide will introduce the traditional Sámi yoik and tell stories about reindeer herding, before the return journey to Lemmenjoki village, and to Kaija Paltto`s studio Ateljee Huopapirtti or Kammigalleria, where you will see how felt is combined with and in Kammigalleria you can see art work from reindeer antlers – all the ideas inspired by the nature.
From Inari village, a cruise on a catamaran on Lake Inari combines relaxation with Sámi heritage and culture, leaving from the harbour by the Sámi Museum, SIIDA, and sailing around the historical Ukko Island, an important site in Sámi culture, used as a place for offerings up until the 19th century. On the return journey, on request, you can stop at Pielpavuono and follow a marked trail from there to the Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church.
Visitors to Lapland North will be delighted by the abundant choice of restaurants in the region, and by the local flavours. Meat from the region’s reindeer herders, fresh fish from local lakes and rivers, or from the nearby Arctic Ocean, wild game from the forests and fells, where berries, wild herbs, and mushrooms are also picked.Of particular note is the award-winning Restaurant Aanaar, located in the heart of Inari, next to the river Juutua. Named by the Finnish Gastronomical Society as the restaurant of the year in 2020, Aanaar’s kitchen creates unique dishes using everything from lichen and the traditional Sámi herb Angelica to brown trout and Arctic charr.
Whether you’ve spent the day actively or in more relaxed pursuits, a sauna at the day’s end is perfect, and in Lapland North a wide selection of modern and traditional saunas are available. Visitors can combine a delicious meal with a sauna experience in the most atmospheric restaurants. Local guides can also combine guided hiking treks with an authentic smoke sauna, or with ice-swimming and aurora hunting. There are also private saunas that can be booked for groups, large and small.
The village of Inari’s central importance to Sámi culture can be seen in the two major centres located there. The first is Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, the largest conference and event venue in Northern Lapland, which houses the Sámi Parliament of Finland, the Sámi Education Centre Institute, the Sámi Archives, and a number of other associations.
For the visitor it is the other that is of more interest Sámi Museum and North Lapland Nature Centre Siida is the national museum of the Finnish Sámi population, with a permanent exhibition that highlights the links between Sámi culture and arctic nature, offering visitors a vivid, visual experience and a wealth of fascinating information. A diverse centre with both cultural and nature exhibitions to explore, Siida also hosts cultural events and seminars, the nature centre’s customer service, Siida Shop, and a restaurant Sarrit serving daily lunches. Year-round visitors can also visit the open-air museum, which showcases the cultural heritage, architectural heritage and livelihoods of the Finnish Sámi.
Just 30km south of Saariselkä, Tankavaara Gold Village is a unique destination where you can prospect for gold, and learn the fascinating history of gold prospecting, in an authentic setting. Founded by Finnish gold prospectors almost 50 years ago, Tankavaara Gold Village is a full-service destination with a range of activities, attractions and accommodation that make it ideal for day trips or overnight stays. The Gold Museum is home to the only international museum in the world displaying the past and present of gold panning and prospecting. The basic exhibition presents the history of gold prospecting in Lapland, while ‘The Golden World’ presents the history of gold from more than twenty countries all over the World.
Events in Lapland North
There are a number of fascinating events taking place in the summer, starting with the Utsjoen Lumo – Ohcejohka šearrá – Cultural Week taking place in Utsjoki from July 3rd to 9th, promising a week of activities to see and experience, especially Sámi music and culture. A more international event will be the European Gold Panning Championship, which will be held in Tankavaara from July 20th to 23rd.
Since 2009, the objective of Inari Weeks has been to bring together traditional summer events in the region and produce new activities for locals and travelers alike. This year the event runs from the 21st to the 30th of July. The traditional programme offers something for everyone: village festivals, gold panning competitions, children’s events, markets, concerts, church festivals, traditional music, art exhibitions, hiking, dancing, singsongs and theatre.
Finally, on August 18th and 19th Inari hosts Ijahis idja, the only music festival held in Finland that concentrates on Sámi music. Ijahis idja has been celebrating the music of indigenous peoples in Inari since 2004.