Stretching more or less diagonally from a little south of Karigasniemi to Nuorgam, the Utsjoki region of Finnish Lapland is one the least explored and most beautiful destinations in all of Europe. The three principal villages of Utsjoki, Nuorgam and Karigasniemi provide visitors with an opportunity to experience authentic Sámi culture. Here in the far north you can experience the true magic of arctic nature. Listen to the silence, feel the vast emptiness and simply slow down. Utsjoki area is also one of the best places in the world to experience the Northern Lights!
The border village of Karigasniemi is home to around 500 inhabitants, with its closest neighbour, Karasjoki, located 18km away across the Norwegian border. The village lies at the foot of Mount Ailigás, one of three sacred fells along Route Teno. Located on the banks of the It lies on the banks of the river Inarijoki, which, downstream of Karigasniemi, joins the river Karasjohka to form the River Teno, and is best known for its excellent fishing.
Visitors can stay in Kalastajan Majatalo Inn, a family-owned business providing accommodation from luxury hotel rooms to cosy apartments, and organising a wide range of activities in the region. Kalastajan Majatalo also provides diners with a choice between the Guossi Restaurant, which focuses on fresh, local, natural produce and traditional Lappish delicacies, and the Hansabar Lunch & Grill, serving delicious lunches and steaks, as well as pizzas, kebabs and grilled food.
The main attractions here are natural, to the south lies the Muotkatunturi Wilderness Area, while to the north visitors will find the Paistunturi Wilderness Area and the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve. Another site worth visiting is the Sulaoja Spring, the largest of its kind in Finland, and another site sacred to the native Sámi.
Further north along the gorgeous Route Teno, and past the tiny villages of Rovisuvanto, Outakoski, Dálvadas and Nuvvus, lies the Sámi village of Utsjoki. Located at the confluence of two mighty rivers, the River Teno and River Utsjoki, and nestled between between the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area and Kevo Strict Nature Reserve, it’s hardly surprising that the Utsjoki valley is one of Finland’s ‘national landscapes’.
The main attractions in Utsjoki are natural – there is an extensive network of nature trails and hiking paths that begin from the village, and lead into the nearby Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area and Kevo Strict Nature Reserve. Hikers can choose to be be accompanied by a local guide who will share tales about local nature and history, and who will take care of orientation, equipment and provisions. There are also some cultural attractions to check out, including the historically important Utsjoki church, vicarage and church cottages, St. Ulrika’s sacristy, the old cemetery and the yard on the shores of Mantojärvi. Visitors can also enjoy the authentic atmosphere of Giisá village hall, where locals gather to chat in the café, and which also The village offers a selection of local handmade products for sale.
The final village on Route Teno is Nuorgam, Finland’s northernmost village and the northernmost corner of the European Union, located 500km north of the Arctic Circle! This charming village is famous for its Alaköngäs rapids, the most famous salmon fishing area on the Tenojoki, which attracts both Finnish and international fishing enthusiasts to Nuorgam every year. The village also offers excellent opportunities for day trips to the Norwegian fjells and to the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
The surrounding landscapes of Nuorgam are a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers. Close by you’ll find Pulmankijärvi, an ancient lake formed by a fjord in the Arctic Ocean, in a river valley with some stunning scenery. In addition to the usual outdoorsy activities, the area is also a fine destination for nature lovers as it features a particularly rich diversity of flora and fauna, and is particularly popular with birdwatchers. There are campsites, hiking, skiing, and snowmobile trails running between Nuorgam and Sevettijärvi that run along the banks of Lake Pulmanjärvi.
In addition to the natural delights of the region, which includes the amazing Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area to the south, visitors can experience the Välimaa Sámi Farm which was built in 1858 on ancient fishing grounds by the Teno River.
The farmyard is a unique historical sight and a genuine piece of Sámi history, a relic of the old way of life with its original timber and turf buildings. Hikers can also visit the border marker pointing the northernmost point of Finland and the northernmost point of the European Union, perfect for Instagrammers and selfies.
Traveling to the Utsjoki region
Getting to this remote region is remarkably easy: the area is served by Ivalo airport, with daily connections through Helsinki. From Ivalo, it’s a leisurely drive north, past Lake Inari, the largest in Lapland, and the vast nature preserves and national parks on either side of the highway. You can also take a bus from the airport to Utsjoki village. For those staying in a holiday village, you can often arrange pickup and transportation from the airport. Utsjoki is also served by the Kirkenes airport just across the border in Norway. The airport is only 2.5 hours away from Nuorgam by car, a drive that takes you carries you along the Varanger fjord and the Arctic Ocean.