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. It also holds the distinction of being the only municipality in Finland where the majority of residents are Sápmi. The three principal villages of Utsjoki, Nuorgam and Karigasniemi provide visitors with an opportunity to experience authentic Sámi culture, where the traditional Sámi costumes are still worn at local events and festivals.
Highways To Heaven
Most of the villages in this region are located along the banks of the River Teno, which marks the border between Finland and Norway, and is renowned for having the best Atlantic salmon fishing in Europe. The Utsjoki region boasts two of Finland’s most scenic routes: the Tenontie which follows the river through Karigasniemi all the way to Utsjoki village, and Highway 4, the route to the Arctic Ocean, which begins in Helsinki and is 1,295 kilometres long! Near to the village of Nuorgam there is a border marker pointing the northernmost point: It’s the northernmost point of Finland and the northernmost point of the European Union.
Silence Under The Northern Lights
Still largely ignored by tourists (though not by knowledgeable anglers), the Utsjoki region is gaining international recognition for its Northern Lights display, and is ideal for those seeking peace and quiet in the midst of breathtaking scenery, as well as those looking to partake in more adventurous activities, such as ice-fishing expeditions, snow-shoeing treks, cross-country skiing, or taking sleigh rides pulled by reindeer or huskies.
Summer Under The Midnight Sun
However, Utsjoki is not just an unforgettable winter holiday destination, it is also the perfect setting for exceptional summer vacations, especially for those seeking the solace of vast, empty spaces, a landscape where the sun never sets! This is above all a Sámi region, presenting ample opportunities to explore Sápmi culture and history, through their animal husbandry and handicrafts, by visiting reindeer farms or enjoying a meal in a kota hut. There is also the opportunity to travel through the fjelds and fjords, past their waterfalls and on to the Arctic ocean: don’t forget your camera, there may be whales!
A Fisherman’s Dream!
The world record for an Atlantic salmon was set when a 36kg salmon was caught on the Teno. The river forms the border between Finland and Norway for much of its course, meandering through long valleys bounded to the north by Norwegian fjeld, and a nature reserve to the south. The River Teno is particularly famed for every angler’s dream catches, over 20-kilo salmon, which are caught here in higher numbers than from all other salmon rivers combined. The river also provides excellent grayling fishing, with specimens ranging from half a kilo to well over a kilo found throughout. In small pools you can catch whitefish when the waters are calm, with Sea trout caught in June, and at the end of the season in August. Other species that are less often caught are the pink or humpback salmon, and Arctic char.
Untouched and Untamed Wilderness
The vast majority of the land in the Utsjoki region is taken up by the Paistunturi Wilderness Area , the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve, and the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area, all of which offer the visitor truly breathtaking outdoors experiences. There are hundreds of kilometres of hiking and cycling trails winding through these massive wilderness areas, where visitors can enjoy the pure Arctic air, clear and clean water, and encounter rare Arctic flora and fauna. These are landscapes of unparalleled beauty, even in Lapland, rewarding explorers with vistas that will linger long in the memory. Come the snows of winter, visitors can experience crisp, clean nature on skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, or possibly even while riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer or huskies!
Accommodation & Activities
Visitors can stay in Kalastajan Majatalo Inn (Fisherman’s 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.
Traveling to Utsjoki
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.