Inari – Saariselkä

photo © Visit Finland / Robert Smith

Tourism Inari – Saariselkä – Utsjoki – Ivalo

The village of Inari is the centre for Finland’s Sámi culture. Pleasantly situated on the shore of Lake Inarijärvi, Finland’s third largest lake, and next to the River Juutuanjoki, Inari is in the midst of Europe’s largest untouched wilderness, and is a truly alternative destination for anyone seeking to ‘get away from it all’. Despite its northerly location, this municipality is one of Finland’s most significant tourism districts, visited every year by hundreds of thousands of travelers.

Saariselkä Resort is a compact village by the Urho Kekkonen National Park and surrounded by fell highlands. Saariselkä is a cluster of services and activities, yet only a couple of steps from the peace and tranquillity of the wilderness. You don’t need a car in Saariselkä: everything from the ski centre to nature trails, spa, hotels and restaurants are all within walking distance.

Other popular destinations in the area are Ivalo, Nellim, Utsjoki, Nuorgam, Lemmenjoki, Vuotso and Tankavaara.

Home to Finland’s Sámi Parliament, Inari has obvious influences of this nomadic people, none more so than the altarpiece of the Sámi Church, entitled ‘The Revelation of Christ to the Sámi People’. In the village you’ll find Siida which houses the Sámi museum and the North Lapland Nature Centre, as well specialty stores selling original handcrafted Sámi gifts and souvenirs and a restaurant. The Nature Centre provides information for visitors on the forests, nature parks, fells, bogs, mountain bike trails, and cabin rentals, as well as issuing of hunting and fishing permits.

Although the region attracts plenty of winter sports enthusiasts, and is served well by a number of holiday and ski resorts, it is nature itself that brings the most visitors to the Inari municipality. Lake Inarijärvi is fed by numerous pristine rivers, ideal for canoing and fishing, and is dotted with hundreds of islands, easily explored by boat. The surrounding lands, which include the wilderness areas of Hammastunturi, Muotkatunturi, Paistunturi, Kaldoaivi, Vätsäri and Tsarmitunturi are mostly uninhabited and untouched. The forests, hills and fells are kept in their natural state, and are home to many rare species, including bears, wolves, moose, and wolverine. The Siberian jay and capercaillie both nest here, and there are numerous migrant species that make this region their home for the summer.

Of course, no description of Northern Lapland would be complete without mentioning the spectacular Northern Lights that frequently illuminate the skies, usually between the end of August and April. Stories abound featuring the Aurora Borealis, and they play a large role in the mythology and folk culture of the indigenous Sámi people. Because Inari is so far above the Arctic Circle, for two months of the summer the sun does not set, and these nights without darkness are another key attraction for the region.