Beautiful break from everyday life
Flying to Ivalo is not the most responsible choice, but there was a reason to do so; we had only five days free and we didn´t want to spend hours sitting in car.
We could have stayed closer to southern Finland but there was a reason – or two – to travel to Lapland. We wanted to find a place where we could have some sunny days this summer and according to weather forecast Lapland was the best choice – and it didn´t go wrong! The other reason you´ll find at the end of this post.
I write this post in English hoping to offer some useful tips to explore Finnish nature and the story of Finland for the visitors from abroad. Hiking in Lapland offers Silence, Beauty of Nature and unexpected encounters. For me hiking with silence is meditation at its best.
We took the Finnair flight on Tuesday morning from Helsinki to Ivalo and took the bus from airport to Saariselkä resort. We bought some food and bewerage for our hiking tour and had a nice lunch in Kuukkeli. We had left Helsinki airport at 9 am and were ready to start our hiking tour at noon.
(Greetings to the hiker who sat next to me on plane – thanks for sharing your experiences and hopefully you had a beautiful journey to Luirojärvi!)
We had made a light plan for our three days´ hiking tour: we wanted to sleep the first night in Rautulampi which was about 20 kilometers from our starting point and we wanted to finish the tour on Thursday night in Saariselkä or in Kiilopää resort to take the bus back to airport on Friday morning.
1.Day: Saariselkä – Rumakuru – Luulampi -Rautulampi 27km
We started the tour very happy because of the awesome weather and had the first stop by the old and new Rumakuru -areas which were very clean and nice. We also had the first encounter when stopping – with mosquitos. The first and almost the only moment when they were disturbing us. The horror stories about mosquitos and gnats in Lapland is so last season – they are not an obstacle to the Lapland trip anymore.
The routes are very well marked so there is no way to get lost. Well – there is – and we got lost. We somehow missed the sign after Luulampi to Rautulampi ( Pirttinokka) and took the wrong way towards Kiilopää. Don´t talk too much and focus on reading the signs!
If we hadn´t got lost we wouldn´t have had this beautiful scenery – there is always a reason!
When finally walking the right trail towards Rautulampi we met a foreign couple walking to opposite direction. This was our first encounter with them and if you keep on reading you´ll find out that we met each other again. On Tuesday this couple seemed to be in a hurry and so were we; they were hungry and had no food left (we didn´t know it then). We were hungry but didn´t want to stop before arriving to our final destination. It really would have been a smart decision to have a break for dinner before – but at that moment we were not that smart!! The trail from Pirttinokka to Rautulampi was very wet and not the best option to stop.
When we finally arrived to Rautulampi area we were exhausted and hungry after eight hours and 26 kilometers walk. My friend started to heat the water for dinner and set up the tent meanwhile I had a short ”swim” (water was about 10C) in this beautiful pond. Fair play – isn´t it!!
We had practical ”outdoor meals” ( bags where you just add boiled water) for lunch and dinner and porridge, coffee, cheese and dry bread ( hapankorppu) for breakfast. It was not easy to find vegetarian outdoor meals this time – they were out of stock because of high demand!! My favorite is Couscous with chili spiced vegetables ( by Blå Band). We had a luxurious dinner with a small bottle of white wine (Mango).
2.Day: Rautulampi – Niilanpää – Kiilopää 13km
We were taking the second hiking day much more relaxed; we walked slower and had more breaks to eat and drink. The weather continued incredible – the temperature was between 20 to 25 degrees ( Celsius), no clouds but some nice breeze every now and then.
We were quite surprised we didn´t meet many people during our tour! There were just some people in campfire sites and day cabins and when hiking in fjeld we met apr. 15- 20 persons during the whole tour! We didn´t really miss people but just wondered it!
We decided to stay the night over in Kiilopää after 13 kilometers of hiking. We could have slept in tent but my friend was having problems with his back and decided to book a room for one night. When arriving to Kiilopää at six o’ clock we had a very nice surprise to explore: we had the opportunity to go to smoke sauna ( savusauna) and have a nice swim! I also had a swim in this pond in the morning – but the water was so much colder!!
Caroline & Benoit
I was wondering how a foreign young woman resisted the intense heat in the sauna. She also dared to dip into chilly water. She was not alone and somehow they looked familiar. Yes – they were the couple we had met day before – when we all were hungry! We didn´t know it then, but they had a story to tell us and we had a very nice and long chat!
Caroline and Benoit are my heroes! They are great examples of slow travelers who are traveling in responsible way! They had traveled all the way from France to Germany by bus and from Germany to Finland by a ferry. In Finland they have been travelling by hitchhiking, paddling and walking. They bought a kayak in Saimaa and sold it again. They have been sleeping in tent – even in all those rainy and cold nights we have had this summer. Caroline and Benoit had started their journey two months ago and they still had couple of weeks left. They were happy and didn´t complain of anything in Finland!
They were sauna-experts; they had been at least in 14 different saunas. They have been invited by Finns or sometimes they invited themselves to sauna; when they had been canoeing they stopped by summer cottages where they found people and asked if they could go to sauna after the owners had finished. No one had forbidden them to go.
I was happy to hear that because Caroline and Benoit are so sweet and warm-hearted persons! This story is about the Finnish hospitality – there is no better way to show our hospitality but inviting visitors to sauna, isn´t there?
Caroline & Benoit; I wish you all the best and hope to hear from you! You are always welcome to my place and to have a nice sauna experience!
3.Day: Kiilopää – Poropolku/ Ahopää – Rumakuru – Välimaa – Saariselkä 16 km
Kiilopää was great place to recover; in addition to sauna experience we also had delicious dinner and were ready to start our last hiking day after breakfast. When leaving the area we were happy to see couple of reindeer and didn´t have a clue about what would happen soon.
We continued our journey and had a break in Rumakuru after 6 kilometers of walking. Now we stopped, had a lunch and were happy to have the cabin because it started to rain for the first time in our hiking tour. It was just a light rain but the sky was getting darker when we continued.
We had almost ten kilometers of walking left because we didn´t want to take the same route as we took first day. The last three kilometers were the most challenging ones, not because we were tired of walking but because of thunderstorm and heavy rain!!
I had shorts and sleeveless shirt so the water was flowing into my hiking boots and I was getting cold. The weather can change very quickly and very radically!!! I should have worn my waterproof jacket and trousers when it started to rain but I was thinking that it wouldn´t be raining so long. Belief is not worth of data and it´s better anticipate than suffer!
When we finally arrived Saariselkä and we were inside of the closest hotel ( Holiday Club Spa) I couldn´t even write my name to the checking card. We left a ”pool of water” on the reception floor and probably we were not smelling very good but the lady at the reception was very nice and gave us a room with a clothes dryer.
Sauna and spa was the best to happen after that rainy experience. We also had very special encounter in sauna: there was a group of Confirmation class participants, girls and boys. The girls started first to sing the National anthem ( Maamme-laulu) and then the boys answered singing it on the other side of the wall. It was a beautiful moment!
After sauna the sun was shining again and we had a short walk in Saariselkä looking for a nice place to have a dinner. We were looking for information by Tripadvisor but not all of the places were open. We ended up in Teerenpesä restaurant and had tasty traditional plates of vendance ( muikkuja) and reindeer stew ( poronkäristys). The desert was not only tasty but also very beautiful!
4.Day: Flying back home Saariselkä – Ivalo – Helsinki
We took the bus from Saariselkä ( oneway ticket 10€) to Ivalo airport early in the morning. We had done online checking and arrived on time by transfer bus.
The second reason to choose Lapland
I was having great time in Saariselkä in February 2017. I had a nice skiing excursion but the main reason then to travel to Lapland was to join a group of ”Innovative forerunners” (Partner Edelläkävijät) a group of people meeting twice a year, representing different trades and interests ( tourism, creative industry, hospitality and restaurant, education, event production, tv-production etc) and having a mission to develop each partner´s business and share ideas to each other.
Last winter we had met each other to design new Experiences for tourists traveling to Saariselkä in summer season. Our host was Rami Korhonen from Lapland Safaris.
I am quite pragmatic person who wants to combine theory and practice. After February I have been thinking every now and then about the possibilities which Saariselkä area could offer for Tourists. I also wanted to discover the possible barriers and challenges there might be.
Now I have some ideas how to design holistic Service Experiences for the visitors. Possibly I have no new ideas, but at least I could share the observation I have experienced in my trip.
Everything starts from understanding clients´ needs and expectations but there also should be an understarnding to provide something the clients have not been thinking about at all.
There might be visitors who would like to experience the silence and beauty of nature by their own, but who are not so interested in carrying heavy backpacks or setting up the tent. This service could be offered for them.
All kind of visitors should have the opportunity to discover the hidden secrets and the magic of Lapland – they should experience the story of Finnish nature.
Thank you for reading my blog!
I am grateful for your comments!
With kind regards,
ps. I got a message from Caroline and Benoit back at home in France again; they had continued the journey from Kiilopää to Norway and back to Lappeenranta ( 700km in one car). The last part was so beautiful: ” We also visit some islands near Turku and cross the sea to Stockholm with 2 nice Swedish guys on a sailing boat (always with hitchhiking)”
Do you prefer short video story? Here you are.