The easiest way to trek in Lapland
What could be finer than roaming the wilds with nothing but a small backpack while the bulk of your gear is transported to your next overnight lodging?
Trekkers keen to roam Lapland’s high hills typically carry all their belongings with them, trudging over the fells like giant tortoises burdened with huge rucksacks, heavy tents, cooking equipment and supplies of unappetising dehydrated camping food. But now trekkers have the option of travelling light, thanks to the ‘Village to Village’ scheme, through which local firms collaborate to provide tour packages for lovers of the great outdoors who nevertheless appreciate a comfortable night’s sleep and the best of local cuisine.
“These days people still like to make long linear journeys, but they’re not so keen on carrying all their gear all the time,” says nature guide Hannu Rauhala.
Our ‘trekking light’ trip takes us through the hills of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and an hour’s drive from Kittilä airport. The backbone of this elongated park is a 90 kilometre-long chain of high fells bordered by pristine natural forests and blue lakes.
“Pallas-Yllästunturi is ideal for trekking trips of several days. The small villages just outside the park have a network of hotels and bed-and-breakfast providers suitably spaced to allow hikers to enjoy day-long walks of 15 to 25 kilometres,” explains Rauhala.
“When you travel between different lodgings, you can enjoy good food and meet local people and hear their stories – which is especially great for foreign visitors. The chance to enjoy comfort, local flavour and the special nature, light and silence of Lapland particularly appeals to people from central Europe – and many younger Finns, too.”
Rauhala’s firm Felltrek is one of the key links in the Village to Village chain, running guided outdoor activities and providing cosy accommodation on a family farm by Lake Jerisjärvi. A big bonus is that Rauhala’s wife Anne Paaso is an excellent cook, as we discover after descending hungrily from Keimiötunturi to enjoy fresh fish, berries and mushrooms.
The Village to Village scheme helps businesses in Lapland by attracting visitors to discover local services outside the popular Christmas and skiing seasons. Rauhala adds, “August and September are really the best months for trekking trips here.”
Cleanest air in Europe
Package trekkers may choose to use a guide or find their own way using detailed maps. For our next day’s hike Rauhala points us towards the hills of Pallastunturi, assuring us that the paths are well signposted even in remote parts of the fells.
We get out our packed lunches by a wigwam-shaped kota shelter at Rihmakuru, overlooking a wooded valley. Hiking is thirsty work, but we slake our thirst and refill our bottles from the brook below the shelter, since the cool, crystal clear water in these mountain streams is clean enough to drink. Data from the meteorological station on top of nearby Sammaltunturi Fell shows that the air in this part of Finnish Lapland is the cleanest anywhere in Europe.
A sweet reward
Following the trail on along the ridge of high hills between Pallas and Hetta, we reach an impressive new wooden cabin at Nammalakuru. Half of the cabin can be booked by groups, while the other half is an open wilderness hut where anyone is free to stay and sleep.
Free facilities provided by the national park authority (Metsähallitus) in Lapland’s parks and wilderness areas enable hardy hikers to trek through the wilds and spend the night in simple huts along the way.
Rather than slumming it in the cabin, we take a trail heading down off the fells to the village of Raattama. Our lodgings at Porotilamajoitus Autto reindeer farm lie on a bend in the broad River Ounasjoki.
After a soothing sauna we pop outside our cosy lodgings again to scan the night sky. The stars are shining, the temperature has plummeted, and frost is expected tonight. Looking at the dark shadows of the hills we certainly don’t envy the hikers camping out up there.
Text by Fran Weaver Photos by Tim Bird
Tips for easy hiking
- Village to Village packages offer a new way to enjoy hiking trips of several days through the wild fells and forests of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in Finnish Lapland, with overnight stays in comfortable lodgings – and no need to carry all your belongings with you each day.
- Tailored hiking, biking and canoeing tours including Village to Village packages exploring Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park are offered by agencies including Felltrek (felltrek.fi), Feel the Nature (feelthenature.fi) and Natura Magister (naturamagister.com).
- Safartica’s Lapland Classic 3-6-day guided group hiking events run annually in August and September: safartica.com
This article is published in the September 2015 issue of Blue Wings