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Summer in Finnish Lapland

Filed Under: Blog, Family Adventure

Posted on 11th Jul 2018

For most people, the first things that spring to mind when you mention Finnish Lapland, are Santa, Northern Lights, sub-zero temperatures and lots and lots of snow. But there is another, very different side to this region as I discovered on my recent trip there.

Finnish Lapland during the summer time is the most stunning place – endless sparkling crystal-clear lakes and glorious green landscapes. It’s a Mecca for wellness with Saunas in abundance, mineral rich water available to drink straight from the lake, fresh local produce including the delicious cloud and lingon berries that make their way into your food, drinks and beauty products and wildlife to remind you how beautiful this world is.  You just can’t help but come away from there feeling rejuvenated and recharged.

During the summer months, there is 24-hour daylight, so the long days allow you to fit in lots of activities to maximise your time away. The climate is mild and sunny and whilst I was there at the end of June, I enjoyed daytime temperatures in the 20s with night time temperatures anywhere between 5 and 12 degrees. A few warmer layers are required for night time outdoor activities.

The first stop of my 5-day visit was to Inari, located in the northern part of Lapland within the arctic circle. Its easily accessible from the UK with daily flights via Helsinki to Ivalo on Finn Air. Inari boasts the second largest population of Sami culture and sits next to the beautiful Lake Inarijarvi.

A riverboat trip into the Lemmenjoki National Park, to try your hand at gold panning is a must. The historical gold sites sit around 22km deep into the park and my wonderful Sami guide showed me the secret of finding gold. Afterwards, we sat around the campfire to hear fascinating stories about the Sami culture and hear “yoiks” (songs) whist enjoying traditional delicacies.

There is no chance to see the Northern Lights during summer as of course it must be dark to see them. But the night time sun is very beautiful. It is lower in the sky in the evening and lends a soft glow over the countryside and lakes – much Like the start of a gorgeous sunset that lasts all night. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to take a midnight cruise. It’s so peaceful, watching the birds, the still waters twinkling in the sun and spotting fish darting in and out of the waters.

During summer, Reindeer roam freely so you will see them a lot, sometimes dozens of them together, just wandering around the roads and countryside. This is also the time baby Reindeer are born and its very special to see them with their mothers as they graze on grass.

Just a few hours south of Inari by car, is Saariselka. One of the main reasons for visiting this area is for the many outdoor activities on offer whilst enjoying the stunning backdrop of the Urho Kekkonen National Park. Fat biking is not something I’ve ever tried but is great fun. The extra wide tyres give you stability whilst challenging yourself to cycle uphill, downhill and over bumpy terrain. There are various levels of difficulty and you can do this with or without a guide. I did mine with a guide and we cycled to a beautiful lake where we enjoyed canoeing and fishing before lighting a fire and grilling our catch. For those with more time, there are lots of wonderful hiking trails through the park.

On the South Eastern border of Lapland, sits Kuusamo, within the Northern Ostrobothnia region, approximately a 4hr drive from Inari with its own airport and regular flights from the UK via Helsinki. This region is closest to the Russian border and is renowned for its wildlife and nature; central to its promotion of wellbeing.

During the winter, this area is home to one of the largest (and expanding) ski resorts in Finland, hosting international ski jumping and cross country skiing competitions. In summer, it transforms into an adventure park with some truly thrilling activities on offer. One of them, is rafting on the Kitka river. This is something that everyone can do, with some easy ones for families with children over 5 and much more challenging ones for those over 18. Our guide, having fully briefed us on all of the commands and suited and booted us, took us down category 2, 3 and 4 rapids. By the end, we were soaked through and on a total high. After a delicious picnic lunch, we went on a hike through the national park and managed to view the much more challenging category 6 rapids for the super brave.

This particular region is famous for its brown bear and once they come out of hibernation in May, you can spot them right up until end of September. Our guide has a 99% success rate of tracking them. We met him in Kuntivaara which is situated just 3km from the Russian border. As he led us in our small group, in single file, silently through the forest, we spotted Mummy bear with her 3 cubs walking so close to us! We were ushered quickly into our viewing cabin where we watched them foraging for food and playing. The cabin is a small wooden hut where we could sit in small armchairs, in front of a huge viewing window, with binoculars to wait and watch. We were fortunate enough to see 7 or 8 of them, ranging from 2 months old up to 14 years old strolling in all their magnificent glory right in front of the window. The setting is beautiful as the sun sits low in the sky and the eagles and other forest birds provide entertainment as they circle around, waiting to pounce on the bears’ leftovers. I felt so lucky to have witnessed this wonderful display of nature and will cherish the memories.

Wellbeing is so important to the people of this region and at every place I stayed, there was a sauna of some variety – whether it be traditional or smoke. There is even a sauna tour where you can visit 7 or so in one day, being taken from place to place by bus which, yes you guessed it, features a sauna. I struggled to get the sauna concept when I arrived but by the time I left I was a total convert. The saunas are generally built close to the lake so that you can go for a dip in the cold refreshing water after working up a sweat. You can do this even in winter when they will cut a hole in the ice so that you can still plunge in! It’s that wonderful tingling feeling of hot to cold that leaves you so refreshed and invigorated. And that feeling lasts for days. There are many different types of sauna, but my favourite was the smoke sauna. This is one of the first types of Sauna, it doesn’t have a chimney and takes hours to heat up producing a dry smoky heat. I also enjoyed the Finnish tradition of using birch leaves to slap the skin, getting the circulation going and taking the natural oils from the birch into the skin.

 

The wild arctic food is absolutely delicious. During the summer months, berries and mushrooms grow in abundance, there is plenty of fresh fish and vegetables and reindeer and elk make a regular appearance on the menu. Everywhere I ate, I experienced outstanding, fresh wholesome country fare.  Many of the local hotels and guest house have been in the family for years and are passed from generation to generation. A lovely activity is to go out with your host and pick some local ingredients and then cook them, following one of their secret family recipes. You can then enjoy  your feast with some fresh berry juice, water straight from the spring or something stronger if you prefer.

I have previously enjoyed 2 wonderful winter stays in Finnish Lapland but seeing it in summer has opened up a whole new appreciation of this wonderful region. This holiday will appeal to any foodies who love the outdoors, wild nature and want to relax and unwind in a peaceful and beautiful environment. Just don’t forget your eye mask!

Itinerary coming soon.

 

By Deborah Barnett

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