Nestled between the vast forests of the Urho Kekkonen National Park and Lapland‘s largest lake, Lake Inari, lies Europe‘s northernmost holiday resort: Inari-Saariselkä. Here, travelers experience the mystery of Lapland culture amidst the beauty and awe of sweeping Arctic landscapes. The idyllic village of Saariselkä brings together a range of services and fantastic activities, indoors and out, and is the perfect gateway for exploring the authentic culture of northern Lapland. The area offers modern facilities and genuine Lapland hospitality.
Explore the North
Summertime presents myriad opportunities to explore. Stand on the bow of a cruiser as it carries you across Lake Inari to the sacred island of Ukonsaari. Or grab a paddle and explore the Ivalojoki river in your own canoe. Riverboats carry explorers to the cascading Ravadas waterfall in Lemmenjoki National Park, Finland’s largest national park, to begin their treks through old pine forests to bald fells. Under the Midnight Sun, you can try your luck and skill alongside traditional fisherman and cast your line. You might pull up a brown trout, Arctic char or a grayling. Of course, you could always just lay down a towel on Ivalojoki’s surprisingly large swimming beach and soak in the sun.
Once your feet are again on solid land, you can enjoy the Inari-Saariselkä region’s many nature activities. Lace up your boots and hike through Finland’s two largest national parks: Lemmenjoki and Urho Kekkonen. Or maybe you prefer something faster, more challenging? Test your endurance on an all-day mountain bike ride in Urho Kekkonen National Park. You can also try your luck at panning for gold with guided tours down the Lemmenjoki river and in Saariselkä. Finders keepers!
Of course, the Arctic wouldn’t be the same without winter, and that’s when Lapland really comes alive. The sky erupts in Northern Lights almost every clear night, splashing green fire across the heavens. And as the sun hibernates for months during winter, the white landscapes are awash with the pinks, purples and soft blues of Polar Night. From the top of Kaunispää fell, you can ride Europe’s longest toboggan run (1.8 km). The silent landscapes stretch out in every direction, perfect for sleigh rides, snowshoe treks, snowmobile excursions, or cross-country skiing. In fact, many Finns (who know a little something about skiing) consider the Saariselkä ski tracks the best in the country. The options for exploring authentic Arctic wildernesses in the heart of winter are endless. You can even march out onto the frozen waters and try your luck at ice fishing or visit a Sámi reindeer herder family!
Regardless of the length of day or temperatures outside, Inari-Saariselkä has plenty to offer, indoors and out. Discover the long history of Lapland’s gold rush, or explore the rich Sámi culture in the Siida museum. Photographers can’t get enough of the silent auroras in the sky or the golden haze of the Midnight Sun. The snow-capped forests of Urho Kekkonen, the incredible colors of the Polar night, the autumn forests reflected in the dark northern lakes. Or maybe just a selfie from the middle of Lake Inari, the third largest lake in Finland.
Northern villages, northern culture
Finnish Lapland is home to thousands of Sámi, and the colorful threads of their culture are woven throughout northern Lapland. Europe’s only indigenous peoples hold their parliament, Sámediggi, in Sajos, right next to the Siida museum in Inari. And the northern people of Lapland celebrate life and culture in the Arctic through their handicrafts, art, music and many different festivals and happenings.
In the heart of winter, Skábmagovat – the Indigenous People’s Film Festival airs films created by and about indigenous peoples worldwide. Reindeer herding has been a staple of northern Lapland for thousands of years, and every spring, reindeer riders race on Lake Inari for the title of Finnish champion. When the snow has melted, and the sun refuses to set for a few months, the Ijahis Idja Indigenous People’s Music Festival brings together performers, musicians and bands from all over the world.
The idyllic outdoor resort of Saariselkä is the perfect launching point for adventures into Sámiland, greater Lapland and the Arctic. Holiday packages include day trips to Norway (200 km) or to the Russian border (60 km). Only half an hour drive south, learn the culture and values of gold prospectors at Tankavaara Gold Village.
For dining in Lapland style, there are multiple options. Gourmands will enjoy buckwheat blinis and roast reindeer at Petronella in Saariselkä or the locally-sourced fish and forest mushrooms at the award-winning Aanaar at Tradition Hotel Kultahovi in Inari.
After an evening of good food, relax in an aurora hut and watch nature’s silent fireworks in the night sky. Or find the perfect hotel room, cabin, apartment, campground or hostel room, via the Inari-Saariselkä website. Many Inari-Saariselkä hotels and holiday resort options feature saunas.
Traveling to Inari-Saariselkä
Inari-Saariselkä is serviced by the Ivalo international airport, with direct flights from European cities during the winter peak season. You can reach Ivalo by bus (4 to 5 hours) from Rovaniemi, whose international airport services destinations all over the world. No matter the season, you can always reach Lapland from the Helsinki airport.
From Rovaniemi, buses travel daily to Nuorgam in the far north (7 hours), stopping at Saariselkä, Ivalo and Inari along the way. The trip is the perfect opportunity to take in the endless landscapes.
Driving is also a popular way to visit the villages of Saariselkä, Ivalo and Inari. On the 3-4 hour drive from the Arctic Circle, you will pass tantalizingly close to Pyhä-Luosto National Park, as well as through the growing town of Sodankylä. When you enter the village of Vuotso, you know you’re getting close.
Saariselkä resort and the villages of Ivalo and Inari all lie along E75, the highway that connects Helsinki to the village of Utsjoki. Driving north from the high fells around Saariselkä, the road twists and turns, revealing glimpses of the glimmering Lake Inari. You can even travel to north Norway and the Arctic Ocean via E75.
No matter how you get to Europe’s northernmost destination, Inari-Saariselkä welcomes you to experience and enjoy everything the north has to offer.