To those living in Finland, north means Lapland. And for those in Lapland, north means Utsjoki. The small municipality is the farthest north you can go in Finnish Lapland, nestled against the Norwegian border. This quiet bundle of Sámi villages amid Arctic wilderness is the perfect place to slow down and experience the beauty and culture of Lapland.
For the love of nature
Just because there’s a population density of 1 person per 4 km² doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Quite the opposite: the relative lack of man means the landscape is unspoiled, offering countless experiences for the nature-lover.
The northern border is the Tenojoki river, and salmon fishing is the name of the game, as it has been since the Stone Age. Under the Midnight Sun, which effectively means months of continuous daylight, you’ll join Sámi fishermen, alongside Finns, Norwegians and other fishing enthusiasts from all over the world try their skills at catching salmon and grayling. When the long Polar Night descends in early winter, you gas up your ice auger and take a warm seat along. You ride a snowmobile out to the secret spots on frozen wilderness lakes that have been in your guide’s family for generations. With any luck, you’ll catch an Arctic char. More likely than not, you’ll spend your time under the silent spectacle of the Northern Lights. (Utsjoki’s northern location all but guarantees aurora activity throughout autumn and winter.) You can also easily reach the Arctic Ocean, as it lies only a couple hours beyond the border of Norway.
Much of Utsjoki is protected nature reserves, which offer incomparable outdoors experiences. Spend your endless summer days on the hundreds of kilometers of hiking and bike trails, many of which, begin in the village of Utsjoki. Inhale the pure Arctic air, smell the flowers, and taste some of the cleanest water in the world. In the winter, trek out across unbroken fields and sparkling landscapes. Take your skis, snow shoes or hop on a snowmobile and feel the crisp wind on your cheeks.
In the village of Utsjoki, you can visit the historical church, vicarage, the old cemetery and more.
Modern, in the middle of nowhere
Utsjoki and the villages of Karigasniemi and Nuorgam offer a taste of modern comforts and comprehensive services in the wilderness along the border. In Karigasniemi, you can sample Lapland delicacies made from fresh wild ingredients at Guossi. Or grab a burger and fries from Annukan Grilli on the way into Utsjoki. You can even enjoy a warm meal at the Suvanto Summer Café, the northernmost café in the EU!
Utsjoki and its environs offer dozens of accommodation options. An apartment at Kalastajan Majatalo in Karigasniemi affords you a private fireplace and sauna in the heart of Sámiland. Holiday Village Valle offers the convenience of hotel services beside the border river between Finland and Norway. And Nuorgam, the northernmost village in Finland, has cabins, cottages and holiday villages to ensure that your holiday in the wilderness is as comfortable as it is amazing.
Traveling to Utsjoki
You don’t need flying reindeer to visit Utsjoki; the area is served by the Ivalo airport, with daily connections to the world through Helsinki. From the Ivalo airport, it’s a leisurely drive north, past Lake Inari, the largest in Lapland, and the vast nature preserves and national parks on either side of the highway. You can take a bus from the airport to the Utsjoki center (4 – 5 hours) or take a car (2 hours). If you’re staying in a holiday village, you can often arrange pickup and transportation from the airport.
Utsjoki is also served by the Kirkenes airport just across the border in Norway. The airport is only 2.5 hours away from Nuorgam by car, a drive that takes you carries you along the Varanger fjord and the Baltic Sea.