Approximately 250 kilometers North of the Arctic Circle is Europe’s northernmost outdoor resort, Saariselkä. A wide range of accommodation options and other services are nearby, yet the peace of the wilderness is only few steps away. First and foremost, visitors come to Saariselkä to indulge in outdoor activities in the magnificent backdrop provided by the fells. Saariselkä serves as a gateway to Finland’s second largest national park of the Urho Kekkonen National Park.
In winter, there are about 200 km of well-maintained cross-country skiing tracks, downhill skiing resort, Finland’s longest tobogganing slope and a vast selection of all sorts of winter activities. In summer, the well-marked routes of the Urho Kekkonen National Park are an invitation to hike for a few hours or even a few weeks.
Saariselkä serves as a gateway to Urho Kekkonen National Park which is a particularly popular hiking destination thanks to the easily traversable fell terrain, the untouched natural environmental and a dense network of wilderness huts. The surroundings of Saariselkä offer also ideal conditions for mountain biking. Saariselkä’s summer hiking trails and ski tracks can be reached from the Saariselkä gate at the village, Kiilopää gate, by Kakslauttanen and at Laanila. All starting points are all equipped with parking areas and tourist information boards.
Local sights in Saariselkä
Urho Kekkonen National Park
The Urho Kekkonen National Park is the second largest protected area in Finland, extending eastwards from Saariselkä all the way to the Russian border. The northern part is characterised by untouched wilderness, river-valleys and highland fell area with several peaks exceeding 500 metres in height. The park area boasts Finland’s densest network of day cabins, wilderness huts and campsites. Starting from Saariselkä and Kiilopää, there are theme-based hiking trails which are ideal for day trips. During the wintertime the trails serve as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing tracks.
Kaunispää is perhaps the most recognisable of Saariselkä’s fells. Standing some 438 metres up, the peak of the fell is easy to reach by hiking, cross-country skiing, car or ski lift. Bordering the Urho Kekkonen National Park, Kaunispää boasts magnificent views across the national park, the Sompio Nature Reserve and the tundra around Hammastunturi Fell. This scenic location offers excellent downhill skiing opportunities – and also Finland’s longest toboggan slope.
Kiilopää (546m) is one of the highest fells in the Saariselkä region and easily accessible from Kiilopääs gate. The well-marked track of 2 km takes visitors to the peak that offers extensive views across the national park and beyond. Kiilopääs gate is a starting point for many hiking trails and cross-country ski tracks, that are adjacent to Saariselkä resort.
Laanilan kultareitti Trail
An 8 km hiking and cycling route of the Kultareitti trail features the areas gold mining history with information boards and historical sights along the way. Gold prospecting is still practised and visible in the vicinity of the trail which leads by old mining claims. During the winter Kultareitti Trail is part of the Kulmakuru Nature Skiing Trail. The trail is well-suited for inexperienced hikers, and locates between the main road 4 and Kutturantie.
Kultala Gold Village of River Ivalojoki
As a result of the gold rush of 1869 at the River Ivalojoki, the Finnish state build the Kultala Gold Mining Village to control the gold mining operations and gold trade at the River Ivalojoki. Here the gold mining permits were inspected, all mined gold weighted and taxes collected. During the gold rush there were hundreds of people living in the Kultala Village.
Today the restored Kultala Gold Village is a popular campsite with open and reservable wilderness huts, where visitors can sense the way of life and hard work of gold diggers from the past. Kultala is accessible via a signposted footpath from the Kuttura road or by canoe along the River Ivalojoki.
The Prospektor mine is an old gold mine that can be visited freely. A miners hut has been reconstructed on by the mine shaft and traces of past mining operations together with old mining equipment can still be seen in the area.
The mining company Prospektor founfed the mine in the early 1900s in hope to find gold. A road, which later extended to the Arctic Ocean, was built to connect the site in Laanila to Sodankylä. However, no gold was ever found in the mine and ultimately it was shut down. The old gold mine is located 1 km from Laanila and 5 km from Saariselkä centre.