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First snow has fallen in Lapland – this is what Sodankylä looks right now

First snow is always magical. As polar night approaches, there is less and less sunlight every day. One day the sun no longer rises at all. But with only a pinch of snow the whole world gets bright again.

I went to see the first snow to the hills of Sodankylä. My friend came along with her lapponian herder puppy Ruska.

It was a sunny day after weeks and weeks of cloudiness. We climbed to the top of Pittiövaara hill to have a picnic. A raven came to say hello to us. What a beautiful bird.

It was noon and the temperature was a few degrees below freezing. We were wearing lots of warm clothes and also proper hiking shoes – Pittiövaara is a rocky hill, and it is not easy to walk safely on big snowy rocks.

Some parts were too challenging for the puppy. Luckily she still fits in a backpack.

We chose a sunny spot to stop and have a coffee. It was a little gorge on the top of the hill, so the rocks gave us shelter from the cold wind. It was spectacular. In the horizon we could see the silhouettes of Pyhätunturi and Luosto – the Pyhä-Luosto national park.

The trip took us a few hours. I can not imagine a better way to spend a sunny Sunday in Lapland.

I’m so happy it’s snowy again. Welcome winter!

5 things you didn’t know about Lapland

What do you know about Lapland? You’ve probably heard about Santa Claus, maybe you’ve even met him when you were little. And all his reindeer of course – they live in Lapland. In winter there is lots of snow and beautiful northern lights, yes. But what more do you know?

I want to tell you about Lapland the way I know it, the way I love it. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Lapland!

1. Reindeer like to hang out on roads in summer

When travelling in real Lapland it’s almost certain that you see reindeer at some point. In summer there are lots of mosquitos, so reindeer want to enjoy a bit of summer breeze that keeps the mosquitos away. That’s why they spend quite a lot of time on open places like roads. When driving, be cautious: these animals often don’t know how to give way to cars.

When you see reindeer on road, you probably want to take a photo. Make sure that you stop your car only on a good, visible spot. Do not park around a corner – there might be a bus or a truck coming behind you!

2. Summer in Lapland quite often feels like a real summer

Summers in Lapland are not very long, but they are stunningly beautiful. The sun is above the horizon 24/7 and the flowers are blooming like crazy. When the sun shines, it can get really warm, which in Lapland usually means something between 20 and 25 degrees celcius. There are lots of lakes and rivers – enjoy the Finnish everyman’s right and go for a swim!

3. Driving in Lapland is a blast

In Lapland there are endless roads and small villages in every direction. Many tourists come here by car, but if you need to take a plane to get here, I recommend you rent a car. That way you can enjoy Lapland’s traffic-free roads and amazing views on your own without having to be an expert hiker. However, remember to fill the tank often enough: it can be a 100km drive to the next gas station!

This is what you see when driving by Teno river in Utsjoki.

4. You can fish with a fishing rod almost everywhere

Thanks to everyman’s right in Finland, everyone is allowed to fish almost everywhere using a fishing rod. You don’t need any permissions, all you need is a fishing rod, some worms and a place to fish. Worms are usually sold in markets and gas stations. When choosing a place to fish, just make sure you’re not on somebody’s yard. You have an endless list of places to choose from: Lapland if full of lakes and rivers!

If fishing even with a simple fishing rod is prohibited for some reason in some specific lake or pond, there is a plaque on the spot that tells you not to fish.

5. People still offer gifts to ancient holy places

In Lapland there are many natural formations that have been concidered as holy. There are many holy fells, but also rocks, trees and ponds. A holy natural formation like this is often called a seita. They have been offered gifts like fish heads and reindeer horn bits to keep them happy, so that they would provide the giftgiver with hunting of fishing luck. Many of these places still receive gifts, like coins.

Taatsin seita in Kittilä is one of the best-known holy rock formations in Lapland.

Oulanka is one of the most magical national parks in Europe – don’t miss these 5 amazing places on your visit

This is one of the most magical national parks in Europe! This is what Daily Mail just publicly declared, and we totally agree. Oulanka National Park is known for its rapids, steep gorges, suspension bridges, and rare plants. The comprehensive and clearly marked selection of trails within the Park provides even a budding hiker with a safe way to enjoy the magnificent scenery of a real wilderness and the “almost” Siberian vibe to it. The Park is located in northern Finland, and it borders with Russia in the east.

Here are five great places you simply must not miss in Oulanka National Park!

1. The edge of the world: Oulanka Canyon

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Be careful! As you step on the edge of Oulanka Canyon, you’re in for a real surprise. You walk through a beautiful Lapland forest to discover that land literally rips up before you: the free fall down the Canyon is long, and at the bottom there is a roaring river. However, you do not have to be an action hero to get to see this startling place. The 6-kilometre-long Kanjonin kurkkaus (Oulanka Canyon Trail) is accessible and clearly marked – follow it, and you will safely get to admire the immemorial giant gorge.

2. Bridge adventure: Taivalköngäs

Do you enjoy the atmosphere of the wild and the roar of rapids? If so, then Taivalköngäs is the right place for you! Its lovely wooden suspension bridges provide you with the chance to admire and listen to the rabid turmoil of the water right from above. There is a small island in the middle of Taivasköngäs that with its tall trees and tentacle-like roots looks like a magical forest. The marked forest trail leading to Taivalköngäs is almost 10 kilometres long. Once arrived, it is possible to make a fire and stay overnight in a wilderness hut managed by Finland’s State Forest Enterprise.

3. In the heart of the wild: Ristikallio Cliff

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Standing on the edge of the imposing Ristikallio, it is easy to feel the infinite peace of the wilderness. The cliff that rises incredibly steeply from the river is like nature’s own viewing platform in the middle of the wild dominated by water, forest, and hills. No traffic noise travels up to Ristikallio, for it is a several kilometres’ walk from the nearest road. On your way you can admire
the unique forest nature of Oulanka National Park. Pay attention to even the smallest forest flowers and plants – if you look up close, you can see the delicate beauty of the north.

4. A giant waterfall: Jyrävänkoski

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The powerful buzz of Jyrävänkoski Rapid can be heard far away. The sound dominates the whole landscape. With free falls up to 9 metres, Jyrävä is one of Finland’s tallest waterfalls. A trail named Pieni Karhunkierros, with a total length of 12 kilometres, leads up to the waterfall. Along the trail you will also get to admire other graceful rapids, enjoy beautiful forests, and cross suspension bridges. Along the way, there are also a number of campfire places.

5. A strange island: Rupakivi

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A truly odd island stands out in the middle of Savinajoki River. Rupakivi is a several metres high
stone pillar, nature’s own skyscraper in the middle of the stream. A white sandy beach spreads out at the feet of the rock whose top is dotted with small growing trees. Rupakivi is the kind of place you could easily think of as the home of a fairy! A marked path leads to the rock that is best seen from the steep stairs. You cannot get close to the rock but the view is fantastic from the riverbank, as well.

+1: Remember this when you arrive in Oulanka!

The best time to visit is the time of autumn foliage when nature glows and there are less mosquitoes. Oulanka National Park has several well marked trails, and leaving them is not a good idea. Oulanka is a wilderness area where nature dictates the rules. Always prepare your hike carefully. Mobile phone coverage may not always be possible along the path. You should always carry a map with you, and please do not overestimate your physical condition – the Park’s rugged reliefs require a good level of fitness. In summer, please remember to protect yourself from mosquitoes. Valuable advice, instructions and tips for successful hikes are available at Oulanka Visitor Centre.

Here’s more information in English!

Translated by: Mikko Solja

Pink skies and freezing cold: this is what’s going on in Lapland right now

The temperature dropped in a matter of days. First it was -5 degrees celsius, then -12, then -18*. Although it has snowed next to none so far, we can say that winter has taken over the vast commune of Kittilä in western Lapland.

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The river Ounasjoki froze overnight. Everything froze. Now you can hear what total silence sounds like.

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When it’s really cold, the eastern sky turns pink during the sunset. Until of course the sun no longer rises and the polar night begins in a few weeks.

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Even during the coldest of winter days one might get some visitors.

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Can you guess who’s there, behind all that snow?

 

 

*-5 degrees Celsius is equal to 23 degrees Fahrenheit,
-12°C = 10,4°F
-18°C = -0,4°F

Finland is the 3rd best travel destination in the world – and Hossa is the jewel in its crown

Finland is the third best travel destination in the world, as published in Lonely Planet’s latest list. It’s the only country in Europe that made it to the top 10! Lonely Planet raves about Hossa in particular – a hiking area located in Eastern Finland’s mystical backwoods, which in 2017 will become a national park in celebration of Finland’s 100th year of independence.

We have listed here what we think you should really experience in Hossa.

  1. Northern Lights and stars shine in perfect darkness

Situated in Kainuu’s stunning wilderness, Hossa is far away from urban light pollution. Here you can experience complete darkness at night, and on clear evenings, marvel at the magical night sky and the even the Milky Way. It’s also possible to see the northern lights. All of this makes Hossa a fantasy destination for night sky photographers.

  1. Hossa’s natural environment is clean and quiet

Have you ever experienced perfect silence? When you can’t hear the hum of cars, people’s conversations or the rumbling of machines, even from a distance? In Hossa you’re surrounded by peaceful nature. You can immerse yourself in thought, breathe the cleanest air in the world and let your gaze rest on the picturesque scenery.  In complete silence. Sit down, make a campfire and surrender. Perfect calm and quiet creates a feeling that  you will never forget.

  1. Indulge in the fruits of the forest on your hike.

In Summer and late Summer, Kainuu’s natural surroundings are bursting with a variety of berries, all equally delicious. You  are allowed to pick berries in the woods and from the swamps as part of Everyman’s Rights. Taste the orange cloudberries, red lingonberries, blue blueberries and bog bilberries as well as crispy black crowberries. Crouch down in the forest for a short while to pick nature’s offerings, and your kuksa (traditional carved wooden cup) will be full in a few minutes. Bon Apetit!

  1. Hike and go mountain biking – there are over 90 kilometers of trails!

In Hossa you will find suitable trails for mountain biking as well as hiking – over 90 kilometres altogether. You could easily hike for a week. Routes are marked clearly, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. You can get maps for the area from the nature centre, and local guides will advise you on an  interesting route suitable for your needs. An accessible nature trail, from which you can admire Hossa’s nature with children’s pushchairs or a wheelchair, departs from the nature centre and is about half a kilometre in length.

  1. Feel the ancient atmosphere on the canyon lake of Julma-Ölkky

This incredible canyon lake is one of the most mystical places in all of Finland. About 3km of  steep canyon walls reach up 50 metres towards the sky –  and under the water’s surface, the walls continue down into almost bottomless depths. The lake, proudly resting in the gorge is surrounded by untouched wild nature, a trekker’s paradise. You can admire the view of Julma-Ölkky by hiking the 10 km circular route from the gorge’s edge, or marvel at the canyon walls from the lake’s surface by boat, canoe or kayak.

Photo: Antti Huttunen

Photo: Antti Huttunen

  1. Hossa was inhabited by humans  thousands of years ago – here is their message to you.

The wall that rises straight out of Somerjärvi lake tells an interesting tale: that man has lived in these wild lands for thousands of years. These rock paintings, which are 3500-4500 years old, are the northernmost in our country. Over 60 different pictures have been found on the rock. Amongst them is a human-like figure with antlers, which could well represent a shaman. The route that detours to Värikallio is 8 km in total, and in winter you can get there by skiing. A viewing platform has been built in front of the rock, so it’s relatively effortless to go and admire this ancient work of art.

  1. So, you think reindeer can only be found in Lapland?

When you are travelling through Hossa it’s highly likely that you will meet some reindeer. You may come across a reindeer on the road or in the forest, or  even see them strolling through a meadow or someone’s garden. Reindeer are semi-wild: they wander through all kinds of terrain, wherever takes their fancy. If you want to visit a real reindeer farm and see some of these creatures up close, stop off at Hossa Reindeer Park.

Photo: Antti Huttunen

Photo: Antti Huttunen

  1. Take a rest in nature’s embrace – this lean-to is an idyllic spot

Along Hossa’s routes there are plenty of huts, campfire sites and lean-to shelters, where you can stop, camp and make a fire. The location of the lean-to at Muikkupuro brook is one of the most picturesque in all of Finland. You can get to the lean-to by walking around a kilometre through a delightful wide forest path. You can sit in the lean-to, light a fire, enjoy a picnic and even sleep. In front of the leant-to is a shallow, sandy-bottomed and clear brook, which feels heavenly to wade in barefoot. The spot is between two lakes and both lakes open out onto a lovely untamed landscape.

  1. Fall into deep snow and savour the frosty air

In winter Hossa is overcome with snow and sub-zero temperatures, turning this summer paradise into a winter wonderland. There is so much snow, that it’s hard to even describe – you just have to experience it. The area is a great place for skiing, snowshoeing and admiring the Northern Lights. Another popular past-time to try is ice-fishing. Hossa’s waterways are teeming with fish!

  1. Swim, dive and try stand-up paddling in the crystal clear waters of Hossa

In Hossa there are abundant lakes, whose sandy beaches and clear waters tempt one to plunge right in. In Finland you can swim freely almost anywhere under Everyman’s Rights, as long as you’re not bobbing around next to someone’s private shore. In the summer, Hossa’s lakes are pleasantly warm. Take diving goggles and a snorkel with you, for you can see far in the clear water.

You can also rent stand up paddle boards  from Camping Hossa Lumo and enjoy stand up paddling from the camping area’s stunning sandy beach. Other equipment available for rent includes kayaks, canoes and rowing boats. The camping area is run by local Maija Daly and her husband, Irishman Lenny Daly.

Maija Daly runs Camping Hossan Lumo.

Getting to Hossa

It is advisable to come to Hossa by car, as public transport does not currently come to this out of the way idyll. If flying to the region, the nearest airports are: Kuusamo, Kajaani or Oulu, from where you can hire a car and drive into the midst of Hossa’s unforgettable landscapes.

Hossa on the map

Translated by Becky Hastings.

THE JOY AND BLISS OF ROLLING IN UNTOUCHED POWDER SNOW

Powder snow… Everybody in Lapland knows what it is, how wonderful, soft and light it is. It is anxiously anticipated until the crust of snow finally gets deep and fluffy as ever.

It can be described with words and pictures but you actually understand the real fun and loveliness of it only when you experience it first hand.

On the morning of February 1, just when the sun was only preparing to spread warm rays on the vast Lapland, we headed to the ice of the mighty Ounasjoki river to experience the thick and untouched crust of powder snow. According to the information provided by the nearest measuring point, the depth of snow was at 77 cm but the wind had thrown the snow blanket even higher at some locations.

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At a short distance, on the river there is a sandy island which, I heard, had gotten a thick blanket of snow during winter. So, there we went and leaped into the snow!

Our feet fell deep into it as we stepped down from the snowmobile – at first the snow was knee deep, then even deeper with the slightest move we made. We trudged in the fluffy snow, enjoying every moment like children. The air was still and quiet, and it was lovely to follow the arrival of daylight onto the powder snow of Ounasjoki river.

I use to make first contact with untouched snow by dropping into it with straight legs; this is how I sometimes lie in the snow at home by night, watching northern lights and listening to music through my earphones.

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I wore as many as two hoods over my head and made sure that the bandana scarf stayed right where it was supposed to. I also checked that I had pulled the zipper of my coat all the way up and that I had closed my pocket – should my phone have slipped down into the snow, it might have been lost forever.

Ready? Let’s jump!

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No, I’m not Chewbacca, I just forgot to tie my hair up.

Preparing for the leap wasn’t all that simple because my feet sank into the soft powder snow even when I tried to stamp it down to make a solid base.

You need to have proper clothing, for rolling in the snow is fun only if you manage to stay warm and dry. Just having cold toes can easily ruin the experience! That is why I always wear winter boots and other outdoor winter clothing for this purpose.

The winter coat must be wind-proof and warm. It is good to have snow locks at sleeves and hem to prevent snow from slipping inside your clothes. For that purpose, it is also good to wear suspenders on your winter trousers and to have snow locks at trouser legs, too.

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Snow locks and warm mittens prevent powder snow from entering the sleeves.

Our boots plunged countless times deep into the snow on the sandy island. There were a few more stable layers of snow in between but then with a step forward we might plunge even deeper.

It is hard to make through a crust of snow like this but the fun makes up for it! The snow is like the most comfortable armchair when you sit in it – it feels like sitting on fluffy air. When you do that and take a look around at the vast Lappish landscape, it always makes you feel like you could stay there forever.

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You might actually have to stay there for good because standing up is not easy at all. I was reminded of that first hand for the umpteenth time…

At that point, the snow locks and proper mittens prove to be extremely useful; the soft snow doesn’t really help in getting up. You try to use your hand as a support but it plunges deeper and deeper into the snowy abyss. Then you try the other hand and both legs, with no better results. The more you struggle, the deeper you fall into the snow! First you are in a sitting position trying to get up, only to end up lying with your back against the cold.

I began to laugh at myself. What a desperate mess! I rolled myself into some kind of a crawling position and tried to lift my body by crawling backwards. The attempt was a successful one, judging from the fact that I am no longer there, in the snow.

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All this might make you think of the cold but in fact if you are properly dressed, it won’t get anywhere near your body. Playing in the snow actually makes you sweat!

For as long as you have fun in one spot, you don’t need snowshoes or skis. They are made for transportation and they would only ruin the snow immersion experience.

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Just like Finnish Lapland in general, untouched snow when approached with the right mindset is a sure remedy for all kinds of moodiness and grumpiness. When an adult finally has a chance to play like a lemming in the infinite soft snow, joy and laughter are only natural to burst out.

Can you believe? This is how 15 minutes in a forest affects you!

There is such strong magic in Finnish forests that one may not even believe it. The forest is like open arms; ready to embrace you without judging, to give power and support. It caresses you with its beauty, sounds and smells, and it feels good on your skin, too.

Only 15 minutes in a forest make you a better person. It makes you feel alive.

Stepping into a forest is like walking through a gate. You leave all the fuss, busy life and smooth asphalted roads behind, to be greeted with peace and fragrant nature.

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Those who believe in research will have no option but to believe this. Among others, the Natural Resources Institute Finland has found out that even a short visit to a forest makes people feel better – it relieves stress and increases sense of vitality.

A trail persuades you to adventure deeper into the heart of the forest. Step by step, hurry and duties in everyday life are forgotten. Now, there is no need to perform, no need to always try and be perfect. You can be just the way you are – just be there.

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The body begins to rest. Breathing becomes easier and deeper at the same time. You start to feel better and stronger with every inhalation.

The harmony of scents is ineffable. It may even feel like you’re actually breathing for the first time in your life.

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The air in the forest smells good. It may smell like damp moss, rain, wet tree trunks, flowers, and needle-covered path.

It may smell like a tree stump that is already creating new life, or even snow, frost, and softwood.

According to a research, just five hours per month in a forest will greatly improve our mental health. What about, say, five hours per week, then?

However, not many of us need researches to believe just how good it is for us to spend time in the woods. We Finns are lucky – we can go and enjoy the forests almost any time and any place. We have learned and grown into thinking that the forest is good for us.

The light of the forest plays with shadows and colours between the trees. It may be warm or cold, gloomy or bright, yet seen with one’s heart at ease, it is always safe, familiar, and beautiful.

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When you explore the little wonders and details in the forest with devotion, you lose sense of time. The forest is a world where time doesn’t matter.

The forest takes care of us, and it also raises our children. It has a preventive effect on allergies, for it makes us stronger through spreading good bacteria. We only get them if we habitually go into nature, starting from an early age.

The effect of near nature on us can be huge at best. The forest may help develop an interest and love for all living things. It is worth introducing even the youngest child to nature and biodiversity, only to see, perhaps, how she will get endlessly excited about birds, butterflies, or bugs, for instance.

If we have a chance to grow surrounded by nature from an early age, it will leave an unerasable, good mark on us for the rest of our lives.

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It feels safe to be among tree trunks. The forest is a safe haven, a place to rest. Fewer thoughts come to your mind, and the hustle and bustle in your head quiet down. It is easy to enjoy even little things and distinguish between what is important and what is not.

The eyes can finally rest, too: the gaze is not tormented by bright lights, shiny surfaces, nor by man-made constructions. You can give your eyes rest by looking far into the woods or tree tops.

Nature is impeccably beautiful in all the chaos mastered by Mother Earth.

Plump tussocks of moss invite you to touch them, and so do tree trunks, rocks, and everything else you encounter along the trail. Sink your hand into the moss and feel the fresh, scented earth. Push your ear to the trunk of a dead pine tree, and you will hear greater wisdom than even the wisest human can ever offer you.

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The forest helps us remember who we are and where we come from.

It cures us through all our senses. Our eyes can rest and enjoy the beauty of nature; our ears can have a moment of silence and concentrate on the sweet sounds of nature; we can feel the nature with our hands, feet, or even with our cheekbones; in our noses, we feel the unbelievable scents of the earth, trees, water, and rocks, that so vividly change with the weather and seasons.

We may put sweet and tasty berries in the mouth, just like other animals, big and small alike.

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In the woods, you may head down to the waterfront. Listen to the ripple and feel what it smells like and what it tells you.

How beautiful is the sound of water! It may be a lively forest brook, a pond, maybe a lake, or a mighty river. It is a different world that lives right next to you and gives your mind a chance to rest and become stronger.

Wonder what lives and goes on beneath the surface of water? The gurgle and brisk stream create a feeling of wholeness – you could stare at the stream for ever.

The water smells fresh and lively. It is full of energy that you can easily absorb. That’s why spending time at a waterfront always feels so good.

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You are never alone in the forest. Never. There are many kinds of wanderers: big, small, winged, furry, fluttery, and crawling.

Near tree tops, there might be a flock of tits playing and chit chatting, or there might be a Siberian jay trying to talk to you.

It is said that a Siberian jay must always be greeted, for the bird might be your guide in the woods.

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Glance down, beneath mushrooms, into cavities between rocks, at tree roots.

Examine even smallest animals always with due respect, for we are all equal. Every beetle, snail and frog is a valuable and irreplaceable part of the forest.

The forest caresses and regenerates everyone who steps into its embrace – even those who do not care about it at all.

Yet those who do care and love it will gain more than anyone.