Tag Archive for: Jonna Saari

In paid collaboration with Kestävästi kasvua kesään Itä-Lapissa -hanke

In the end of August, we spent a week discovering the best of Salla, Savukoski, Pyhätunturi, Kemijärvi and Posio in Eastern Lapland, Finland. The end of summer couldn’t be a more perfect time – no mosquitoes and few tourists, just the peace and calm of the wilderness. Our program for the week included cycling and climbing, hiking in the fells with and without huskies, as well as horse riding and stand up paddleboarding. Our very first stop on arrival, however, was a paddling trip on a serene lake in the wilderness.  

It’s a long way to Lapland from the south of Finland: it can be over 1000 kilometres depending on the destination, and easily 12 hours of driving. That’s why taking the night train is so handy, with the additional option of taking your car onboard. We loaded our car onto the train at Pasila railway station in Helsinki and travelled through the night across the whole of Finland, up to Kemijärvi!

Pasila railway station, Helsinki

The evening was well spent watching the sun set from our cabin window, and as dusk set in we saw the brightly lit Häme Castle reflected on the surface of Vanajavesi lake. The cabin was compact, with two comfortable bunk beds and a small private lavatory. Ear plugs effectively blocked out any rattling noises from the train during the night, permitting a good night’s rest.

Our train journey ended in Kemijärvi, at a modest railway station. The air was crisp – the previous afternoon in Helsinki went up to 30 degrees Celcius, here it was 14 degrees. The railway station slowly filled with people clearly lacking their first morning coffee.

Kemijärvi railway station

After around half an hour we got our car out from the train carriage. Our first stop was in fact for coffee in Kemijärvi centre, before heading towards Salla!

It took no more than an hour to get from Kemijärvi to the base of Sallatunturi fell. On the way we checked the weather forecast, which promised cloudy skies that should clear up by the evening. The cotton clouds blanketing the sky were a calming sight on our way to Sallatunturin Tuvat, where we made camp for the first night. My friend, whose journey had started a few days ago, was overjoyed to be able to do laundry, while more than anything my appreciation was focused on the calming silence around us and the hut’s ambient interior.  We had a short rest after the drive to recharge for the evening’s adventure. 

After our break we quickly dropped by Kaunisharju lookout point, located just a few kilometres from Sallatunturi, along the road towards Kuusamo. The lookout point opens out to a fantastic view of Finland’s newest national park!

Kaunisharju lookout point, Salla national park

Our first scheduled activity for the evening started at Salla nature centre, with Timo from Salla Wilderness Park. Soon we were joined by a Dutch family of four, and the evening’s program could begin. After getting into Timo’s car, we cruised down a dirt road to the edge of a serene lake.

The road continued up the Northeast side of Hangasjärvi to an elegant high ridge with a beautiful view of the fells. Looking out at the landscape, we wondered as a group what our chances might be of seeing the northern lights if the sky would stay clear through the evening. My friend, and especially the Dutch, were thrilled by the idea.

It was a steep descent from the back of the ridge to the shore of Hangasjärvi. Timo gave us brief safety instructions and handed out life vests and paddles. It wasn’t long before everyone sat merrily in their canoes. 

Hangasjärvi is around three kilometres in length, an oblong but narrow and practically untouched lake very close to Sallatunturi. The water’s surface was wonderfully smooth, perfectly reflecting the forest landscape throughout the evening. You could almost touch the silvered pine and gently rising mounds of fuzzy marshland. 

Paddling felt safe and pleasant, not at all difficult, even though I’ve truly only paddled before in my youth. The canoe was comfortingly stable and relaxing. The bow murmured soothingly as it broke the water’s surface ahead of us. It felt as if time stood still in the silent night air, only broken by the occasional hushed conversation between paddlers and the clopping hooves of reindeer in the nearby forest.

The setting sun painted the few clouds left in the sky gentle purple and orange hues. Aptly named the sunset paddle tour, it couldn’t have been timed better. We paddled toward the southeast end of the lake, passing through a narrow strait where we were briefly immersed in the dense forest. Taking a moment to stop and let the canoes glide along the lake’s surface, the silence and surrounding nature were breathtaking. I dipped my fingertips in the water to find that it was pleasantly warm, not the chilling cold that I was expecting. 

The setting sun is unique in its ability to paint many different moods on the landscape in the same moment. I sat at the bow of the canoe – the slave’s seat, according to the guide, though it didn’t feel like it – and my friend sat at the back, steering our direction. I got to admire the views ahead of us; the blue sky and chartreuse shores mixed with forest glowed beautifully against the towering sun-kissed backdrop of Ruuhitunturi fell. When I turned to look back, the first signs of dusk already showed in the reddening sky and forest darkened by the backlight.

Once we reached shore on the other side of the lake, our guide made a cosy campfire and served us coffee, tea, and a local delicacy: ‘kampanisu’, or a comb-shaped sweetbread. The peaceful moment was a perfect chance to exchange thoughts and ideas with the rest of the group. The Dutch told us about their journey here by ship and train, from the Netherlands via Germany to Finland, and finally Lapland. They were planning to continue to the North Cape and Lofoten islands before returning home. The family seemed delighted with their trip so far. 

Those who wanted also got to cook sausages over the fire, the traditional Finnish camping food! The crackling fire and buzz of the group’s discussions created a lulling backdrop for watching the different phases of the sunset and increasing stillness of the lake. There was even a rocking chair next to the kota to sit and marvel at the landscapes. 

After getting the canoes back in the water, we paddled back towards the starting point. The night sky was gradually cast with clouds of different sizes, colours, and shapes. Eating and gazing into the campfire left me feeling drowsy as we glided into the dusk that had descended on the lake. The tranquility calmed the mind, and even though conversation between the paddlers continued, my mind already started drifting towards sleep.  As we were leaving Hangasjärvi ridge, we saw a perfect halfmoon that shone brightly between the peaks of the Sallatunturi fells. 

Translated by Karolina Salin

Read more about things to do in Salla:

Visit Salla – in the middle of nowhere

The narrow road was hibernating beneath a white sheet of ice. As far as the ear could hear, the world was silent. I set off to see the sun for the first time in 2021.

The familiar landscape looked different. Frost and humidity had embraced the slopes and trees of the fell to such an extent that the trees were dressed in ice, snow and frost. They looked as if someone had glaced them with sugar.

The length of the day was 43 minutes. Before rising, the sun painted mind-boggling colors into the skyline.

My journey continued up the fell. Suddenly I noticed the moon hovering in the purple sky above the white forest. It was the most beautiful landscape I’ve seen in a long time, and quite unreal wonderful moment. The rest of the world ceased to exist for a while.

The fell hibernated so soundly that silence could be heard. A white willow ptarmigan set off from a short distance away, breaking the silence for a fleeting moment.

Suddenly, a peculiar light was reflected in the snowy trees ahead of me. Not bright, in fact so delicate that it was only barely visible. However, it somehow changed the landscape and atmosphere so that it caught my attention. I looked behind and there it was: the sun peeked behind the horizon.

Seeing the sun for the first time after the polar night is one of the greatest moments of the year. The message of this first sunrise is very powerful: Now let’s head towards spring – and fast!

The Sun does not set in Lapland, and the nature is blooming. One might still see some snow here and there, but almost all of it is gone. Instead we have beautiful greenery all around us. Here are some photos to show you what the Midsummer looks like in Lapland.

Lapland has some beautiful clear waters so don’t forget your diving mask. This is lake Pallasjärvi.
Little fish enjoying the beautiful sunshine of Lappish summer.
Wild blueberries (or bilberries) are blooming.
It doesn’t get any darker than this for weeks.
Sunny Midnight in Kittilä.
Bunch berry (Cornus suecica) is one of the earliest flowers to blossom in the summer.
As the snow melts, rivers in Lapland tend to flood and it can sometimes get pretty serious. This is Ounasjoki river.

Polar night has officially begun in the North and the whole of Lapland is already covered with a thick layer of snow. Here are some photos that I have taken during this last month in the areas of Kittilä, Muonio and Sodankylä. I hope you enjoy them – see how beautiful Lapland can be in November!

Above: Sun shining in a snowy forest near Levitunturi fell. In the beginning of November there was still some bright sunlight that we could enjoy. Day by day there was less and less sunshine and now it’s almost completely gone.

Above: Afternoon moments by Jerisjärvi lake. These little houses are very old but fishermen still use them actively – Jerisjärvi is famous for having lots of fish. This was a really cold day: it was -22 degrees celcius or about -8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Above: Some last rays of sunlight make this snowy forest look almost pink. This photo was taken by Kitinen river in Sodankylä.

Above: My friend on top of Levitunturi fell. Levitunturi or Levi is a cool place because it’s easy to reach: a road leads to the top and there’s even a parking lot and a café!

Above: This was a cloudy day, no sunshine whatsoever. I saw a white reindeer walking alone on the ice of Ounasjoki river. The reindeer noticed me as well and looked at me.

Above: Not all waters freeze even during the coldest winter nights. This photo shows what it looks like in Immelkaltio spring near Levitunturi fell.

Above: I took a picture of myself standing in the middle of some beautiful snowy trees. We had had lots of fresh snow the previous day.

Above: a whooper swan on Jerisjärvi lake. There’s a part of this lake that does not freeze – each year there are some whooper swans that decide to stay here instead of heading South. Whooper swan is the national bird of Finland.

Above: In Lapland there’s not much, if any light pollution. That’s why spotting the Milky Way is relatively easy, as long as there are no clouds.

I live over 150 km above the Arctic Circle. Here it’s quite common to have snow on the ground in October, but this year the start of the winter was unusually sudden. Here are 12 photos that I have taken during the last ten days – see for yourself how winter arrived!

Above: Frosty morning in a swamp in Kittilä (October 11th). Bog bilberry is one of the last plants to have some beautiful autumn colors. Most plants have dropped their leaves by now.

Above: Nature getting ready for winter in Varkaankuru, Kolari (October 13th).

Above: First snow near Pallastunturi, Muonio (October 14th).

Above: Lake Pallasjärvi is starting to freeze (October 14th).

Above: Swimming in Ounasjoki river (October 16th) only 24 hrs before ice started to appear.

Above: Snowy larch forest in Kittilä (October 18th).

Above: Winter is officially here! About 10 centimeters of snow in Kittilä (October 19th).

Above: Forest river is not ready to freeze just yet (Kittilä, October 19th).

Above: First sunny winter day 2019 in Kittilä. Forest and rocks are covered in snow (October 19th).

Above: Northern lights and the Moon above the frozen Ounasjoki river (October 19th).

Above: There’s still time before the polar night begins, but its colors can already be seen. This photo was taken early in the morning, but in mid winter this is what noon would look like. (October 20th).

Above: Reindeer on a road in Raattama (October 21st).

As the nights get darker, northern lights can appear again. One night I was waiting for them with my friend. According to the forecast there should have been an amazing light show coming up due to a G2 geomagnetic storm. The auroras should be so bright that they could be seen even in Helsinki, and we were in Lapland! However, the sky was getting cloudy…

Internet and social media are full of beautiful photos of northern lights. However, photographing or even seeing them is not always a peace of cake. Clouds are the biggest problem. Great job if you’re in Lapland and it’s winter – your chances are really good. That’s why I was very optimistic that night.

We made a campfire on our yard and started waiting. The radio was on and we made some tea. But the clouds were coming and I started to wonder if we’re going to see anything at all.

Around 10 pm I took the first photos of the sky. I didn’t see any northern lights yet, but if there’s any light in the sky, the camera can see it even when the naked eye can’t.

And there certainly was something going on.

This was a good time to check that the camera settings were ok for some serious aurora shooting. Maximum ISO and F value, shutter speed about 5 seconds… and focus to infinity. Let’s try with that.

As I was adjusting the camera settings, the sky exploded – but only for a few minutes.

To the naked eye it did not look this green. As I said, cameras can see more than we can. That’s why photographing the auroras is so much fun, it feels like magic!

Before I knew it, the show was over. Reality check: it was way too cloudy.

This is how it can go sometimes – the nature decides whether we can see auroras or not. But nevermind, we had had a great evening anyways!

Kökar is a tiny municipality in Åland. It has only about 240 inhabitants. To get to Kökar one has to take a ferry either from Långnäs (main island) or Galtby (Korpo). The journey in both cases takes about 2,5 hours.

I spend 24 hours on this beautiful island surrounded by the waves of the Baltic Sea.

Here’s what I saw.

Above: Heathers are purple, junipers are green – and the sea is blue. In Kökar this is a very typical view.

Above: It was a beautiful summer day so we went for a morning hike to this beautiful hidden place.

Above: A grass snake came to say hello. Grass snakes are completely harmless.

Above: We found this beautiful secret lagoon and went for a swim.

Above: This is what I saw underwater. There were lots of jellyfish but they are harmless.

Above: There are also forests in Kökar.

Above: Look at those colors!

Above: We also went to see what the local flea market looked like. It’s not everyday you find a seafront flea market.

Above: Buildings in Kökar are typically red and quite small. Looks really nice.

Above: Local dog admiring the sunset.

Useful links for you who wish to visit Kökar:

Ferry timetables and fares

Ålandstrafiken: Kökar

Visit Åland

The Archipelago Ring Road, also known as The Archipelago Trail, is about 200 kilometers in length. No words can describe how beautiful this trail is!

The Archipelago Trail has various ferries and vessels, and most of them are free of charge.

Most people experience this route by car or by bike.

The Archipelago Trail leads you through picturesque archipelago villages as well as beautiful nature.

There’s a number of cabins, guesthouses, hotels, camping sites and restaurants to choose from.

Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit! This trail has some amazing beaches.

There are also beautiful forests. There are some ticks in this area, so it is recommended to wear good shoes, long trousers and shirts with long sleeves when going in to the nature.

The Archipelago Trail starts and ends in the city of Turku in South-West Finland.

This trail is at it’s most beautiful in summer.

Read more:

The Archipelago Trail – homepage

On December 6 Finland celebrates 101 years of independence. Happy birthday Finland! On the flag of Finland there’s a blue Nordic cross on a white background. To show you how blue and white our nature can be, here are some photos that I have taken over the years in Lapland. Enjoy! 

Reindeer in Utsjoki, Lapland. This photo was taken on March 2015.

A woman drinking water from a stream in Muonio, Lapland. December 2015.

Pallas fells photographed during polar night in Muonio, Lapland. December 2015.

A café and some snowy trees on the top of Levi fell in Kittilä. January 2016.

Watching auroras in Kittilä. December 2016.

A birch forest in Utsjoki, Lapland. February 2017.

Perfect silence. Sompio Strict Nature Reserve, Sodankylä, Lapland. December 2018.

Black dog in a white forest. March 2017.

A view from the top of Kaunispää Fell in Inari, Lapland. March 2017.

Snowy birch in Sodankylä. March 2017.

 

Many people travel to Lapland in wintertime. However, autumn in Lapland is absolutely magical as well. Check out these 10 photos to find out, why You should visit Lapland in Septemper, October or November!

1. Auroras

First auroras can often be seen in September or even in August. Unlike in winter, it’s still quite warm compared to winter temperatures, so one can admire this beautiful phenomenon without getting too cold.

2. Autumn foliage

The most beautiful colors are usually seen in September.

3. Clean air

In autumn the air seems to be full of oxygen. It is cleaner than you could ever imagine – just take a breath and you’ll notice it instantly.

4. Clear waters

In winter everything is frozen, but in autumn you can still enjoy watching and listening the rivers rumbling. Maybe you’ll even find a spring and taste how cold and pure the water is?

5. Local wild food

Big fish, tasty mushrooms and berries full of vitamins – Lapland has it all. Did you know that thanks to Finnish everyman’s rights, you can pick mushrooms and berries in the nature without asking for permissions?

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6. First frosty mornings

These are one of the best moments of the year! Now you can really see and feel the first steps of the upcoming winter.

7. Local products

How about some Lappish honey, fish products or jewellery? You can buy some really cool things in local harvest markets.

8. Nature attractions

In Lapland there are several national parks and lots of other really cool nature destinations with well-marked trails and good campfire spots. You’ll find many of them here.

9. Reindeer

In autumn it seems like there are reindeer everywhere. Just make sure you don’t got too close, as reindeer stags can get a bit unpredictable this time of the year.

10. Enjoy the wilderness

In autumn there are not many tourists in Lapland. Wanna know what perfect silence sounds like?

Photos by Jonna Saari