After an earlier post about the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, it’s time for me to talk about my first visit to Kilpisjärvi. And what a visit it was!
Kilpisjärvi is a village located at the very end of Finland’s western arm. Just a few kilometers further down the only road in the region is the border with Norway, and given that Norway is not part of the European Union, customs are a significant source of employment there.
The other main economic activity is tourism of course! Views are stunning in this region, similar to none inside Finland. There are mountains there! Yeah, ok, they are a bit old and flattened, but still, the contrast with the rest of the country is stunning.
Some of the rocks in the Kilpisjärvi area are the youngest in Finland. The reason is that they are schist and gneiss from the Scandinavian Caledonides mountain range, which formed around 500 million years ago (for reference, the Alps’ formation started about 300 million years ago). Those hard rocks were pushed on top of the existing sediment layers, and protected them from erosion to this day, whereas erosion in the rest of the country revealed the older rock layers that were below the sediments. Now, remnants of the Caledonides are visible at the top of some fells (mountains?) in the region, such as mighty Saana, the very famous sight that looms big over the village.
My original plan was to climb on top of Saana, but the sheer number of hikers doing exactly that, plus the prospect of a very interesting nature walk in the hills nearby, changed my plans. In the end, Vivien and I were very happy with our choice. We saw only a few persons (and a few reindeers!) on that gentle walk, and had the spectacular scenery all for ourselves. Signs along the path told us about the natural and human history of the region, from the harshness of the tundra’s weather to the life of reindeer herders before “modernity” and the German occupation during World War 2.
Once again, it was prime time for the autumn colours. I would say it was even better further north, with stronger colours… the landscape was literally orange, with the diminutive Dwarf birch of the tundra competing with the larger mountain birch (a hybrid between Silver and Downy birch) that populates the lower slopes of the fells. Beautiful.
We didn’t seen many birds, but a few Reindeers (Rangifer tarandus) provided entertainment 😉
On the day after, we climbed to the top of Pikku Malla, on the opposite side of the valley. We walked through the Malla Strict Nature Reserve, where it was forbidden to wander off the trail (unlike in the rest of Finland, thanks to the Everyman’s Right). The path took us through a mountain birch forest, up the side of the hill, then we walked in the tundra again. Because of the wind, it was fairly cold when the sun disappeared behind the clouds, but on the way down we found a sheltered spot to enjoy our picnic.
During our 3-day stay in Kilpisjärvi, we often drove along the lake. Every time the sun shone, I was mind-blown by the beauty of the land there. I called it “Torres del Finland”, an obvious reference to the stunning Torres del Paine, in southern Chile.
An exaggeration? You tell me. I loved Kilpisjärvi ❤
Have a safe and happy holiday season, see you next year!
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