Lapland is a hiking paradise. Genuinely, there are few places in the world that can offer the same stunning views, pine-resin scented forests, incredible fells with views that last forever, glassy, sapphire blue lakes, the cold, clear streams and waterfalls… the list goes on.
Hiking in Lapland offers a sense of purity and isolation that few other destinations can. You could walk for several days across rugged, beautiful terrain, underneath vast skies and through deep forests, seeing no life but elk, reindeer, and if you’re lucky, or unlucky in some eyes, bears.
You might also come across wolverines (secure your sandwiches at night), eagles, owls, arctic foxes, and even the elusive but beautiful lynx.
Lapland is also uniquely positioned to offer hikers comfort in this untouched wilderness. Cosy, overnight cabins, some complete with saunas, provide relief on the longest treks, where you can unwind and recover in front of a roaring campfire under a dark sky scattered with countless stars.
The air just feels purer up here in this last corner of true European wilderness. The water that runs across the fells is so clean,you can simply bottle it up and quench your thirst as you walk. You feel detached from humanity, you feel as if you’ve escaped the rat race. But Lapland is huge, so where to start walking?
Truly get off the beaten track. Properly escape the crowds (only 179,000 people live in this area larger than England), and go on one of our favourite hikes in Lapland.
For a true challenge, that will take you through deep gorges with roaring waterfalls, rich, gorgeously scented pine forests, and across wide, exposed fells over 82km, try Finland’s most legendary hiking trail.
Karhunkierros, or The Bear’s Trail, takes you on a wide loop through the beautifully pristine wilderness of Oulanka National Park, situated near the border with Russia. The mere length of this trail is enough to provide you with some real wilderness, if you’re ready to strike out a long way, you’ll soon feel very, very solitary.
You’ll feel at one with nature, as you hike through unspoiled woods and through dramatic valleys. The real highlight of this hike is the water. Dramatically tumbling waterfalls, swirling currents and sweeping rivers are the order of the day on this trek, the fine, cooling mist rising into the clear, fresh air.
The Finns have also done a great job of making this hike completely accessible. There are ten overnight, bookable huts that provide great comfort and are stocked with firewood, ten ‘dry toilets’ by each of these that help reduce the human impact on this route. There are even kiosks and cafes situated at two-day hiking intervals, so that you can stock up on supplies and not be laden with over-heavy bags.
The Hetta-Pellas Trail is a stunning hike of 55km in length, covering huge, dramatic fells complete with views that stretch on endlessly. The trail begins in Pallastunturi nature centre, and leads you to the village of Hellas at the very north of the dreamlike Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.
The highlight of this trek comes in the form of the scale of the natural wonder around you. The distant, uninterrupted horizon circles for miles around, with no sign of civilization. The sky becomes enormous, a blindingly blue dome of flawlessly pure, crisp air, and leaves you feeling small, remote, and truly in touch with nature.
You’ll descend through deep, dripping ravines before climbing out to be confronted with yet another beautiful vista of distant snow-flecked hills and vast, dark green forests.
This trail is also complete with several overnight huts, so there are a few options in terms of cosy spots to sleep in the Finnish backcountry. Alternatively, pack up a tent, sleeping bag and hammock and set up by a beautiful lake in the shelter of the trees. Spend an evening relaxing, gently swinging in the trees by a crackling fire warming your satisfyingly wearied feet.
Finland’s Wilderness Areas
There are national parks, then there are wilderness areas. There are five countries that lead from the front in terms of having established wilderness areas, and Finland is one of them. If you really want an adventure away from the crowds, look away from the national parks, and delve into one of Finland’s twelve official wilderness areas.
These places offer remote hiking like nowhere else. Vast swamps, forests, rolling hills, expansive fells, and all those beautiful natural features typical of Lapland are in abundance of course, but if you’re looking to not just get off the beaten track, but off the track itself, then head for these most remote corners of Europe.
Hikes in these areas are for the most adventurous of travelers, equipped with maps, compasses, tents, and a desire for discovery. There are fewer amenities, fewer trails, fewer human influences, but a great sense of escapism. Feeling detached, getting away from it all, that happens when you hike out to the wilderness.
And finally, for something a bit shorter, try hiking Finland’s biggest gorge. Located in Pyhä-Luosto National Park, this 4km packs a huge amount of natural beauty into a neat, easy-to-follow trail.
Perfect for the summer or autumn, when the deep green forest is punctuated with the blazing oranges and vibrant reds brought about by the shortening arctic days. Gracefully streaming waterfalls and royal blue streams cut through the landscape, and steps lead you to views such as the unforgettable Uhriharju Esker.
Lapland is bursting with unique, incredible hiking experiences. Whilst many may be challenging or remote, they offer a sense of isolation that simply can’t be matched anywhere else.