Winter Fairytale. Lapland, Finland
Finland is "the country of thousands of lakes" because when we talk about this country we recall lakes in the first place. There are no mountains like they have in Switzerland or Nepal but, at the same time, the landscape of Finland can't be called totally flat. The main mountain range is called Maanselkä that is translated as "Division of the Land". It runs from Norway to Karelia and partly lies along the boundary between Russia and Finland. The lake scenes of Northern Finland are accompanied by low picturesque hills.
A 480-meters-tall hill called Kuntivaara is located in this mountain range, 3 km away from the Finnish-Russian boundary in a secluded place and is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains of this area. The hike to the top of this hill takes several hours, not an easy task, but in winter one can rent a snowmobile for this purpose. The summit of Kuntivaara offers a wonderful view of the two neighbouring countries.
Forests and lakes surrounding the hill are the habitats of different representatives of fauna. The most numerous of them are swans and other birds, including those on the brink of extinction. The most common animal of this area is the brown bear.
Riisitunturi National Park possesses one of the most popular hikes in the country leading to the top of Riisitunturi hill. The ascent is not complicated and available even for children.
Along almost all the hiking routes in Finland, there are wilderness huts allowing to have a rest, make a fire and warm up. Some woods, a saw and an axe are also available in this hut for any tourist.
The nature of Finland is wonderful at any season but winter is the time for the active outdoor activity. AirPano team visited the very south part of Lapland, the area of Ruka Ski Resort. For the Finnish people accustomed to freezing temperatures, this place is “not truly Lapland”. But as for any other tourist who is used for a shiny white winter, the local winter is amazing and hardly seems to differ from more severe northern regions. We aimed to capture beautiful winter landscapes and the weather was also favourable: both expeditions took place at the temperature of 20ºC below zero.
Ruka (Rukatunturi) is the centre of winter entertainment and a convenient place for visiting beautiful places. It can be a starting point for snowmobile trips to Kuntivaara and Riisitunturi National Park located nearby.
Ruka is a genuine kingdom of winter and snow lasting for dozens of kilometres. Trees are covered with snow caps while on hills, where wind reigns supreme, snow fully covers both tree trunks and branches. Spruces are especially beautiful: under the weight of snow, they bend and create cones, arches and other bizarre shapes. Even the roads are white here as no chemicals are used and snow is simply swiped away from it.
Around 200 km away from Ruka, there is the capital of Lapland and the hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi. But we were not that lucky: the weather played a dirty trick on us and on the Arctic circle, the place where the residence is situated, the temperature was above zero and it rained. However, this allowed us to easily visit Santa and even make a short video. The following day when the weather was fine, Santa's hut was besieged by hundreds of tourists.
Winter in Finland is not only about cross-country and mountain skis, Santa Claus and Christmas mood. It is also about snowmobiles, ice karting and many other fun activities. The most unusual and truly wintry activity is dog and reindeer sledding.
Perhaps, dog sledding is the brightest impression of this trip: friendly huskies cheerfully rushed through snow lanes and easily carried us, two remarkably large men. We want to believe that they did it without much difficulty: the sled dog history can be traced back around 8,000 years. This dog type features energy and strenuousness. The inhabitants of the north prefer dogs to reindeers for riding: dogs don’t need any special food (such as reindeer moss) and quench their thirst with snow on their way.
That's the winter adventures that AirPano team experienced in Finland and we invite you to share these amazing impressions.
Photos and text by Sergey Rumyantsev
3 February 2021