Hiking in untamed Finnish Lapland
Time is different in Lapland. If you’ve ever tried to get to a campsite in a hurry on a road filled with casually strolling reindeer, you know what I mean.
There is no point hurrying. Luckily, we are travelling in summer, when the golden sunset stretches late into the night.
Kilpisjärvi, an isolated village in the northwest of Finland, is best known for its rugged landscapes.
It is also the starting point of the Three Country Cairn hike where the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway come together.
The shortest way to the cairn is crossing Lake Kilpisjärvi. We find a local man who takes people across on his boat during summer months. We get up early to catch the first voyage.
But we’re not the only ones to arrive at the rickety wooden pier in the hopes of a lift across the freezing waters. A group of German tourists fills up the boat, and the elderly skipper tells us we will have to wait for the next one.
“But we need to complete the hike today,” I protest, hoping he might squeeze us in.
“There’s no rush, plenty of time in the day,” says the man in his laid-back manner. We accept the situation and wait another hour, basking in the sun and taking in the incredible views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
In an hour the little boat comes back, and we are on our way. Watching the mysterious mountains get bigger the closer we get to the shore is magical.
There are two ways to the Three-Country Cairn, crossing the lake and hiking an effortless three kilometres or taking the longer 11-kilometre path by land from the village. Having crossed the lake we decided to return the long way.
For those who do not mind walking, the longer way is worth it for the vast views of untouched tundra. The cairn itself is a modest slab of concrete, but the scenery surrounding it is majestic.
A wilderness hut near the Three-Country Cairn allows for an overnight stay or simply a chance to warm up by the fire. Even the summer months can be cold, so pack plenty of hot coffee in a thermos.
The hike itself is anything but monotonous, yet clear and easy to follow. Now and then the steadily ascending path requires us to hop over a stream or cross a muddy part on a traditional boardwalk.
A highlight along the way is Kitsiputous, one of the highest waterfalls in Finland. Also known as “Tears of Malla” after the nearby Malla mountain, the falls have an impressive total height of 118 metres over several drops.
The hardest part of the walk is the final two and a half kilometres back to the village. We plod along the road with weary legs. However, our day was topped off with renting a sauna by the mighty lake Kilpisjarvi for some much-needed relaxation and a glacial dip in the peaceful waters.