Someone has just been here. A gust of welcoming heat assaults our faces as we open the door and step into the wilderness hut. Embers in the fireplace in the middle of the cabin still glow following the previous hikers. We sit and stretch our weary feet following a few hours' trekking. With my husband and another couple, I have come to hike the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in Western Lapland, one of the eight national parks in Finnish Lapland.
Finland has 35 national parks open to the public, and you can also hike in recreational forests, state hiking areas and, with some restrictions, in nature reserves and wilderness areas that cover approximately 15,000 sqm, or 4 percent of the entire country. These tracts are maintained by Metsähallitus, a state enterprise responsible for Finnish land and water ways. Under the Nature Conservation Act and Wilderness Act, some 9 percent of Finland is protected natural habitat.
There are approximately 400 similar wilderness huts for hikers in Finland. The majority are owned by Metsähallitus, and about a tenth of them require advance booking. They are freely available for hikers without charge. Doors are kept unlocked. In addition to wilderness and reservable huts, Metsähallitus offers huts for day use only as well as over 200 cabins for rent, which can be reserved for longer than one or two nights.
Nine percent of Finland is protected.
Browsing the guest book, we discover entries for all seasons. During an autumn like this, when the mountainsides flare with autumn colour, there are numerous visitors every day. From mid October to mid February it is quieter. Then follows the ski season, continuing at least to the end of April. There are many backpackers in summer too.
For a moment we imagine what it would be like to spend a night here. It would be easy to spread a mattress and sleeping bag on the sturdy bunk beds. Clothes dampened by rain and sweat could be hung on a line for the night, and you could cook dinner on the fire. Someone recalls the unwritten rules for uncharted terrain: you are entitled to shelter in a wilderness hut in the order you arrive. Those who have rested longest should leave first if there are too few beds.
Continuing our journey right after our break, we hope to reach our rental cottage in time for a sauna bath. Tucked up under warm covers with my eyes closed in the evening, I still see that vast, open mountain landscape that constantly changes shape. And always so silent.
Source: Website of Finland's Metsähallitus outdoors.fi
Lapland Airports is the fastest way to Lapland
Flights take 1–1.5 hours. There are convenient bus and taxi services from the airports to the resorts. To Lapland Airports travel about one million passengers this year.
Lapland and the North of Finland – No ordinary Destination
- 183 748 inhabitants
- Northern Lights visible from September to April up to 200 nights a year at its best
- 74 nightless nights per year in the northernmost part of Finland
- 175–225 days a year with snow in Lapland
- more than 2 million saunas (in Finland altogether)
- the one and only Santa Claus who receives more than 600 000 letters every Christmas
- around 200,000 reindeer
- 14 tourism resorts, 965 000 arrivals per year and registered overnights 2,2 million annually (2011).
Text: Terhi Kivikoski-Hannula
Photo: Jyrki Komulainen