Akupää might be one the least visited summits in the Ivalo region. Once you have seen it’s views, though, you’ll want to come back during every season!
Disclosure: This trip was supported financially by the Arctic Outdoor project. As you know: I’m keepin’ it real and tell you how it is - I maintain full editorial control of the content published on Hiking in Finland. Read the Transparency Disclaimer for more information on affiliate links & blogger transparency.
During my visit at Saariselkä I participated in several Polarlife Outdoors activities, and hiking with Henna was one of the highlights. Not only do I know how to hike, after five days in the Wilderness of Hammastunturi it was nice to have a chat with another person again! Henna from Laplandlife picked me up at my Hotel in Saariselkä and we hit it off right from the bat. She’s an upbeat, happy young women who after studying across Finland decided to return home to Lapland and combine all her passions and create her own business. That business is Laplandlife, and with it Henna takes people who visit the Ivalo-Saariselkä Region hiking, camping and berry picking in the summer, and snowshoeing, arctic swimming and ice fishing in the winter. As a professional massage therapist she also can help you relax after a day outdoors, and her Wilderness Cabins are so far off-the-beaten track that you can be sure to not encounter anyone else during your stay there!
Henna and I, however, were off to hike to the summit of Akupää. “It’s in my backyard” she told me as we drove to Ivalo, and silently I was wondering what that meant. What it meant became clear when we arrived: We passed a gate while she explained that all this land here, hundreds of hectares, belong to her dad. We drove to the end of a gravel road next to a most picturesque lake, the start of our hike. “At the other side of the lake, well-hidden between the trees and far apart, are the two cabins” Henna hold me, and I was already wondering how amazing it must be to spend a holiday here. No noise except the wind in the trees and the calls of birds could be heard, it’s exactly the kind of sounds I love and which you don’t get in the city.
Along the lake we hiked on game trails and small forest roads, all the time chatting about outdoor life in Lapland. After half an hour Henna offered me some home-made berry juice which was delicious, and then we set off slowly to climb towards the summit of Akupää. Completely off-trail we hiked through the most beautiful autumn birch and pine forests, often stopping to pick some bilberries and lingonberries which were growing in abundance on the floor of the forest.
Here and there the forest opened up where trees have fallen, and we revelled in the beauty of it all under the sunshine on this autumn day. The conversation was flowing, we laughed together while steadily climbing higher and higher on this fjell. And then, through the low-grown birch trees, the summit came into view. My natural reaction when seeing the summit is to turn around and see what kind of view is to be seen, and here, just below the summit of Akupää, the view was beautiful. Low, pine-covered hills with small lakes who were glistening from the sunlight, we could see far into the distance.
But, this wasn’t the summit yet. It was a few minutes further, and what awaited me there really was gorgeous.
We could see till Russia from the summit, observed how two Raven and an Eagle were having an air show, and in every direction you could see forest-covered hill after forest-covered hill, creating an absolutely stunning panorama of silhouettes. After spending over half an hour at the summit Henna was ready to continue, and while I could have stood there and take in the view till past sunset, I shouldered my backpack and followed her. We passed beautiful little ponds which were so still and created dazzling mirror images, and soon we were back in the embrace of the forest with its golden leafs.
After a while we made a proper break, with a fire, sitting down, eating a tasty meal and drinking fresh coffee. I lay down on the soft forest floor, on my bed of moss and shrubbery, while lounging in the sun and drinking another cup of coffee. “This is the good life” I proclaimed, and Henna agreed. We sat there in the forest, silently, happy.
A small detour on the way back was made, to a gorge, and Henna showed me where she takes guests to go camping in Tentsile tree-tents - a beautiful spot high above the gorge, which must have great views at night to the stars. We didn’t wait for the stars to come out, though - we continued on game trails back to the lake.
At the lake I was able to get very close to the Dragonfly you see above. Dragonflies are without a doubt my favourite insects, I love their grace and how beautiful they are. If I ever would get a tattoo, then the tattoo of a dragonfly would be high up on the list. Back at the car I thanked Henna for the beautiful hike in her backyard, and thought to myself that if more people would have a backyard like her, and care as deeply for it, the world would be a better place. On the drive back to Saariselkä I spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle which made me smile, as these birds are not so often seen that dar in the north. I also wished for a longer lens to capture it even more up-close (You can send me a tip via PayPal if you want that I can take better photos of wildlife in the future!), but I think the photo underneath is pretty good, too!
I stayed in Saariselkä, which is probably THE place to be when you want to explore the North-Eastern corner of Finnish Lapland. Besides a dozen or more options for accommodation options - I stayed at the Lapland Hotels Riekonlinna - the village lays right at the border of the Urho Kekkonen National Park and is just a short 2 hour stroll away from the Hammastunturi Wilderness Area. This means you don’t need a car to go outdoors in Saariselkä, as you can walk in a few minutes from your Hotel or log cabin to the start of a trail. Here’s the full list of Hotels and Cabins in Saariselkä, and feel free to use that Affiliate Link when you’re making a reservation!
Getting to Saariselkä happens in one of three ways: You drive your car north for a veeeeeeery long time but are mobile there. Useful if you want to drive to different places, but hopefully you’re not alone in that car! The second and best option is to take the train and Bus. Taking the Bus from Rovaniemi to Saariselkä is a short and scenic 3 hour ride, and it really gets you in the mood for the outdoors as you ride past lakes and forests and every so often slow down to let the Reindeer get off the road. Taking an (overnight) train to Rovaniemi from Southern Finland is also very convenient, as you wake up well rested and just a short ride away from your next outdoor adventure. This is also a good way to travel if you want to explore Helsinki before or after a visit in Lapland. Finally, if you come from abroad you also can fly directly to Ivalo, from where you can take a bus or Taxi to Saariselkä.
Saariselkä has for a village its size a variety of different options for eating out, from Anne’s Garden which serves delicious Burgers (great for backpackers who just returned to civilization!) to fine dining at Santa’s Hotel Tunturi and Lapland Hotels Riekonlinna or the tasty Buffet at the Holiday Club. Cafe Porotupa at the market square makes really good coffee (On a side note, I’m always baffled how much bad coffee you get served in a variety of places in Finland, the World Champion in coffee consumption) and also fresh pancakes and cakes. If you rather cook yourself, then the supermarket in the village has everything you need, or if you need to stock-up on dehydrated meals for another backpacking trip then visit the Partioaitta Saariselkä, probably the most-northern Outdoor Store in Finland!
During my visit at Saariselkä I participated in many different Polarlife Outdoors activities, include going to the Sauna and Spa at the Holiday Club, hiking on one of the dozen of trails around the village, visiting the AMAZING Aurora Open Wilderness Hut when you want to see Northern Lights, participate in a wild herbs Workshop, visit a Sauna and going to swim in a stream, or rent a Mountainbike and explore one of the many single track trails and holler with joy when you ride down the fjell! During the next weeks you’ll be able to read more about my adventures in the far north and some of these activities, so consider becoming a Fan on Facebook or Twitter to not miss the next instalments!
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