When backpacking I like to pick the treats which nature has on offer along the trail. However, this time I went out with Minna from Arctic Sky to pick berries, search for mushrooms, and then create a tasty 3-course meal out of it!
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.
We rolled into the Arctic Sky parking lot and I immediately felt like this is a good place. Beautiful wooden buildings, a herb garden on the side, and a traditional Kota being built to gather in in the evenings. Minna welcomed us in, and it almost felt like I entered my own home. Minna and her partner Aarno have built this small resort - ten people can stay here – from 400 year old lumber which they picked up in southern Finland and transported here to the far North, and then continued to decorate their house and the Guesthouse in a wonderful cozy style, from the hand-made woolen socks which you can slip into at the door to the beautiful animal prints which give each of the five guest rooms their names. Yes, you can stay at Arctic Sky, but I was here for an introduction to nordic Herbs and then some searching and cooking some wild food, as part of my Polarlife Outdoors experience.
So after a look through the cozy house we shouldered our packs, grabbed each a woven basket and headed into the woods to find some Mushrooms, pick berries, and hike to a Laavu to prepare our findings into a tasty meal.
We hiked on the Ruijanpolku, a trail I didn’t exist, and which is a rather old and long trail. I might need to return to go backpacking on it some day in the future, but right now I was more occupied with finding tasty mushrooms and bilberries for our desert. It’s funny how I can completely can zoom-in on searching mushrooms, and the hunter & gatherer in me is also one which isn’t happy with having a full basket of mushrooms - I always want to find more 😃
After a very successful search for mushrooms, and learning to identify a few new ones (that is one of the benefits of going mushroom picking with someone!) we arrived at a very wonderful Laavu next to a lovely stream. We weren’t alone, though - many dayhikers enjoyed this beautiful spot, eating snacks, drinking tea, and grilling sausages. Also, I made a new friend.
While I was busy snapping the next Konsta Punkka image Minna was busy preparing our food.
The smell of mushrooms which sizzle over the fire in a pan is something so mouth-watering, just the thought of them makes me want to grab my coat and head out into the forest to go find some mushrooms!
But while the mushrooms were frying in the pan we ate our starter, which we prepared ourselves from the things Minna brought along. We garnished it with some of the herbs we picked in her garden, and yes, it was as tasty as it looks!
Then it was time for the main course, our fried mushrooms were served with a vegan nettle pancake and some again we could use the different herbs we picked earlier to garnish it. These mushroom pancakes were so tasty that I ate three of them - just so much to leave some space for the dessert!
A lingonberry mousse in a dark chocolate coat, together with a bilberry sauce which we prepared from the berries we picked along the way. Oh my, this indeed was a sweet finish to an outstanding meal! If you now feel hungry - then no worries, Minna is happy to take you out on a hike like this! When you stay with Minna and Aarno at the Arctic Sky Resort you can pick and choose from a great variety of activities, including the one you just read about! I definitely would recommend going with a few friends or the family, that way you can enjoy sitting in the cozy kitchen in the evenings, play some UNO or another board game, and chat while it slowly gets dark outside!
After all that tasty food and the hike back I got a ride to the Wilderness Hotel Muotka, but not to lay down and rest - nope. I did the most typical thing you can do in Finland: Going to Sauna.
Now while I didn’t much enjoy my river crossings in the Hammastunturi Wilderness, at Muotka I even went to swim in the stream several times! I reckon if a warm Sauna and dry clothes are waiting for you, going into a cold stream is less of an issue 😃 Obviously going to chill by a fireplace in the sun afterwards makes a dip in the cold stream even less of a problem.
I stayed in Saariselkä, which is probably THE place to be when you want to explore the North-Eastern corner of Finnish Lapland - or you stay at Arctic Sky if you want to be enjoy a more silent stay. 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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