Käsivarsi Wilderness Area’s grand fells and fish filled lakes and rivers attract hikers, skiersand fishers alike. Possible starting points for trips in the wilderness area are the village of Kilpisjärvi at the foot of Saanatunturi Fell or from along the Neljän tuulen tie Road “The Road of the Four Winds”, which leads into the Käsivarsi region.
Käsivarsi is Finland’s most popular wilderness area. There are many reasons for this, the most significant being the areas unique nature. The fells in the northwest corner of the area are the only ones in Finland, which are part of the Scandinavian watershed area, The Scandinavian Mountains. Other than Saanatunturi Fell all of Finland’s fells, which are over 1000 metres high, are in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
Käsivarsi is Finland’s second largest wilderness area. It is located in the northwest corner of the municipality of Enontekiö and has an area of 220 630 hectares. There are no roads within the wilderness area, but the area is not uninhabited. Raittijärvi Lapp village is in the area and some families live there for the majority of the year.
Käsivarsi Wilderness Area is located on the east side of the Kilpisjärvi-Karesuvanto road. To its north and to its east the wilderness area’s boundary runs along the Norwegian border.
The best starting points for those arriving with cars are at the parking areas at Ropinsalmi, Saarikoski, Kilpisjärvi and Iitto.
Hike on Marked Trails
One marked trail leads through the wilderness area, the Kalottireitti - Nordkalottleden Trail, 60 km of which is within the wilderness area. Other trails can be found outside the boundaries of the wilderness area near the village of Kilpisjärvi. Though there are no other trails within the area, hikers are free to trek off-trails as much as they like.
Go Canoeing and Rowing
There are many rivers in the wilderness area. The best known canoeing route is the Poroeno - Lätäseno. This route is extremely demanding and is therefore not suitable for beginners.
See the Sights and Scenery
There are many spectacular sights in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area and breathtaking views open to all sides from the tops of the fells.
See the Visitor Centre
Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre opened in the spring 2003. The displays there feature the unique natural features of the Käsivarsi area and nature of the fells. The visitor centre provides current information on the area’s weather conditions. It is also the place to make reservations for the reservable wilderness huts in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
Ski Cross-country on Maintained Trails
There are several maintained ski trails around the village of Kilpisjärvi. You can ski around Saana Fell or to the spot where Finland’s, Sweden’s and Norway’s borders all meet. There’s also a maintained trail around Salmivaara Hill.
There are no maintained ski trails within Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, but visitors may ski on snowmobile tracks. In late spring the snow is so thick and strong that ready made tracks and trails are no longer needed. Then visitors may choose their way freely off-trails.
In winter visitors can ski from Kilpisjärvi to Halti Fell along almost the same route as they would hike during summer. This ski trail is not, however, marked in the terrain. Then wooden poles marking the Nordkalottleden Trail are not visible from under the snow. Visitors can spend their nights in open or reservable wilderness huts or in tents. Please note that there may also be snowmobiles on this route.
Angling and ice fishing are Everyman’s rights in the wilderness area. You can therefore practice them without having a permit. When angling or ice fishing in Lake Toskaljärvi, Lake Luohtojärvi and Lake Peeran lammet though, you will need a Enontekiö 1551 permit. Angling and ice fishing are forbidden in flowing waters.
To fish in the wilderness areas multiple rivers you must have paid the national fishing management fee as well as having a municipality of Enontekiö 1551 permit. When fishing at Lätäseno you must have a Lätäseno fishing area 1550 permit. This permit allows you to fish from Poroeno at the mouth of the River Harrijoki all the way to Vähäkurkkio in Lätäseno. Permits can be bought from Metsähallitus netstore, at Metsähallitus customer service points and at local tourist enterprises.
The fishing area within the wilderness area is the ideal destination for fly fishing, lure fishing and ice fishing. Common catches include the Trout (Salmo trutta), the Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), the Grayling(Thymallus thymallus), the Whitefish (Goregonus lavaretus), the Perch (Perca fluviatilis) and the Pike (Esox lucius).
Go on Guided Group Tour at the Nature Centre and Outdoors
One of the services offered at Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre is guided tours. Private tourist enterprises organise group excursions outdoors. For more information see the municipality of Enontekiö website.
This are is part of Hunting area 1613 Käsivarsi. Game: Willow Grouse and Northern Hare. Hunting permits can be bought from Metsähallitus netstore and at customer service points in Enontekiö, Inari and Ivalo.
The Metsähallitus maintained snowmobile track leads from Hetta to Kilpisjärvi.
Go Berry and Mushroom Picking
Picking berries and mushrooms is permitted.
Swimming is permitted, but the waters in the area are always quite cold.
Finland’s highest point is located at Halti, on the border between Finland and Norway. The highest point is on the fell’s slope, 1324 metres above sea-level. It is located about 55 km from the village of Kilpisjärvi. The Nordic hiking route Nordkalottleden Trail leads from Kilpisjärvi to the top of Halti Fell.
Saana Fell is located by the village of Kilpisjärvi. This strange looking fell is 1 029 m high. You can climb to the top of Saana Fell along a trail which starts at the Kilpisjärvi tourist centre. There is also a hiking trail which circles Saana Fell. During winter this portion has maintained skiing trails.
Saana has received its name from the word of Saami language meaning a certain mushroom. From one angle the fell does look like a mushroom. Some people think it looks like an overturned boat with a keel. For the Saami people it is a sacred mountain. Fires were burned to the God of Thunder on top of it. The peak is 1029 meters above sea level and 556 meters up from the Kilpisjarvi lake’s surface. Saana is the 25th tallest fell in Finland, but second most known because of its impressive shape.
According to the legend – long ago Kilpisjarvi area was inhabited by giants. Sullen Saana (the fell) got a crush on lovely Malla (the fell next to Saana). On the wedding day Pältsä (that is a fell on the Swedish side of the border) wanted to stop the wedding ceremony. He had found out he was also in love with Malla. The wedding ceremony would have been held by Paras (a fell on the Norwegian side of the border), and he was known as the magician. But Pältsä had called the evil elderly women of Lapland to come to Kilpisjarvi.
All of a sudden a fierce northern wind wiped all the celebrants with ice-cold wind. Very soon the area was frozen and filled with ice. At the last moment, Saana pushed the lovely Malla over to her mother’s, Big Malla’s arms. (There are two Malla fells just near one another). At that moment the freezing cold took away all life in the area. Malla cried, and from her tears Kilpisjarvi – the lake was formed. The lake is situated in between Saana and Malla fells.
This is the highest point in Finland where the national road network reaches. It is at 565,8 m above sea level and 12 km south of the village of Kilpisjärvi.
The Lapland War Memorial Monument
The monument marking where the final shot of the Lapland War was fired in 1945 is located at Muotkatakka parking area / rest spot.
The jagged silhouette of Saivaara Hill rises to 830 m at the south end of Porojärvi Valley. At the top of the hill is a memorial plaque in honour of Finland’s former president Urho Kekkonen. If you are interested in seeing the memorial the hill can be climbed from its east side.
Malla Strict Nature Reserve
Malla is Finland’s oldest strict nature reserve; it was established in 1916. It has an area of 30 sq.km. Because the area has calciferous soil there is a diverse array of fell vegetation there.
The River Kitsijoki Falls
This waterfall is located in Malla Strict Nature Reserve by Nordkalottleden Trail.
These falls are located by Nordkalottleden Trail. The falls are 17 m high. They are about 45 km from the village of Kilpisjärvi.
The Three Nations’ Border Point
This is a cairn at the point at which Finland’s, Norway’s and Sweden’s borders all meet. It is located 11 km from the village of Kilpisjärvi. The monument of stones was erected in 1897 by the governments of Norway and Russia (which was administering Finland at that time). The Swedish could not agree on a boundary commission with the Norwegians and did not bring their stone until 1901. This is Sweden’s most northerly point and it is the westernmost point of the Finnish mainland.
The River Tsahkaljoki Falls
The waterfall is located 2 km from Hotel Kilpis.
A memorial commemorating a mission in 1916 is situated in Kilpisjärvi across from Siilastupa informationpoint.
Finland's Highest Fells
Changes in altitude are quite dramatic in the wilderness area and the terrain is at points extremely demanding. In the northwest corner of the area, called Yliperä, there are several fells, which are over 1 000 m high. The tops of these fells are often covered with piles of scree rock.The highest fell here as well as in all of Finland is Halti. Around 3 000 people climb to the top of this fell every year. Animals in the fells include the Norway Lemming(Lemmus lemmus), the Root Vole(Microtus oeconomus), the Least Weasel (Mustela rixosa) and of course the Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). There are no pine trees in the wilderness area. The only trees in the area are fell birches. Much of the area is taken up by the treeless tops of the fells.
The conditions in the wilderness area are unique in Finland. The bedrock in the Käsivarsi area is younger than in the rest of Finland. As it is made-up of a more alkaline rock type it is more favourable as a growth spot for demanding species. For this reason there are various plants, which do not grow in any other part of Finland. Most of these rarities are protected by law.
High in the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area fells there are spectacular fell plants, such as the Glacier Crowfoot(Ranunculus glacialis), the Hairy Lousewort (Pedicularis hirsuta) and the Arctic Bellflower (Campanula uniflora). The Ranunculus sulphureus grows in the area’s snow beds and Mountain tobacco (Arnica angustifolia ssp. alpina) and the Snow cinquefoil (Potentilla nivea) are found on calciferous cliff-faces. Many plants which are otherwise rare in Finland grow in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. Some of these are the Alpine Fleabane (Erigeron borealis), the Antennaria villifera and the Rhododendron lapponicum.
The Territory of the Lemming and the Willow Grouse
Permanent inhabitants of Käsivarsi Wilderness Area are the Fox (Vulpes vulpes), the Stoat (Mustela erminea)and the Grey Red-backed Vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus). The most important habitat of the Norway lemming is on the snow beds of Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. Snow beds have a short growth season, but they are not as likely to suffer from dryness or the freezing wind during winter as other areas. From there lemmings wander as far as the southern boundary of the Province of Lapland. The last time the area’s lemmings went wandering was in the early 1980s.
Rare mammals met in the area are the Lynx (Lynx lynx), the Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus), and the Wolverine(Gulo gulo). Wolves and bears also sometimes visit the area.
As the winter is so cold in the Käsivarsi region and there is so much snow very few bird species can survive through the winter there. Species which have adapted to these extreme conditions are the two northern tetraonids the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) and the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and the Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), which preys on them. The Willow Tit (Parus montanus) and the Siberian Tit(Parus cinctus) also spend winters in the area.
A total of 89 bird species nest in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, most of which are migrating species. Migrating species which manage to come this far north are the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the Red-Throated Diver (Gavia stellata), the Long-tailed Skua(Stercorarius longicaudus) and the Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla). There are some rare birds in the area, such as the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) and the Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca).
A Fishing Paradise
The fell area in the Käsivarsi region is a fishing paradise. Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus) lives in many of the areas lakes. Their size can vary greatly even within one lake. A dwarf form of arctic char also lives in many of the lakes.
The rivers in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area are filled with an abundance of Trout (Salmo trutta) and Grayling(Thymallus thymallus). The largest graylings caught in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area have weighed up to 2 kg. Good fishing rivers are the Rivers Poroeno, Rommaeno, Valtijoki and Lätäseno up which even Salmon (Salmo salar) have swam the past few years.
Rare Butterflies and Moths
The area surrounding Kilpisjärvi village, especially Saana Fell, is known for its abundance in butterfly and moth species. There are also many rare butterflies and moths in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. Species found on Kuonjarvaara Hill and on the cliff walls of Urttasvankka are theEntephria nobiliaria and the Yellow-ringed Carpet (Entephria flavicinctata).
The butterfly species Acerbia alpina was named after the Italian explorer Giuseppe Acerbi. This species inhabits the fell highlands in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. Other species found in these areas are Dusky-winged Fritillary(Boloria improba) and the Hepialus fuscoargenteus, neither of which are found in other parts of Finland.
Palsas are rare perennially frozen peat and mineral wetlands. They are found in the arctic permafrost region.
The permafrost is often dozens of meters thick. Palsas are formed in the thickest parts of the permafrost, where the ice begins to push a mound upwards into the peat layer. The peat insulates the preventing it from melting in the summer. Palsas can be 2,000 years old, seven meters tall, and 20 meters wide. Over time,the palsa grow breaking the layer of peat. Heat is then able to reach the center causing the palsa to collapse. A pond forms on the remains. You can see palsas in Iitto along Highway 21, 56 km north of Karesuvanto. Wooden broadwalks lead you right to them.
Iitto is located on the Käsivarrentie road, about 40 kilometres from Kilpisjärvi. There is a rest area on the river’s side of the road, where you can park your car. Walk along the board walk for about 100 metres, there are signs.
The coast of the Arctic Sea was settled by Komsa culture already 10,000 years ago shortly after the Ice Age. The people to live in this area first were hunter gatherers. The most important game were the deer and beaver, but there were also other game animals in the area, such as the fox, the wolf, the moose and the arctic fox. The birds, which were hunted the most, were the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus), the Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and water birds. Fishing was naturally an important part the hunter gatherers’ way of life.
The Wild Forest Reindeer was tamed and the reindeer husbandry began around 2,000 years ago. At first reindeer were used to pull sleighs and to carry heavy loads. Gradually the importance and popularity of reindeer husbandry grew as the population of the Wild Forest Reindeer dropped. Even today reindeer husbandry is an important livelihood in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
In the area which is now Käsivarsi Wilderness Area there were in the past two Lapp villages: Rounala and Suonttavaara. The rock piles which were the boundary between the villages are still in the terrain. The boundary was situated in the southern part of what is now the wilderness area running the following line: Munnijärvi - Vuontiskero - Hapakka - Sinettä.
The Malla Nature Reserve is Finland’s oldest nature conservation area, established back in 1916. Covering an area of approximately 30 km2, the nature reserve is in just as natural a state as it was when it was founded. The trail that traverses the park from the Siilaskoski rapid water section to the Kitsiputous waterfall to the three nation intersection is the only route in the park permitted for using in the summertime. The marked trail covers a distance of approximately 11 km. There is a boat connection departing from the village of Kilpisjärvi to the Koltalahti jetty, which is only about three kilometres from the three border intersection.
Malla Strict Nature Reserve is located at Kilpisjärvi in the municipality of Enontekiö, in the remotest corner of the Käsivarsi region in northwestern Lapland, by the Scandinavian Mountains. The Malla Fells rise directly from the shore of Lake Kilpisjärvi. This group of fells was first protected as early as 1916 when Finland was still under Russian rule. The area became a strict nature reserve in the young independent Finland in 1938. Malla Strict Nature Reserve is unique due to the region’s young geology and the calciferous soil that produces rare species of fell plants.
Recreational use of strict nature reserves is restricted to ensure protection for the area, but the natural wonders of Malla can be admired by following a marked hiking trail in the summer. In wintertime, cross-country skiing is allowed anywhere in the area. There is a route over the Malla Fells from the village of Kilpisjärvi to the Three Nations’ Border Point, where the borders of Finland, Norway and Sweden meet. This route forms part of the 800-km-long Nordkalottleden Trail that comes all the way from Kvikkjokk, Sweden, winds through Kilpisjärvi past Halti Fell, and ends at Kautokeino, Norway.
The Kilpisjärvi region has the highest fells in Finland, and its weather conditions are arctic all year round. The fells in Yliperä attract hikers, fishermen and cross-country skiers alike, but beginners should not venture out into the wilderness, at least not alone or poorly equipped. Today, the services in the village of Kilpisjärvi are good, and even a day trip in the vicinity offers excellent opportunities for awesome experiences. In wintertime, the Kilpisjärvi region is especially popular among Norwegian tourists, besides the Finnish ones.
During the snow-free season, walking in Malla Strict Nature Reserve is only allowed on the marked trail. The trail meanders through the fell landscape of slopes, mires and heaths. It also crosses several brooks and a stony area. It is a suitable day trip route for hikers in average condition.Camping and mountain biking are not allowed.
From Malla, it is possible to continue hiking to the Three Nations’ Border Point and onwards to the large fells in Sweden and Norway.
One of the attractions in Malla Strict Nature Reserve is Pikku-Malla Fell, with a hiking trail all the way to the top. From the top you will have a beautiful view over Lake Kilpisjärvi. The trail also passes the Kitsiputous Falls and the Three Nations’ Border Point.
Birdlife in the Malla and Kilpisjärvi area is arctic and unique. In summertime, you can walk in the Mountain Birch forests and admire Bluethroats, Bramblings and even Ring Ouzels(Turdus torquatus), and up in the bare fells you may see Long-tailed Skuas, Eurasian Dotterels and European Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria). In the winter, a hiker may well spot a Ptarmigan and delight in the Willow Grouse’s courtship display in the springtime birch forest. With a pair of binoculars directed at Lake Kilpisjärvi, you may catch a glimpse of arctic waterfowl like Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) and Velvet Scoters (Melanitta fusca).
A controversial article about reindeer encroaching in this area can be found here.