January 29, 2013

There is more to Lapland than reindeer and snow

Inari is one of the Samí municipalities in Finnish Lapland. Inari is a vast area consisting of several small villages. The Sámi are the only indigenous people of the European Union and they had already lived in Lapland long before settlers from the south arrived. The area inhabited by the Samí lies within the northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. The traditional sources of income are reindeer herding, hunting and handicrafts, which are still practised together with e.g. tourism. 

In the actual centre of Inari village is *Siida, the National Museum of the Finnish Sámi, an important place of interest for the Samí culture. Siida is also the locale for a January event Skábmagovat, the indigenous peoples’ film festival.

Siida National Museum of the Finnish Sámi
Siida is the National Museum of the Finnish Sámi, a very interesting place where you end up spending hours.

Skábmagovat is not the only film festival in the area. In June the town of Sodankylä hosts the Midnight Sun Film Festival, founded by the Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki. It is a very important festival for independent cinema, however, don't expect big-money blockbusters in the nightless night, but prepare yourself for films that will give you food for thought. While the January film festival takes place under the Northern lights and when there is only around 2 to 3 hours of daylight, the Midnight Sun Film Festival screens films 24 hours a day in the season when the sun does not set.

Expect to see these relaxed animals around: reindeer.

Inari has plenty of hostel accommodation on offer all year round. Hostel Jokitörmä is in the village of Kaamanen, which is a small village north of centre of Inari. There are only few hundred residents in the village, so it is a very peaceful destination.

Hostel Jokitörmä and the Northern lights
Northern lighs, or Aurora Borealis, spotted here are Hostel Jokitörmä in the Kaamanen village.

Hostel Ahopää is part of the Kiilopää Fell Centre that lies on the border of a huge National Park, which is perfect for cross-country skiing during the winter months and hiking in the summer. You can also enjoy smoke sauna and in the winter try ice-swimming.

Kiilopää Fell Centre, Saariselkä, Lapland
Hostel Ahopää is part of the large Kiilopää Fell Centre.

Getting to places in Lapland is easy. An overnight train takes you comfortably from Helsinki either to Rovaniemi or Kemijärvi from where you can move on either by coach or by a hire car. Hostels mentioned are close to the route of Eskelisen Lapin Linjat Coaches, which can even take you all the way from Helsinki to Inari. You can also continue your journey as far as to the banks of the Barents Sea.

There nearest airport is in Ivalo. There are daily flights to Ivalo from Helsinki or even places abroad. Also the airport in western Lapland in Kittilä is an option when travelling to destinations in Inari.

Snowshoeing at Hostel Ahopää in Saariselkä, Lapland.
And once in Lapland you should definitely try this! Snowshoeing is great fun. At Hostel Ahopää you can rent the equipment needed for this as well as for cross-country skiing. 

* P.S. Are you an HI Member? Siida Museum gives you a discount in the entrance fee if you are. Read more here.

Enjoy Lapland!

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