|OFF the BEATEN TRACK|
The pleasant lakeside settlement of Inari is the place to see living Sami culture, and is one of the most interesting towns in northern Lapland. The open-air museum, Saamelaismuseo, covers the crafts, reindeer-farming and fishing traditions of Finland's indigenous people. Not far from the museum, there is a marked 7km walking track to the 18th-century Pielpajärven Wilderness Church, with a hut and a sauna nearby. In summer, boat trips leave for prominent Ukko Island, an ancient, cultic site for the Inari fishermen. There is a reindeer farm 15km from the village, but with 40,000 other reindeer in the area to catch sight of, you may find a visit to the farm unnecessary. Inari is located along the 'Arctic Road' in East Lapland, beside Lake Inari.
Kolovesi National Park
This fine national park was founded in 1990, and covers several islands which feature unusually well-preserved pine forests. There are high hills, rocky cliffs and caves, and even prehistoric paintings on rocks. Saimaa marble seals are known to live in this area. A rowing boat is practically the only way to see the fantastic scenery as all motored boats are prohibited in the park. A guide is an unavoidable expense if you want to find the best places, but as groups get to travel in an old 'church longboat' with up to 10 pairs of oars, you can split the cost. Kolovesi National Park is in eastern Savo and is accessible by bus and ferry from Savonlinna.
The most interesting thing to see in idyllic Kristinestad (Kristiinankaupunki in Finnish) - founded in 1649 - is the town itself, where old customs still survive. The narrowest street in town, known as Catwhipper's Lane, is only 299cm wide, making it one of the narrowest streets in Finland. In the 1880s, in an effort to contain the plague, the town employed a cat-catcher to kill sick cats - hence the name of the street. In the centre of town is Ulrika Eleonora's Church, built in the 18th century. It's a typical coastal church, with votive ships hanging from the ceiling. The town's Maritime Museum houses a private collection of sea-related items collected by an old sea captain. Kristinestad sits along the west coast of Finland and can be reached by buses from Pori, Vaasa and Tampere.
Lemmenjoki National Park
The largest national park in Finland, Lemmenjoki offers some of the most exciting trekking in Lapland. You'll see desolate wilderness rivers, arctic landscape and maybe bump into a lonely gold panner in the middle of nowhere. The steep slopes of the Lemmenjoki River are a terrific vantage point, from which to see the Ravadasköngäs waterfall; you can also walk to it from a nearby hut (there are several free wilderness huts in the park to stay in). Most of the trekking routes are within the relatively small area between the Lemmenjoki and the Vaskojoki rivers. For any serious trekking, you will need the 1:100,000 Lemmenjoki topographical sheet, available in bookshops. To get there, either take one of the post buses leaving from Inari or hop on the river taxi from Kultala.
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