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What to see and do in Kilpisjärvi

What to see and do in Kilpisjärvi

Holiday destination Kilpisjärvi in Arctic Lapland

The village of Kilpisjärvi is an outdoor lover's paradise at any time of the year. Here in Arctic Lapland there are eight seasons which reflect the changes in nature and the rhythm of life. Each of them is worth a visit.  

Here you have suggestions where to go, what to do and sights to see in Kilpisjärvi.

Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre

Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre is located within a short walking distance from Guesthouse Haltinmaa. Here you can view the permanent exhibition “On the Edge of the Caledonides”. It introduces you to Malla and Saana nature reserves and Käsivarsi Wilderness. There is also a photo story of past and present residents of Kilpisjärvi. Here you find information on hiking trails and you can purchase fishing permits, maps and souvenirs.

Lake Tsahkal

The nearest hiking trail where you can admire a waterfall, a wilderness lake and the stunning landscapes of the three countries is easily accessible and not too challenging.

The starting point lies within a short walk from Guesthouse Haltinmaa, by the parking area of Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre. The trail is a little over 2 km (1 ⅓ miles) long groomed gravel path, with a few fairly steep ascents and descents. The path takes you to Lake Tsahkal where an open lean-to serves as a campfire site and is at all visitors' disposal. Bring along sausages and roast them on open fire, like the locals do on an outing.  

The path leads you across the river above the beautiful Tsahkal waterfall and takes you back to the village center.

The view point on top of Salmivaara 

The closest point to admire the sweeping views across the nearby three country landscapes is on top of Salmivaara hill.

The walk to the hilltop follows a groomed jogging track before continuing on a rocky and rather steep nature path. The trail from beginning to peak is approx. 1.1 km (⅔ miles) long. The starting point is within half a kilometer (third of a mile) from Guesthouse Haltinmaa.

Visit to the Three-Country Cairn 

The Three-Country Cairn – also known as the Three Nations Border Point – marks the site where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. Thus it is an international tripoint, the northernmost in the world. It is also said to be the world’s most peaceful border – no border control, no guards, no customs lanes are anywhere to be seen. 

The easiest way to get to the Cairn is by boat which sails across Lake Kilpisjärvi. The boat trip starts in the vicinity of Kilpisjärvi Holiday Village and Camping (Retkeilykeskus), crosses the lake in thirty minutes and docks at Koltaluokta bay in Sweden. From there it is a 3 km (nearly 2 miles) hike to the Cairn. 

The sailing season normally starts in mid-June, when the lake is free from its ice cover, and lasts until the latter part of September. For prices and timetables please check the website of the boat company.

During the snow season you can join a guided snowmobile tour to visit the Cairn. Several local winter activity providers organize such tours.

Mt. Saana and Saana Nature Trail

Mt. Saana – or Saana Fell, as it is called locally – is undoubtedly the most recognizable sight in Kilpisjärvi.  Its summit rises 1029 meters (3376 ft.) above sea level and over 500 meters (1640 ft.) above the surface of Lake Kilpisjärvi. The majestic silhouette of Saana Fell dominates the village and the vast vistas opening up from the top are breathtaking, offering views of Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The best and safest time to conquer Mt. Saana is during the summer months. A marked trail, which is over 4 km (2½ miles) long, leads to the top. The starting point of the trail is across the road from the parking lot by the entry to Malla Nature Reserve, at the northern end of the village.

Take into account the quickly changing weather conditions when you plan your hike up to Saana Fell and dress accordingly. It may be sunny and warm with clear skies, but it may be frosty and stormy as well, even in the middle of July. 

Estimate 3 - 4 hours for the hike, depending on your pace and fitness level. While previous hiking experience is not necessary you should be in good physical condition to conquer the summit of Mt. Saana.  

Saana Nature Trail is approximately 5 km (over 3 miles) long. It starts at the foot of Mt. Saana, by Kilpisjärvi Holiday Village and Camping, winds its way around the west side of Saana Fell, continuing on to Jeahkas Fell and back again to its starting point. You can get acquainted with local nature and history along the path. The terrain is not too demanding but requires a normal physical fitness level.

Malla Strict Nature Reserve

Officially called Malla Strict Nature Reserve, this is one of Finland’s oldest protected nature areas. Named after the two Malla Fells which rise from the northern shore of Lake Kilpisjärvi the Malla Nature Reserve is on the nature lover’s must-see sights in this region.

Visitors are allowed to hike along the 11 km (almost 7 miles) long marked trail which runs across the park between the Three-Country Cairn and a parking area which is located by the main road at the northern end of the village. You can start the hike on this trail at either end. Please make sure you stay on the marked track as the park is a protected area.

Do note that there are no services along the trail, camping is not allowed, nor are bicycles and motorized vehicles. The only shelter is found near the Three-Country Cairn where a wilderness hut is at the hikers’ disposal free of charge. 

A noteworthy sight along the trail is the Kitsi Waterfall, which according to legend formed Lake Kilpisjärvi in ancient times.

If you don’t wish to venture all the way through the park, a nice option is a visit to Pikku-Malla Fell, which offers panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding fell country. A marked 7 km (nearly 4½ miles) trail leads from the roadside parking area to the summit of Pikku-Malla and back.

During the snow season you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Malla nature park.

Swimming in Arctic waters in summertime

While the average mean temperature in Kilpisjärvi in the height of the summer hovers around + 10 centigrades (50 F) there are occasional warm days when you might wish to take a dip in the fresh and chilly Arctic waters.  

You can swim in Lake Kilpisjärvi, however the shoreline around the village does not boast long sandy beaches. If you wish to try the local way, drive across the border to Norway and follow one of the gravel roads which turn right after the border mark. These take you down to a lake called Galggojávri. This is where the village people go to enjoy the sunny days.

If you continue to the village of Skibotn in Norway you may want to take a swim in the fjord on one of the beaches in the vicinity of the village.

Guided experiences in Kilpisjärvi

Guided experiences are offered by several entrepreneurs in Kilpisjärvi around the year.  Check the website of Enontekiö Arctic Lapland for information and contacts.

In summer and early autumn you can try your fishing luck on guided fishing trips and take a sightseeing tour to the wilderness by helicopter or hydroplane. You can go hiking or biking in the company of a local, or spend a day rafting on River Könkämäeno which runs between Finland and Sweden.

During the snow season you can choose a snowmobile tour to the Three-Country Cairn or even to Mt. Halti, which is the highest summit in Finland. You can learn to be a dog sledding musher, admire the nature on a snowshoe trek and try to catch a fish through a hole in the ice.

Outdoor equipment - such as canoes, kayaks, SUP-boards, fatbikes, terrain bikes, snowshoes and cross-country skis - is available for rent. Snowmobiles can also be rented to be driven independently on the village trails, but we recommend you choose a guided snowmobile tour if you do not have earlier snowmobile driving experience. Driving a snowmobile in the Käsivarsi Wilderness, e.g. to conquer Mt. Halti, is possible only with a local guide.  You will find information and contacts of companies providing rental equipment in the website of EnontekioLapland.

Outdoor life in Käsivarsi Wilderness

Nature belongs to us all. We must show it due respect and take care of it for future generations. Please take a moment and read about the principles of litter-free hiking and get acquainted with the outdoor etiquette. Your efforts are appreciated by Mother Nature and by your fellow hikers.

This comprehensive guide of Käsivarsi Wilderness gives you all necessary information when you plan your visit to Kilpisjärvi.