Exploring Kilpisjärvi and Finland’s highest mountains

After finally finishing the website I get to concentrate in writing. During previous years I have been writing a lot but this is my first post when it comes to travelling. Before writing about past destinations I thought to start with something fresh, my most recent trip to one of the northern most parts of the Finnish Lapland, the town of Kilpisjärvi with its gorgeous Saana Fell.

I have always liked hiking in mountains and volcanoes, that is something I did a lot while in my home country of Costa Rica and it is something I try to continue doing whenever I get to travel. Unfortunately, Helsinki which is located in Southern Finland doesn’t have any mountains, nevermind volcanoes :D. So the only chance to do it in Finland is to go to the northern part of the country.


8 hour drive for a 1-day trip isn’t a bad idea or is it?

While enjoying mid summer holidays, during this June, with my wife and her family in the city of Oulu, I half jokingly said that “hey, what if we just drive up to Kilpisjärvi?” To many that idea would be crazy, as the trip can take up to 8-9 hours (don’t trust Google maps on this one it takes longer!) depending on the road conditions.

But for someone who enjoys roadtrips and has driven 13 hours straight to get to Lofoten islands to stay 1 day (that will be another post), well.. honestly 8 hours didn’t sound that bad. This time we were 3 drivers as my father-in-law and brother-in-law could drive too.

As a side note: In case you need to get to Oulu first, Norwegian Airlines flies there at a very good price, you can also take Onnibus or VR trains.

And off we go. Woke up really early to leave by 8am, the idea was to do this a 1-day trip: drive there, hike a couple of hours at the Saana Fell and come back in the evening.

The trip was going really well until dirt road came up, they are currently fixing the roads after the city of Muonio so take this into account when driving (Google maps’ alert was right this time), the other possibility is to take the road from the Swedish side which is asphalt so you will skip the headache and avoid flat tires but might be jumpy as a airplane turbulence.


Arriving to Kilpisjärvi and Saana Fell

Driving in the north of Finland (and Lapland in general) is really simple, there is no way to get lost as there is just one main road to where you want to go and there are signs everywhere. To start hiking towards Saana Fell you need to get first to the Kilpisjärvi Hiking Center where for just 2 euros you can buy a route map and start your way up the Saana Fell (about 4km hike) or also you can go around it (about 6km hike). If you plan to stay longer you can hike or take a boat from Kilpisjärvi to the famous “Three-Country Cairn” which is the border between Sweden, Finland and Norway.

View to Norway and Sweden from Kilpisjärvi
View to Norway and Sweden from Kilpisjärvi


We decided to hike around Saana Fell as at it was already 5pm and we were very hungry. So we went to cook some sausages in a cottage which is 2,5km from the hiking center and free for anyone to use, it has a gas and a wooden kitchen. Remember to take your own food and water there as it is easy to dehydrate under these dry conditions.

The hike isn’t tough and since we didn’t plan for it I left my hiking boots in Helsinki so I even did it with my Converse snickers. Surprisingly there was tons of snow still, even during mid summer, sometimes it was challenging to figure out a way in which my shoes wouldn’t get wet, but this just added a bunch of fun to everyone.

You’ll enjoy true silence, tranquility and the sound of water streams coming down, all of this in the middle of nowhere with an amazing view to the rest of the high mountains around.


After hiking, where to stay?

Kilpisjärvi retkeily keskus
Kilpisjärvi retkeily keskus


Coming back during the same day was our plan but this never happened. We enjoyed the place so much that lost track of time and ended up hiking 5 hours. By 10.30pm we decided to stay the night and drive with a fresh set of eyes the next morning to catch our flight back to Helsinki. We stayed the night in the same place, Kilpisjärvi Hiking Center Hotel, for 100€ a night you can get a cabin with 4 beds and a private shower/toilet, great deal, plus their breakfast is really good too.

This trip might get the best out of your patience as you have to sit for a long period of time but it is totally worth it. Not only the hills, mountains, lakes and nature is beautiful but the animals on the way are awesome! If lucky you’ll get to see reindeers and huge moose, be careful though if you are the driver 😉

Total driving time from and to Oulu: 17 hours.
Total stay: 1 night.
Hiking time: 5 hours.


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