Natural Features of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

The Fells Rise Out of the Forests and Mires

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a conservation site for a major part of the Western Lapland Great Fells chain and the forests and mires which surround the fells. There are almost 100 km of fell chain in the National Park.

The Origin of the Fells

The earliest developments in the Pallas-Ounastunturi bedrock occurred during a time when there were mountains similar to the Alps in Lapland. They were called the Svekokarelids. That was 3 milliard years ago and the only evidence left of these mountains are their worn roots, which today are the fells. The remains of the Svekokarelids form a quartzite fell chain, which starts in the Region of North Karelia in eastern Finland and stretches to Western Lapland. 

A view from the Aakenustunturi Fell. Photo: Seija Olkkonen

Quartzite was formed from beach-sand hundreds of millions of years before the folding of the mountains. The heat inside the earth's crust moulded the sand into hard smooth rock. The best known of the southern quartzite fells is Rukatunturi Fell in Kuusamo (491 m) and the best known in the north are Yllästunturi Fell (718 m) and the Ounastunturi Fells (723 m). At a time when the area was between being below sea-level and becoming high mountains there was volcanic activity there. At that point the volcanic black rocks, now characteristic of the area, were formed.

Pallastunturi and Ounastunturi Fells

The Ounastunturi Fells are formed of the most common rock types in Finland´s fells, quartzite and granite, rocks very resistant to wear. The Pallastunturi round topped hills are of amphibolite. The Pallastunturi and Ounastunturi Fells are separated by the treacherous Pahakuru and Hannukuru Ravines. At this point there are many plant and animal species from the north and south. The area's evergreen forest rises to 400 - 500 metres above sea level. Above it the mountain birch zone frames the bald tops of the fells. Only the most stubborn shrubs, such as Black Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum subs. hermaphroditum), Black Bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina) and Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens) will grow there and on the windiest fell tops Lapland Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica). To counterbalance the barrenness of the fells the ravines have lush fern forests on brook banks.

Heading towards the Pahakuru Open Wilderness Hut. Photo: Seija Olkkonen

A Treasury for Researchers

Thanks to the biodiversity of the nature, the role of the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park is not only important for nature conservation and recreation purposes but also for the opportunities it offers scientists for research and study. Important international air quality assessment and monitoring programmes are implemented in the park. Research is also being carried out into the permanence of the timberline, vole populations, and the environmental impacts of tourism. 

Vegetation of the National Park

The vegetation is a wonderful sample of Lapland's forest and mire landscape at its best. The area has pricelessly important old-growth forests with decaying trees and mires, which are in their natural state. Studies have found that that there are 28 threatened species of vascular plants and 108 species of polyporous fungi. These are very large numbers for Lapland.


The vegetation of the fells includes almost all the species found in North Lapland, except the ones requiring calciferous soil. Some of the best known are the Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), the Black Bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina), the Blue (Mountain) Heath (Phyllodoce caerulea), the Lapland Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica) the Three-leaved Rush (Juncus trifidus) and Alpine Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum alpinum).

The Lapland Diapensia in the Pallastunturi Fells. Photo: Maarit Kyöstilä


The vegetation of the National Park's mires varies between spruce and pine mires and calciferous plant species. Of calciferous plants, Orchids (Orchidaceae) are quiet common on the eastside of the fell chain especially in the Ylläs-Aakenus area. There is an abundance of Sedges in the area. The most typical ones are Wool Fruited Sedge (Carex lasiocarpa) and Beaked Sedge (Carex rostrata). Plants, which grow in damp flowering rush, are the Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), the Rannoch-rush (Scheuchzeria palustris) and the Bog Sedge (Carex limosa).


The forests of the fell chain are coniferous forest of the western Taiga biome. Their old-growth forests are of immense value in conservational terms. The natural features here are more diverse than in the surrounding areas as there are great changes in altitude and difference of rock type in the bedrock. The area includes all the northern forest types from Northern Finland spruce forest and Forest Lapland pine woodland to Fell Lapland birches and treeless fell tops. Animal species of the north are present here though the area is south of their actual habitat.

The vegetation of heaths in the area is made up for the most part of familiar forest berries; blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) and lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). In spots where the earth is damp and fertile more lush plants such as the Wood Crane's-bill (Geranium sylvaticum) and the Oak Fern (Lastrea dryopteris) are in abundance. Such plants as the Red Currant (Ribes spicatum), the European Bird Cherry (Prunus padus), the Mezereon (Daphne mezereum) and One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) grow in the park's herb-rich forests. Especially stunning are the Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), the Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and the Alpine Sow Thistle (Cicerbita alpina) in brook-side herb-rich forests.

The Ostrich Fern along the Pyhäjoki Nature Trail. Photo: Maarit Kyöstilä

Varied Animal and Bird Species

There is an exceptional abundance of animal species in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. There are varying habitats; from forests and mires to fell heaths. Each habitat has different species. Species change abruptly at the edge of a forest. Hikers will notice this especially in early summer when birds are starting to build their nests.

A male Ptarmigan on the top of the fell. Photo: Seija Olkkonen

Snow Bunting and  Other Birds

The Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), the Emblem Bird of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is the first bird to come back home early in spring. During summer, the park boasts 150 bird species. In quiet of winter is only disrupted by the lively song of the Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) in the open fells, the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) in the mountain birch forests and the Siberian Jays (Perisoreus infaustus), Crossbills (Loxia) and Siberian Tits (Paras cinctus) of the forests.
Snow Bunting. Photo: Markus Varesvuo

The Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) inhabits the treeless fell uplands. Of Finland's passerine species it is the best adapted to arctic conditions. It dwells by the Arctic Sea and on fell tops. The Snow Bunting and the Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) are typical of scree rock areas. The Snow Bunting is one of the first birds to return north in the spring and its song can be heard on the fell tops in early June. Snow Buntings make their nests in-between boulders. In August they gather in groups on the lush brook banks to feed before flying south. They bring the now quiet fell landscape to life with their sporadic bursts into the air.

The Bear and Small Mammals

Of the large carnivores, the Bear (Ursus arctos) is a permanent resident. The Wolverine (Gulo gulo), Lynx (Lynx lynx) and Wolf (Canis lupus) on the other hand are quite rare. Of Finland's large mammals the Moose (Alces alces) in habits thepark. There are exceptionally many small mammals in the park.

An ermine (Mustela erminea) on the fells. Photo: Maarit Kyöstilä

The Freshest Air in the World 

Breathe in the fresh, pure air of Finnish Lapland as you enjoy the literally breath-taking scenery of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. This part of Finland has the cleanest air anywhere in the world, according to scientists who have studied air samples taken at a local air quality research station.

Breathing pristine, unpolluted air is a rare pleasure today. Most people – especially those of us who live in cities and towns – are routinely exposed to a wide range of air pollutants that can cause problems such as asthma and respiratory diseases.

Enjoy the freshest air in the world. Photo: Vastavalo / Seppo Alatalo

Finnish Lapland is a great place to give your lungs a detox treat. It's also a region free of noise and light pollution, so you can also enjoy other unforgettable experiences here such as absolute silence and night skies dotted with millions of stars.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park's other natural attractions include superb pristine landscapes. Climb up the park's high treeless fells to get fantastic views over Lapland's vast forests and lovely lakes.  Because the air is so clean, you can see for miles and miles in every direction, and experience the feeling of being in the heart of Europe's last great wilderness.

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Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

  • Established 2005
  • Area 1020 km²

The Emblem of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park - Snow Bunting

The Emblem of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is Snow Bunting

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