Natural Features of Arctic Circle Hiking Area

Two swans take off above the river. There is a snowy shore in the background.

The Arctic Circle Hiking Area is like a miniature wilderness. The Southern Lapland nature is close to the city, providing easy access to the lush river islands, magnificent mires and old-growth forests.

Taking care of nature

A mobile application provides more information about the nature trail

In addition to traditional signs on the Könkäänsaari and Kielosaari Islands, you can also get information about the route on your mobile phone.

Vaattunkivaara, Könkäänvaara, Sortovaara

The hiking area is made up of several parts which are in their natural state and very wilderness-like. In these areas visitors can become acquainted with the region's typical plant and animal species. Some of these spectacular nature sights are at Vianaapa, on the Könkäänsaaret Islands, at Vaattunkivaara Hill, at Könkäänvaara Hill and on the north-side of road E75 in the versatile Sortovaara Hill area. Many of the nature sights are accessible by nature trail.

Summer landscape from the pine forest with a bird tower in the middle of the trees.

Valuable Natural Sights

The most spectacular rapids in the River Raudanjoki are Vaattunkiköngäs and Vikaköngäs. They are popular sights and easily accessible. The Könkäänsaaret Islands have a valuable assortment of bird and plant species. The islands are an ideal day trip destination for families. Disabled visitors have also been taken into account when the islands' services were designed.

A dark flowing rapids in the winter with snow on the trees growing onshore.

From the Könkäänsaaret Islands you can continue along the beautiful Könkäiden polku Trail which follows the bank of the River Raudanjoki or you can see the rugged and rocky Sortovaara, Vaattunkivaara and Könkäänvaara Hills. The pine forests on top of these hills are hundreds of years old. One of the most striking sights in the hiking area are the practically treeless aapa bogs at Kuluskaira. These bogs are the part of the area which has best stayed in its natural state. The wilderness ponds in the bogs, the River Raudanjoki and Lake Olkkajärvi are enchanting recreational fishing destinations.

 The sun is shining in an old forest. A needle trail leads to the forest, a log tree has fallen over it.

Animals of the Area

The moose, reindeer, fox, hare and squirrel are the mammals most common in the area, but the pine marten, stoat, mink and otter have also been seen there.

Where Swans Rest

There are many areas on the banks of the River Raudanjoki and at Vianaapa which are rich in birds, both in the diversity of species and the size of their populations. Könkäänsaari Island is one of the best bird watching destinations. The nature on this island is diverse making it possible for many different bird species to live there.

The treeless parts of the Vianaapa bogs are favoured by the Common Crane, Bean Goose, Ruff and many waders. Whooper swans often stop at Lake Vaattunkilampi to rest while migrating.

A wood sandpiper stands on one leg on top of the pine.

Species of the Old-growth Forests

The majority of birds living in the hiking area's coniferous forests are so-called old-growth forest indicator species. Some of these species are The Black Woodpecker, the Three-toed Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Siberian Jay and the Great Grey Owl. The Willow Tit, which is found all over Finland, is exceptionally abundant in the forests on top of the Vaattunkivaara and Könkäänvaara Hills. The rare Siberian Tit may also make an appearance on occasion. The common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) also prefers to nest in rocky pine forests. Its beautiful rusty reddish tail makes it easy to identify. In the early summer, you’re likely to hear cuckoos (Cuculus canoru) singing in the hilltop pine forests. The cuckoo is a brood parasite that often lays its eggs in the nest of a common redstart.  

Great Spotted Woodpecker on the branch. Bright blue sky on the background.

Konkäänsaari and Kielosaari Islands are covered by spring floods

The small forests, which are created by the powerful spring floods of Raudanjoki River, are home to the lushest vegetation in the area. You can see more of this vegetation on the nature trails of Könkäänsaari Island. The tall and sturdy ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris or Struthiopteris filicastrum) thrives along the banks of shady streams. In springtime, the groves are bright with the delicate pink flowers of Mezereon (Daphne mezereum) and white blooms of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis). These beautiful but poisonous plants grow even in the most northern parts of the Arctic Circle. Another poisonous plant that is abundant on Kielosaari Island is the striking red baneberry (Actaea erythrocarpa), which is rarely seen south of Lapland and Koillismaa. With a bit of luck, you might see the endangered ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum), which lives underground and rarely produces a flowering top above ground. 

 Red Baneberry with green leafs on the background.

A wooden bridge in the lush grove forest that crosses the creek.

A wide variety of mushrooms

If you’re hiking in the later summer, it’s a good idea to brush up on the area mushrooms. Many edible mushrooms, such as boletes, milkcaps and brittlegills, live in symbiosis with trees. Moist, mixed forests dominated by spruce, such as found on the Könkäänsaari Islands, provide an ideal habitat for mushrooms. 

Polypores are mushrooms that grow on tree trunks. Like boletes, they have spongy tubes rather than gills on the underside of the caps. Several old-growth forest polypore species, such as Amylocystis lapponica, Phellinus abietis and Fomitopsis rosea, can be seen on fallen trees in the most isolated parts of the forest.

Take a look at the aapa mires

The Mire Trail takes you to the heart of Peräpohjola’s most characteristic habitat – the aapa mire. Aapa mires are expansive, watery mires with no trees in their centre that are formed by the moist and cool northern climate and subtly contoured terrain. Because aapa mires are like bowls, nutrients from the surrounding areas flow into the low central parts, for example, during spring floods As a result, aapa mires are home to a demanding and diverse range of mire vegetation. Many rare plant species grow in Vianaapa, such as the marsh saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus) with its yellow flowers. This plant requires a calcium-rich growing site and has become much less common due to mire drainage.  

Mire landscape as seen from a bird watching tower. The duckboard trail leads past a forest island.

An abundance of spruce trees in even the most nutrient poor heaths and vast aapa bogs the centre of which are so swampy they are impassable, are typical natural features of the area. Some years the pine bogs on the edges of these aapa bogs have an abundant crop of cloudberries and cranberries.


Arctic Circle Hiking Area

  • Established 2001
  • Area 36 km²