There are 3,318 islands on Lake Inarijärvi. Due to the high number of islands and islets, the lake is a labyrinth – it is charming, but it is easy to get lost there. The length of the winding shoreline is immense. Despite the high number of islands, this big lake also boasts large areas of open waters, the largest being Kasariselkä, Sammakkoselkä, Vasikkaselkä, Satapetäjäselkä and Ukonselkä. The biggest islands are Kaamassaari, Mahlatti and Leveä Petäjäsaari, on which there are ponds.

There are hundreds of kilometres of marked boat routes on Lake Inarijärvi. The routes marked on the boating map are primarily meant for motor boats. Canoeists look for the shelter of the islands and are also able to paddle in shallow and rocky shore waters, so the marked routes are not suitable for them as such. However, they are very useful to canoeists, as the route markers help them to work out their location.

Buoys and beacons advices and guides you. Photo: Tapio Tynys

Never underestimate Lake Inarijärvi. Even though the lake may be calm and pleasant when you set off, weather conditions can change rapidly. As regards trips that take several days, in particular, please take into account that there may well be windy and rainy days during this time. In windy weather, the waves of Lake Inarijärvi may become so big that it is dangerous for anybody to go onto the lake, such days are spent in the shelter of the islands.

In summer, there is daylight 24 hours a day. The sun does not set at all in June. At the end of July, the sun sets below the horizon for a couple of hours, and it is not until August that the shorter nights begin.

The surface water is warmest at the end of July. On open water areas, the water is about 14–15 Celsius and in shallow bays it may be even more than 20 Celsius. After mid-August, the water starts to get cold quickly. Consequently, boaters must take care not end up in the water. Although a life jacket keeps you afloat, you may rapidly contract hypothermia. Wearing a drysuit is always recommended because of the low water temperature.

Preparations for Setting Off for Lake Inarijärvi

The boating season starts in early June. Towards autumn, it becomes windier and the winds may last for several days. The boating season ends in early October, at the latest, as the bays freeze.

On Lake Inarijärvi, the wind usually blows from the southwest or from the northeast. On the long straits between the islands, the wind changes direction and starts blowing parallel to the straits. Consequently, boaters are usually able to travel in a tailwind or a headwind.

The locals travel on the lake by motor boat and the recreational fishermen have a boat equipped for trolling. Recreational visitors usually bring their own vehicle with them, which is usually a sea kayak that accommodates one or two canoeists and has a rudder or an adjustable fin. An open canoe is not very suitable for these open waters.

On the lake, Metsähallitus has a comprehensive network of bases for recreational boaters. There are no shops, restaurants or other chargeable services on the islands of Lake Inarijärvi, so you must be self-sufficient when on the lake. You need to be able to light a campfire, prepare food, find a place to stay overnight and navigate. You must bring your food with you as well as accommodation gear, a kit for lighting a campfire and other tools. Read more about equipmets on the Hiking in Finland webpages. 

Photo: Tapio Tynys

It is particularly important to keep matches and a mobile phone in a watertight box in your pocket. Matches, mobile phones, meals and other kit packed in the gear bag will be of no use if the kayak is carried away with the gear bag still in it or if the bag sinks to the bottom of the lake. Please see the safety section on the Hiking in Finland webpages.

You will definitely need warm, windproof clothes even though it may feel more appropriate to wear a T-shirt when you set off. You will need sunglasses to protect your eyes and sun cream to protect your skin. Also take a mosquito repellent to guard against mosquitoes and blackflies. Mosquitoes do not attack you while you are boating but they may bother you once on shore, particularly at the turn of June and July. Mosquitoes thrive in still places, so pick a place where there is a breath of wind.