Saariselkä is in the Sámi Homeland

The Saariselkä area is in the Sámi people homeland. The north side of the Saariselkä Fells was the portion of Lapland called Inari. The Lapp villages of Sompio and Sodankylä were on the south side of the fells. Hunting, fishing and hunting for wild forest reindeer were the livelihoods of old that there are still clear signs of today in the landscape. Later on reindeer husbandry developed into a significant form of livelihood in the area.

Reindeer round-up in Vuomaselkä. Photo: Ari Magga


Reindeer husbandry was developed by the Sámi people and the Sámi culture is still very visible in the area.


Gold Rush Brings People to the Area

Gold was found in the Saariselkä area for the first time in 1865. The actual gold rush to the River Ivalojoki occurred in 1870. At that time Kultala Station, was built as a place to monitor gold mining and gold trade. At the height of the gold rush there were 350 people working in the area. Later on, in the early 1900s there were also gold findings at Tankavaara and at Lemmenjoki.

Tourism Develops Little By Little

Construction of area's first lodging enterprise, Laanila Inn, was completed in 1912, but the German's destroyed it during the Second World War. The road to Ivalo was completed in 1914. A log cabin was built on top of Kaunispää Fell in the 1950s. Around the same time regular air traffic started to arrive at Ivalo Airport. During the 1960s construction of the area began and as a result today Saariselkä is one of Finland's most popular tourist resorts.

The old Ruijanpolku Trail stretched from the Bothnian Bay through the Saariselkä area all the way to Ruija on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. In addition to reindeer herding trails and old hiking routes during the past decades new marked hiking trails and nature trails have been constructed to serve the hiking public.

The Saariselkä area has been a significant outdoor excursion area for many decades. The rugged northern wilderness, the vast uniform fells and the forests which border them have attracted travellers and hikers. Urho Kekkonen National Park and the wilderness areas in Northern Finland are the major pull of the area, which have made it more well-known. The broad protected areas offer a variety of option for treks during all seasons, whether it be on marked trails, maintained ski trails or off-trails with the help of a map and a compass.