Some people prefer winter to summer. Reindeer herder Nils-Matti is one of them.
Finnish Lapland is immense. It covers an area larger than the whole of Portugal, but the concept of Lapland is even larger. Many tourists think that they have reached Lapland when they have barely got halfway up Finland. The further north you go, the better you can understand the true meaning of Lapland. As you travel further north along the outstretched “arm” of north-west Finland, the coniferous forest gradually vanishes from the landscape and the birch trees shrink to a metre in height; the fells begin to rise around you in every direction and you find a silence unlike anywhere else on earth. You can see for miles but all you will hear is your own breathing and the snow crunching under your boots. Visit Kilpisjärvi, a small village in Enontekiö, and it’s easy to discover why tourists return year after year.
In Lapland, swapping the hustle and bustle of ski resorts and cities to the peace and quiet of the wilderness takes mere minutes.
On the fells you can see for miles, but all you will hear is the sound of your own breath and your boots crunching through the snow. The world is like a blue and white silent movie.
Sami Nils-Matti Vasara has lived in Kilpisjärvi all his life – his roots go back 12 generations. Nils-Matti has been to southern Finland only a couple of times and even then not entirely voluntarily. As he sees it, Kilpisjärvi has everything anyone could want in life. Most importantly is the impressive natural landscape from which his family have derived their livelihood for centuries.
ONE OF THE MANY
In Lapland you see reindeer everywhere – by the side of the road, outside your hotel, on the fells, but they aren’t really wild. All reindeer are ear-tagged and belong to one of the reindeer herding cooperatives.
GOGGLES – YOU’LL NEED THEM IN THE BRIGHT SPRING
Kilpisjärvi is at its best for tourists in the spring. When the sun shines, you’re fine on the fells in nothing but a sweater, as the glistening snow reflects the light like a mirror.
Even though the Lapland summer is beautiful, winter is a special time for Nils-Matti. Summer and autumn tend to just go by, resting and awaiting the first snow. It is only after the fells are finally covered in a white blanket that the normal course of life resumes. It is the moment you dig the snowmobile out of the garage to make it easier to travel across the fells.
HERD OF FREE SOULS
Compared to other livestock, reindeer have a pretty good life, spending their life freely wandering the fells.
FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY
Reindeer find it hard to find lichen under the snow, so Nils-Matti delivers hundreds of kilos of silage and dry feed to the fells every day.
NILS-MATTI IN HIS SAMI DRESS
Nils-Matti is one of the Sami, the indigenous population of Lapland. The traditional Sami costume is only worn on ceremonial occasions and denotes the family, area and group of its wearer.
NOTHING BUT THE SUNSET
All of Finland’s mountains are over 1,000 metres high and 60 per cent of Finland’s fells are in Enontekiö, the arm of Finland.
To visitors from the south, Lapland is the perfect place to rest and relax. Whatever your reason to “escape”, there is no better place to recharge your batteries than the wide open spaces in the far north. Under the spring sun on top of the fells, you’re fine in nothing but a sweater, as the glistening snow reflects the light like a mirror. Until darkness falls, the world is like a blue and white silent movie and then the sky is filled with colour. On a clear night, the Northern Lights blaze, lighting the fells as if it were day.
Old Porvoo is one of Finland’s most idyllic districts. The cobbled streets are lined with old, doll-house-like houses and on top of the hill a white stone church looks over the river valley. Wonderful in the summer, magical during wintertime. Only one hour East of Helsinki.
We all have problem pigs in our lives, nasty little things that make us angry, tired or stressed out. But no problem, here’s a perfect retreat. The Finnish winter calms down even the world’s angriest birds, so it will surely work for you too.
Take a look at the geographical shape of Finland and you’ll see why people call her “The Finnish Maiden”. At the tip of her thumb is the only part of the country where peaks rise 1,000 metres above sea level. Nestled in those peaks you will find a tiny village called Kilpisjärvi, home to roughly a hundred year-round residents.
One of them is 25-year-old snowmobile guide Jussi Rauhala.