The legendary kayak routes of Lapland


Paddling through the nightless night, the legendary gold panning rivers, an ancient fjord or maybe the "sea of Lapland". An alternative way to hike and explore the magic of the northern summer -  paddling. There are countless amount of routes to choose from, but some of them have the most legendary stories.

Paddling in Lapland, generally

I can't explain a more liberating feeling, than take a 20 kg vessel under you and literally go with the flow across the arctic wilderness. There are places to rent kayaks or canoes from, if you don't have your own. Mine is a simple light-weight kayak for one, very easy to move around, but still seaworthy. The vessel moves lightly with the flow and you're basically sitting on the bottom of it, feeling the water moving, which might be exiting for some people. The kayak will respond to your every movement, but you don't have to be an expert to go paddling, especially if you skip the raging rapids. You can carry or pull your vessel from the shore in the toughest spots.

As most of kayaks do, mine has a waterproof locker for important items. I usually still wrap them in plastic just in case. The rest of your package (food/clothes/tents) you can tie up, carry in a backpack or put in an open locker in the back of the kayak. I would still pack them under a waterproof material and use clothes that dry up quickly. In northern Lapland, drinks are not necessary to carry around, since there are so many pure water streams running into the main waters from the fells. You can fill up your bottle once in a while.

The gold panning rivers

The wild gold panning rivers of Lapland offer magnificent views, lots of rapids and hundreds of years of history from the gold rush and beyond. Ivalojoki is said to be the best paddling route in Finland. The white waters are not expert level, but keep it interesting. The best part of the route is said to be the 70 km from the village of Kuttura to Ivalo. There is also the very legendary Lemmenjoki river and national park, with a huge name in gold panning. Tankajoki is the river connected to the famous gold village - Tankavaara. There are certainly routes to choose from.

The "sea of Lapland"

Inarijärvi is the third biggest lake of Finland and the biggest lake of Lapland. It is "the lake". Even though there are huge water systems in the Southern Finland, Inarijärvi is notable on the map, being solid, like an inland sea. The lake is over 1000 square kilometers and no other lake compares to it. The paddling itself is not challenging, but it is definitely easy to get lost in the middle of the islands (there are thousands of them).

The ancient fjord

The northernmost lake of Finland used to be a part of the Arctic Ocean. The fjord-shaped inland water is called "Pulmankijärvi" and it's located in Nuorgam, the northernmost village of our country. The road to the lake is amazing, it is basically right on top of the fells in the middle of the most rugged tundra-like nature. The remains of the ice age and the closeness to the ocean, offer some exotic and unique features. A shrubbery species grows in the area of Pulmankijärvi, that does not grow in any other part of Finland. The flatfish from the ocean has stayed in the lake as a very rare inland water species.

The lake itself is over 10 km long and with the river called "Pulmankijoki", the waters offer very intriguing paddling opportunities.  Pulmankijoki is a 50 km long wilderness river with its waterfalls and exiting curves. The river runs into Pulmankijärvi from South and continues to run from the north end all the way down to Teno river valley, landing several hundred meters.

The water system of the legendary Tenojoki

Rivers make paddling easy, when you're going downstream and Lapland is full of them. You can take serious hikes that take multiple days, all the way to the Arctic Ocean, if you have the stamina. You can paddle down the famous salmon fishing river Tenojoki all the way from the small village of Angeli to the river fjord. This route will take several days and several hundred kilometers. The Utsjoki river is also a nice route with its lake parts and it also runs down to Tenojoki. 

The best time to paddle these salmon fishing areas is from Sunday evening to Monday evening, when the fishing is prohibited and there will be no traffic. Generally these big rivers are not that challenging to paddle, but there are a few aggressive rapids, that I would think again if I had no experience or a kayak suitable for strong white waters. There are three especially strong rapids on the Teno route; Matinköngäs in Angeli, Yläköngäs right before Utsjoki village and Alaköngäs in Nuorgam. All these portions of the river are steeper than basic rapids (there are a lot of them, especially in the first 60 km), but Alaköngäs is the most powerful and actually perfect for rafting, when your looking for challenges.

I highly recommend paddling in Lapland, but I warn you, the routes to conquer won't stop. This place is endless.

LaplandU Girl