Salla is a municipality in south-east Finnish Lapland. It has a ski resort, the northern part of the Oulanka National Park and most of the Tuntsa Wilderness Area. The very popular Karhunkierros hiking trail has its northern end in the southern part of the municipality, while the UKK Trail leads through it.
A remnant of a wooden ski was found from Särkiaapa mire in 1938. Nowadays that 5,000-year-old ski is conserved in the National Museum of Finland and it is the oldest known ski in the world. In the 16th century hunting for furs was the main industry in the area, then called Kuolajärvi. The area belonged to Kemijärvi parish but due to poor connections the locals built their own chapel in 1828 and in 1857 an independent parish was formed. Later on forestry became important. In absence of roads the logs were driven downstream along the river Kemijoki (the longest river in Finland) and its tributaries.
During early 1900s communism gained ground among the timbers at the loggings. In 1922 this culminated into a short communist rebellion known as Läskikapina, the Pork Mutiny.
The name of the municipality was changed to Salla in 1936. Much of the municipality's area was lost to the Soviet Union in the peace treaties of WW2. These areas are now called "Old Salla". Among the lost territories was the parish village Kuolajärvi and therefore a new parish village was built by the lake Märkäjärvi, near the geographic centre of what was left. During the Lapland War the retreating German troops devastated most of the villages.
In June 1960 a forest fire burned 20,000 hectares of forest near Tuntsa. This is the largest forest fire in Finland. Some parts of the burned area have remained treeless ever since.
The population grew from 1,500 in 1860 to 11,000 in 1966. Since then it has declined, first with migration to Sweden (which then was much richer than Finland and needed workers in its industry), later with domestic urbanisation. In 2019 the population was some 3400 of which 1600 in the parish village. The population trend is still declining.
Tourism in Salla has grown fast during the 2010s. 1 Sallatunturi ski resort is the main destination. In marketing the remoteness has been turned into strength and even the municipality's official slogan is "Salla — in the middle of nowhere".
This is northern inland, north of the Arctic circle. Check what to expect. Salla is home to some of the coldest temperatures ever measured in Finland. The official record low in Salla is −50.4 °C (−58.7 °F), measured by Finnish Meteorological Institution's weather station in the village 2 Naruska in 1985. In January 1999 the fairly refreshing −54.3 °C (−65.7 °F) was measured, again in Naruska, but unfortunately the weather station didn't have official status at that time. However, temperatures close to −40 °C (−40 °F) appear here every winter.
July is the warmest month with +14 °C (57 °F) daily mean.
National road 82 from Rovaniemi via Kemijärvi is the main route to Salla. The road continues via the 1 Kelloselkä border crossing to Kandalaksha (Finnish: Kantalahti, Russian: Кандала́кша) on the Murmansk railway, mostly as a gravel road. Regional road 950 branches off from national road 5 from Kuusamo in the south and leads via Oulanka and the Salla resort to the parish village of Salla.
There are daily coaches from Rovaniemi, Kemijärvi and Kuusamo. A coach ride from Kemijärvi takes an hour, from Rovaniemi 2–3 hours and all the way from Helsinki 17–22 hours. A bus ticket costs around €30/adult from Rovaniemi and around €110/adult from Helsinki.
There is a twice-weekly coach connection Kandalaksha–Kelloselkä–Kemijärvi–Rovaniemi.
There are rail services from the southern Finland to Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. The journey from Helsinki (14 hr to the latter), Tampere or Turku is quite comfortable in a sleeper. Cars can be taken on the train at least from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (check where car-carrying cars in different trains are taken). The VR sells trips to Sallatunturi resort on a combined ticket. The overnight train arrives in Kemijärvi at 10:50 and a JunaBussi coach takes you straight to the resort via Salla main village. A single ticket costs from €100/adult. Check VR travel search for details.
The railway through Salla to Russia has mainly been used for small scale domestic freight, never for passenger traffic across the border.
The nearest airports are in Kuusamo and Rovaniemi. A flight from Helsinki takes about 1½ hr, the bus connection 2 respectively 3 hr.
If you drive yourself, reserve at least all the day for the 900 km journey from the south and check road and weather conditions. You could reserve more time and do some sightseeing along highway 4 (E75) or highway 5 (E63). Wintry conditions are possible late in the spring or even in early summer. Studded tyres are allowed if you think the road may be slippery (otherwise to one week after Easter).
In Salla centre distances are short and easily walkable, but to reach the rest of the municipality, driving is the easiest way. Already to the ski resort at Sallatunturi, the distance is 7 km (4.3 mi). Public transport is sparse. There is no local public transportation but long distance coaches or local taxi may be used. Matka.fi route planner includes few long distance routes, including one to Sallatunturi resort. A shared taxi operates from Sallatunturi resort to the parish village by request. Orders to the receptions of Spa Hotel or Sallatunturin Tuvat.
For any visits to Värriö Strict Nature Reserve, a special permit from the Finnish Forest Administration is needed. The permits are given only for scientific purposes.
Note also the border zone by the Russian border. To visit the border zone you must apply for a Border Zone Permit (Rajavyöhykelupa) from the Finnish Border Guard.
Second World War sites and attractionsEdit
- 1 Salla Museum of War and Reconstruction (Sallan sota- ja jälleenrakennusajan museo), Savukoskentie 12, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Oct–Jun Tu–Sa 10:00–17:00; Jul–Sep Tu–Su 10:00–17:00. Museum telling about life in Salla in the 20th century, World War 2 in Salla, and the reconstruction and resettlement after the war as the Old Salla population got new homes in the rest of the municipality. Café, shop with local products and souvenirs. Guided tours in English available for 1–25 persons, contact the museum for details. €5/adult, €3/child, Museum Card valid.
- 2 Paikanselkä Winter War Memorial (4.5 km from the centre). Memorial site at the place where the Finland-Soviet battlefront was in the final day of the Winter War.
- Remnants from World War 2. Former guard posts, old airstrips and other military remnants. Several locations around the municipality. Ask your host if they know the nearest ones.
- 3 Salpalinja fortifications (1.8 km from the centre). Some remnants of the 1200 km long Salpalinja fortification complex from the World War 2 era.
- 4 Salla Church, Tennontie 5. open during the services. Church built 1950, inspired by the Finnish medieval grey stone churches. The church was financed by donations from congregations in Denmark, which were grateful not to have lost their own churches. Service every Sunday at 11:00. You may ask a tour to the church from the war museum.
- 5 Kursu village. This small village was saved from destruction during the Lapland War, but is probably more famous for its rye bread. Dog fair in July. Occasionally artists playing at the Village House.
- 6 Oulanka Visitor Centre, Liikasenvaarantie 132, Kuusamo (50 km south from Salla centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00–18:00 in peak season, Tu–Sa 10:00–16:00 off season. Since 2016, when the Finnish Forest Administration closed their visitor centre in Salla, the only visitor centre for the Oulanka National Park has been located in Kuusamo. Information, exhibitions, films, guided tours, fishing permits. Easy trails in the surroundings. Partly accessible with wheelchair. Free; guided group tours €50/hr.
- 7 Salla Reindeer Park (Sallan Poropuisto), Hautajärventie 111 (near Sallatunturi resort), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Dec-Apr: daily 10:00-18:00, May closed, Jun-Aug M-F 10:00-16:00, Sep daily 10:00-16:00. Reindeer themed activity park. Art gallery. Information about local nature. Reindeer safaris, canoeing trips etc. activities. Restaurant. Souvenir shop.
- 8 Onkamo scenic spot (Onkamon näköalapaikka), Ahontie (in Onkamo village). A scenic spot on top of a hill some 70 m from the road. View over the lake Onkamo to Russia and the fells of Old Salla. Table and benches.
- 9 Giant's kettles (Aholanvaaran hiidenkirnut) (27 km from Aholanvaara village). A group of giant's kettles (glacial potholes) on Kalliovaara hill. A pothole called Juomapata is the biggest one in Finland and one of the largest in the world. Nature trail 6.8 km not suitable for the disabled. Using wellies or hiking shoes is heavily recommended.
- 10 Devil's Church at Tuntsa (Tuntsan Pirunkirkko) (100 km from the centre). Interesting geological formation near Tuntsa, about 600 m from the road by the UKK hiking trail. The stones are strongly magnetic! The trail from the road goes along duckboards and is considered demanding.
- Salla reindeer park, Hautajärventie 111, ☏ (reception), (activity sales), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00–18:00. Reindeer and husky safaris, reindeer feeding, snowshoe tours, skiing in the forest (also for beginners), nature photography, midnight tours, northern lights tours, canoeing, survival. See #See above.
- Downhill snowsports at the Sallatunturi ski resort. Not the biggest ski resort in Finnish Lapland, though it was the country's first dedicated venue for downhill skiing, opened in 1937, and it's the main draw for winter visitors. They have 7 lifts, 15 slopes, 11 of which are illuminated, and the longest run is 1,300 m. Equipment rental and service is available.
- Cross-country skiing along skiing tracks by the parish village, in the surroundings of Sallatunturi, or elsewhere. The Karhunkierros and UKK hiking trails are not maintained as skiing routes, but skiing in the parks and wilderness areas is possible.
- Fatbike cycling: there is a route in the Oulanka National Park.
- Sallatunturin Tuvat arrange snowmobile safaris to the Russian border from Sallatunturi resort. Price €141–186/snowmobile including lunch in the forest.
- 1 Oulanka National Park: Through the national park along the Karhunkierros trail, from Hautajärvi village (on road 950 towards Kuusamo) to Ruka. See the Oulanka article. The whole trail is 80 km (3–7 days) long but shorter variants are possible. There are about 5000 hikers on Karhunkierros every year.
- Northward along the UKK Trail. The 950 km long UKK trail runs through the municipality of Salla. Section Hautajärvi-Kelloselkä/Hanhikangas is 75 km long. From Kelloselkä to Naruska the trail is in bad condition with markings partly missing. The trail is again in better condition from Naruska to Tulppio in Savukoski, 112 km, through Tuntsa Wilderness Area. It is possible to continue from Tulppio to and through the Urho Kekkonen National Park. In Salla the trail is considered very demanding as it mostly goes through very remote areas and the marking are occasionally poor. Excellent skills with a map and a compass are necessary.
- 2 Tuntsa Wilderness Area (drive towards the village Tuntsa in the north-east and start hiking along the UKK route where you choose, or by a shortcut on your own paths; the road forks just before Tuntsa and the left branch continues northward by the wilderness area). Beautiful area with easy terrain. Some experience is still needed as the area is remote and you are on your own, unless you hire a guide.
- 3 Karhutunturi fell (60 km from the parish village). The 518 m high Karhutunturi fell is a very prominent peak and a popular hiking destination because of its magnificent views. A 5 km long trail to the top, lapp-pole tent on the way. Staying overnight in the tent is possible. The area has no public transportation. The UKK trail visits the fell some 2 km away.
- Salla Day (in the parish village). July 19th. All kind of programme, including music and dance performances.
- Salla Reindeer Heat Week and Nothing Happens Week (Sallan rykimäviikko ja Ei tapahdu mitään -viikko). in September-October. The Reindeer Heat Week follows the annual start of the reindeer mating season. Various activities from guided nature tours to music performances. The Nothing Happens Week is to festive the fact that there is absolutely nothing to do in Salla in late autumn.
- 1 Alko, Kuusamontie 9. M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa 09:00-18:00, Su closed. Alcoholic beverages.
- 2 Simpsetti, Myllytie 2, ☏ . M-F 10:00-17:00,. Shoes and clothes. Mail service.
- 3 Gift Shop VirveTuli, Kuusamontie 9, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Handmade local souvenirs and gifts.
- 4 Putiikki, Kuusamontie 16. Clothes, adornments etc. for women.
- 5 Tuntsa, Teollisuustie 8. Tuntsa factory shop: clothes, tarp tents etc.
Eat and drinkEdit
In the main villageEdit
- 1 Kahvila Pizzeria Akkavaara, Myllytie 1 (in the centre), ☏ . Lunch. Pizzas, salads, reindeer dishes.
- 2 Hunan Finnchn, Kuusamontie 14 (in the centre), ☏ . Chinese food.
At the resortEdit
- 3 Keloravintola, Revontulentie 9 (at the Sallatunturi resort), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. daily 14:00-20:00. Pizzas, burgers, salads, local delicacies.
- 4 Keloravintola, Revontulentie 9 (at the Sallatunturi resort), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. daily 14:00-20:00. Pizzas, burgers, salads, local delicacies.
- 5 Ravintola Kiela, Hangasjärventie 2 (at Sallatunturi resort). Restaurant specialized on Lapland delicacies and many ingredients come from producers in Salla. Awarded with Chaîne des Rôtisseurs shield.
- 6 Papana Pupi, Hangasjärventie 2 (at Sallatunturi resort). Pub.
- 7 Revontuli à la carte, Revontulentie 2 (at Spa Hotel Revontuli). À la carte restaurant at the spa hotel.
- 8 Snow Lounge, Revontulentie 7 (at Sallatunturi resort), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A bar and restaurant in a real snow castle. Indoor temperature around −4 °C (25 °F). For obvious reasons open during the wintertime only. menu €58/person.
Most of the lodgings are close to Sallatunturi.
- 1 Spa Hotel Revontuli (Holiday Club Salla), Revontulentie 2 (by Sallatunturi), ☏ . Spa hotel and holiday apartments. Restaurant.
- 2 Hotel Takka-Valkea, Savukoskentie 1 (in the centre), ☏ . Small hotel in the centre of the main village. Restaurant.
- 3 Kairalan Kievari, Vallovaarantie 209 (14 km from the centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. B&B accommodation at a former village school. Sauna. Pub at weekends. from €50/night.
- 4 Naruska hostel (Naruskan retkeilymaja), Naruskantie 147 (50 km from the centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hostel and camping site in the wilderness. Fishing and hiking possibilities. Meals by request. Fishing permits and kayaks for rent. Taxi and car transfer services.
- 5 Tuntsa holiday village (Tuntsan tunturilomat), Naruskantie 450, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A very remote holiday village deep in the wilderness. Accommodation in small apartments or in a large wilderness cabin without electricity. Pub.
- 6 Sallatunturin Tuvat, Hangasjärventie 2, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 66 cottages at the Sallatunturi resort
- 7 Salla holiday homes (Tunturimökit), Taimikkotie 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Booking office for 40 private owned cottages at Sallatunturi resort.
- 8 Lomatähdet, Pulkka: Porotokantie 5, Kelkka: Vaatimentie 2, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5 holiday apartments close to the ski resort
- 9 Kuopsimajat, Naruskantie 246, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Two 4 person cottages in the wilderness by the river Naruskajoki. Electricity and running water. Indoor toilets. from €50/night or €300/week.
- 10 Sallainen Cottages Caravan, Tunturikummuntie 2, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins and caravan area. Sauna. Restaurant. Open in the winter season.
- 5 Salla Health Care Centre (Sallan terveyskeskus), Jungintie 3. Health care centre.
Be careful in the slopes and in the wilderness.
In the backcountry you should have a map, skill to use it and a phone with charged batteries, and spare clothes for foul weather. A GPS cannot hurt, but may fail.
Mobile phone coverage is good in the population centres and along major roads. It may be weak to non-existent in unpopulated areas, especially near the border.
- Kandalaksha – a town on the Russian side, popular by tourists
- Pelkosenniemi – neighbour to the north-west, with a few villages spared in the war (and not modernised afterwards either)
- Savukoski – neighbour to the north; the least densely populated municipality in Finland
|Routes through Salla|
|Rovaniemi ← Kemijärvi ←||W E||→ Alakurtti → Murmansk|
|Kuusamo ← Oulanka National Park ←||S N||→ END|