OverviewSome people believe in a mythical creature called Santa Claus, who lives in North Pole. If you ask any Scandinavian about it, or at least any Finn, this is pure fairy tale. The truth is that Santa lives near the Arctic Circle, on mount Korvatunturi.
Korvatunturi is in many ways an uninteresting little peak on the Finnish / Russian border zone. It is rather sharp compared to many of the surrounding hills, but it is not very high, not very challenging, and has some red tape which turns a lot of people away.
Due to it's role in local legends, though, it is a mystical peak to many. It is also interesting in a sense that from it's summit you have Russian Siberia in three directions, and Finnish national forest in one.
Reaching the summit takes an average of 2-3 days walk from the nearest obvious starting point at a relaxed pace. The area is generally speaking quite easy to hike, and on the Finnish side the path is well marked for most of the way.
To get to Korvatunturi, your best option is to head for Savukoski, Finland.
There is a small privately operated holiday resort on the border of the national park zone, where you can leave your car. The name of the place is 'Kemihaaran Loma'. The street address is Korvatunturintie 106298800, Savukoski, but do not be surprised if your GPS has trouble finding the location.
A marked, and mostly well maintained path starts from the yard. After 10 kilometers or so you will find a wilderness hut, free of charge, with a traditional Finnish sauna on the riverside. It is customary that if the hut is full, the first to arrive are the first to leave. However, it is also customary to always carry a tent, and make a judgement call: the elderly and children should be given priority.
From the hut you continue another 15-20 kilometers along the path, at which point you need to enter the border zone (please see Red Tape below), and you should be able to pick up the border control path easily. The path leads all the way to the top, where you will find both an old, WW2-era border control hut, as well as a modern (typically unmanned) control tower.
The hike up is not technical, and for most will not offer much on the realm of physical hardship.
The easiest retreat is to follow the same path back to Kemihaara.
You can buy a map locally, or print one from here
. As of 2012, all Finnish rural maps, topos included, are free of charge to use.
When to go
The high season for hiking in the area is from late June to early September. It can be rather wet in June, so make sure you have proper gear - you may also encounter snow, and the temperature may drop below zero.
During June and July you can experience the midnight sun - the sun does not set below the horizon at all. Some people enjoy this tremendously, others may have trouble sleeping.
During July especially, you should be prepared to come across a lot of mosquitoes ("hyttynen" in Finnish), and their smaller (and even more annoying) cousins, the black flies ("mäkäräinen" in Finnish). They have a nasty way of crawling under your clothing. You can find a repellent called "Off! Punkki- & Mäkäräis" which works quite well.
For cross country skiing the high season is from November to April. To balance things off, during December and January the sun will not rise above the horizon at all, and you will only get a few hours of dawn which turns into dusk, so make sure you have good headlamps with you, and I would suggest starting off early each morning. It is a lot easier to find the huts if you can see them.
Between these seasons the weather is very unpredictable. You can encounter anything from blue skies to blizzards, and typically the ground is very wet.
Camping on top of Korvatunturi is forbidden (since it is on the frontier zone), but you are free to camp anywhere outside the border zone on the Finnish side. There are also a number of wilderness huts in the area, some of the equipped with sauna as well.
The huts are free of charge, but please make sure that you clean up after yourself, and keep the hut stocked with firewood before you go.
Please see the Red Tape section for other limitations. You can find more information from the national park official website
Red TapeFrontier / Border control zone:
Typically in Finland there is no red tape related to camping, hiking or climbing, except in immediate vicinity of someone's back yard. Korvatunturi, however, is on Border zone between Finland and Russia.
You need to contact the border control prior to your trip and secure a border visitation permit. When asked for reason, "hiking" should be sufficient. Keep in mind, though, that they have the right to forbid your access if they see fit. (I have not heard of that ever happening, but it is possible.)
The border permit will clearly state the rules of visiting. Typically, you can visit for one 12h period within a given date range, and you are not allowed to spend the night, or leave the path in the border zone.
Some general restrictions in the national park area:
* Lighting campfires if the forest fire warning is in effect. During the driest periods it is recommended that fires not be lighted in the fireplaces of the Lapp pole tents and the stoves of the huts so that sparks do not set fire to the dry terrain.
* Pets running at large
* Taking or damaging trees, bushes, other plants or their parts, or mushrooms other than edible ones
* Damaging soil or rock, and extraction of earth material or minerals
killing, catching or disturbing wild vertebrates, or damaging their nests
* Catching or collecting invertebrates
* Driving motor vehicles, except on roads designated for motor vehicles
* Leaving waste in the area, or damaging constructions
Fishing is allowed, but you need to acquire a permit. You can buy one from the Kemihaaran Loma resort.
More information is available from the national park official website
External LinksKemihaaran Loma (in Finnish)
Finnish border control
Urho Kekkonen national park official website