Kilpisjärvi (Northern Sámi: Gilbbesjávri) is a small village in Enontekiö on the top of Finland's "arm", the only real alpine village in Finland. Several sights are located in Kilpisjärvi or nearby. The village has about one hundred year-round inhabitants but many more summer residents. Kilpisjärvi is clearly a summer destination, although in winter used as base for tour skiing in the adjacent wilderness area.
The village is by the lake Kilpisjärvi, from which it got its name. The mighty fell Saana right next the village is the only fell in Finland that is over 1000 m high and not located in the nearby Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
Kilpisjärvi is one of the coldest inhabited places in Finland (and Europe), with an average temperature somewhat beneath freezing. Average temperature in January is −14°C and in July +11°C. There is polar night (i.e. just twilight at midday) for nearly two months in midwinter and corresponding midnight sun most of the summer. The record official snow depth in Finland, 1.9 meters, has been measured at the Kilpisjärvi weather station. The snow in the fell birch forests usually melts in early June, the ice from the lake just before Midsummer. First snow usually falls in late September.
Due to harsh climate mosquitoes are much less abundant here than elsewhere in Lapland.
The old Finnish bedrock meets the younger Scandinavian mountains in the area, which makes it geologically interesting. The soil is calcareous especially on the Malla fell which belongs to Malla Strict Nature Reserve because of its exceptional nature. There are several rare species of plants and insects that cannot be found any place elsewhere in Finland.
Pieces of earthenware from 4500 BC have been found by the lake. There are signs of buildings by Saana from the 16th century, when traders stopped here on their way to the market in Skibotn village by the Arctic Sea through a mountain pass in north. In the 17th century large scale reindeer husbandry was introduced in the area. Finns settled in the beginning of the 20th century. The guesthouse Siilastupa opened in 1916. The village proper is the result of the road being built in 1941, with customs and border guard station. There has been a shop since 1978 and the village was connected to the electricity grid in 1981.
The last fights of the Lapland War were fought here in April 25th 1945. There are two Lapland War memorials in the area.
Kilpisjärvi has been popular among mountain hikers for a long time, but by the last turn of century also other people have started coming here, to spend vacations in cottages and caravans.
The story "Tarujen Tunturit" (The legends' fells) by Asko Kaikusalo takes place in the mythical past of the Kilpisjärvi area. In that story, Halti (The highest spot in Finland, about 55km from Kilpisjärvi) is described as the mighty leader of the giants. Young, brave Saana and beautiful Malla (Both hills in Kilpisjärvi easily reachable from the village) are having their wedding. The Pältsa (in Sweden), who got rejected by Malla, suddenly comes to the wedding as an uninvited guest, with the malicious witches of the Arctic Ocean. Their spells get out of control and cause a massive avalanche which eventually covered all the giants. Malla and her mother cry, and that eventually forms the lake Kilpisjärvi.
The song "Haltin Häät" (1976) by Taiska is based on the story. Heavy metal band Kotiteollisuus made cover version of the song in 2012.
While Kilpisjärvi lies by the borders to Norway and Sweden, there is just one road to get in by: European route E8 from the rest of Finland via Kilpisjärvi to E6, with junction by Skibotn on the Norwegian coast. Other options are more or less limited to long-distance trekking (there are popular trails around), snowmobile or a private seaplane.
Note the timezone difference if coming from Norway or Sweden.
- 1 Kilpisjärvi customs (Tulli), Käsivarrentie 14942 (700m north from starting point of the Malla/tripoint route), ☏ . 24 hours daily. The Finnish customs acts also on behalf of Norway.
Kilpisjärvi is on the E8, which leads along the Finnish coast and then along the border to Sweden, passing by several border crossings (bridges), among them the one on European route E45 at Karesuando/Kaaresuvanto, passes through Kilpisjärvi and meets European route E6 in Skibotn in Norway 50 km to the west of Kilpisjärvi and continues to Tromsø. In winter the mountain pass between Finland and the Norwegian coast may be closed temporarily, or traffic might be let through in single-lane convoys (kolonnekørning). From the western Finnmark of Norway, E45 leads to E8 via Kautokeino and the border station of Kivilompolo (near Hetta).
The E8 is at high altitude also coming from Finland – the Muotkatakka mountain pass is the highest point of any public road in Finland – so you should be prepared for wintry conditions much of the year.
There are no regular flights to Hetta. Transfer from Kittilä to Kilpisjärvi is possible as pre-booked taxi (Kilpisjärvi Taxi; €50, +€5 for toboggan or sledge. The coach from Rovaniemi also passes by Kittilä airport, but check timetables, including the possible change of coaches at Palojoensuu. From Kiruna rented car or pre-booked taxi are the main options.
Trains go to Kolari (in season only?) and Rovaniemi in Finland and to Luleå, Haparanda and Kiruna in Sweden. From there you have to continue by other means. Overnight trains have sleeping carriages (Sweden and Finland) and also take cars (Finland only). The trains to Kolari combine with a bus to Kilpisjärvi.
Eskelisen Lapinlinjat (☏ ) seems to be the only operator, with a daily service. In summer (1 Jun–15 Sep) they drive between Rovaniemi and Tromsø via Kilpisjärvi. In spring and autumn the service does not cross the border, but turns back to Rovaniemi from Kilpisjärvi. In winter (Dec–Mar) the route is branded The Arctic Route, with another company handling the Norwegian leg. Matkahuolto probably has the timetables.
From other parts of Troms, you can probably transfer to the service from Tromsø somewhere along E6, such as at Nordkjosbotn (the E6 junction to Tromsø) or Skibotn.
There are no direct connections from Sweden, but a transfer at Karesuando is possible, probably involving an overnight stay and a walk across the border – and there are of course connections via Haparanda/Tornio.
There is a considerable distance between the first and last stop in Kilpisjärvi, check where to get off.
There are long distance snowmobile routes leading to Kilpisjärvi, especially the Victorialeden route by the Finnish-Swedish border and the track through Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, both accessible from anywhere in northern Finland. The latter requires a permit and is closed towards the end of the season not to disturb reindeer calving.
The Nordkalottleden long distance hiking trail passes by Kilpisjärvi. From Abisko, the endpoint of Swedish Kungsleden, there is a 190 km hike to Kilpisjärvi, and likewise from Kautokeino in Norway (the European trail E1 mostly follows the same route). There are also shorter trails from Norway, e.g. from Signaldalen. Due to the Schengen agreement and close cooperation, one may pass the borders anywhere (if you have a dog or goods to declare, check with the customs in advance, also coming from Sweden the trail meanders via Norway, which is not an EU member).
For questions about passing the border, contact the customs. They also have the DNT key and might accept your returning it there.
The village is built along E8 (here called Käsivarrentie) over a distance of several kilometres, with a significant gap between the north-west and south-east concentrations. Check that your accommodation is reasonably close to the services you need. There are no other significant roads.
In summer one can move by foot or bike, in winter by ski. The long distance buses can be used when they happen to pass. Boats and snowmobiles are available for rent (with and without driver/guide) and there is a boat connection over the lake towards the tripoint thrice daily in season (some departures can be inhibited if demand is low, check your return).
There is a snowmobile track network maintained by the tourist businesses available for a fee. The main tracks in the wilderness area are maintained by Metsähallitus and have a separate fee. Snowmobiling along waterways and the Victorialeden is free, mind ice safety.
When using trails and tracks some distance from the village, note that they often cross the border. This is usually no problem, but if you have a dog or goods that should be declared at customs, check the rules and keep them in mind.
- Kilpisjärven Taksi, ☏ . Taxi, also minivans, trailers and bus available. Guided tours to Norway.
- 1 Saana. Probably the most well-known mountain in Finland. A 4-km trail and the longest stairs in Finland take you to the very top of the 1000-metre Arctic hill with a weird shape. The stairs were completely renovated in 2019 and follow less steep a path than the ones before. Coming down is hard on your ankles, turn back in time if you feel you might not make it. Incredible views from the top.
- 2 Kilpisjärvi Nature Centre (Kilpisjärven luontokeskus), Käsivarrentie 14145, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 15.6–30.9 daily 9–17, 1.3–8.5 shorter hours, closed off season. Information on the wilderness area, the Saana fell and the Malla nature reserve by the tripoint. Maps (also for nearby areas in Norway and Sweden), fishing permits, snowmobile track permits, reservation and key of reservation huts, information on available service in the region and general advice. Exhibition about local nature and culture. Short audiovisual slide shows. Local handicrafts, products, books and souvenirs for sale. Children’s play corner. Accessible by wheelchair. Groups wanting guiding should book in advance. Free. Guiding €45 per group per hour.
- 1 Kilpisjärvi Biological Station, Käsivarrentie 14622, ☏ , email@example.com. Research station of the University of Helsinki, founded 1964.
- 3 Tsahkaljoki Falls. Series of small waterfalls in Tsahkaljoki river (Sámi: Čáhkáljohka). Along a 2 km trail starting from Hotel Kilpis. Lean-to shelter and campfire site near the falls.
- 4 Kitsusjoki Falls. also known as the Tears of Malla. Narrow and very long waterfall cascade in the small Kitsusjoki river (Sámi: Gihcijohka). Well visible from the trail through the Malla Strict Nature Reserve. Remember not to leave the trail.
- 5 Muotkatakka (12 km south of Kilpisjärvi by E8). The highest point of the Finnish national road network, 565.8 m above sea level. A Lapland War memorial by the nearby rest spot.
- 6 Iitto palsa-type bog (Iiton palsasuo) (at E8 50 km south of Kilpisjärvi, halfway to Karesuvanto). Perhaps the world's easiest palsa bog to visit. Right next to the highway with parking lot and an easy-to-access 500-m nature trail. Palsa bogs contain permanently frozen ice lenses under the soil. Free.
- Northern Lights. Kilpisjärvi is known in Finland for its clean mountain air. The nearest town in Finland is 100 km away, and Norway lies behind the Scandinavian Mountains. Kilpisjärvi is perfect to watch Northern Lights due to the altitude, polar nights, dry weather (significantly dryer than Norway) and no light pollution. The 200 km long route along the Finnish-Swedish border between Kilpisjärvi and Muonio is sometimes called The Northern Lights Route.
- Midnight Sun. At Kilpisjärvi the sun does not set at all between May 22th and July 27th. This (and the white nights some time before and after) will cause sleeping problems to some.
- The mountain Saana is a popular destination, not only among hikers but anyone visiting Kilpisjärvi. Saana has got an unmistakable profile and it is situated just a few kilometres from Kilpisjärvi. Although there is a trail all the way to the top, the climb is considerable! Reserve enough time (coming down is what is hardest on your ankles) and have suitable footwear (sport shoes are OK). The 1 Saana trailhead is at the hostel in the northern part of the village.
- Saana Trail. 8 km (in total) trail leading from the village to the top of Saana and back. Takes 3–4 hours. At the top there is always cold and windy; have clothes for the climb and for the top.
- 2 Saana Nature Trail. 5 km (to one direction) nature trail from the village showing nature at the west side of Saana. This trail does not climb up to the fell but goes around it all the way to the root of the fell Iso-Jehkas. Information about the nature and history on the way.
- Hiking trail Tsahkaljärvi–Saanajärvi–Saana, start near hotel Kilpis. Length 9-12 km depending on which path you follow.
- 3 Salmivaara Trail. 1.1 km (to one direction) trail leading from the village to the top of Salmivaara hill. The trail starts along a sports trail and forks off into the birch "forest" after a few hundred meters. The trail is marked but climbs are occasionally steep. Views to the surrounding fells and lake Kilpisjärvi.
- 2 Malla nature reserve with the 7 Three Border Point (Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki in Finnish, Treriksröset in Swedish, Treriksrøysa in Norwegian), where the national borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway collide. The tripoint is located in Golddaluokta, 10–20 km from Kilpisjärvi. It is reachable by boat and a 3 km hike or by a longer hike through the nature reserve. At the lake Kuohkimajärvi (Sámi: Guohkkemašjávri). This is a real national border, remember to carry necessary ID documents with you! Half a kilometer from the border point there is the 1 Kuohkimajärvi open wilderness hut (6 persons), a separate reservation hut, and a campfire site. Camping is allowed next to the Kuohkimajärvi hut. Note that you are inside a strict nature reserve; deviating from the marked trails (except in winter), causing erosion, picking berries or mushrooms, camping (elsewhere than by the hut), and disturbing wildlife is forbidden. Pets must be in leash all the time.
- 4 Boat trip. If there are enough passengers the boat will make three daily return trips (10:00, 14:00, 18:00). The season is usually from Midsummer to mid September. Return trip by boat from Kilpisjärvi to Koltalahti and 3 km hike to the tripoint: the boat trip over Kilpisjärvi takes half an hour (with nice views) and the boat waits two hours while the passengers visit the tripoint. return trip €30(adult)/€5(child), one-way €20/€5.
- 5 Malla trail. Hike through Malla nature reserve: 11 km one way, either way possible with boat, but using it for return, make sure it makes the trip. The trail starts at an information board (also in English) by a parking area in the north end of the village. After 2,5 km there is a detour to Pikku-Malla ("small Malla"), with nice views. The 7 km return trip to Pikku-Malla is through easy terrain in fell birch forest and over fell heath. Further up at the Iso-Malla hillside there is rough terrain (boulder, willow shrubs) and there are fords, normally easy but possibly difficult at high waters. Most advice about wilderness hikes in Lapland apply (spring comes late, be prepared for bad weather and weak phone connectivity, tell about your plans etc.). The trail shows most of the typical terrain types. As the Scandinavian bedrock of Malla differs from the Finnish, there are also many rare plant species.
- One can also return via Norway: from Goldahytta hut 3 km away a trail goes west of Malla to E8 1 km from the Finnish border.
- In spring there is an 11 km maintained skiing track through the nature reserve and a 10 km skiing track over lake Kilpisjärvi, both leading to the tripoint.
- The snowmobile route Victorialeden (over Kilpisjärvi) goes to the tripoint on the Swedish side of the border, thus avoiding the nature reserve, where vehicle driving is forbidden. Most snowmobile tracks require paying a fee, but this route is part of the national road infrastructure (according to Finnish law) and thus free.
- The Ice fishing competition[dead link] is probably the biggest event in the village. Held annually during the weekend near Mayday (the lake is covered by ice about one metre thick in the end of April). Some years the competitors won't catch a single fish but it's not the point really; the event is more like a market fair.
- The annual Midsummer skiing event[dead link] is held at the Saana fell during the Midsummer weekend.
- From the tripoint hiking trails lead to the Swedish and Norwegian fells. 2 Goldahytta hut is 3 km from the tripoint, 3 Gappohytta hut below the 8 Paras fell (Sámi: Bárrás) a further 14 km away (both locked with the DNT key). From here the trail leads to the 4 Pältsa hut at 9 Pältsa in Sweden (12 km; the hut was used by the Norwegian resistance during WW2) and back to Koltalahti (14 km). Instead continuing by Nordkalottleden one can extend the hike as much as one likes.
- Salmivaara Trail (2 km) between the lakes Kilpisjärvi and Ala-Kilpisjärvi. Start by the Nature Centre.
- Hike to Ailakkajärvi (10 km). Start at Peera holiday village by E8, some 17 km south of Kilpisjärvi. 5 Ailakkajärvi open wilderness hut (6 persons) at the lake shore. There is a path back (7 km) by Ailakkajoki to 3 Ailakkalahti at E8, 5 km from Kilpisjärvi, through a part of the nature conservation programme area Käsivarren tunturijärvet ("Käsivarsi mountain lakes").
- 10 Halti is with its 1328m the highest mountain of Finland. It's a popular destination among hikers, a long way from any road in Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. It's situated some 50 km north from Kilpisjärvi, which is the nearest village. There is a marked trail, wilderness huts and a few bridges, but the terrain is rough for Finland and conditions really harsh if the weather turns bad. Appoint a guide unless you have some serious hiking experience. It is recommended that you reserve at least a week for a return trip. To avoid coming back the same way you can continue to Norway instead. The recommended route from Halti to E8 in Norway (23 km) is more demanding than the Finnish trail.
- Popular winter activities include cross-country skiing, snow shoe hiking, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
- Kayaking. The Könkämäeno–Muonionjoki–Tornionjoki waterway is probably the longest "river" without dams in Europe: 537 km (334 mi). Except for a few too stony or dangerous rapids you can paddle down from Kilpisjärvi all the way to the river mouth in Tornio. The best time might be after Midsummer, when the ice has left Kilpisjärvi, to middle July. Waters are high at that time and the current makes long daily distances easy, while stony stretches might be a real problem later in the summer and even in autumn. Except for Peera, Lammas and Pättikkä, where the rapids can be class 5 at high waters, experts should not need to do any portageing this time of the year. Covering the route in a week should be possible. The Arctic Canoe Race (ACR) was arranged along the route 1983–2000. Water is cold, so wearing a dry suite is wise. In case of an accident, don't expect help to arrive in less than an hour or two. Research the route and hire a guide unless you are real experts. (A variant is starting from Porojärvi in the wilderness area, and paddling Poroeno–Lätäseno instead of Könkämäeno, but this should be done with moderate waters instead of high.)
- Midsummer Games (Kilpisjärven elämyksellinen liikuntajuhannus). A sports event that include a famous (although not very serious) skiing competition, arranged (as of 2023) by Kilpisjärven Saanaveikot ry and Kunnon Elämä ry.
In addition to euros, Swedish and Norwegian kronor are usable at least at the Kilpishalli store, which also handles money exchange. Credit cards are probably usable at least at the hotel and Kilpishalli, not necessarily at all businesses. Keep at least some cash with you. The nearest ATM is in Hetta (175 km) but you can get cash at Kilpishalli.
There is a service and fuel station by Kilpishalli.
- 1 K-Market Kilpishalli, Käsivarrentie 14205, ☏ , . Winter: M–Th 10:00–19:00, F 10:00–21:00, Sa 10:00–19:00, Su 11:00–18:00; fuel M–Th 10:00–17:00, F 10:00–19:00, Sa 10:00–19:00, Su 10:00–18:00. Large grocery store with extremely wide range of products. Pharmacy services. Alko store and Neste petrol station in the same building.
Eat and drink
See also Sleep below. At least Hotel Kilpis and Haltinmaa have restaurants open for the public. Check whether meals are available off season (in Haltinmaa in weekends and possibly for groups by request).
- 1 [dead link] Cafe Restaurant Ida-Sofie, Käsivarrentie 14205, ☏ . 12:00–18:00. The best restaurant in town. Scenic restaurant with views to the Saana and the lake.
There are several accommodation services in the village, including camping areas, cottages and a hotel.
- 6 Kilpisjärvi Holiday Village & Camping (Kilpisjärven Retkeilykeskus), Käsivarrentie 14663, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Closed off season. Camping, rooms and cabins. Restaurant. Souvenir shop. €75–100, cabin €90–100, tent/camping €18/night+€6(adult)/€4 (child); breakfast €10.70 when not included.
- 7 Arctic Polar Oy, Urpiaisenkuja 3, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Nice 2–6 persons apartments and a restaurant Arctic Mutteri. From €70/night.
- 8 Santa's Chalets Rakka, Urpiaisenkuja 4, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Chalets for 1-4 or 1-6 persons.
- 9 Tundrea Holiday Resort Kilpisjarvi, Käsivarrentie 14188, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. all year. Holiday residence with two double rooms but many more chalets. Also caravan park. Restaurant, most meals with a traditional Lapland touch.
- 10 Lapland Hotels Kilpis (Lapland Hotels), Käsivarrentie 14206 (by the road E8), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel and restaurant. Pub. Closed off season.
- 11 Gasthaus Haltinmaa, Naalikuja 1, ☏ , email@example.com. Cabins for 2-6 persons, caravan park. Restaurant and pub. cabins from €48/night, caravan €25/night.
- 12 Kilpisjärven tunturimajat, Naalintie 2, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation in 6 holiday chalets at the village. Also glass igloos at separate reindeer farm 20 km away.
- 13 Villa Kilpisjärvi, Pulmusentie 5, ☏ , email@example.com. 3 holiday apartments in a single building. from €90/night.
- 14 Saivaara Cottages (Saivaara mökit), Harjuntie 21, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 small cottages for 6 persons and one bigger one for 6 persons as well. Guided tours to the Käsivarsi wilderness area and other activities.
- 15 Peera holiday village (Retkeilykeskus Peera), Käsivarrentie 12413 (By road E8, some 17 km south from Kilpisjärvi), ☏ .
There are many wilderness huts in the surrounding area, by the marked trails and elsewhere. They are not relevant for visits to the village itself, but many come here to hike.
Open wilderness huts in Finland can be used for free without reservation for a night or two, but not for overnight stay by commercial groups or groups moving with motorized vehicles (and large groups should usually reserve their lodgings regardless). Latecomers to open wilderness huts have an indisputable right to the facilities: they may be in dire need of shelter. Those who have arrived earlier must leave if necessary (usually they have put up their tent, or just tighten up). The reservation and rental huts of Metsähallitus, which can be used also by such groups, can be booked at the nature centre (at the spot or in advance), where you also can get and leave the key. Off season you can get the keys from the customs.
Visits at Norwegian DNT huts in Troms province can be paid e.g. at the Kilpisjärvi customs office, in cash at the hut (carry suitable notes) or possibly later by bank transfer or credit card, but you will need the DNT key, available to members and possibly at the customs for a pledge.
The Swedish huts have personnel in season, no key needed. Just like in Finland the latecomers to wilderness huts have an absolute right to the facilities. Those who arrived early must leave if needed, although room for all can usually be arranged.
The postal code is 99490 Kilpisjärvi.
Mobile phone connectivity is probably weak in many locations. Try to have the antenna at Saana in sight to get a connection.
- The Nordkalottleden long distance hiking route, via Halti to Kautokeino in Norway or via the tripoint to Abisko and further on over the Narvik fells and through Laponia. The legs around Kilpisjärvi coincide with the E1 trail from Sicily to Nordkapp.
- Hiking in the backcountry of Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
|Routes through Kilpisjärvi|
|Tromsø ← Skibotn ←||NW SE||→ Karesuvanto → Tornio|