Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is Finland's most visited national park, on the border between Forest-Lapland and Fell-Lapland in Finnish Lapland. The park lies in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Kittilä, Kolari, and Muonio. With an area of 1,020 km2 (390 sq mi) the park is third in size in Finland. It has around 350 km (220 miles) of marked hiking trails and 500 km of cross-country skiing trails. It is the most visited national park in Finnish Lapland. Services, such as meals in the terrain, are available in a larger extent than in most Finnish national parks.
The fell area is above the tree line, enabling visitors to experience Fell-Lapland where Forest-Lapland still dominates, with the northern bound of spruce forest going through the park. Height differences are more than 500 m, which is unusual for Finland. The location gives an interesting mixture of fells, forests and mires, associated species and local livelihood (where farming ends and reindeer husbandry becomes important). Enontekiö, with its centre Hetta at the northern end of the park, is part of the Sami native region (where the Sámi have special rights, such as Sámi being an official language).
Due to the nearby ski resorts (Ylläs, Äkäslompolo and Levi) and the comparably southern location, connections to the park are good (especially in season), with night trains, planes and coaches (combining with regional bus or shuttle taxi transport). The park is visited by around 400,000 people per year.
The Hetta-Pallas hiking trail is the oldest in Finland. Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park, one of the oldest in the country, was founded 1938. It was merged with the Ylläs-Aakenustunturi protected area 2005, and the new Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park was formed.
Flora and fauna
The peak season is in February–April (especially the winter vacations of schools and Easter). In March–April the snow is at its thickest and the days often warm and sunny. Harsh weather is possible, though.
Earlier in the winter conditions are demanding also without any surprises. Daylight is scarce. Temperatures below -20°C (0°F) are normal and -40°C/F possible.
May to middle June is spring, with lots of water because of melting snow. Trails are very susceptible to wear.
Summer and early autumn, from mid June onwards, are also popular seasons. With the summer come the mosquitoes and their friends. Visitors should take precautions, such as having long sleeves, repellent and mosquito-proof tents.
Ruska, the time of red and yellow leaves, starts in mid-September and last for a few weeks, unless ended earlier by a storm. Snowfall is possible. Winter starts at the end of October, although before New Year there is often only little snow.
You may enter the park anywhere. There are three visitor centres:
- 1 Fell Lapland Nature Centre, Peuratie 15 (Hetta), ☏ .
- 2 Pallastunturi Visitor Centre, Pallastunturintie 557 (Pallastunturi), ☏ , email@example.com. 22 Feb–29 Apr and 6 Jun–30 Sep daily 09:00–17:00, closed 24–26 Dec, other times M–F 09:00–16:00.
- 3 Yllästunturi Visitor Centre Kellokas, Tunturintie 54 (Äkäslompolo), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 15 Feb–1 Jun and 30 Jun–30 Sep daily 09:00–17:00, 28 Nov–31 Dec daily 09:00–16:00 (closed 24–25 Dec), other times M–F 09:00–17:00.
The trails and tracks are in reach also from most other villages in the area.
There is a lake between Hetta and the park. You can ask any of several entrepreneurs for a boat ride. The other visitor centres are close to the trails of the park.
If coming from outside Lapland you probably want to come by air or train, due to the distances. There are sleeping cars on the night trains, and you can also take your car on the train.
The nearest airports are those in Kittilä and Hetta ("Enontekiö"), with daily flights from Helsinki to the former, daily in peak seasons to the latter. Flights to Rovaniemi are also an option. There are coach and shuttle taxi connections to Ylläsjärvi and Äkäslompolo from the flights to Kittilä. Outside peak season the shuttle taxi to Äkäslompolo has to be reserved in advance (phone +358 600-14919). Most coaches drive via the airports (see below).
There are daily train connections from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, and in peak seasons to Kolari. The trains take sleeping cars also from Turku. There are coach connections for the remaining distance, some of which can be booked together with the train ticket. Some of the trains from Helsinki start at Pasila instead of the main railway station. Book in time in peak season.
You can take your car on the train (with some combinations of stations). Note the loading times.
There are coach services to Ylläsjärvi and Äkäslompolo from the trains to Kolari and on school days also from Kittilä (or Kolari, now that the municipality border has changed?).
In season (late June to the autumn, December to spring) there is a coach connection from Tromsø via Palojoensuu, Muonio and Kittilä to Rovaniemi. From Palojoensuu one can continue to Hetta.
There are taxis in most of the villages around the park.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance or hiking fees for the park. There are a few restricted areas, where access is allowed only along marked trails, otherwise you may choose your own routes, as long as you do not cause erosion or otherwise harm the environment.
Beds in the reservation huts are available for a fee paid in advance (about €13/person/night).
Fishing is possible for a fee. Permits for Lake Pallasjärvi are sold at Pallastunturi Visitor Centre, permits for Lake Kesänkijärvi at Kellokas Visitor Centre.
Equipment, such as boats, canoes, skis, mountain bikes and hiking boots, can be rented from local businesses.
Events for large groups (more than 50) require permission.
Hiking, skiing, rowing and canoeing is allowed without restrictions in most of the park. There are also routes for mountain biking. There are a few restricted areas, where entry is prohibited or trails must be used some parts of the year.
There are outdoor maps (1:50 000) for Pallas–Olos, Pallas–Ylläs and Ylläs–Levi. There are also other maps, such as about trails and skiing tracks in an area. The general maps are sold by Karttakeskus and some or all of the visitor centres, some of the special maps by one of the visitor centres and by local tourist information points. The general maps are probably available also in some book and outdoor stores in other parts of the country.
There are several nature trails in the Ylläs, Pallas and Ounastunturi areas (1.5–17 km), with information boards about the theme of the trail.
There are two circle trails near Pallastunturi.
There are four long hiking trails:
- Hetta–Pallas (55 km)
- Pallas–Ylläs (72 km)
- Ylläs–Levi (50 km)
- Ylläs–Olos (54 km)
There are over 500 km of cross-country skiing trails in the area. Near Äkäslompolo, Ylläsjärvi, Jerisjärvi, Pallastunturi, Vuontispirtti and Hetta there are lanes for free style skiing by the tracks, otherwise the tracks are for "classical" style skiing. Some of the most remote routes ("wilderness skiing trails") are maintained just by driving along them by snowmobile, thus packing the snow.
Ordinary modern cross-country skis are for skiing in prepared tracks. If you deviate from these you may not be able to cope with changing snow conditions. If you plan to choose your own routes, then get skis intended for loose snow (but not wider than 65 mm, as that is what the tracks presume).
Biking is allowed on a few specific routes (hikers have right of way):
- from Ylläs to Levi (50–60 km)
- from Äkäslompolo to the cabin at Peurakaltio (25 km)
- the old road to Sammaltunturi (8 km)
There are also shorter snow shoe walking trails at Ylläs, Pallas and Hetta.
- Varkaankuru Herb-rich Forest
- Exhibitions at the visitor centres
- Fell Lapland Nature Centre (Hetta, Enontekiö). See Get in above for contact info.
- Vuovjjuš – Wanderers exhibition: about the nomadic Sámi culture and northern nature
- Travellers of the North: about researchers, tourists, and other travellers
- Nestling: children's exhibition
- Pallastunturi Visitor Centre (Pallastunturi, Muonio). See Get in above for contact info.
- From Forest to Fell Tops: flora and fauna changing by elevation
- about the research of the Meteorological Institute, with a research station at Sammaltunturi
- Temporary exhibitions of art and photography
- Yllästunturi Visitor Centre Kellokas, Tunturintie 54 (Äkäslompolo, Kolari), ☏ , email@example.com. See Get in above for contact info.
- Meän elämää (Our Life): life in the villages of the fells and the Tornio-Muoniojoki area, the rivers and other natural features
- Gallery Kellokas: temporary exhibitions
- Our Gallery: temporary exhibitions by Metsähallitus
- The hiking exhibition
- Art yard outside the centre
- Logging Museum
- Fell Lapland Nature Centre (Hetta, Enontekiö). See Get in above for contact info.
Hiking, obviously. There is a lot more services in this national parks than what is usual in Finland. You should be able to find full service packages with somebody preparing your meals, heating the sauna, transporting your luggage and guiding you along the trails. There is still plenty of backcountry for those preferring more lonely paths (although you will meet day hikers closer to the resorts).
There are several villages and holiday resorts around the park. Also in the park there are a few cafés, open at least in the peak spring season. Meals can also be arranged to be served in the terrain through several businesses.
Berries and edible mushrooms may be picked, except in the restricted areas.
There are stoves in the wilderness huts. In some of the huts there is a separate gas stove for cooking, which is safe also in dry periods.
Campfires are allowed at the campfire sites and also by water in the wilderness zone. At the official campfire sites, including lap pole tents and lean-to shelters, firewood is provided (use sparingly). Twigs and dead branches on the ground can be used as firewood elsewhere.
In times of wildfire warnings open fires are prohibited. In really dry periods also using the wood heated stoves is advised against, as sparkles can be enough to light a wildfire.
Carrying a portable stove is recommended for most visitors. These can be used (with due care) also during wildfire warnings.
Water near the huts may be unhealthy (not everybody is careful with washing dishes, etc.) There are usually instructions about recommended water sources in the hut's instruction folder. At some huts the water has to be boiled.
Water in the wilderness is usually potable, but in warm weather or if there is some other reason to doubt the quality, boiling the water before drinking is recommended.
You may choose to sleep in a tent, or be forced to by weather or crowded huts. Night temperatures can be slightly below freezing even in summer, so sleeping bags for "three seasons" are recommended most of the year. In wintertime you will probably plan to use huts, where such a sleeping bag is OK, but make sure you will survive with your equipment also if you have to camp before getting there.
- 1 FellHotel Vuontispirtti (Tunturihotelli Vuontispirtti), Vuontispirtintie 267, 99340 Raattama (just east of the park). Accommodation, hotel rooms and cabins; restaurant (non alcohol service), café, breakfast buffet and dinner buffet every day at the high seasons (March, April and September).
Lodging for the peak seasons should be reserved early, at least half a year in advance for the Hetta–Pallas trail. Open wilderness huts, which cannot be reserved, can get crowded.
Use the guest books at the huts and possibly at other facilities. Besides being fun to read, the guest books are important for knowing how much the facilities are used and, in case of emergencies, to establish how far you have got.
In the park, there are two rental huts, which can be reserved for small parties (5–9 persons, €100/day): Kesänkijärvi[dead link], Keimiöjärvi. Sauna included, rowing boat and swimming beach at Kesänkijärvi. Reservation at Kellokas respectively at Pallastunturi Visitor Centre.
There are three reservation huts in the Pallas area, where beds can be reserved for €10/night. Keys can be picked up at any of the three visitor centres, but reservations should be made at Pallastunturi Visitor Centre.
There are 18 open wilderness huts in the park. Beds cannot be reserved. The last to arrive have an absolute right to the facilities, so at least in peak season it is wise to use tents for sleeping.
There are no camping sites in the park. There is a parking area for caravans near Pallastunturi Visitor Centre and real camping sites at Hotel Pallas, Vuontispirtti, Jeris, Hetta, Äkäslompolo and Ylläsjärvi.
Camping in tents is allowed in the vicinity of wilderness huts and campfire sites.
In the wilderness zone of the park camping in tents is allowed anywhere. Lighting campfires is restricted, see Eat above.
Take all waste out of the area. There are recycling points at the visitor centres. There are also waste bins at some of the huts, but these should not be used unless necessary.
Dry toilets can be found at open and reservable wilderness huts, day trip huts, lean-to shelters and at most campfire sites. Carry your own toilet paper.
Dogs may not be allowed in the wilderness huts (either outright forbidden or requiring permission from the other guests, there is contradicting information). Use tents if you have a dog. Do not let the dog disturb wildlife.
Let somebody know your routes and timetables (including backup plans) and have a dead line when rescue authorities should be called (112). Remember to tell about changes in your plans and about your having returned. The business where your have been or are going to sleep can be used, as can the visitor centres.
There are areas without GSM coverage or where the coverage is spotty. Connections are usually best in open or high areas.
Be prepared to help yourself for quite some time in any emergency, especially in bad weather.
Weather can change quickly on the fells. Be prepared for fog and blizzards. Have a compass and a good map even if following marked trails, and be prepared to have to camp earlier than planned.
In midwinter the conditions can be extreme, with poor light, possibly snowstorms and temperatures of -40°C (-40°F). Be prepared for cold weather also in autumn and spring.
Some stretches on the summer routes can have extreme conditions in winter, such as hurricane force winds when winds are moderate elsewhere. Use them only in the summer season.
- Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area, north of Hetta