Finnish Karelia & Arctic Road

Slowly but surely, our Land Rover was collecting dust and we had to do something against it. So one more time we decided to head up north, accompained by our lovely“ doggiesoul” Jade.

North Kareliea – Øvre Pasvik – Arctic Road – Tunturi-Lappi (visit to Hetta Huskies)
30 days on the road driving 10’084 km / 6’266 miles in total

Many of the small roads in Finland don’t have numbers but names (mostly from nearby settlements). I made some maps to keep my description short. But don’t pay attention to the numbers behind the road names – Google map has delivered them for free 😉 Our main road through Finland from south to north was „ Via Karelia“ . All side trips out in the sticks „ pampa“ were east of this road.

Day 1: Punkaharjun Camping, Tuunaansaari at Saimaa
Day 2: Hike on and round the Ridge close to Punkaharjun
Day 3: Camping at Neitikoski close to Ruunaa (Nature Reserve)

Day 4: „Pampaday“ (out in the sticks) without destination for the dayl. Overnight stay at a lake’s shore (Unnamed Rd), what a silence…..
Day 5: „Pampaday“ to destination Kuusamo Holiday Village. Shower, laundry and shopping was on the list.

Day 6: Short drive to the Oulanka National Park resp. Juuma Camping and a short hike to the old mill.
Day 7: Morning hike at Oulanka NP starting from Kiutaköngäs resp. Visitor Center. Destination of the day was Lokka tekojärvi. Overnight stay at the lake.

Day 8: „Pampa“ W this connection from Lokka to E75 north of Peurasuvanto can not be seen on Google Maps. Side trip to a nice viewing point at Saariselka – destination of the day was Ukonjärvi Camping.
Day 9: „Pampaday“. Roundtrip from Ukonjärvi to the russian border with different side trips and back to Ukonjärvi Camping for another night.
Day 10: Search for a photogenic overnight place on the N/E shore of lake Inari (Aurora forecast KP7 means solar storm meets earth). It was cold but the clouds decided to stay all night….
Day 11: Norway, destination Grense Jakobselv, overnight stay on the beach with view to the windy Barent sea.
Day 12: Pasvik Valley and Øvre Pasvik National Park.
Note in the roadbook: „ Wind became storm and at 6 a.m. we had enough – roof down before it was blown away! Back on Rd 886. We could just follow the Russians, performing a morning drill on the other side of the river….. Kirkenes 60 km and hope to get a nice warm coffee! However, to find an open coffee shop on a Sunday morning in Norway is almost impossible. Rd 855 S to the Pasvik Valley – a camping, a coffee – „Pampa“ to the Øvre Pasvik NP, we got nice hiking tips from some hunters so „ off by feet into bear land” – back to Kirkenes and overnight stay in a hotel (storm).“

Day 13: Mehamn. Because of the ongoing storm, we stayed at Adventure Camp Mehamn.
Tag 14: Gamvik and Seltnes fyr – our car shows 50’000 km just before Gamvik. Short hike to Silfar Canyon off Rd 98 . Evening hike at Stabbursdalen NP. Destination of the day Stabbursdalen camping.
Day 15: Drive to the North Cape
Note in the roadbook:: „ Storm and no chance to reach „ the bowl“ by feet, we didn’t even manage to make a selfie with dog….so no time to loose and back over the Fjells because the wind was still rising! At Skarsvag: camping closed, hotel – no dogs! Nevertheless lucky to find some doggie friends, we could stay in a cabin at North Cape Camping Skipsfjorden.“
Day 16: It was not scheduled but we drove to Hammerfest and Forsøl (spotted a white tailed eagle) and back to Lakselv – overnight stay at the shore of Porsanger Fjord with Auroras at night.

Day 17: From Karasjok „Pampa-drive“ along the Tana River and back (approx. 2 h for 60 km in „Samiland“ pure) – overnight in a cabin at Karasjok Camping (night temp. -7°C / 19.4°F).
Tag 18: Tunturi-Lappi. Side trip to Näkkälä and camping at Galdotjeva on the shore of Palojärvi. We have been there in winter with the Hetta Huskies.

Day 19: Destination of the day (and unwritten travel destination for the whole trip) was Hetta and a visit to Anna, Pasi and the Hetta Huskies (Eka & Petteri). We bunk for 2 nights in the well known Hetan Majatalo but before that, we head out for a round trip with some side trips. 1. to Vuontispirtti at the foot of Pallastunturi, snow! 2. Pallas Nature Park Center via 9571 – short hike ca. 4 km in the snow along the Pallas-Hetta trail (54 km). 3. „Pampa-drive“ N/E close to Nunnanen.
Day 20: “Hello Doggies“ 🙂 morning drive 2 km with 3 teams of dogs (with quad and cart), followed by a ca. 3-hour hike along the Hetta-Pallas Trail to the top of Pyhäkero and back.
Day 21 (part 1): Short Ghee/Haw walk with Jade, Eka, Princess und Charlotte a guide on the farm. Two more excursions were on schedule before we set off for home via Karesuando and Sweden. 1. A discret glimpse to a farm that was former managed by Anna & Pasi and that we didn’t visit while it was under their responsability. 2. Upon Pasi’s suggestion we drove one of the old military roads with fantastic view (ca. 40 km / 25 miles to a cabin). Our average speed was somewere between 5 – 10 km/h / 3 – 6.2 miles/hour and as it started to snow, we decided to make a u-turn.

Day 21 (part 2): Driving through Sweden turned out to be boring. Beside one single wood grouse we saw only road works and trucks….A cold snap was announced as well so we stayed in a hotel at Pello, Finland.
Day 22: Winter! No destination for the day, just as far as we got. Camping close to Örnsköldsvik.

Day 23: After early departure it took quite long to find a coffee shop – no comment on our motivation…. A nice change was the road called „Küstvägen“ , the village Galström and a warning sing „beware of bears“. Our target of the day was to leave Stockholm behind so we made a „monster stage“ and our stopover site was a lovely historic hotel at Soderköping /Gota Channel.

Day 24: Destination of the day was isle of Öland and the plan was to stay 2 days. We just didn’t know that there was the Skördefest (harvest festival) on that weekend. Overcrowded campings, blocked roads – we left the place in a hurry and found a nice camping at Hagby.
Day 25: at 6:30 a.m. wakening call from some trigger-happy hunters and confused geese. So there was another early departure that brought us straight to our destination Camping Møns Klint on the danish isle of Møn. Hike to the famous chalk cliffs.

From day 26 on, we head back home to Switzerland with stopovers at Cologne and Aschaffenburg in Germany.

  • Navigation / Maps:
    In all countries TomTom was in use – mainly to determine current location.


  • GT Tiekartta Itä-Suomi 1:250 000 (für den S/E)
  • GT Tiekartta Pohjois-Suomi 1:400 000 (für den gesammten Norden)
    available at Karttakeskus


  • Nord-Troms og Finnmark 1:400 000 by Cappelen Damm Kart 5 available in bookstores or gas stations

Travel time & weather:
Above the polar circle it is „Ruska“ (Indian Summer) in September. The short time of intense colors, berries and mushrooms. Sun is still able to warm up a little during daytime but nights are getting freezing cold. Mosquitos said goodbye and here and there winter is knocking at the door. Autumn storms are coming up in coastal areas .
During our trip we had temperatures from + 22°C / 71°F (Saimaa) to – 7°C / 19.4°F (Karasjok). Says everything….and you find out that a warm sleeping bag, good shoes, warm/active layers, beanies and gloves should be part of your luggage….

Flora & Fauna:
As I already mentioned it is the time of huckleberries, cowberries, cloudberries and mushrooms. Softwood forests in Kareliea, birch woods further north, moory landscapes and marshland all over, bleak and rocky Fjells along and north of the Arctic Road and on Tunturi-Lappi.
The whole territory is home of the european brown bear. In North – Karelia, along the russian border sometimes „visitors“ come along from the other side. We got some interesting informations from locals on the current population: round Suomssalmi 8 bears are around – 40 currently live in the region. In the Pasvik Valley 86 different species were counted this year and the region of Karasjok is home of 60 animals. Also around Hetta a bear is on his way from time to time – they all go to sleep soon…. Although we hiked a lot we were able to spot only one elk, some black grouse, ptarmigans, one wood grouse and two white tailed eagles on the entire trip. Wild animals like bears, wolves or wolverines stay away from human(animals) and they are rare to be spotted. They all find enough food in the wilderness. In Sweden we were able to watch the autumn migration of the geese.

Nice Landscapes, moments & things to see:
The rapids close to Ruuna are a good place to follow or participate in river adventures. The camping is very beautiful set in a open forest. Small restaurant with a good breakfast buffet. Nice hiking trails.
The Fjellandscape on the way to Mehamn.
Visit to Strømeng’s cutlery at Karasjok and Juhl’s Silvergallery at Kautokeino.
The municipal area of Enontekö and Hetta itself is definitely worth a visit without snow as well. Many trails invite one to hike even for a multi-day tour (Hetta-Pallas Trail ca. 54 km) and of course there’s the lake….We can highly recommend the hike to the top of Pyhäkero. Easy to handle even with a good cross-runningshoe . The view is fantastic!
By the way: The Hetta Huskies always enjoy a little adventure during their „ out of season“ time. You can find all summer/autumn activities here: Hetta Huskies

Travel with dogs (pets) :
The ferry-crossing with Finnlines from Travemünde to Helsinki is absolutely no problem. They have special cabins for travellers with pets. Dogs are only allowed on this specific deck inside but outside as well. Therefore they provide a quite acceptable „pee-corner“ including a little tree on each side of the outdoor deck. As there is no green space nearby the check-in at Travemünde, I recommend a nice walk before entering the harbour area with your dog.
Finns are totally dogfriendly. We never faced any problem neither on campings nor in hotels. Dogs are not allowed in restaurants (with few exceptions).
Norway has special entry/travel regulations for dogs especially concerning tapeworm prevention. Check the news early – information.
Travel with dogs in Norway is a bit more complicated in general. Particularly if you plan to stay in smaller hotels or rent a cabin. Often dogs are not allowed with the following explanatory statements: allergies of other guests or to much work to clean up….

Dogfriendly and otherwise good hosts:

  • Kuusamo Holiday Village (Jade was allowed to join us to the Pub)
  • Thon Hotel, Kirkenes
  • Adventure Center Mehamn – not because they are dogfriendly but they have cosy cabins. In fact, dogs are not allowed but I guess the good guy hat pity on us because of the storm so Jade was allowed to sleep in the entrance of the cabin.
  • North Cape Camping at Skipsfjorden.
  • Karasjok Camping
  • Galdotieva Camping – they are used to dogs, especially in winter 😉
  • Hotel Hetan Majatalo at Hetta – family business, good food, dog friendly
  • Söderköpings Brunn at Söderköping – historic hotel and former spa. Late arrival, „ dog rooms“ were booked out but they prepared a cosy room with extra doggie bed and water bowl. Very good food.
  • Camping Møns Klint – very dogfriendly, dogshowers and dog forrest trails.

On the „ other side“ of the polar circle, life seems to be somehow calm – exactly the way we like it. Only we have underestimated temperatures in autumn and had therefore a lack of warm layers in our luggage. Several times we had to decide between the park heating all night or rent a cabin. When temperatures dropped below 0°C we rent the cabin (for the wellbeing of Jade).
We have experienced the limit of our roof tent and therefore the limit of space inside the Defender 110 when traveling with the dog in polar regions. Storms and winter in summer has to be considered when planning a trip above the polar circle at any time of the year. Nevertheless our Landi has improved one more time especially on „pampa-roads“.

click on the pic