Nuorgam, Finland: The village of happy people
Have you ever heard of the nightless night, ‘yötön yö’ in Finnish? It is the time in northern Finland when the sun doesn’t set at all. Nuorgam, the village of happy people is the northernmost village of the European Union, 70° 5' Northern latitude. The last time sunset in Nuorgam was on the 15th of May and the next time the sun will set will be on the 29th of July. Yes, I am serious! The sun is there in the sky all the time for almost two and a half months. Imagine! All this sunny time offers you plenty of time to enjoy the multiple activities this small but active village of 130 inhabitants has to offer.
One of the biggest attractions has been Tenojoki, River Teno. It is the most prolific salmon river in Europe. In the summer, salmons return home and travel from the Arctic Sea to Teno to spawn. With the help of some locals, it is possible for you to discover the optimal locations in the river and catch a salmon of your own! Local services are offered at least by Tenosafarit and Koskipirtit. Accommodation is also offered by Nivajoki camping and Tenon lohiranta.
In addition to the River Teno, you can also fish in the magnificent lakes of the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area. The most wanted fish here is the arctic char, a member of the Salmonidae family. Besides the fishing, the region offers amazing landscapes and tracks for hiking. For an example, if you are interested in the war history, you can choose a path along the wrecks of the Second World War. Spend the night in the little cottage called Adolfin kammi, a cottage named after a pilot of a German Junker that crashed nearby in 1944. The legend tells that after a piece of the wreck was brought to the kammi, the pilot started haunting the cabin. But no worries, you can appease him by offering him a drink. 😉 a very nice place to stay in the Kaldoaivi wilderness is Hillagammi with a sauna of course.
If you desire to move faster, you can explore the wilderness by mountain bikes. There are hundreds of kilometres of unmarked trails in the area. Another way to spend these lovely summer days (and nights since you cannot really tell the difference!) is to kayak along the River Pulmanki. You can even paddle all the way to the Arctic sea if you like. Alma Arktika organizes kayak trips, mountain-bike tours and rents gears for independent travellers.
When the sun starts to set again, and the nights slowly become longer, you start to see the northern lights aka aurora borealis. It could be already in August if you are lucky! What could be greater than sitting outside in a warm ‘palju’, an outdoor hot tub next to the River Teno and admire the northern lights? Perhaps to have snow glowing around you, together with the stars and northern lights and a beanie warming your head. The season for Aurora Borealis lasts from August to April. In the early days, people used to believe that foxes running over the tundra created the northern lights by beaming sparks. In fact, in the Finnish language, the northern lights are called ‘foxfire’.
In the autumn, the colour spectacle will change the landscape completely. Nature is painted with variations of red and gold as the colours of leaves change. We have a special word for it ’Ruska’. This is the time when we go trekking to enjoy the landscapes and twitching migratory birds. It is also the hunting season.
The opposite of the nightless night in the summer is kaamos, the polar night when the sun doesn’t rise. But don’t worry mate, the snow gives us plenty of light and you can see the northern lights even better. Wintertime is breathtaking in Nuorgam. For example, Alma Arktika organizes plenty of winter activities from snow kite expeditions to fat bike hikes and from skiing trips to snowshoe hikes in the wilderness. Of course, we don’t forget fishing even for the winter. Especially in the spring when the sun is shining (and most of us get sunburnt if not careful!), the villagers make day trips to the lakes in the region to ice fish. To get there you, of course, need a snowmobile but not to worry e.g. Tenosafarit can organize you a snowmobile tour of your lifetime!
Oh, and don’t be afraid if the reindeer come to greet you. They are nice animals, kind of our version kangaroos if you like. They wander around the wilderness looking for food but unlike kangaroos, someone owns them so don’t take them home. If you’d like to visit a reindeer herder or know more about Sami culture and the traditional ways of life in the north I recommend contacting Arctic Siida. The Sami people are the indigenous people of the northern Scandinavia and Russia, and the only one in Europe.
With 30km to the Arctic Ocean, 500km to Polar Circle and 1300km to Helsinki, the closest airport is in Ivalo 2,5 hours ride from Nuorgam. The beauty of these small local entrepreneurs is that they are flexible and want you to get the best out of your trip to Nuorgam. With all these, amazing activities outside in nature there is plenty to do all around the year and still enjoy the untouchable nature and silence. Welcome!
Author Information: Erika Sipola is the outgoing Administration Officer at the Embassy of Finland in Canberra and will one day call Nuorgam home.