Salla is a municipality in south-east Finnish Lapland. It has a ski resort, northern part of the and most of the . The very popular Karhunkierros hiking trail has its northern end in the southern part of the municipality, while the UKK Trail continues northward through the area.
HistoryA remnant of a wooden ski was found from Särkiaapa mire in 1938. Nowadays that 5,000-year-old ski is conserved in the National Museum of Finland and it is the oldest known ski in the world. In the 16th century hunting for furs was the main industry in the area, then called Kuolajärvi. The area belonged to Kemijärvi parish but due to poor connections the locals built their own chapel in 1828 and in 1857 an independent parish was formed. Later on the forestry became important. In absence of roads the logs were driven downstream along the river Kemijoki (the longest river in Finland) and its tributaries.
During early 1900's communism gained ground among the timbers at the loggings. In 1922 this culminated into a short communist rebellion known as Läskikapina, the Pork Mutiny.
The name of the municipality was changed to Salla in 1936. Much of Salla land area was lost to the Soviet Union in the peace treaties of WW2. These areas are now called "Old Salla". Among the lost territories was the parish village Kuolajärvi and therefore a new parish village was built by the lake Märkäjärvi, near the geographic center of what was left. During the Lapland War the retrieving German troops devastated most of the villages.
In June 1960 a forest fire burned 20,000 hectares of forest near Tuntsa. This is the largest forest fire in Finland. Some parts of the burned area have remained treeless ever since.
The population grew from 1,500 in 1860 to 11,000 in 1966. Since then it has declined, first with migration to Sweden (which then was much richer than Finland and needed workers in its industry), later with domestic urbanisation. In 2019 the population is some 3400 of which 1600 live in the parish village. The population trend is still declining.
Tourism in Salla has grown fast during the 2010's. is the main destination. In marketing the remoteness has been turned into strength and even the municipality's official slogan is "Salla — in the middle of nowhere".
ClimateThis is northern inland, north of the Arctic circle. Check what to expect. Salla is home to some of the coldest temperatures ever measured in Finland. The official record low in Salla is , measured by Finnish Meteorological Institution's weather station in the village Naruska in 1985. In January 1999 the fairly refreshing was measured, again in Naruska, but unfortunately the weather station didn't have official status at that time. However, temperatures close to appear here every winter.
July is the warmest month with daily mean.
Salla Tourist Informationphone: +358 400 269 838address: Myllytie 1Also public computer.
By busThere are daily coaches from Rovaniemi, Kemijärvi and Kuusamo. A coach ride from Kemijärvi takes an hour, from Rovaniemi 2-3 hours and all the way from Helsinki 17–22 hours. A bus ticket cost around €30/adult from Rovaniemi and around €110/adult from Helsinki. Students studying in Finland are eligible for a discount upon presentation of a student identity card issued jointly by Matkahuolto and VR rail service.
By trainThere are rail services from the southern Finland to Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. The journey from Helsinki (14 hr to the latter), Tampere or Turku is quite comfortable in a sleeper. Cars can be taken on the train at least from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (check where car-carrying cars in different trains are taken). The VR sells trips to Sallatunturi resort on a combined ticket. The overnight train arrives in Kemijärvi at 10:50 and a JunaBussi coach takes you straight to the resort via Salla main village. A single ticket costs from €100/adult. Check VR travel search for details. Students studying in Finland are eligible for a discount upon presentation of a student identity card issued jointly by Matkahuolto and VR rail service.
The railway through Salla to Russia has mainly been used for small scale domestic freight, never for passenger traffic across the border.
By planeThe nearest airports are in Kuusamo and Rovaniemi. A flight from Helsinki takes about 1½ hr, the bus connection 2 respectively 3 hr.
By carIf you drive yourself, reserve at least all the day for the 900 km journey from the south and check road and weather conditions. You could reserve more time and do some sightseeing along highway 4 (E75) or highway 5 (E63). Wintry conditions are possible late in the spring or even in early summer. Studded tyres are allowed if you think the road may be slippery (otherwise to one week after Easter).
There is a border crossing to Russia at , with the gravel road continuing to Kandalaksha (Finnish: Kantalahti, Russian: Кандала́кша) on the Murmansk railway. There is a twice-weekly coach connection Kandalaksha–Kelloselkä–Kemijärvi–Rovaniemi.
For any visits to Värriö Strict Nature Reserve, a special permit from the Finnish Forest Administration is needed. The permits are given only for scientific purposes.
Note also the border zone by the Russian border. To visit the border zone you must apply for a Border Zone Permit (Rajavyöhykelupa) from the Finnish Border Guard.
phone: +358 40-579-0762address: Savukoskentie 12Museum telling about life in Salla in the 20th century, World War 2 in Salla, and the reconstruction and resettlement after the war as the Old Salla population got new homes in the rest of the municipality. Café, shop with local products and souvenirs. Guided tours in English available for 1-25 persons, contact the museum for details.
phone: +358 20-639-6850address: Liikasenvaarantie 132, KuusamoSince 2016, when the Finnish Forest Administration closed their visitor centre in Salla, the only visitor centre for the Oulanka National Park has been located in Kuusamo. Information, exhibitions, films, guided tours, fishing permits. Easy trails in the surroundings. Partly accessible with wheelchair.
address: Tennontie 5Church built 1950, inspired by the Finnish medieval grey stone churches. The church was financed by donations from congregations in Denmark which were grateful not to have lost their own churches. Service every Sunday at 11 am. You may ask a tour to the church from the war museum.
phone: +358 40 581 3193address: Hautajärventie 111Reindeer themed activity park. Art gallery. Information about local nature. Reindeer safaris, canoeing trips etc. activities. Restaurant. Souvenir shop.
Salpalinja fortificationsSome remnants of the 1200 km long Salpalinja fortification complex from the World War 2 era.
Paikanselkä Winter War MemorialMemorial site at the place where the Finland-Soviet battlefront was in the final day of the Winter War.
Salpalinja fortificationsSome remnants of 1200 km long Salpalinja fortification complex from the World War 2 era.
Kursu villageThis small village was saved from destruction during the Lapland War, but is probably more famous for its rye bread. Dog fair in July. Occasionally artists playing at the Village House.
Onkamo scenic spotaddress: AhontieA scenic spot on top of a hill some 70 m from the road. View over lake Onkamo to Russia and the fells of Old Salla. Table and benches.
Giant's kettlesA group of giant's kettles (glacial potholes) on Kalliovaara hill. A pothole called Juomapata is the biggest one in Finland and one of the largest in the World. Nature trail 6.8 km not suitable for disabled. Using wellies or hiking shoes is heavily recommended.
Devil's Church at TuntsaInteresting geological formation near Tuntsa, about 600 meters from the road by the UKK hiking trail. The stones are strongly magnetic! The trail from the road goes along duckboards and is considered demanding.
Remnants from World War 2Former guard posts, old airstrips and other military remnants. Several locations around the municipality. Ask your host if they know the nearest ones.
phone: +358 40 352 52 48 (reception), +358 40 581 31 93 (activity sales)address: Hautajärventie 111Reindeer and husky safaris, reindeer feeding, snowshoe tours, skiing in the forest (also for beginners), nature photography, midnight tours, northern lights tours, canoeing, survival.
- Downhill snowsports at Sallatunturi.
- Cross-country skiing along skiing tracks by the parish village, in the surroundings of Sallatunturi, or elsewhere. The Karhunkierros and UKK hiking trails are not maintained as skiing routes, but skiing in the parks and wilderness areas is possible.
- Sallatunturin Tuvat arrange snowmobile safaris to the Russian border from Sallatunturi resort. Price €141-186/snowmobile including lunch in the forest.
- Oulanka National Park: Through the national park along the Karhunkierros trail, from Hautajärvi village (on road 950 towards Kuusamo) to Ruka. See the Oulanka article. The whole trail is 80 km (3-7 days) long but shorter variants are possible. There are about 5000 hikers on Karhunkierros every year.
- Northward along the UKK Trail. The 950 km long UKK trail runs through the municipality of Salla. Section Hautajärvi-Kelloselkä-Hanhikangas is 75 km long. Then it continues from Naruska to Tulppio in Savukoski, 112 km, through Tuntsa Wilderness Area. It is possible to continue from Tulppio to and through the Urho Kekkonen National Park. In Salla the trail is considered very demanding as it mostly goes through very remote areas and the marking are occasionally poor. Excellent skills with a map and a compass are necessary.
- In the Tuntsa Wilderness Area, along the UKK trail or otherwise.
Karhutunturi fellThe 518 m high Karhutunturi fell is a very prominent peak and a popular hiking destination because of its magnificent views. A 5 km long trail to the top, lapp-pole tent on the way. Staying overnight in the tent is possible. The area has no public transportation. The UKK trail visits the fell some 2 km away.
Salla DayAll kind of programme, including music and dance performances.
Salla Reindeer Heat Week and Nothing Happens WeekThe Reindeer Heat Week follows the annual start of the reindeer mating season. Various activities from guided nature tours to music performances. The Nothing Happens Week is to festive the fact that there is absolutely nothing to do in Salla in late autumn.
Eat and drink
phone: +358 40-832-0932
- Pharmacy: Sallan Apteekki, Myllytie 3.
- Health care centre: Sallan Terveyskeskus, Jungintie 3.
In the backcountry you should have a map, skill to use it and a phone with charged batteries, and spare clothes for foul weather. A GPS cannot hurt, but may fail. Mobile phone coverage is weak especially near the border.