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A Birdwatchers Guide to: Finland


A map of lapland showing the main birding areas link to Pyhatunturi national park section link to Ilmakkiaapa section link to Pallas-Yllastunturi national 	park section link to urho kekkonen national park  	section link to Ivalo section link to inari section link to neljan tuulen tupa, near kaamanen link to Ailigastunturi and Piesjanka        	section link to Kilpisjarvi section
A map of Lapland showing the main birding areas.

The vast expanses of forests, bogs and mountains of Lapland aren't exactly the birdiest places on the planet. Nonetheless there are some good species to be found, and several of these are easier to find here than further south, either by pure chance walking through the forests, or by visiting some of the sites described here. Most of these are easily reached if you are driving north towards the Varanger peninsula in northern Norway. Some of the birds breeding on the northern fjells you will certainly not see at all south of Lapland, at least not in the breeding season, and these include Rock Ptarmigan, Long-tailed Skua, Eurasian Dotterel, Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur. Some of the forest species are also rather common here, and thus easier to see than further south.
Acknowledging that many birders are only passing through Lapland on their way to Varanger, the site descriptions are organized accordingly; the sites that can easily be reached driving north to Utsjoki and Varanger are described first: this includes the national parks of Pyhä-Luosto and Urho Kekkonen NP. Both can be good for a variety of taiga species and Urho Kekkonen NP is also superb for some mountain birds (probably easiest site for Rock Ptarmigan).
Just north of Sodankylä you have the Ilmakkiaapa bog, very good for some arctic waders and ducks, most notably breeding Broad-billed Sandpiper. Just park your car next to the main road and start exploring!
Further north, around the towns of Ivalo and Inari, some minor sites are described briefly. The most interesting birds you might find here are probably Grey-headed Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak and Little Bunting.
One site that can be very rewarding, although it is a slight detour from the main road to Varanger is Ailigastunturi. Here you have a number of interesting high altitude species that are relatively easy to find and at Piesjänkä bog nearby a number of arctic waders breed.
In western Lapland one interesting national park has been included: Pallas-Yllästunturi NP. This national park is certainly worth a visit for the forest birds, but also for the beautiful scenery.
Far off the main road to Varanger, near the three-border point between Finland, Norway and Sweden, you have the village of Kilpisjärvi. Near Kilpisjärvi you have all the highest mountain peaks in Finland and this site has been included as you have the chance of seeing some high-altitude species here, but also for the almost endless opportunities for mountain trekking.

Some of the sites along the main road towards Varanger (number 4) have some good birds that sometimes can be found relatively easily. Sometimes a short stop, or at most a few hours of birding will be sufficient to find the birds. Unfortunately this is for the most part not the case for the birds of the forests and also some of the mountain species will require some time spent hiking through the wilderness. If you want to dedicate time for hiking there are plenty of possibilities for this is Lapland. There are several vast wilderness areas in Lapland and the infrastructure for tourists/hikers is well developed. You can easily explore many of these areas without extensive equipment or experience; large tracts can be explored on well marked tracks and in most national parks there are many huts that can be reserved for the night, some with kitchen facilities. If you are more adventorous and want to hike through more remote areas and camp out in the wild, this is of course also possible. See the relevant sections for more details.
One small advise: when driving through Lapland in the summer months, consider to drive during the night! Many of the speciality birds at the sites described, like the arctic waders, are more active during the night and they will probably be quiet in the middle of the day. Also very important is that during the night, or the very early hours of the morning, you can see some very interesting birds and animals from your car. Birds like owls are much more likely to be seen at this time and in good years you can see several Northern Hawk-Owls and sometimes even Great Grey Owls. Other forest birds like Western Capercaillie and Black Grouse might also be spotted next to the road and you are also much more likely to see animals like Elk and Mountain Hares. So, strongly recommended!

Pyhä-Luosto National Park


A map of Pyhatunturi National Park a larger version of the previous map
A map of Pyhätunturi National Park.

Pyhätunturi is situated about halfway between Kemijärvi and Sodankylä in eastern-central Lapland. This is the most southerly of the alpine fjells in Finland; actually so much to the south and so isolated from the fjells of the north that several of the alpine specialities are absent here. What Pyhätunturi lacks in alpine specialities it rewards in magnificent scenery and if you are visiting the Rovaniemi/Kemijärvi/Sodankylä area this national park is certainly worth a visit.
The forests, gorges and mountain peaks can easily be explored on well-maintained boardwalks and a relatively easy walk is the Isokuru trail which traverses the most impressive gorge of the national park (Isokuru gorge). From this trail you can walk back to the national park visitor center on several different circulair trails, either through the forest or over the Noitatunturi or Ukonhattu peaks. It should be noted that the descent on the west side of Noitatunturi is quite rough terrain. If you are really into hiking and want to do a more extended trek, you can continue through the whole national park on the Pyhä-Luosto trail (a total of about 35 km). All trails in this national park are well maintained and well marked.
Siberian Jay is fairly common throughout this wilderniss area, but the best places to see this species is around the wilderness huts. These birds are used to visitors and the food they sometimes leave behind and they can in fact be remarkably tame and approachable. Dense vegetation near water should be checked for Hazel Grouse, always shy and hard to find, but not that uncommon in the national park. Other birds you might encounter are Rough-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle, European Golden Plover, Bohemian Waxwing, White-throated Dipper and Parrot Crossbill.
South of the mountain is a trail leading to a birdwatching tower overlooking a marshy area (Tunturiaapa). Birds you might see here are Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Common Crane, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Snipe. Golden Eagle can sometimes be seen soaring in the sky.

Another site in this area (about 40 km from Pyhätunturi) that might be worth a visit is the Kairanaapa bog. This bog (about 10 km x 3 km) is only one part of a huge area with interconnected bogs, ponds and lakes and it holds some interesting marsh birds, mainly waders. On the eastern side of Kairanaapa is a bird tower, from where you can scan this area. Birds here include Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Common Crane, Whimbrel, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope. The most common raptor here is Hen Harrier, but Golden Eagle is also frequently seen hunting over this area, and Short-eared Owls are fairly common.
There is one intriguing report from June 2015 of a singing Little Bunting near the bird tower, an although this might have been a one-off this possibility should be kept in mind if visiting this area.

Birds at Pyhätunturi
a photo of pyhatunturi
A view down the Isokuru gorge, the deepest ravine to be found anywhere in Finland.

Mountain trails:
Rough-legged Buzzard, Golden Eagle, European Golden Plover, Bohemian Waxwing, White-throated Dipper, Siberian Jay and Parrot Crossbill.

Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Golden Eagle, Common Crane, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Snipe.

Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Golden Eagle, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Common Crane, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Short-eared Owl and Little Bunting (rare).

Other Wildlife

Mammals which inhabit the area permanently are the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) and the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos). The Elk (Alces alces) dwell on the rims of mires and (domesticated) Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) search for food higher up on the fell slopes.


At Pyhätunturi there is a visitor centre (Pyhä-Luosto Visitor Centre Naava); here you can find information about hiking in the park as well as general tourist information of this area. See the website for information about opening hours, contact information etc.

Food and accommodation:
Near the Visitor Centre there are different options for accommodation; both a hotel, apartments and cabins are available. See for more information.
There are also quite a few unmanned huts inside the national park where you can stay overnight, some of these are free, open huts, other are reservable wilderness huts where a fee is charged for staying. See this trail map for all the different huts available in Pyhä-Luosto National Park.

Getting There
the emblem of pyhatunturi national park showing a siberian jay

Pyhätunturi can be reached from Kemijärvi if coming from Rovaniemi or from Kuusamo. If coming from Rovaniemi turn north on the E63 just before Kemijärvi. The road to Pyhätunturi is well signposted to the left (Pyhätunturintie) after 30 km, follow this road for another 14 km to the national park information center. This is also the starting point for the trails that lead into the national park.
If coming from the north take the E63 starting in Sodankylä and follow this road for 60 km. After 60 km take the Pyhäntie road to the right and follow this for 21 km to the national park information center.

Kairanaapa can be reached from the E63; drive 13 km north on the E63 (as measured from the junction with Pyhäntie; note that there are two roads leading to Pyhätunturi, Pyhäntie and Pyhätunturintie!). After 13 km turn right on road signposted LUIRO 6 and follow this for 5,3 km. Here is a T-junction with a sign for the birdtower to the left (Lintutorni 6,6 km). After 2,6 km the road is closed, but you can park here and continue on foot. Follow the road for another 3 km and you should see a sign Lintutorni 795 m. You will most likely need rubber boots in this area.


A map of Ilmakkiaapa bog near the town of sodankyla a larger version of the previous map
A map of Ilmakkiaapa.

If you are travelling northwards towards Varanger make sure you stop at this site. It is easily accessible and many of the more interesting birds here are relatively easy to find. There is a trail and the bird-watching tower at the end of the trail is an excellent place to observe the marsh birdlife. The trail is further , making it easy for you to explore the area.
The best bird at Ilmakkiaapa is possibly the Broad-billed Sandpiper, which can often be heard displaying here in May-June. The best places for the sandpiper might be from the boardwalk to the birdwatching tower or the northern part of the bog (which you can check from an unsurfaced road going west from the main road about 2 km north of the car park). You probably have to be here very early in the morning to hear this species and they are most active in calm weather. Other waders at Ilmakkiaapa include Spotted Redshank and Red-necked Phalarope, as well as the more common waders as Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Snipe.
From the birdwatching tower you can also check Lake Ilmakkijärvi for Black-throated and Red-throated Loons and arctic wildfowl as Common and Velvet Scoters and Smew resting on the lake. You can also check the lakes to the east of the main road for the loons and the ducks as well as Taiga Bean Goose, which is sometimes seen here. One option is to take the first road to the right after the car park and follow this for about 2 km. Here is a dam and you can check the artificial lake here for migrating wildfowl.
On the bogs you might encounter Common Cranes and Black Grouse and of the raptors Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Rough-legged Buzzard are common and White-tailed Eagle is also frequently seen.

Birds at Ilmakkiaapa

Red-throated and Black-throated Loon, Taiga Bean Goose, Common and Velvet Scoter, Smew, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Black Grouse, Common Crane, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew and Red-necked Phalarope.

Getting There

You get to Ilmakkiaapa on the main road (E75) going north from Sodankylä. After 35 km there is a parking on the right side of the road, while the start of the duckboard trail is on the opposite side of the road. The reserve is about 95 km to the south of Saariselkä, or 125 km south of Ivalo.

Urho Kekkonen NP

(Urho Kekkosen kansallispuisto)

A map of urho kekkonen national park a larger version of the previous map
A map of Urho Kekkonen NP.

Urho Kekkonen National Park offers great hiking opportunities during all seasons. In the park’s wilderness zones it is possible to go on long and demanding treks, but alternatively in the west part of the park there are marked trails, which are suited for the inexperienced hiker. For any birder going north these shorter trails are quite interesting, as you can stop, bird these trails for a couple of hours and then continue your travel. Good starting points for short excursions like these are Tankavaara and Kiilopää. From both of these places several well-marked tracks lead into the forest or up the fells.
From Tankavaara three trails lead into the forest, the longest, which is also the most interesting for the birder, is 6 km. One of the first of the birds that returns to the forests here after winter is the Pine Grosbeak, which arrives in late February-early March. Other typical forest birds here are Willow Ptarmigan, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Bluethroat, Grey-headed Chickadee and Siberian Jay.
Kiilopää (summit at 546 m) is noted as one of the easiest places to find Rock Ptarmigan and Eurasian Dotterel. The road is at such an altitude that you can park your car and walk straight into the surrounding fells on one of the trails (it should be noted that this trail is very popular with tourists, so an early morning start might be warranted). The trail first leads southeast for a couple of hundred meters, through dwarf birch forest. This is a good place to see Willow Ptarmigan and Bluethroat. Then the trail turns straight east and it is a fairly steep climb to the the top of Kiilopää. The steepest parts are on wooden boardwalks and stairs, however, so should not be too difficult for most people. Climbing this hill you should look out for Rock Ptarmigans, which are quite common here. They are often initially found and located by their characteristic call.
The Dotterel is often a little bit more difficult to find, but a good place seems to be a wide, soft-sloping gully to the south of the trail / stairs a few hundred meters before the summit.

a photo of a male pine grosbeak
A male Pine Grosbeak.

All the shorter tracks in the UKK NP are in the 'Basic Zone'; if you want to indulge in some serious trekking you should venture into the 'Saariselkä Wilderness Zone' or two other adjacent wilderness areas. Together these cover a vast area of unspoiled forests, marshes and fells that you can spend many days exploring, but keep in mind that there are no marked trails inside the wilderness areas, only unmarked trails. Like most other national parks in Finland there are several wilderness huts inside the Wilderness Zone, where you can stay overnight. Some of these have to be reserved in advance and are available against a fee. Wild camping is allowed in some of the zones, but not the most restricted ones. See "Information" section below for more on this.
Both Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon breed in the wilderness areas, and in good rodent years even Gyrfalcon. On the fells you should be looking for Rock Ptarmigan and Eurasian Dotterel as well as the far more abundant European Golden Plover. The forests in the wilderness areas hold the same species as in the basic zone, and the most characteristic birds here are Common Redstart, Redwing, Willow Warbler, Brambling and Common Redpoll. The most interesting passerines you might encounter here are the Grey-headed Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak.

Birds in Urho Kekkonen NP

Rough-legged Buzzard, Willow Ptarmigan, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Snipe, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Chickadee, Siberian Jay, Bluethroat and Common Redpoll.

Rock Ptarmigan, Willow Ptarmigan, European Golden Plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Northern Wheatear, Bluethroat and Snow Bunting.

Saariselkä Wilderness Zone:
Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcon, Rock Ptarmigan, Willow Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel, European Golden Plover, Common Redstart, Redwing, Grey-headed Chickadee, Brambling, Common Redpoll and Pine Grosbeak.

Other Wildlife

Amongst the mammals that can be seen are Finland´s large predators; Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Wolverine (Gulo gulo), Wolf (Canis lupus) and European Lynx (Lynx lynx). These predators however are rarely seen by hikers. It is more common for visitors to encounter (domesticated) Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), Elk (Alces alces) and Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Shrew and moles as well as the Pine Marten (Martes martes), Stoat (Mustelina erminea) and Weasel (Mustelina nivalis) are also inhabitants of the area. Near shorelines you may be lucky enough to see an Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra).

the emblem of urho kekkonen national park

At Tankavaara there is a visitor centre; here you can find information about the nature, history and current use of the national park. See the website for information about opening hours, contact information etc.
If you want more extensive information about the hiking possibilities in the Urho Kekkonen National Park and also more general tourist information, you might want to contact the Customer Service in Saariselkä (Saariselkä Customer Service Kiehinen).

Food and accommodation:
There are a number of hotels, lodges, appartments and cabins in Tankavaara, near Kiilopää and in Saariselkä. Finding restaurants and other eateries should not constitute any problem either.

Getting There

Tankavaara is situated next to the E75/4 about 95 km to the north of Sodankylä and 60 km south of Ivalo. For Kiilopää continue northwards on the main road for about 21 km and turn right onto the Kiilopääntie road and follow this to the end (about 6 km). Both Tankavaara and Kiilopää are well signposted from the main road.

Lake Inari

A map of the most interesting sites near the town of Ivalo. a larger version of the previous map
A map of the most interesting sites near the town of Ivalo.

What follows are some easily accessible sites around lake Inari and the town of Ivalo, all of these are worth to check when passing by. The first two are two bird towers northeast of Ivalo (Mielikköjärvi and Juurakkovupaja); from the first you can scan some marshlands and small pools and from the second you have a view of the delta of the Ivalojoki river. Birds you might see on the water in summer are Black-throated Loon, Common Goldeneye and Smew, and although I do not have much information about this site I suspect it might be very good during the migration periods. Grey-headed Chickadee has been reported from near the outermost tower (Juurakkovupaja), but any tits you see in this area should be checked for this species. Between the river delta and the town of Ivalo is a locality that used to be very good for Little Bunting. I have not seen it there myself, but they probably breed in this area, at least some years.

A photo of Lake Inari in northern lapland
A view over Lake Inari

A little further on, to the north of Inari town, is Haapalahti with a bird tower that can be quite good; it is only a small detour from the main road, so well worth a visit. Birds recorded here include Whooper Swan, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Little Gull, Arctic Tern and Grey-headed Chickadee. Several people report sightings of Northern Hawk-Owl from Haapalahti, but in good vole years this owl can probably be seen anywhere along this road (with no particular locality better than the other).
A last stop that is worth to mention is the Neljän Tuulen Tupa near the village of Kaamanen, a motel and a restaurant with some bird feeders. If you have missed Pine Grosbeak or Grey-headed Chickadee until now, this might be the place to see these, as they are both regular here (the Pine Grosbeak in the period from February to October). Siberian Jays are also often seen here and in spring migrating Snow Buntings are common and Arctic Redpoll is a distinct possibility between all the Common Redpolls. The proprietor of the motel is asking for a fee if you want to venture into the garden with the feeders, but if you don't want to pay you can check the feeders from inside the café.

Birds around Lake Inari

Ivalojoki delta:
Whooper Swan, Common Goldeneye, Smew, Black-throated Loon, Common Crane, Short-eared Owl, Grey-headed Chickadee and Little Bunting.

Whooper Swan, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Little Gull, Arctic Tern, Northern Hawk-Owl, European Pied Flycatcher, Grey-headed Chickadee, Brambling and Common Redpoll.

Neljän Tuulen Tupa:
Willow Ptarmigan, Northern Hawk-Owl (vole years), Short-eared Owl, Siberian Jay, Grey-headed Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak, Brambling, Eurasian Bullfinch, Common and Arctic Redpoll, Eurasian Siskin and Snow Bunting.


Food and accommodation:
There is a small selection of hotels, appartments and camp sites (with cabins) in both Ivalo and Inari. Finding a place to eat is not difficult either.
If you visit the Neljän Tuulen Tupa café / motel food or accommodation is of course not a problem.

Getting There

For the Little Bunting site take road 91 out of Ivalo (signposted to Murmansk) and follow this for 4,5 km after the roundabout. Here you have a sandy track leading south from the main road. You can park here and follow this track for a few hundred meters. Here you should see a marshy area with some electricity pylons to the left and Little Bunting has been known to breed here in the past, but admittedly I do not have any recent sighting from this area. I missed it here on a visit in 2015, but that might have been bad luck only.
For the two towers northeast of Ivalo continue eastwards on road 91 for another 2,5 km and turn left onto Nellimintie road (road 969). After another 1,5 km turn left onto Veskoniementie road. After 4,5 km you can park on the left side of the road and you have a 300 m walk to the tower. For the second tower you have another 4 km down the road and you have to walk about a km to get to the tower.
For Haapalahti follow the main road 19 km north of Inari town and turn left onto Toivoniementie road (signposted to HAAPALAHTI 4/TOIVONIEMI 3). After about 3 km is a sharp bend to the left and the tower is a little further down the road on the right hand side.
Neljän Tuulen Tupa café is in the village of Kaamanen alongside the main E75/4 road, some 28 km north of Inari town or 95 km south of Utsjoki.

Ailigastunturi and Piesjänkä

A map of mount Ailigastunturi and Piesjanka bog a larger version of the previous map
A map of mount Ailigastunturi and Piesjänkä bog

Ailigastunturi and the Piesjänkä bog nearby are two very popular sites for Finnish birders as you might see several high altitude species in a relatively small and easily accessible area. Around the barren top of mount Ailigastunturi you stand a good chance of finding birds as Rock Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel and Snow Bunting. In certain years you might even find a Gyrfalcon or a Horned Lark in this area and in good vole years Long-tailed Jaegers breed near the top. Access to the peak is via a road which is closed near the main road, but you can walk all the way to the top and do some very nice birding.
Piesjänkä is a large bog immediately to the east of Ailigastunturi; from the parking at the foot of Ailigastunturi you can follow a track to the bog. One of the most characteristic species of Piesjänkä is the Lapland Longspur, but other passerines here are Meadow and Red-throated Pipits, Western Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Common Redpoll and Common Reed Bunting. The Arctic Redpoll also breeds in this area and are fairly frequently seen.
As in most other bogs in northern Finland the waders are the most interesting group; Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope are the most common, but with some luck you might also find Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel or Bar-tailed Godwit. In the surrounding lake Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Taiga Bean Goose and Arctic Tern are all fairly common and over the adjacent land you might even see hunting Long-tailed Jaegers.

Birds around Ailigastunturi

Rough-legged Buzzard, Gyrfalcon, Rock Ptarmigan, European Golden Plover, Eurasian Dotterel, Long-tailed Jaeger, Northern Wheatear and Snow Bunting.

Taiga Bean Goose, Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Temminck's Stint, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Tern, Meadow and Red-throated Pipits, Western Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Common Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, Lapland Longspur and Common Reed Bunting.


Food and accommodation:
The nearest food and accommodation is to be found in the village of Karigasniemi, about 5 km to the west of Ailigastunturi, although the selection is fairly basic.

Getting There

Ailigastunturi is easy to reach from Karigasniementie (road 92). From Inari town follow the main E75 north for 32 km and turn left onto the Karigasniementie road. Follow this road for 61 km to where the road widens slightly and where there is an unsurfaced road to the right (if you continue on road 92 for another 5 km you get to Karigasniemi, a village on the border with Norway). This road leads all the way up to the peak of Ailigastunturi, but it is blocked after about 1,5 km. It is perfectly allright to park your car here and walk up the mountain, either following the road or taking shortcuts throught the terrain. If you follow the road to the top it is about 4,5 km from the road block.

link to

Pallas-Yllästunturi NP

(Pallas-Yllästunturin kansallispuisto)

A map of the northern part of Pallas-Yllastunturi national park a larger version of the previous map
A map of the northern section of Pallas-Ylläs tunturi NP.

The first national parks in Finland were founded in 1938 and one of these was Pallas-Ounastunturi NP. In 2005 the national park was extended to include a number of fjells to the south and was renamed Pallas-Yllästunturi NP. The wilderness that is covered is huge with a total area of 1020km2 and there is a total of 350 km marked trails in the summer season (and 500 km of cross country trails in winter). Today Pallas-Yllästunturi is the most popular national park in Finland with almost 500.000 visitors annually.
The national park consists of spruce forests to the south of Pallastunturi mountain (height 807 m) and many typical bird species of the Lapland forests can be found here, including Siberian Jay, Bohemian Waxwing, Grey-headed Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak. Above the tree line you can also find species that are more typical of the mountains further north in Finland, including Rock Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel and Snow Bunting. In good rodent years even Long-tailed Jaegers breed here.
Further to the north in the national park, around mount Ounastunturi, the spruce has been replaced with pine and the avifauna shows more resemblance to the mountaineous north of Lapland. Two species you might find here are Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur, although luck will be needed as both are quite rare here.
More common birds around the lakes and bogs of Pallas-Ounastunturi are several waders, that all breed here: Broad-billed Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Whimbrel, Jack Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope.
Just northwest of Ounastunturi is a small lake, Sotkajärvi, with a birdwatching tower overlooking the lake and surrounding bog; this lake can absolutely be worth a visit. Many of the characteristic species of the Lappish lakes and marshes can be found here, including Taiga Bean Goose, Northern Pintail, Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Jack Snipe, Spotted Redshank and Red-necked Phalarope. Raptors that can be seen hunting around the lake include Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard.

Birds in Pallas-Yllästunturi NP
a photo from pallastunturi national park
Pallas-Yllästunturi NP.

Rock Ptarmigan, Western Capercaillie, Eurasian Dotterel, Bohemian Waxwing, Siberian Jay, Pine Grosbeak and Snow Bunting.

Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark

Lakes and bogs:
Broad-billed Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Whimbrel, Jack Snipe and Red-necked Phalarope.

Whooper Swan, Taiga Bean Goose, Northern Pintail, Tufted Duck, Smew, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Snipe, Jack Snipe, Spotted Redshank and Red-necked Phalarope.

Other Wildlife

Of the large carnivores, the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) is a permanent resident. The Wolverine (Gulo gulo), Lynx (Lynx lynx) and Wolf (Canis lupus) on the other hand are rare. The Elk (Alces alces) also inhabits the park.


In the national park there are three visitor centers; one in Pallastunturi, one in Yllästunturi and one in Enontekiö; here you can find information about hiking in the park as well as general tourist information of this area. See the websites of the visitor centers for information about opening hours, contact information etc.

Food and accommodation:
If you want to do some trekking through the vast wilderness areas of Pallas-Yllästunturi there are many huts inside the park where you can stay the night: some of these are free, open huts, other are reservable wilderness huts where a fee is charged for staying. See this trail map for all the different huts available in Pyhä-Luosto National Park as well as an overview of the different hiking trails inside the park.
If you aim only to make shorter walks inside the park you could consider to stay at Hotel Pallas, near the visitor centre, or there are several options for accommodation in the villages of Muonio and Enontekiö.

Getting There
the emblem of Pallas-Yllas national park

To get to Pallastunturi, i.e the central part of the national park, follow the main E8 up to Muonio (coming from the south) and turn right onto road 79 (to Kittilä and Rovaniemi). Follow this for 11 km and turn left onto the 957 and continue for about 14 km. Here is a well signposted road (6 km) to the main information center of the national park (Pallastunturi Visitor Centre), where you can also find Hotelli Pallas. You can also continue on the 957 to Raattamaa, where there are trails leading to the eastern slopes of Pallastunturi. This area is the best in the park for forest birds.
If you want to explore the northernmost part of the park you can follow the main E8 road north from Muonio a further 50 km and turn right onto the 958 (signposted ENONTEKIÖ 26, LENTOASEMA 18). At Enontekiö, turn onto the east-going 956 and follow this for another 2 km to a junction with signpost to TUNTURIREITTI HETTA-PALLAS 56KM, VENETAKSI, TAXIBOAT. Follow this road down to the shore and park; you can take a taxiboat over Ounasjärvi and you will then be in the NP with well-marked trails leading south.


A map of kilpisjarvi showing the main birding areas a larger version of the previous map
A map of Kilpisjärvi showing Mella NR and Saanatunturi.

Kilpisjärvi in the far northwest of Finland, the 'handpalm' of the Finnish lady, is a popular area for mountain trecking. The altitude of this general area is the highest in Finland and this can also be seen in the avifauna; the most interesting species here are Rock Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel, Long-tailed Skua, Red-throated Pipit and Ring Ouzel. In good years you might also encounter Gyrfalcon, Snowy Owl and Northern Hawk-Owl, although you should consider yourself lucky if you manage to find these. Rough-legged Buzzard and Short-eared Owl can be quite abundant in gode vole years, but they are also more regular in an average year. This mountaineous region is the only area in Finland with breeding Purple Sandpiper and Twite (both quite rare, though). The lakes should be checked for Red-throated and Black-throated Loons, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup and Common Merganser.
Two sites that can easily be reached from the village of Kilpisjärvi are mount Saanatunturi (peak at 1029 m) and the Malla Nature Reserve. Characteristic birds here are Bluethroat, Willow Tit, Brambling and Lapland Longspur. The tits should be checked for Grey-headed Chickadee, which are fairly common here. The trail that leads up Saanatunturi is one of the best places for Ring Ouzel; check the area after the dwarf birch forest, but before the steepest climb (stairs!) of the trail. Willow Ptarmigan are also fairly common in this habitat throughout this area.
Both Saanatunturi and Mella NR can be reached from Kilpisjärvi information center on marked trails, but note that in particular Saanatunturi can be rather crowded with tourists. Malla NR is quieter, but this being a reserve you are confined to the trails. The trail is 11 km to the border point with Sweden and Norway. You can camp here and the following day either backtrack, continue the journey into Sweden or Norway or take a taxi boat back to Kilpisjärvi.
If you want to do more extensive trekking you can venture into the Käsivarsi ('Handpalm') Wilderness Area. This protected area holds all the mountain peaks in Finland higher than 1000 m (Saanatunturi just outside the reserve being the only exception). The avifauna is similar to Saanatunturi, but being such a huge wilderness you can easily spend several days trekking here.

Birds around Kilpisjärvi

Red-throated and Black-throated Loon, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Merganser, Rough-legged Buzzard, Gyrfalcon (some years), Rock Ptarmigan, Willow Ptarmigan, Eurasian Dotterel, Purple Sandpiper, Long-tailed Skua (some years), Snowy Owl (some years), Northern Hawk-Owl, Short-eared Owl, Red-throated Pipit, Bluethroat, Ring Ouzel, Willow Tit, Grey-headed Chickadee, Northern Raven, Brambling, Common Redpoll, Twite and Lapland Longspur.

Other Wildlife

Animals in the fells include Norway Lemming (Lemmus lemmus), which in some years can be extremely numerous, and other rodents here are Root Vole (Microtus oeconomus) and Grey-sided Vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus). The Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus) is also quite common as is, of course, (domestic) Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).
Of the small carnivores Weasel (Mustela nivalis) and Stoat (Mustela erminea) are permanent inhabitants of Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, as is Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Rare, but regular, mammals in the area are European Lynx (Lynx lynx), Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus) and Wolverine (Gulo gulo). Wolves (Canis lupus) and Brown Bears (Ursus arctos) also sometimes visit the area.


In Kilpisjärvi there is a visitor center (Kilpisjärvi Visitor Centre) where you can get information about trekking through the Käsivarsi Wilderness Area. There are also some interesting permanent exhibitions about the local nature and the people living here. See their website for information about opening hours, contact information etc.
For information about trecking and other activities, see Kilpisjärvi Hiking Centre. They should also have the most recent information about the taxi boat to the three-border point.

Food and accommodation:
Kilpisjärvi is a very popular destination for nature lovers and has a good selection of accommodation and food of all categories.

Getting There

Kilpisjärvi can easily be reached on the main E8 from southern Lapland or from Skibotn in Norway. The trail through Malla NR (11 km, to the Finnish/Swedish/Norwegian border) starts about 2 km north of Kilpisjärvi from the main E8 (alternatively start the treck from Kilpisjärvi information center). The start of the trail is well marked with an information board at a parking lot.
For the trail up Saanatunturi the starting point is from Kilpisjärvi Hikingcenter in the middle of the village.