This is a 3–4 day hike across the Tuntsa wilderness. It is part of the longer UKK Trail. The Tuntsa wilderness area is known for the majestic beauty of the wilderness stretching as far as the eye can see. The highest fell in Salla, Sorsatunturi (628.5 metres above sea level) is located near the start of the trail. In the north, the wilderness area borders Värriö Strict Nature Reserve. Hiking in the strict nature reserve requires a permit.
Tuntsa’s character is as enigmatic as its name
The scenery in Tuntsa is characterised by fells dotted by junipers and gullies dominated by spruce trees. The landscape is split by rivers with clear waters, such as Tuntsajoki River and Sorsajoki River. The scenery in Tuntsa was significantly affected by the Tuntsa fire of 1960. To this day, it remains the largest forest fire in Finland’s recent history. It destroyed some 20,000 hectares of forests on the Finnish side and about 100,000 hectares on the other side of the Soviet border. The traces of the fire are easiest to observe in the Nuolusoiva-Kuskoiva area. Some 500 men worked on putting out the fire, which was followed by a multi-year logging effort. The forests in the area have been slow to regenerate.
What should I tell you about Tuntsa? Perhaps I could tell you about the cryptic origins of its name. On the Russian side, the river is called Tumtša. Many have tried to figure out the etymology of the name, but no-one truly knows its origins. Who came up with the name? Who were those people? One suggestion is that the name is of Sami origin and refers to an effervescent stream or dancing river.
Tuntsa’s character is as enigmatic as its name. It has a strange way of enchanting its visitors.
I could also tell you about the post-war era when my father, still a young man at the time, experienced the wilderness of Tuntsa that was still untouched by the axe of man. I could also tell you about the catch of my life, the one that got away. I was a young lad then, fishing the rapids below Petäjänrinne with my brother. We spent half an hour trying to exhaust the fish, but ultimately it got the best of us and snapped the line. I could tell you about the countless fishing trips of my childhood. I could tell you about the endless gleaming of the sun on the surface of the world’s clearest waters. I could tell you about the gold in Nuolusoja, or the world’s best place for picking cloudberries.
What should I tell you about Tuntsa? I could tell you about the summer of 1982 when I joined other local boys from Salla to plant the forest. On the day before Midsummer’s Eve, there was so much snowfall that our truck got stuck in the snowdrift. Our saplings froze and we had to thaw them over campfires. I could tell you how people have tried to spur new growth in this wilderness after the great fire of 1960, the largest in Finland’s history, and the subsequent massive logging effort, the largest in Europe. Dozens and dozens of people have spent time planting forests ever since the 1960s, but it seems that nature has its way. It will regenerate, but only at its own pace and its own terms. Maybe that’s what I should tell you about. The fire that ravaged a total area of 120,000 hectares, including the wilderness on the Russian side. The large-scale effort to put the fire out, and the even larger logging effort that followed. The hundreds and thousands of people who worked hard amidst the smoke and soot. Or should I tell you about the earlier times, the war that saw blood colour the waters of Tuntsa? Should I tell you about the war diary that characterises Tuntsa as a terrible river? Its swift flow can carry you away. Should I tell you about the peace and the cession of territory? How the only parts of the mighty Tuntsa that remained on the Finnish side were its head waters? But maybe the head waters are where the spirit of Tuntsa lives. I could tell you about that.
What should I tell you about Tuntsa? Should I tell you about the origins of the local soil? Its volcanic roots? The oldest rocks in Finland, nearly three billion years old? Or Pirunkirkko, the Devil’s Church, that curious pile of rocks in the middle of a flat bog? Its extremely alkaline abyssal rock? Its secrets, whispered by the wind on the slopes of Kutskoiva?
What should I tell you about Tuntsa? Should I tell you about the unique wilderness area established in 1997 and covering an area exceeding 200 square kilometres? Should I tell you about Värriö Strict Nature Reserve, a place of unique natural value, established in 1981 and covering an area of more than 120 square kilometres? What should I tell you about all this? These countless square kilometres? The large predators and the small miracles of nature? Should I tell you about beauty? The majestic peak of Peuratunturi fell? The smiling roundness of Sauoiva? Sorsatunturi fell, located just to the south, guarding the peace of the wilderness with its sharper edges?
What should I tell you about Tuntsa? It is no exaggeration to say that words don’t do it justice. Many people have tried, and so did I.
I have heard that the people who have felt the enchantment of Tuntsa will be reborn as a deer.
“Opening my eyes again, I am pleased to see that it is all real. It wasn’t just my imagination. I take a deep breath of clean air. The wilderness is radiant. It is quiet, almost solemn. A reindeer appears on the rocks across the river. It looks at me for a moment and then runs off. The reindeer’s movement is reflected on the surface of the water.
The beauty of the moment nearly makes me cry out, but I remain silent. I close my eyes again and think about the expanse of wilderness that spreads around me. I think about the fact that I am healthy, strong enough to explore this land, to traverse the rapids, to live here. I think about the fact that I own this wealth, these streams, these delicious and enchanting sights. (A. E. Järvinen)"
Quoted from the blog Ei palijon missähän (“Nowhere Really”)
Suggested hiking itinerary:
Tuntsa Pub–Sorsatunturi 13.8 km
Spend the night in your own tent, the bookable hut in Vaarinkehuma or the Sorsavuotso hut.
Sorsatunturi–Takkaselkä 12.1 km
Spend the night in your own tent or in the bookable hut in Takkaselkä.
Takkaselkä–Nuoluskuru 8.9 km
Spend the night in your own tent or in the Nuoluskuru hut.
Accommodation enquiries: Tuntsan Tunturilomat
A more detailed description of the trail is available at luontoon.fi
PLEASE NOTE! There is no public transport in the area and no mobile phone coverage (you may get a signal at high elevations around the start of the trail).
Trail difficulty rating
Services on the trail:
The trail is marked by orange signposts. From the Naruskantie and Sorsajoki crossing there are signposts to Tuntsa Pub (distance approx. 1 km), which provides lodging and restaurant services. There are bookable huts in Vaarinkehuma and Takkaselkä, equipped with toilets, fireplaces and sauna. There is a hut at the foot of Sorsatunturi fell and Kuskoiva with a fireplace and toilet. There are several water sources along the route. There are no water sources along the section that crosses the top of Jäkälätunturi fell.
Outdoor activities for which the trail is suitable
Walking in the summer, skiing during the snowy season.
Trail conditions, related risks and recommended equipment
A narrow path that is difficult to traverse in many places. Starting from Naruskan Tammi, the trail goes along Naruskantie road to Sorsajoki. From there, there are signposts to Tuntsa Pub and Vaarinkehuma. The route then continues along the forest truck road to the edge of Aitatsivaara, and from there as a trail to Vaarinkehuma. The trail’s level of difficulty is highly variable. The easiest sections are along Naruskantie and the forest truck road. From Aitatsivaara, the trail is mostly quite easy, consisting of dry and flat pine forests followed by moist mixed forest. The trail becomes more uneven and rocky as you approach Vaarinkehuma, and crossing Sorsakuusikko involves some very steep inclines and declines. There are also a few wet spots without duckboards and there is no bridge for crossing Sorsajoki River.From Vaarinkehuma, the trail includes some very wet sections, including some with no duckboards. There are also steep and uneven sections along the trail. The section between Vaarinkehuma and the Sorsatunturi hut includes dikes without bridges that must be crossed. The bare top of Jäkälätunturi fell is relatively even terrain, but going up and down the fell is steeper and more uneven. Recommended footwear: in the summer season, waterproof high-cut hiking boots or rubber boots.
Description of the natural environment
The natural environment is very diverse. There are moist wilderness-like spruce forests along streams around the fells. The tops of the fells are mostly easy-to-traverse dry terrain, rock faces dotted with lichen and heather.
Description of the cultural environment
Majestic fell scenery and wilderness-like spruce forests along streams. The diverse nature of Naruskajoki River and Sorsajoki River. Approaching Vaarinkehuma, the scenery becomes more majestic and wilderness-like. The area ravaged by the great fire of 1960 is around Kuskoiva and Nuolusoiva.
Municipality: Salla. Located north of Naruska village and to the east of Naruskajoki River, on the UKK Trail between Naruskan Tammi and Tuntsa. Not accessible by public transport. Driving instructions for Naruskan Tammi: Drive about 30 kilometres from Salla towards Savukoski, then take a right on Naruskantie. Drive about 47 kilometres on Naruskantie, then turn left. Drive on for about 0.5 kilometres to reach Naruskan Tammi. After crossing the river, signposts and the trail are to the left of the road. You can also start the trail from Tuntsa Pub or after crossing Sorsajoki River, where the UKK Trail turns from Naruskantie towards Vaarinkehuma.