One of the best national parks to visit in Finland is certainly Oulanka National Park. In fact, it’s one of the most scenic in all of Europe at any time of the year. On some occasions you’ll also be able to see the aurora borealis as it lights up the night sky high over top of the park. Oulanka National Park has been thrilling visitors ever since it was established back in 1956. It’s not the biggest park in the world as it’s just 104 square miles in size, but as they say, good things come in small packages.
The park features some beautiful forests which are filled with spruces, silver birches, and Scotch pines. The park lies close to the Arctic Circle, but that doesn’t stop the land from growing thick forests, lichens, lingonberry and heather bushes, and plenty of mushrooms in the fall. There is a wide variety of insect species present in the park, with about 7,000 different species on hand in total. You’ll definitely notice the wood ants as they construct tall nests that can reach about three feet in height.
The park sees so much growth because it has rich soil which covers limestone underneath it. This type of rock is quite rare in Scandinavia. It neutralizes the acids in local soils while it helps to supply nutrients which boost the growth of plants. The area was affected about 11,000 years ago by the glacial era. It created several waterways such as the Oulankajoki River and it also carved out numerous crevices, canyons, and basins.
The wildlife in the Finnish park is quite varied. You’ll find semi-domesticated reindeers which can be recognized by their ear tags. The area’s herders are given grazing rights in the Oulanka National Park and their animals can usually be seen wandering around the land on their own accord. They typically feat upon lichens, mushrooms, and greens in the summer months and they’ spend the winters in corrals after they’ve been herded up in the fall. There are two orchids which can be found in areas close to the Arctic Circle. These are the lady’s slipper and the calypso which blooms until mid-June from the end of May.
The park lies in an isolated upland area in Eastern Lapland and North Ostrobothnia close to the Russian border. You can reach it by bus from the communities of Kuusamo and Salo. When you get to the park there are several outdoor activities to enjoy. You’ll find calm waters and rapids for boating during the summer months and in the winter skiing is very popular. Hiking is also another favorite with visitors and the Karhunkierros is one of the most traveled trails.
Many people take a few days to hike this trail through the park and they can cross the gorges below by hiking over suspension bridges. There are numerous huts and shelters for those who want to camp in the park if you’d rather take a shorter hike you may want to try the Little Bear’s Ring, which is about 7.5 miles in length. This is also quite scenic with some wonderful waterfalls on view in the area of Juuma. A visit to Finland’s Oulanka National Park will show you why it’s considered to be one of the best in Europe.