Norway / Finland / Russia Norway / Finland / Russia Norway / Finland / Russia Norway / Finland / Russia Norway / Finland / Russia

Norway / Finland / Russia

The Iron Curtain Trail starts in the very far north of Europe, beyond the Arctic Circle, near the Norwegian town of Kirkenes. From there it makes it's long descent through the rarely visited east of Finland - well over a thousand kilometres of woods, lakes, reindeer and welcoming locals. It is the perfect way to to explore one of the continent's last wildernesses. As you get closer to the shores of the Gulf of Finland inevitably civilisation starts to intrude not least in the form of the magnificent city of St Petersburg, the former imperial city of Russia.

A notable characteristic of Kirkenes, the only large town in the far north, is the closeness to Russia. The Border Country Museum and the war memorial, which commemorate liberation by the Red Army after four years of German occupation in the autumn of 1944, provide a good introduction to EuroVelo 13.  In fact, if you want to have first hand experience of the continuing division of Europe, you can go to the town of Storskog, Norway’s only official border crossing to Russia, which is about ten kilometres from the centre of Kirkenes. 

From Kirkenes, the first stage of the journey along the Iron Curtain follows along the Finnish-Norwegian border.  Neiden, the centre of Norway’s East Sami people, is the first town to be passed, which is also famous for its excellent salmon fishing.  On the way, it is worth making a detour to Vaggatem near the border, where a restored World War II prisoner-of-war camp serves as a reminder of the region’s history.  From there you can also easily walk to the signpost marking where the borders of Norway, Finland and Russia meet, but beware: it is strictly forbidden to go beyond this point!

 

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From the village of Näätämö, next to the border between Norway and Finland, you will ride through wilderness and fells past the third largest lake in Finland, Inarijärvi. Sevettijärvi, pure and original Sami village along the route, is one of the rare places where you will hear Skolt Sami language in everyday use. The route goes past the only international Gold Prospector Museum, located in Tankavaara, where you can pan for gold, even in winter. Finland’s biggest gorge, Isokuru, as well as the lake at the bottom of it are worth seeing. They are located in the Pyhä-Luosto National Park, where you can also dig out your own lucky amethyst at the Amethyst Mine. Further south, the war history of Finland becomes more visible. The village of Salla is located in the middle of the wilderness and you can see a lot of traces from World War battles there.

South of Kuusamo, the trail follows the eastern forest scenery. The cyclists will find themselves in the middle of the wilderness, where services and people are sparse. War history is a large part of Suomussalmi and one of the most important battles of the Winter War was fought on the Raatteentie road. Continuing south, the town of Kuhmo is the home of one of the largest collections of Kalevala in the world.

After Ilomantsi, which is known not only for its war history, but also for cherishing its Karelian culture, the route winds through birch and coniferous forests, occasionally passing through fields. The most northern European stone castle from the Middle Ages, Olavinlinna, which is also an important part of Finnish war history, can be found from Savonlinna on the way to the south. The national scenery of Punkaharju is definitely worth seeing with lakes glistening between pine trees that grow on both sides of the ridge.

The landscape after Punkaharju showcases quite a traditional Finnish farming area, as the scenery quickly changes from fields to forests. Before heading to Virolahti and the Finnish-Russian border, check out Imatrankoski, Finland’s largest rapids as well as Finland’s oldest tourism attraction and the Salpa Line Museum in Miehikkälä.

 

 

  • 69°
    Latitude
    in Kirkenes, Norway
  • 4,400 sq m
    Area of Lake Saimaa,
    the largest in Finland
  • 1939-40
    Dates of the
    Winter War

 

  • Punkaharju Conservation Area, Finland

    Punkaharju esker ridge has been an internationally known tourist destination already for two hundred years due to the natural beauty of its landscape. It is one of Finland's national landscapes and the beautiful lake views seen between its majestic pines are still the biggest attraction of the area. The area's landscape is easy to explore along marked trails and the paths.The Puruvesi and Pihlajavesi lakes shimmer brightly between the trees on summer days. It is not difficult to understand why Punkaharju Esker draws visitors from one year to the next. More information: http://www.outdoors.fi/punkaharju

  • Imatrankoski rapids, Finland

    Imatrankoski rapids were formed 5000 year ago, when land rose after the Ice Age and Lake Saimaa waters tore the Salpauselkä ridge apart. Imatrankoski was a famous tourist attraction already 300 hundred years ago, and in the end of 1800 century it was considered as a one of the Europe’s most know attractions. Rapids are nowadays blocked by a dam, but during the summer there are daily free shows, when the dam is opened. More information: http://www.gosaimaa.com/en/Activities/Sights/Attractions/Attractions?id=a8d2fbb9-25da-4c23-b0b7-836fc48b50fe © Ninara (Flickr)

  • Lake Saimaa and the Saimaa ringed seal, Finland

    Lake Saimaa is the largest lake of the Vuoksi waterway and the whole Finland. It’s situated in the regions of South Karelia and Southern Savonia. The lake is 1377 square kilometers in area, 10,8 meters in mean depth and the deepest point is 86 meters. Lake Saimaa has 5277 kilometers of coastline and 5484 islands. It is the only place where you can find the Saimaa ringed seal, which is extremely endangered with only 310 of them left. More information: http://finland.fi/picture_book/saimaa/index.html and http://www.sll.fi/mita-me-teemme/lajit/saimaannorppa/ringed-seal

  • Karelia á la carte, Finland

    The versatile food culture of North Karelia is enriched by Karelia á la carte values: karelianness, locality, originality, nature, hospitality and trust. The restaurants of the Karelia a la Carte are filled with the tender aroma of roast wild hog meat, mutton and Karelian stew - and of course Karelian pasties, which have the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) status in Europe. Karelia à la carte is a network of North Karelian restaurants and companies in travel-, foodstuff- and handicraft fields. In the unique food travel network there are already over 80 companies all over the province, for example Restaurant Parppeinpirtti in Ilomantsi. More information: http://www.kareliaalacarte.fi/en

  • Certified EuroVelo Route
  • Developed route with EuroVelo signs
  • Developed route
  • Route under development
  • Route at the planning stage

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