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

 

  • 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)

  • A la carte Lapland, Finland

    The culinary culture of Lapland has a long history. Over the centuries, it has gained influences from both East and West but its basis has always rested on pure, natural ingredients. Reindeer dishes play an important part in the Lappish cuisine and besides reindeer, also game and fish are used a lot. As Lapland has a lot of forests, it's a paradise when it comes to berries. The most valued berry is cloudberry, but blueberries, lingonberries and cranberries are also found there. More information: http://www.alacartelapland.com/ and http://www.visitrovaniemi.fi/get-inspired/authenticity/lappish-food

  • Olavinlinna/Castle of St. Olaf, Finland

    The building of Olavinlinna, castle of St. Olaf, began in 1475. The history of Olavinlinna is a mixture of medieval arms clashing, cannons roaring and every-day chores inside the security of the castle's thick walls. The changes in the ownership of the castle left their mark on Olavinlinna: this can be seen in the varied architecture of the castle. These days the castle's halls and rooms can be rented and used for all kinds of events. More information: http://www.kansallismuseo.fi/en/olavinlinna-castle

  • Sør-Varanger Museum Kirkenes, Norway

    The South Varanger Museum tells the complex border history of South Varanger. The museum is split across several locations but the main building, the Borderland Museum, lies by the E6 - the main road leading in to Kirkenes. It presents the history of the settlement and development of the region, from its origin as a common territory between Russia, Finland and Norway, to a Norwegian border municipality with a complex culture. The Museum’s war exhibition contains among other things the Russian fighter plane Ilyushin; and presents the war history of Kirkenes and the border regions. During the Second World War, Fortress Kirkenes was the main base for the German forces, and the city became a target for allied bombers. (Photo Credit: Matti Paavola, https://commons.wikimedia.org)

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

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The stages