Norway / Finland / RussiaNorway / Finland / RussiaNorway / Finland / RussiaNorway / Finland / RussiaNorway / 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

 

  • Kerimäki Wooden Church, Finland

    The church of Kerimäki is the world’s largest Christian wooden church. It is 45 meters long, 42 meters wide and 27 meters high. The height of the dome is 37 meters. There are altogether 1670 meters of pews and a seating capacity for over 3000 people. Including standing room, the church can accommodate almost 5000 people. The church of Kerimäki is a miracle of its own time, a masterpiece of carpentry with its pews, columns, galleries, tie-beams, arches, domes and lanterns. More information: http://www.kolumbus.fi/kerisrk/kirkkotietoja.htm#Kerim%E4ki%20church

  • Parppeinvaara Bardic Village, Finland

    Whatever your interest is, Parppeinvaara has something for you. From its hilltop amid the forests and fells of eastern Finland, there are views stretching for miles to the blue horizon, beyond which lies Russia. The tradition of poem-singing, Karelian cuisine, war-time events and nature in Ilomantsi are brought to life in the exhibitions and the buildings in Parppeinvaara Bardic Village. More information: http://www.parppeinvaara.fi/en/ © From Manhattan to Havana (Flickr)

  • The old Saimaa canal, Finland / Russia

    The total length of the canal is 43 km, of which 23 km lies on the Finnish side of the border and the remaining 20 km in the section leased from Russia. The difference between the water levels of Lake Saimaa and the Gulf of Finland totals 76 metres, and is offset by means of eight locks. Goods are transported along the Saimaa Canal to various areas in Finland as well as to several countries in Europe. More information: http://www.gosaimaa.com/en/About-area/Transportation/Transportation?id=b81cd4eb-23d4-4896-862e-9e223abdab4c © Ninara (Flickr)

  • 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

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