Autumn brings a festival of colour to Finnish Lapland’s fells

The autumn colours come early in Lapland, in the far north of Finland.

The first frosts on the fells surrounding Saana, Finland’s second-highest mountain at 1,029 metres, might arrive as soon as the end of August or early September.

Changes in the colours of the shrub and tree foliage accelerate as the nights grow colder, especially in the more elevated fells around Kilpisjärvi in the northwest, where Saana is located.

In Finnish there’s a name for the phenomenon – ruska – when the fells and forests put on a vivid display of reds, oranges and yellows, as if in protest at the imminent winter. This brief and lovely, if not always predictable, season lasts little more than a fortnight across the region, and hikers flock to Lapland’s lodges and chalets, setting off on rigorous day walks or longer rugged treks.

The days are cool and often clear and calm – perfect trekking weather – and there’s the bonus of finding succulent cep mushrooms and the last blueberries and lingonberries. The Finnish tradition of every person’s right means you can pick and keep any edible treasures you find in the great outdoors.

And as if the technicolour show of the fading flora weren’t enough as a backdrop, there’s every chance of finishing off the day with a jaw-dropping sunset followed by an appearance of the Northern Lights.

See the fells of northern Finland in full colour

By Tim Bird, September 2019