The Northern Lights Route goes through Finland, Sweden and Norway, starting from Tornio-Haparanda and following the road E8 and Road 99 up to Kilpisjärvi in northern Finland. It continues via Storfjord to Tromsø in Norway.The route connects not only three neighbouring countries, but six distinct languages: Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Meänkieli, Kven and Sami.
The landscape along the route is very rich and varied as our common cultural heritage is. To our project – the Northern Lights Route is also the culture, the people, the landscape and the companies LIVING UNDER THE NORTHERN LIGHT – in the Arctic North.
The Northern Lights Route extends from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Arctic Ocean. This area is thousands of years old, an ancient cultural environment, full of stories and the landscape is very beautiful. For many, the Northern Lights Route is still quite unknown, even though it was named as an official tourist road in Finland in 2002. Elina Söderström, landscape architect, musician and tourism entrepreneur from Studio E-City, made an analysis of the landscape of the Northern Lights Route during Our Stories project. This analyses contributes to making this unique cultural area better known to general public:
Tornio River Valley
In the southern part of the area, in Tornio-Haparanda, the landscape is dominated by the Bothnian Sea and its beautiful archipelago, as well as the wide River Tornio descending into the sea. It runs through the landscape majestic and powerful. The Tornio and other rivers in the area create a unique and beautiful landscape. The forests, rivers and lakes, rich of fish and game, as well as the nice climate and good soil, have already for thousands of years ago attracted people to come to live in the Tornio River Valley. Variable natural landscapes of the Tornio River Valley and beautiful cultural landscapes; the villages, meadows and individual buildings, are valuable also on national scale. The settlements and living are concentrated in the Tornio River Valley along the River of Tornio. The oldest establishments are located near the river, forming ribbons of villages. The River of Tornio creates a unique and beautiful landscape. 8 The landscape of the Northern Lights Route The landscape of the Bothnian Archipelago is unique. A view from Island of Sarvisaari, in the National Park. The terrain is flat and vegetation lush. Many former wooden housing blocks in the towns of Tornio and Haparanda have been demolished and replaced by modern buildings, but fortunately some of the valuable historic buildings have also been spared and refurbished. Outside the town center the landscape still features villages in ribbons along riversides, fields and meadows. Numerous small rivers that branch out from the Tornio River create a mosaic landscape. Beautiful river views are abundant in the south of the area.
Forests and marshes
There are several river views and you can get new perspectives if you sometimes travel on the other side of the river. In the middle of the area, by the Pajala – Kolari and Muonio, the landscape is mainly relatively flat or gently rolling, covered with forests and marshes. The majority of marshes are bare. There is also a lot of woodland, but nearby the villages and surrounding fields the landscape is open and also provides views of the river. The road and houses in the area follow the terrain and the river valley. In the north, the terrain becomes mountainous. The landscape is mostly wide, formed by the river, the edges of the large forest areas and the Highland landscape in Kilpisjärvi with the Saana Mountain. outlines of the fell-chains. In the area of Enontekiö and Kilpisjärvi, the landscape is transformed into a highland dominated by high fells such as Saana and Halti, and large lakes such as Lake Kilpisjärvi. Because of the harsh conditions, vegetation is tough. In the valleys there are mountain birches, higher areas are treeless. The landscape is very mountainous when we move to the Norwegian side of the border, towards Skibotn or Yykeänperä, as its Finnish name is. On the way from Lake Kilpisjärvi to the Norwegian Sea, terrain shapes are steep, and elevation differences between valleys, fjords and mountains are growing rapidly, although already in Kilpisjärvi the terrain was clearly more mountainous compared to other parts of Finland. The road winds up like a serpentine in the mountains until we arrive at the Lyngenfjorden / Yykeänvuono, where the landscape opens.
The Arctic Ocean
The road goes forward towards Storslett following the fjord. The views are spectacular. Storslett, where our trip ends, is the center of the municipality of Nordreisa, located in Reisa Valley, at the southern end of Reisa fjord. Landscape is dominated by the high mountains on both sides of Reisa Valley and the River Reisa, flowing at the bottom of the valley. While standing there by the fjord, you can sense the proximity of the Arctic Ocean. People from Tornio River Valley have been travelling, hunting and fishing here for centuries. Many also stayed here permanently. The people from Tornio River Valley brought horses, cattle and sheep with them and started farming. As a matter of fact, the kveens are considered as developers of North Norwegian agriculture. The kveens also founded a number of current Norwegian villages and cities. For example, the city of Alta in northern Norway is the old Kveen colony, Alattio.