From Kaunispää you can see the destination of Saariselkä in all its magnificence. At the viewing point there is a gift shop and a restaurant, Huippu, dedicated to culinary excellence. As proven by the membership in Chaine des Rotisseurs. In the winter, it is “Frozen”, as if it was a scene in the Disney cartoon. But, the cozy fireplace is flickering and the cuisine is warm.
Ms.Tarja Manninen, the director of tourism marketing in Saariselkä – Inari, said that tourism was made possible by the road that was built in 1913. After that things started to develop. Between 1920 and 1944, when the “Finnish lady” had two arms, Petsamo (now part of Russia) became a tourist destination. People travelled through the area in order to get to the only ocean harbor in Finland.
Before 1950, the major events in the area were WWII and the gold rushes. The road to Petsamo was of great importance during WWII. It was used, amongst other things, as the escape route for the current king of Norway, King Harald V. He was the toddler prince traveling to safety with his princess siblings and queen mother.
The gold rush is still a living history. It started back in 1860 when a man found gold in a river called “Lotto”. (I am not sure the spelling is correct, but I decided not to double check). The fever was really high in the 1950s when young men wanted to find gold and an easier life. Still people come to the area to prospect.
The lookout tower at Kaunispää was built in 1950. Modern tourism had its infancy in the 1950s. The first building was a small cabin erected in 1952 to check for forest fires. More and more people came to see the beautiful scenery of the area.
In the 1980s tourism really took off. Today there are all services imaginable to a visitor: Nine hotels, 20 restaurants and other offers. The tourist companies have invested a great deal in a variety of activities.
Tarja loves hiking in the area herself and steps into the wilderness paradise whenever she can There is an abundant number of marked and un-marked hiking trails, hundreds of kilometers of cross-country ski tracks, alpine slopes for beginners and professionals. There are huskies, reindeer, horses, and much more.