» »Lake Inari: Waterway Dotted With 3000 Islands

Lake Inari: Waterway Dotted With 3000 Islands

Maps of Finnish Lapland are a surprise. For an area lying well within the Arctic Circle, they reveal a land, not of ice and tundra but innumerable lakes, rivers and streams linked by forests, bogs and swamps. And the largest, bluest area in this vivid mosaic of blues and greens is Lake Inari, its shores deeply jagged with hundreds of inlets, and its waters studded with 3000 or more tree-covered islands, some little more than rocks.

Streams cascade down the slopes of the tussocky fells lying to the south and west of the lake, and into the rivers that feed Lake Inari with clear, cold water. To the east and north, a wilderness of pine and birch forest and swamp is the home of elks, lynxes and wolverines.


Carved out by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, the lake is roughly 50 miles (80km) long and 500sq miles (1300sq km) in extent. It looks very deep because its sides are steep, plunging straight down 318ft (97m) to the bottom. Local songs have described it as being 'As deep as it is long.


Because the Arctic climate of the region is tempered by a warm current, the North Atlantic Drift which extends from the Gulf Stream), the Inari summer is more like those in places 600 miles (1000km) farther south. Orange-coloured cloudberries grow in profusion, providing Laplanders with jam and Lakka Liqueur, and the lake abounds with the fish - minnows, trout, whitefish, greying, char and perch. Migrant birds such as Arctic terns join the ducks, divers and waders that regularly enjoy the lake's rich pickings. Visiting swifts feast on midsummer clouds of Mosquitoes.


Ancient Lapps left offerings to their gods on the small island of Ukko, north of Inari port. Toda they might gaze in disbelief on the modern port, but would surely recognise the magical stillness that descends as the first snows whiten the islands, and the ice begins to still the waters - as it will for nearly half a year.

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