On a cruise on Lake Inari we went to explore a region which is the homeland of the Inari Sámi – a group of Sámi people who inhabit the area around the lake. We came past the sacred island Ukonsaari and other islands used as cemeteries before we got off the boat at the coast to hike to the wilderness church Pielpajärvi and back to our car.
Just opposite the museum and tourist information in Inari leaves a cruise ship every day at 1pm, which takes you on a circular route of about 2,5 hours. But there is the option to get off after 1,5 hours if the wind conditions allows the boat to land. We used that to do a great hike.
Ukonkivi or Ukko’s rock is located on the island of Ukonsaari and was considered by the local Inari Sámi to be an extremely important siedi or sacred natural formation which was used as a sacrificial site, perhaps as recently as in the 19th century.
One of the most important archaeological findings in Lapland was made at Ukonkivi in 1873 by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, when a silver jewellery fragment was found in the cave.
Pielpajärvi Church was built between 1752 and 1760 and is one of the oldest buildings in Northern Lapland. After the Christianisation of the Sámi population of Inari, a first small church was built on this spot in 1647. Here was once a winter village where the semi-nomadic Sami came together during the cold season to trade and organise their religious and judicial matters. The Swedish Queen Christina had the church named after herself and donated the bell and the priest’s dress.
Around the church there were originally 30 to 40 parlors, in which the church visitors who had traveled from far away were accommodated, a rectory and a few other buildings, none of which have been preserved. However, there was no cemetery because the Sami traditionally buried the deceased on islands in Lake Inari. Around 1846, the Pielpajärvi church was renovated and received its present form.
When the Sami Inaris settled down, the winter village on Pielpajärvi was given up. In the village of Inari a new church was built and the church of Pielpajärvi was abandoned in 1888. Nowadays it is used again at easter and midsummer.
From Pielpajärvi church it was a 4,5 km hike to a parking at the nearest road and from there we had 2 more to get back to our car at the parking of the Sámi museum.
As it was a special day, we went to a good restaurant at the Inari Wilderness hotel in the evening. Here we celebrated Edi’s birthday! We had a lovely dinner with views over the lake.