Twin parks boosting eco-tourism for a whole area

 Oulanka, Finland –Paanajärvi, Russia Federation

Paanjarvi National Park

The twin parks of Oulanka and Paanajärvi National Parks form a unique transboundary wilderness area and an important destination for nature-oriented tourism. Cooperation between the national parks started more than ten years ago and it was boosted by a two-year (2005–2007) Interreg project “Oulanka-Paanajärvi – wilderness, experiences and well-being”, which was part of the Euregio Karelia Neighbourhood Programme. The aim of the project was to improve the preconditions of nature-based tourism by developing the services of the park pair. The Interreg project was triggered by the need to secure and reinforce the parks’ position as the most important resource for nature-oriented tourism in the area in addition to their status as a national and international attraction. Improving the preconditions of nature-oriented tourism contributed positively to local development by creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

View images of the park


Size and Category:

Paanajärvi National Park, Russian Federation is 1044 km2 and is an IUCN Category II National Park. Oulanka National Park, Finland was established in 1956 and is also an IUCN Category II Park and is 290km2

Paanajärvi National Park, Russia

Administered by Paanajärvi National Park (Federal authority), teh park was established in 1992. 

Located in the Paanajärvi National Park, Lake Paanajärvi is situated amongst the fells in the north-western part of the Republic of Karelia, not far from the Russian-Finnish border. Rivers Oulankajoki and Kuusinkijoki that originate in the Kuusamo Commune, Finland, feed the Lake. The Olanga River connects Lake Paanajärvi with the region's largest Lake, Pyaozero. Every summer, Brown Trout, the greatest asset of Park's Salmonidae, force their way upstream through foaming rapids to reach the calm back-waters in the upper part of the River, where in autumn the fish spawn on the rocky bottom.

The river route of the Brown Trout takes it through spruced flood-lands, pine stands growing on sandy soil, and past fells covered by dwarfed tundra vegetation. Brown Bear, Reindeer, Otter and other taiga animals inhabit these forests with remnants of abandoned Finnish and Karelian settlements.

Lake Paanajärvi lies in a deep canyon, which appeared over 1,5 billion years ago as a result of earthquakes. Later, glaciers rounded the summits of the surrounding mountains. Paanajärvi is one of the deepest lakes in Fennoscandia (128 m). The summit of Mt. Mantutunturi located nearby towers above the bottom of the Lake by 542 m. The very geological structure of the territory is of extreme interest because of the abundance of rare minerals. Marbles and other volcanic rocks, and favourable microclimate promote an abundance of vegetation. So, in the spruce-dominant groves growing on the southern slopes you can encounter such wonderful Orchids as Lady's-slipper, Fairly slipper and Red baneberry. The slopes of Mount Niskavaara and Mount Munavaara have magnificent forest areas where Diplazium sibiricum grow, and on the Ruskeakallio rocks (60 m high) you can find Baby's breath and Wall-rue spleenwort.

Three fells with open summits dominate in the Park. Of them, Mt. Nuorunen (576 m) is the highest, and Mt. Kivakkatunturi (499 m) makes a scenic background to the Kivakka Waterfall, one of the main sights of the Park. Open peaks of Mt. Kivakkatunturi offer beautiful panoramic views. To the north the River Olanga with the raging Kivakkakoski Waterfall can be seen. The River snakes through forests and meadows near the abandoned Vartiolampi settlement, expanses of Lake Pyaozero show blue in the south and east. Mt. Nuorunen opens a view upon the rugged Lake Tavajärvi in the south-west, the Kuusamo fells with the Rukatunturi skiing centre rise in the west, from the other side of the border.

National Park  “Paanajarvi” became a member of European organization - PAN Parks foundation. Members of PAN parks foundation, are European protected areas which are most unique from the point of undisturbed nature, efficient management and participation of local communities in the management practices. A certificate which proves that the park corresponds to PAN Parks criteria was awarded in October 2005.

Oulanka National Park

Oulanka National park is managed by , Metsahallitus, Natural Heritage Services / Ostrobothnia (State agency), Finland. Oulanka National Park is located in the Municipalities Kuusamo and Salla in north-eastern Finland in an upland region. The park ends at the national border.. Oulanka is a unique and versatile combination of northern, southern and eastern nature. The landscape is made up of pine forests, river valleys with sandy banks and rapids, and in the north of vast mires. The area is rich in animal and plant species, even endangered ones. Conservation of nature and the pressures of increasing nature tourism have been balanced so well in Oulanka National Park, that in 2002 the park received the international PAN Parks Certificate.

Flora and Fauna:

Most of the forest in the Parks is completely untouched. Near the Lake and along the River Olanga the foundations of houses are preserved, and in the forest there are signs of selective cutting. The masters of these forests are brown bear, wild reindeer and wolverine. Altogether, 36 mammal species inhabit this area: elks, lynxes, hares, lemmings, and others. These shy creatures are rarely seen by man but their tracks are often found. In wintertime, near the rivers,  otter can be found, as well as wolf  tracks. Many rare bird species nest in the Paanajärvi National Park. Golden eagle can be seen hovering over its domains. Black-throated diver finds refuge on the large lakes, and Red-throated diver nests on small marshy lakes. Red-flanked bluetail, common for eastern taiga, sing in the dense spruce forests, and Little bunting on the fringes of pine mires. Travellers can come across the great grey owl, which protects its nest fearlessly. On the open summits you can meet local courageous inhabitants: Lemming and Ptarmigan. The Grayling population is high in the Park's rivers. In summer, Brown trout swim up the Olanga River from feeding in Lake Pyaozero to Lake Paanajärvi and further on, across the border, up the Rivers Kuusinka, Oulanka and other small rivers to the upper parts, to habitual spawning sites. The heaviest brown trout specimens caught weighed between 10 and 12 kg. Char inhabit some lakes in the Park. Lake Paanajärvi is inhabited by relic crayfish left from the time when after glacier's retreat it was a bay of the White Sea.


Oulanka NP: Growing number of visitors (160,000) and a potential for too intensive grazing by semi-domestic reindeers while Paanajärvi NP is more threatened by climate change impacts on fell vegetation and unsustainable development of tourist facilities. The impacts are under monitoring and adaptive management measures are in place.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
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