The park, which was founded in 1983, is named after the former Finnish president Urho Kekkonen. A detail that is quite relevant for Finns as Kekkonen remains one of the most popular and successful politicians of the country. In fact, no other head of state of a democratically elected republic was elected to office for such a long time. With the naming of the national park, the president was given a venerable monument.
The region paints the typical and well-known landscape of the Finnish Lapland. The park is the country’s second biggest national park and spreads over an area of 2550 km², which is roughly the size of Luxembourg. The fells in the northern part of the park are covered with birch trees or are otherwise woodless. The highest fell is the 718 m high Sokosti. The Korvatunturi Mountain is also located near the Russian border. According to a famous Finnish folktale, Father Christmas and his elves and reindeers live inside the mountain.
The southwest of the park is covered with raised bogs that serve as a breeding ground for many birds. Pine and spruce woods spread through the south part of the park as well as the occasional fell. Originally the land was inhabited by the Sami people that knew how to use the agricultural utility to their advantage. To this day Sami people (that originate from Norway) live in the region. They established the reindeer husbandry in the Urho-Kekkonen National Park.
The natural landscape of the National Park is ideal for multiple-day hiking and ski tours. Beginners should use the marked trails in the western part of the park in Kiilopää, Tankavaara and Saariselkä. There are visitor centers in Tankavaara and Savukoski, but there also is park bureau in Saariselkä.
Overnight-stays in one of the many park huts are particularly recommendable. During winter the northern lights enlighten the night sky. Another great experience is to sleep outdoors during midnight sun.
Nature enthusiasts can enjoy and discover vastness of the region all-year-round. If you are lucky you might get to see rare birds such as golden eagles, gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons. Even brown bears, wolves and elks live in this region – and of course reindeers.