According to measurements taken in 2016, the cleanest air in Europe, and perhaps the world, is found in Lapland’s Pallas Yllästunturi National Park. This is Finland’s oldest national park, and a place of vast silences and skies patterned most nights by the Northern Lights. It is also the most popular National Park and nature travel destination in the country, visited 1,200,000 times in 2016.
The responsibility for maintaining such a unique place rests with Parks & Wildlife Finland, which works in collaboration with local authorities, travel operators and businesses to balance the needs of conservation, and local development. An advisory board has been appointed to increase the use of National Parks as travel destinations and to improve this collaboration, bringing together representatives from local authorities, business organisations, the local reindeer herders’ association, the Finnish Sámi Parliament, and local businesses.
Together they are developing year round tourism products to enable people to enjoy the beauty of the park. This means ski trails in winter, and trekking routes when the snow has gone – the National Park now offers 300 km of cross-country skiing tracks, 250 km of hiking trails and cross-country cycling routes, 30 km of winter cycling and hiking routes, and 70 resting places with toilets and fireplaces and the possibility to stay overnight – all for free.
The area is also home to some 150 enterprises whose business is connected to the National Park. For example, while many people like to walk alone or in small groups, not everyone likes to carry all their equipment and supplies from base to base. By facilitating coordination between villages and private entrepreneurs, it is becoming increasingly easy for walkers to pack up their luggage in the morning, head off walking, and then find their bags waiting for them at their next destination by the end of the day. This promotes longer visits to the park, distributes people and their spending, and connects local villages to one another. It means trekkers and walkers are left unencumbered to walk and breathe freely of Europe’s freshest air.