110km (68 miles) NE of Kautokeino; 11km (7 miles) W of Finnish border

This is the capital of the Sami, with a population of 2,900 inhabitants. Of these, some 90% are of Sami descent, making Karasjok, along with its neighboring town of Kautokeino, a seat of Sami culture.

Karasjok, whose Sami name translates as "river current," thrives in part on reindeer herding. With its many handicrafts and Sami institutions, Karasjok is both the cultural and social hub of Samiland.

The town is the best place to learn about these once nomadic people who lived on the roof of Europe. The Sami -- historically called Lapps by non-Sami -- have inhabited these inhospitable lands since ancient times. Sami settlements stretch along the entire Nordic region, including Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Some of the Sami maintain links to their ancient culture, whereas others have been assimilated.

The language of the Sami belongs to the Finno-Ugric group. A large part of Sami literature has been published in Northern Sami, which is spoken by approximately 75% of Sami. As with all Arctic societies, oral literature has always played a prominent role. Among Sami, this oral tradition takes the form of yoikking, a type of singing. (Once governments tried to suppress this, but now yoikking is enjoying a renaissance.) One of the classic works of Sami literature is Johan Turi's Tale of the Lapps, first published in 1910.

Handicrafts are important in the Sami economy. Several craft designers have developed new forms of decorative art, producing a revival in Sami handicraft tradition.

Many members of the Sami community feel that the term Lapp has negative connotations; it's gradually being replaced by the indigenous minority's own name for itself, sábme, or other dialect variations. Sami seems to be the most favored English translation, and the word is being used increasingly.