That time of the year again, especially since this summer my Lapland trip sum is zero. My social media feed and WhatsApp chats have filled with pics of freshly picked cloudberries, the last rays of midnight sun, the midnight dips in the lakes by which the wood heated saunas spoil the lucky ones. The smoked fresh water fish, endless gravel roads in between mellow height fells and in the background the silence and clean air one can only experience in Lapland…
Yes, I miss it and the messages don’t help it. It’s the time of being homesick, and dream of good old Lapland summer trip.
If I am lucky, I get to make it this year already. But if not, I can always dream. And I thought it would be fun to share with everybody my dream destinations and activities in Lapland for summer / early autumn season.
Maybe you get to go there before me even. Pidä hauskaa!
First, to land smoothly, I would start my trip in Rovaniemi, to enjoy the best of this small yet lively urban centre of Finnish Lapland. I would take a room (with sauna) in Arctic Light Hotel and wake up the next day to the best breakfast in town. Then, I would stroll around the town and by the river. Visit Korundi and their excellent museum shop, and have a coffee break in Chocodeli.
For lunch, I would decide between Yuca (mexican), Hostel Cafe Koti (the coziest ), Roka Street Bistro (the best truly Lappish bistro menu and the best risottos in town) and Kauppayhtiö (for the best burgers, therefore the best for slightly hangover days).
I would also take a walking/running/biking trip to Ounasvaara hill, the urban outdoors playground in Rovaniemi, and then roll back down for sauna (and maybe palju in Hostel Cafe Koti’s Mökki roof terrace) and after bike/hike/work drinks in either in the wintergarden of Arctic Light Hotel or Yuca again (the best margaritas).
Finally, I would end my day with dinner in Roka Kitchen & Wine Bar or Pure Pizza, sleep the second night in Arctic Tree Hotel before the next day before continuing further; either to Hiidenkirnut (Devils churns) in Rautiosaari village, 25km off from Rovaniemi city or all the way to my original hometown Kemijärvi (on the better side of the Arctic Circle).
Pssst. If you are looking for real luxury experience in Lapland, take note of Rovaniemi based Luxury Action and their new private wilderness experience, the Octola lodge. It’s something I would do if someone else wouldn’t be doing it already. Because it’s the Lapland experience I got as a birth gift and which I am always happy to see others getting in any way they can.
Ylläs & Pallas-Ylläs National Park
Ylläs (Ylläs Ski Resort and Pallas-Ylläs National park) – few hours by car from Rovaniemi and with direct flights to nearby Kittilä Airport and night train to nearby Kolari – was in 2019 named as the best outdoors destination in the voting by GoExpo Fair. Mainly for their excellent mountainbiking infrastructure and development plans.
Currently there would over 200km marked trails for mountain biking (enduro, downhill and gravel grinding) in summer and 100km in winter (fatbiking). From midsummer to end of September the Ylläs Gondola (up to 719m) would also serve especially the DH bikers and bike park is also found from the resort area.
And for a real wilderness bike adventure, I would steer my bike to the trails in the national park (please note that only specific trails in the park are allowed for bikes) and the wilderness resorts of Harriniva Hotels & Safaris, in example Torassieppi and Jerisjärvi, in where you also find excellent restaurants with truly lappish, local delicacies.
For sleeping well in Ylläs, I would finally like to try Aurora Estate Boutique Hotel in Ylläsjärvi.
Saariselkä, Urho Kekkonen National Park & Utsjoki
Like in Ylläs and Pyhä, also in Saariselkä the neighbouring national park, in here the Urho Kekkonen National Park (UKK) is now allowing mountain biking on some of its trails. And what even better, my favourite bike tour company in Rovaniemi, RollOutdoors, has also opened their second branch in the Kiilopää wilderness resort near Saariselkä, offering rental bikes, service and guided tours on the trails of national park and around.
The fells here aren’t too big but the magnificent wilderness and almost endless trails – many of which follow the natural reindeer paths in not so straight flowy lines – make it one of the most unique biking destinations there currently is. In here you would easily feel exactly as small, humble and enchanted as anyone experiencing wild northern nature as it’s purest form. Not many services around though, so keep your back well stocked with necessary repair and orienteering devices, as well as clothes for any weather and enough food and water for longer than expected tours.
While the wilderness here is endless, good accommodation, restaurants and other comforting services and products you still find plenty enough in Saariselkä resort, in where also the best northern lights show
on top of Kaunispää (=beautiful head in Finnish) waits for you, if you are in place at the right time, from late August on. And in winter, you find the longest toboggan run (lighted for the polar night) in Finland from the top of Kaunispää down to Saariselkä resort centre.
Ps. While going as far north as to Saariselkä, one should also consider driving a bit more up north, in example to Inari, where the center of Sami Culture, Sajos, indigenous peoples music festival Ijahis Idja and unique local culture are waiting to be explored. And if that is not enough middle of nowhere, drive to Nellim in the Russian border, and spent a night or two in the Wilderness Hotel Nellim.
And all the way up to Utsjoki in this direction, one would find even more wilderness, the magnificent Kevo canyon and finally the border to Norway and direct road to the Barents sea.
Pyhä-Luosto National Park
This is the mountain resort and national park in Finnish Lapland I call my home resorts. Pyhätunturi (Holy Hill) and Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Here have I skied the most, hiked the most and even biked the most. Although for biking it only got better after I moved away, when some of the trails in the Pyhä-Luosto National Park were opened for mountain biking too.
In Pyhätunturi, the skiresort/village, you find traditional (to Lapland) log cabins and housing, a hotel, many rental cabins and apartments, few restaurants and the National park info centre Naava. And in the northern end of the national park, in Luosto, you find another quiet charming small village, tiny amethyst mine and one of the nicest old forests in Lapland.
This is a great place for hikers, runners and bikers. For short bursts around the fells or up to the tops to see the midnight sun and enjoy great waffles with the already mentioned cloudberries (in ravintola Tsokka on top of the Pyhä fell), all day hikes over many fells – like the Noitatunturi (Witch Fell) hike to the left side fell in the pic below – or traditional two day hike (35km) hike from Pyhä to Luosto – or other way round – stopping on the way for night camping or sleeping in a wilderness hut (reservations from the national park service).
Currently, I have no tickets booked but after writing this… I do hope I find some time before the first snow falls on these fells. There’s something magical in Lapland which always stays with one, no matter where you go after. And the phenomenon has even a name: Lapin taika.
Magic of Lapland.