You might not see any of Santa’s elves (his workshop is a closely guarded secret), but you’ll find plenty of reindeer, unending forests, stony fells and authentic Arctic wilderness.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable Arctic experience, far from the lights and noise of towns and cities, you can’t do much better than Savukoski and the mystical Korvatunturi. Savukoski has a population numbered in hundreds and is home to the country’s second largest national park, not to mention the secret workshop of Santa Claus. Explore some of Finland’s most stunning nature trails and breathe the world’s cleanest air.
How to get here?
Savukoski’s nearest airport is in Rovaniemi, and the nearest train station is in Kemijärvi, only 94 kms from Savukoski. You can reach Savukoski by bus, by car or by taxi.
Arctic Wilderness Wonderland
A tunturi is a fell, or a hill carved by Ice Age glaciers. There are fells all over Lapland, but there’s none quite so magical as Korvatunturi. Named for its fox ears-like appearance, Korvatunturi sits on the border between Finland and Russia. Known to children as the location of Santa’s secret workshop and to adults as an untouched winter playground, Korvatunturi is one of Savukoski’s most beautiful, mysterious and thrilling destinations.
Note: Traveling to Korvatunturi requires a special border zone permit. The permit is free, and multiple people can be added to a permit. There are many local businesses happy to arrange the trip and the permit for you.
The second largest national park in Finland is Urho Kekkonen (UKK) National Park. The park is, of course, massive, connecting the Arctic taiga forests that band central Lapland to the stunted trees and sparse landscapes of the lower tundra. Listing all the attractions of UKK would take days, so here’s a few highlights.
- Kemihaara – Drive right up to the gates of UKK and begin your adventure on the multi-day hiking trail that leads toward Korvatunturi.
- Nuortti Canyon – Nuortti is a perfect representation of what northern Lapland is. The river meanders through a winding canyon, green and alive in summer, frosted and magical in winter.
- The Gorges – With names like Paradise, the Devil’s Gate, and Ugly Gorge, you know you’re in for a treat. UKK has many gorgeous gorges and uncanny canyons.
- Historical homesteads – Life in northern Lapland has always been a balancing act, steadfast folk versus an inexorable environment.
If you’re a seasoned pro or a daring adventurer, you can tackle the wilderness of Savukoski by yourself. The hiking trails of summer become the cross-country tracks and snowshoe routes of winter. Of course, if you feel a bit daunted by the sheer size and isolation of Finland’s most remote areas, there are guides and guided tours. As UKK features some difficult terrain and cell service is poor in some places, guided tours are recommended for safety.
Reindeer in Savukoski outnumber the population by twelve to one. So you might not expect to see many people—and you would be right. But there are villages sprinkled throughout Savukoski, great for starting snowmobiling adventures or kayaking trips, visits with Mrs. Claus, or pit stops on your way deeper into northern wilderness. Of course, you can also let a pack of howling huskies or a rambling reindeer take you on a sledge ride through the winter wonderland.
Speaking of reindeer, there are multiple reindeer farms scattered throughout Savukoski that are more than happy to host you for an hour, a day or even a whole week. Get the inside scoop on the authentic reindeer herder life.
In the village of Savukoski, make sure you stop by the Puistola Heritage Museum. This farmhouse and farm buildings are like stepping back in time, giving you a genuine glimpse into rural life in the 1950s in northern Finland.
In eastern Lapland, the fells are gentle, marked by blocky stones punctuating green bogs. The Kivitunturi Nature Trail is full of Ice Age remnants, ravines, stony outcrops, spruce forests and spectacular landscapes.
A Taste of Lapland
This far from the hustle of the cities and towns, you might expect it difficult to get a warm meal. But there are restaurants, hotels, reindeer farms, safari services and more throughout Savukoski that serve delicious meals, often prepared with local ingredients.
Grab a spoon and check out the authentic flavors at Savukoski’s restaurants and services.
You’ll also find all the necessary services in Savukoski, such as equipment rentals, pubs, grocery stories, pharmacies, gift shops, gas stations and more. Even better, the small operators of Savukoski are able to offer personalized services to ensure your trip is exactly what you want.
Looking to bed down for the night? Sweet dreams in Savukoski’s accommodations.
How to Get to Savukoski & Korvatunturi
Country roads connect the villages of Savukoski to Lapland’s major highways, towns and cities.
Coming by air? The airports in Rovaniemi, Kittilä, Ivalo and Kuusamo are almost all the same distance from Savukoski. From Rovaniemi, it’s 2 hours via E75 (aka E4). From Inari, it’s 3 hours via E75 and E63. You can book transfers from the airports to Savukoski through local service operators. Or you can rent a car and drive through Lapland’s wilderness landscapes yourself.
Coming by train? From Kemijärvi, it’s only 1.25 hours via E63. You can continue your journey by taxi for the same price as a bus ticket. (You must reserve a taxi the day before arriving.)