Sodankylä (Northern Sámi: Soađegilli) is a municipality and a town of same name in Finnish Lapland. Internationally it is perhaps best known for its highly renowned Midnight Sun Film Festival. It is the second largest municipality in Finland with land area nearly half the size of Belgium.
The municipality is bilingual both Finnish and Northern Sámi being an official language. The northern part of the area belongs to the Sámi native region.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Sodankylä is situated in the heart of Finnish Lapland. It provides a perfect environment for both the active hiker and the person seeking peace, space and silence as almost all the people here live in the villages by the highway E75. Vast conifer forests, unspoiled wild nature, wide open aapa-type mires and rugged fells of Northern Lapland in particular, are characteristic to this area. The Luosto ski resort, the Tankavaara gold village, and most of the Urho Kekkonen National Park are located in the Sodankylä municipality.
The area consist mostly of taiga forest scattered by vast open mires and individual treeless fells. In the northern part there is the wide 2 Saariselkä fell massif, one of the most popular hiking destinations in Finland. The area was inhabited by nomadic Sami people until Finnish settlers arrived here during the 17th century. When the border between the Russian Empire and Norway closed in 1852, nomadic Sami reindeer herdsmen lost their pastures, and some families decided to move south-east into the uninhabited forests in northern Sodankylä. This is why Sami dresses you'll see here resemble those used in northwestern Scandinavia.
The aftermath of World War II known as the Lapland War caused widespread damage at the area. Very few buildings here survived the scorched-earth policy of the retreating German troops.
To ensure availability of hydroelectric power, the huge 3 Porttipahta reservoir and 4 Lokka reservoir were created during the 1960s and 1970s. Formation of the Lokka reservoir is still a sensitive topic as – in addition to Posoaapa, until then one of the largest mires in the whole Europe – the reservoir drowned also three local villages, and the villagers lost their homes, croplands and pastures.
The Jaeger Brigade is the northernmost military unit of the Finnish Army, and the barracks are located on the north-west outskirts of the Sodankylä town. Military personnel and conscripts are a visible part of the street view. Despite the name Sodankylä literally meaning "War's Village" in Finnish, it has nothing to do with military but is most probably derived from a name Sova. However, the town is commonly known as Pyssykylä ("Gun Village") around Lapland.
Despite its pristine nature, in fact the mining industry is a major source of income to this society. The 5 Kevitsa quarry producing copper-nickel ore is one of the largest employers around. The gold mining at 6 Pahtavaara quarry has ceased, but operations are (as of 2020) expected to continue in near future. There are just 8,300 inhabitants living in Sodankylä but thanks to the mining industry the net migration is positive, and the municipality has somewhat safe economy. Debate around a new copper-nickel mine at Sakatti is at least hot. The quarry would bring employment and money, but it would destroy Viiankiaapa, a protected-by-law mire complex, risk the purity of local rivers and cause harm to the reindeer herding.
The northern limit of Norwegian spruce forests roughly follows the border between Sodankylä and Inari.
Towns and villagesEdit
The most important villages at Sodankylä from south to north:
- 1 Sodankylä (town). The municipal center has diverse services of good quality as well as many interesting places to see. See below.
- 2 Luosto. Ski resort. Skiing, husky safaris etc. An amethyst mine open to the public. Adjacent to popular Pyhä-Luosto National Park.
- 3 Lokka. The only "major" settlement in NE Sodankylä is in the end of regional road 9673 about 84 km from the Sodankylä town. A fishermen village on the southern shore of Lokka reservoir, great place to start a fishing trip.
- 4 Vuotso. The southernmost Sámi village in Finland and official entrance to the native Sámi area. The road to the Sompio Strict Nature Reserve starts here. The famous Reindeer Bar is closed and waiting for a new entrepreneur in 2020 but visit their grocery store.
- 5 Tankavaara (some 90 km north of Sodankylä town along E75). Gold digging village, including opportunities of real gold panning on site or as expeditions. Large collection of geological samples.
- 6 Kakslauttanen. A former roadside café has turned into a world class holiday village. Near the root of the Saariselkä fell massif 10 kilometres south from the Saariselkä ski resort. One of the entry points to the Urho Kekkonen National Park. Road east to 1 Kiilopää across the municipal border, at the park entrance at the root of the Kiilopää fell.
- 1Urho Kekkonen National Park. The second largest national park in Finland and one of the largest ones in Europe. Deep forests, scattered mires, and ranges of treeless fells. In the western parts there are good services and marked trails, while most of the park is wilderness. The adjacent 2 Sompio strict nature reserve includes the Nattaset fells with somewhat unique geology and tremendous landscape.
For Sompio and the Ruijanpolku trails drive 88 km to the north from Sodankylä centre along E75, to Vuotso village, turn east along the Sompiojärventie forest road. There are trailheads after 9, 10 and 13.5 km (the trail is steep, decent fitness required) and parking and camping a bit farther; for the UKK trail and Nuorttijoki drive 145 km east from Sodankylä centre, to Tulppio in Savukoski; for other options, see the park article. Free.
- 3Pyhä-Luosto National Park (by Luosto). One of the most popular national parks with marked trekking routes from a day trip to a few days hiking trip. At Lampivaara hill there is a small amethyst mine open to visitors. For details see articles for Luosto and Pyhä skiing resorts.
There is no passenger traffic to Sodankylä airport and the nearest railway station is at Rovaniemi, so the only way to get in is by road, in practice by car or a bus. The distance to the Sodankylä town from Rovaniemi is 130 km and from Ivalo 160 km (both have airports). It is possible to buy a train ticket to Luosto but your trip will continue from Rovaniemi train station with a bus (VR JunaBussi service).
Long distance coaches along national road 4 (E75) between Rovaniemi and Ivalo stop at Sodankylä town as well as at the bus stops by the road. As this is one of the most important intercity lines in Lapland there are several daily connections. A single ticket from Rovaniemi costs about €25/adult to Sodankylä town and about €44/adult to Tankavaara. Use Matkahuolto travel search for detailed schedules for the day of travel.
The Onnibus daily F42 line Rovaniemi–Ivalo stops only at some stops: the coach station, Torvinen (for Luosto), Vuotso, Kakslauttanen, and Tankavaara. The Onnibus does not accept cash payment and their ticket is usually much cheaper if purchased from their own online store than from Matkahuolto or the driver.
At summer a daily direct connection from Nordkapp is available.
All long-distance coaches stop at 1 Sodankylä coach station, which is nicely in the very heart of the town.
You can get around in the town itself easily by foot. Almost everything you will need is located either on the Jäämerentie road or within few blocks off.
However, many attractions are located tens of kilometres outside of it and there are just a few buses a day (mainly just along highway 4), hence a car is the most practical mode of transportation. Experienced road cyclist probably enjoy biking these roads, but it is worth understanding the distances and being able to help oneself if something happens.
Outside the highway 4 the traffic is very low and distances between inhabited locations are huge. On the other hand, on the highway 4 there is notable amount of truck traffic. Never stop your car on the lane.
Sodankylä is one of the best places on Earth for watching the Northern lights. This was acknowledged already in 1913 when the 7 Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO) was established. Today the observatory is part of the University of Oulu. It is a scientific research station and not open to visitors. You can check their aurora forecasts and watch the all-sky aurora cameras online though.
The Midnight Sun is shining from May 31th until July 14th creating a six weeks long polar day (at the latitude of the town). Thanks to the atmospheric refraction real polar night when Sun doesn't rise at all lasts only four days and is darkest around December 20th. During the winter months the daylight is sparse anyways.
- 4 Alariesto art gallery, Jäämerentie 3. M–F 09:00–16:00. An art gallery presenting the art of the local painter Andreas Alariesto (1900-1989) known for his Naive paintings depicting life in Lapland. Alariesto got fame already when alive and today he is one of the recognized Lapland painters. Take a look to their small online exhibition.
- 5 The old wooden church. Built in 1689 the Sodankylä old church is one of the oldest still existing buildings in Lapland and one of the oldest wooden churches in Finland. Architectonically it is original mixture Ostrobothnian village church and medieval building tradition. This small wooden church has kept its centuries old atmosphere very well. Vespers are held indoors every summer Wednesday and it is a popular wedding church. Old and the new church as well as the graveyard by the river are included to the Finnish list of nationally significant build cultural environments.
- 6 Sodankylä new church, Papintie 1. Even though virtually all the buildings at the area were destroyed by retrieving German troops during the Lapland War, amazingly both the old and new church survived the devastation. The new church was built in 1859 and unlike the old one it is made of stone. The bell is from the old church.
- 7 Sodankylä local history museum, Hampputörmäntie 20, ☏ . mid-July to early-August M-F 12:00-18:00. Old buildings, working tools, and household items from around the Sodankylä area. The main attraction is a homestead from village Riesto, one of those villages now laying in the depths of the Lokka reservoir. Museum area is at a nice site at the confluence of rivers Kitinen and Jeesiö within walking distance from the town center. Take a glimpse at the online tour. free.
- 8 Kierinki village (66 km southwest from the town). Only village in Sodankylä area that was saved from total destruction during the Lapland War. Today this remote village gives a rare glimpse how pre-WW2 agricultural Lapland looked like. Most villagers still get their income from agriculture and reindeer herding. The village has its own grocery store, café, art gallery, and even a small hotel.
- 9 Ala-Ponku homestead (Moskun talo), Moskuntie (in the end of Moskuntie road some 25 km NE from village Lokka). This remote homestead was once home of Aleksi Hihnavaara (1882-1938) much better known as Mosku. A legendary frontiersman, reindeer herder and a reindeer thief who has questionable fame for his involvement in a complex and bloody conflict between Finnish reindeer herdsmen and the Skolt Sami. A 2003 movie about his life was criticized as it was seen to smooth out his brutality against the Sami. You are free to visit the area (there is a boom barrier before the yard) but getting indoors you need to contact local entrepreneur. The house is in the middle of nowhere in the end of a gravel road about 25 km from Lokka village.
- 10 Uulala homestead. An extremely remote homestead built in 1920s and named after its owner Uula Hetta who lived here until 1960. This is a sole remaining example of those remote wilderness estates the Sami families built around the area since 1870s. The main building survived both the Lapland War and creation of the Lokka reservoir. Other buildings in the yard are what is left from nearby Ylitalo homestead. On the wall there is memorial plate for those who were killed during a Soviet partisan attack in August 19th 1943. There is still a bullet hole on the door. Uulala is located in roadless northeast corner of Lokka reservoir about 30 km northeast from Lokka village and is accessible only by boat.
- Kakslauttanen planetarium. The largest private planetarium in Finland will open during autumn 2020.
A large variety of activities are available around the municipality in winter as well as in summer: snowmobile driving, ice fishing, reindeer farm visits, snow shoe walks, cross-country and downhill skiing, riverboat cruises, fishing, hiking and cycling.
- 1 Ilmakkiaapa mires (35 km to the north along E75). Easy 2 × 400 m trail along duckboards over the aapa mire to a birdwatching tower. In spring the trail is flooded, otherwise no equipment is needed in dry weather, as long as you keep to the trail. Rubber boots needed for berry picking. Take your binoculars with you, to see the birds better. Right to access applies. Free.
- 2 Viiankiaapa mire, Viiankiaavantie (20 km north along road E75 or 14 km east along road 965). A huge aapa-mire system (total area 66 km²) scattered by thousands of flarks and having rich bird life. Two nature trails with shelters, campfire sites and bird watching towers. Prepare for some mosquitoes around... For the main trail drive road E75 to Kersilö village, turn to the power plant, after the dam turn right and follow Viiankiaavantie road 1.5 km south until there is a small prking lot on the left. The other trail is on the southern edge of the mire. From the town take road 965 east (direction Savukoski) about 13 kilometres to village Siurunmaa, turn left and continue 1.5 km to the trail entrance. Viiankiaapa is a nature conservation area and right to access is restricted. Free.
- 3 Oratunturi trail, Seväseläntie (19 km southeast from the town by highway 5). A short but very rocky trail takes you to the top of Oratunturi fell, considered to give one of the most impressive views around. A lean-to shelter 1.7 km from the parking lot and the fell top is about 600 meters ahead. Small parking lot by Seväseläntie gravel road 2.2 km from the highway 5 intersection. If Seväseläntie road seems to be in bad condition one should not drive there but walk all the way from hwy 5.
- 4 Nuolikirkko (27 km east from the town). An ancient holy place on top of small but prominent hill. Drive 21 km road 967 (Savukoskentie) to Kelujärvi village, turn to Kousivaarantie road, after 1.3 km turn to Nuolikuruntie road and drive 5 km ahead. Top of the steep hill is visible on the right. No official parking lot. There are 3 km and 7 km nature trails on the area. About 1.3 km ahead the Nuolikuruntie road goes through a narrow ravine.
- 5 The Midnight Sun Film festival. Held in June every year since 1986. The Midnight Sun Film Festival is probably one of the world's northernmost film festivals attracting notable amount of international audience. Book your accommodation in advance and check the organizer's accommodation tips. There is a festival bus driving between the festival area and Luosto resort.
- 1 Diskoteekki Paradise, Jäämerentie 9, ☏ . F-Sa 23:00-05:00. Small nightclub in the heart of the town.
- 2 Midnight Moon, Jäämerentie 10, ☏ . daily 22:00-05:00. Another popular nightclub in town.
- 3 Rooperante, Jäämerentie 19. Su-Th 18:00-00:00, F-Sa 18:00-02:00. Rock-themed pub. Live artists.
- 4 Restaurant Revontuli, Jäämerentie 9, ☏ . M-Th 17:00-21:00, F-Sa 17:00-02:00, Su closed. Pub and restaurant. Pizzas available for €10. Karaoke at weekends.
- 5 Piitsi Pub, Jutotie 3, ☏ . Su-Th 17:00-24:00, F-Sa 17:00-02:00. Pub across the river Kitinen within walking distance from downtown. Occasionally live artists. Fingerfood available. Beach volley at the summer.
- 1 Hotel Bear Inn (Hotelli Karhu), Lapintie 7, ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Single rooms with private saunas or upgraded rooms equipped with relaxing power steam showers. Lounge with bar and a separate restaurant. Lunch buffet Monday through Friday at 11-14; after 15.00 daily, dinner à la carte.
- 2 Hotel Sodankylä (Hotelli Sodankylä), Unarintie 15, ☏ .
- Guesthouse Kolme Veljestä (Majatalo Kolme Veljestä), Ivalontie 1, ☏ , email@example.com.
Outside the townEdit
- 3 Peurasuvanto Holiday Village, Peurasuvanto (52 km north from town by road E75), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Cottage village. Various actitivites available. Café and restaurant. cottages for 1-4/6 persons starting €80/night.
- 4 Vuotson Maja B&B, Ivalontie 8775, ☏ , email@example.com. Vuotso village has got a guesthouse for travelers since 1910s and the business is still going on. Camping option. Grocery store within walking distance. rooms for 2-6 persons starting €85/night.
- 5 Purnumukka rent cottages (Purnumukan mökki- ja poropalvelut), Purnumukka (105 km north from the town), firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation in two 6 person cabins in a real forest Sámi village. Purnumukka village was devastated during the Lapland War but was rebuilt in original style and has today about 20 permanent residents. There is also a safari company and a reindeer farm in the village. The village itself is included to the Finnish list of nationally significant built cultural environments. cabin for 6 persons starting from €150/night.
- 6 Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Kakslauttanen, ☏ , email@example.com. At 1970s there was a roadside café, now there is a splurge holiday village world famous for its glass igloos. Art gallery, restaurant, saunas, souvenir shop, and numerous activities both for summer and winter visitors. Located 118 km north from the town and 10 km south from the Saariselkä skiing resort. €135- (summer season), €313- (winter season).
- 7 Camping Nilimella, Kelukoskentie 5, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Camping area within walking distance from downtown Sodankylä. Apartments, cottages, caravan pitches, and a grass area for tents. WC, showers, sauna, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, two kitchens, and a laundry. Piitsi Pub. Free Wi-Fi. Open from June 1st until September 31th.
- 8 Sompio SNR camping site. The only camping site in Finland which is inside a strict nature reserve and accessible by car. On the northern shore of Lokka reservoir. Bird watching tower, lean-to shelter with firewood, and a dry toilet. No other services. As this is a strict nature reserve the right to access does not apply. Camping is allowed for a maximum of three nights at a time.
If you want Sami related souvenirs, make sure they have the Sámi duodji patch to guarantee their authenticity.
- 1 The northernmost Lidl in the World, Lapintie 1. M-F 08:00-21:00, Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 11:00-19:00. True, a Lidl as such is nothing special, but this here is the northernmost on Earth as a banner just outside the store proudly proclaims.
- 2 K-Supermarket Pohjantähti, Haastajantie 1. Su-F 07:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-21:00. Large K-group grocery store. Alko store in the same building (see below).
- 3 K-Market Sodankylä, Ivalontie 2, ☏ . Su-F 07:00-22:00, Sa 10:00-22:00. K-group grocery store.
- 4 S-market Sodankylä, Jäämerentie 8, ☏ . M-Sa 07:00-22:00, Su 09:00-22:00. S-group grocery store. Mail service. ATM. Gasoline.
- 5 Alko Sodankylä, Haastajantie 1. M-Th, Sa 09:00-18:00, F 09:00-21:00, Su closed. Alcoholic beverages. The only Alko store within 100 kilometers.
- 6 K-extra Sieppi, Säpikästie 3, ☏ . M–F 8:30–18:00, Sat 9:00–14:00, Sun 11:00–14:00. The heart of the village is a "retro-style" grocery store. Gasoline.
|Routes through Sodankylä|
|END ←||N S||→ Kuusamo → Turku|
|Ivalo ← Tankavaara ←||N S||→ Rovaniemi → Helsinki|