Ylitornio is a municipality and a town of the same name by the Tornio river in western Finnish Lapland. About one third of the municipality is north of the Arctic Circle. The main attractions are salmon fishing, nature, and the famous Aavasaksa hill.
There has been permanent settlements in this area for at least a thousand years. The mighty river Tornio (Finnish: Tornionjoki, Swedish: Torne älv) or Väylä, "The Lane", as locals call it, has brought people together for centuries. The river has acted as a source of food – the wild salmon population is plentiful even today – and as a fairway from village to village. The first road was built no earlier than in the 1830s! Before the Hamina treaty (1809) separated Finland from Sweden, modern day Ylitornio, Pello and Övertorneå formed a single parish. Many families have relatives across the border and Finnish has traditionally been the language also in those villages that now belong to Sweden.
During the Lapland War the villages on the Tornio river bank from Pekanpää to Vuopionranta survived the scorced earth policy of the German troops. Now they form one of the nationally significant built cultural environments.
The 242 meters high and very prominent 2 Aavasaksa hill has got an interesting position in the history of science. French mathematician and astronomer Pierre de Maupertuis made an expedition to Lapland 1736–1737 to determine the exact shape of the Earth. He used Aavasaksa as one of the measure points. Italian naturalist and explorer Giuseppe Acerbi traveled to Lapland 1798–1799 and climbed to the top of Aavasaksa as well. Finally, German-Russian astronomer Friedrich von Struve initiated measurements for the Struve Geodetic Arc in 1831. Aavasaksa was one of the measurement points during this massive project. Today, the remaining Stuve Arc points, including Aavasaksa, form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aavasaksa is one of the oldest real tourist destinations in Finland. Even the Emperor Alexander II of Russia intended to visit Aavasaksa in 1876, but those were agitated times and finally the trip had to be cancelled. Today the carefully decorated hunting cabin, Keisarinmaja, acts as a café. The view from Aavasaksa over the surrounding river valley is one of the official national landscapes of Finland.
Ylitornio has about 4,000 permanent residents. Most people reside by the river Tornio. Another major settlement is a group of villages by the large lakes in northeast. This area is commonly referred as Järvikylät, "the Lake Villages". The population trend has been declining for decades but so far the municipality has successfully retained town level services.
Ylitornio is unilingually Finnish and English is widely understood. As elsewhere in the Tornio river valley the local Finnish dialect is highly distinctive. These terrains are in the heart of the river valley and have a notably strong local identity culture.
Highway E8 (here national road 21) runs through the administrative centre and through the Aavasaksa village. Distance to the city of Tornio in the south is 57 km (1 hour drive). Regional road 930 connects Aavasaksa village to Muurola in Rovaniemi (83 km, 1 hr). Regional road 932 connects Aavasaksa to the Sinettä village in Rovaniemi (106 km, 1½ hr). Road 932 passes by the large lakes in the northeast.
The 1 Aavasaksa border crossing is located between Matarenki, the main village of Övertorneå in Swedish Norrbotten, and Aavasaksa village some 5 km north from the Ylitornio administrative center. Since 2016 the Finnish Customs have operated on site only by patrol. Possible customs declarations should be done online.
There are several daily coach connections to Ylitornio from Tornio in the south, a few from Rovaniemi in the east (via road 932), and one from Oulu via Kemi. The trip takes 1 hr from Tornio, 1½ hr from Kemi and 2 hr from Rovaniemi. A single ticket costs €14, €20 or €24, respectively. See Matkahuolto for details.
The overnight train from Helsinki to Kolari via Tampere and Oulu stops at 2 Ylitornio railway platform. The train arrives in Ylitornio at 09:05. There is no station building but a simple platform. A single ticket from Helsinki costs about €80. Off season you may have to get off in Kemi and continue by coach.
There is no local public transportation in Ylitornio. The long distance coaches stop in villages on their route but the services are scarce.
- Taxi Ylitornio: ☏
- Taxi Aavasaksa: ☏
By far the main sight here is the Aavasaksa hill. It became a target of "mass tourism" already in the 19th century.
- 1 Ylitornio church, Alkkulanraitti 8. A church built during the Winter War 1939-1940. The builders were mostly women as all the men were fighting at war. The bell tower built 1819 and the altar piece are remnants from the former church that appeared to be too cold in the winter and was deconstructed.
- 2 Aavasaksan Kruununpuisto park (Aavasaksan kruununpuisto), Aavasaksanvaarantie 281. On top of the Aavasaksa hill there are the hunting cabin Keisarinmaja prepared for the Emperor of Russia, a very decorative old kiosk, a viewing tower, and a viewing platform. There is also a memorial of the Maupertuis' expedition and a statue of female writer Annikki Kariniemi (1913-1984). Aavasaksa is included in the Struve Geodetic Arc UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are plays acted in the theater pavilion during the summer. The magnificent views to the Tornio river valley are included to the list of Finnish national landscapes. Smaller forest paths in the park aren't very suitable for disabled. The Pavilion has service daily in June–August and ast weekends in September. Guidance available by request.
- 3 School Museum (Koulumuseo), Kopanmäentie 22, ☏ . open by request. The whole history of education at Ylitornio until today, including stories of all the 35 former village schools. Not-so-surprisingly the building itself is a former elementary school.
- 4 Väinö Kataja museum (Iikan tupa ja Katajan pirtti), Heinärannatie, ☏ . summer W 15:00-18:00. Museum dedicated to writer Väinö Kataja (1867-1914), who wrote vivid novels about life in the region. He often enjoyed pastimes in this house chatting with his friend Iikka. Open at the summertime or by request.
- 5 Kohkola and Niuro homesteads, Niurontie 10. Two traditional homesteads representing over 200-year-old Tornio river valley architecture. Kohkola estate was already deconstructed when the Ylitornio Museum and Homestead Association bought it and rebuilt it to the yard of Niuro. Niuro homestead stands on its original location but it was badly damaged by bombings during World War II. There is a café at summertime.
- 6 Kristineström old sawmill, Muurolantie 411. The first sawmill in Lapland was established here by the river Tengeliö in 1762 and it operated until 1901. The former manager's manor built in late 18th century is the only building left. The manor served as private school 1896-1903. Today it serves as banquet hall. Sawmill memorial in the yard.
- 7 Old villages by the Tornio river (by the road E8 south from the center). During the Lapland War, the retrieving German troops applied scorched earth policy and burned most villages in the Finnish Lapland into ashes. For some reason villages on the riverbank from Pekanpää to Armassaari were left untouched and therefore they form a rare glimpse how pre-war agricultural villages in southern Lapland looked like. The site is included to the list of nationally significant built cultural environments. There are views to the river if you turn to Rantatie/Poikkilahdentie road and take a small detour here!
Many visit Ylitornio for fishing as river Tornio has retained original Baltic Sea salmon population. For fishing you need to by a permit; ask your accommodation if they have ones. In addition to the local attractions there is a golf course and a major skiing resort nearby, on the Swedish side of the border.
- 1 Aavasaksa Ski, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Small downhill skiing resort on the east slope of Aavasaksa hill. One ski lift and three pistes. Equipment rental. Café. Open a bit irregularly January-April.
- 2 Portimojärvi bird watching tower (about 10 km east from Aavasaksa). Shallow lake Portimojärvi is ranked as one of the best bird watching sites in whole Lapland. Some of the species nesting here are on the very northern edge of their range, and the lake is also important resting place for waterfowl during the migration. The water level of the lake is regulated with a weir and surroundings are agricultural lands. The bird watching tower is on the northern shore right next to the road 932 (Raanujärventie). free.
- 3 Meltosjärvi bird watching tower. Bird watching tower by very shallow and reedy lake Iso Meltosjärvi. There is another tower about 1.3 km east by similar lake Pitkäperä near the village's church. Iso Meltosjärvi and Pitkäperä are considered exceptionally valuable bird nesting lakes and form a nature conservation area. There are open mires surrounding these lakes. The towers are easily accessible from road 932 (Raanujärventie). The Meltosjärvi village itself stand on an esker formed by ice age. free.
- 4 Ahvenjärvi bird watching tower. Easily accessible bird watching tower right by the road 930. Lake Ahvenjärvi is surrounded by forest. Nesting species include such wilderness species as black-throated loon and whooper swan. free.
- 5 Sompanen nature trail, Liinankijärventie. A 5-km-long nature trail to the top of Sompanen hill. Some 8000 years ago Sompanen and nearby Lehtilaki and Raakonvaara hills were lonely islands in the Ancylus Lake. On the trail there are rocky ancient shorelines, imposing old-growth forest, and magnifient views over the surrounding lowlands. At the peak there is a peculiar cap forest. Lean-to shelter, fireplace and dry toilet near the far end. Drinking water available from a natural spring. There are signs to the trail from road 932 (Raanujärventie). From this trail there is entrance to a 23 km long marked hiking trail between lakes Iso Vietonen and Miekojärvi. free.
- 6 Pekanpää nature trail, Torniontie 1570. Short nature trail in Pekanpää village. The trail starts from a small parking lot by the road E8 next to a sports ground, and takes you to the top of Rousunvaara hill through an old-growth forest nature conservation area. Views to the river valley and a lean-to shelter on top of the hill. Those flat, meadowed islands in the Tornio river form one of the largest flood-meadow environments in Finland and are actually listed as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar-site). You can get a glimpse to the islands also by turning to Poikkilahdentie instead of driving road E8. free.
- 1 K-supermarket Ylitornio, Alkkulanraitti 79, ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 11:00-21:00. Grocery store. Lunch.
- 2 S-market Ylitornio, Niurontie 7, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 11:00-21:00. Grocery store, gasoline, mail service.
- 3 Piimätien Puoti, Kouluntie 3 (in Lohijärvi village), ☏ . M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa and summer Su 10:00-14:00, winter Su closed. One of those few remaining village grocery stores. Everything from groceries to gasoline.
- 4 Alko Ylitornio, Alkkulanraitti 79. M-Th, Sa 09:00-18:00, F 09:00-21:00, Su closed. Alcoholic beverages
- 1 Café Scanburger, Alkkulanraitti 79, ☏ . winter: M-Sa 10:00-18:00, Su 12:00-18:00; summer: M-Sa 10:00-20:00, Su 12:00-18:00; takeaway F Sa 22:00-03:30. Fast food.
- 2 Restaurant Kammari, Alkkulanraitti 67, ☏ . M-Th 07:00-19:00, F 07:00-18:00, Sa Su in high season. Lunch weekdays 11:00-15:00, à la carte at the evenings and weekends. Breakfast daily 07:00/08:00-10:00. Pizza €7-10, grill €13.50-17.
- 3 Rolls Express, Kilpisjärventie 30, ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-19:00, Su closed. Fast food at the gasoline station.
- 4 Restaurant Väylä, Alkkulanraitti 123, ☏ . M-Th 08:00-20:00, F Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 12:00-20:00. New restaurant opened in November 2019.
- 5 Turkin Chili, Alkkulanraitti 54, ☏ . M-F 10:30-20:00, Sa Su 12:00-20:00. Pizza & Kebab.
- 6 Lunch café Festipalvelu, Alkkulanraitti 61, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-15:30, Sa Su closed. Lunch café and bakery.
- 7 Gulf Aavasaksa, Kilpisjärventie 644, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. winter: M-F 07:00-20:00, Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 10:00-20:00; summer: M-F 07:00-21:00, Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 10:00-21:00. Café and luch restaurant at gasoline station. Souvenirs.
- 8 Aavasaksan grilli, Kilpisjärventie 630, ☏ . M-Th 10:30-21:00, F 10:30-03:00, Sa 12:00-03:00, Su 14:00-20:00. Fast food.
- 1 Hotel Kievari Ylitornio, Alkkulanraitti 67, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00-21:00, check-out: 12:00. Accommodation in 2 person rooms. Restaurant, pub and nightclub. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast and sauna are included to the price. 1 person €82, 2 persons €109, extra bed €30.
- 2 Holiday Center Karemajat, Karemajojentie 219, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00-21:00, check-out: 08:00-12:00. Hotel near the top of Ainiovaara hill. Rooms for 2-4 persons, 4 person cabins. Panorama restaurant. Room prices include breakfast and sauna. Various outdoor activities. Disk golf park. rooms €80-140, extra bed €30; cottages €50-100/night.
- 3 Niuro Cottages, Niurontie 10, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Small cottage village in the Ylitornio centre, by the river Tornio. No staff present. All apartments have cooking option. Details for check-in given with reservation. cottage €55, linen +€5.
- 4 Aavaloma Cabins, Aavasaksanvaarantie 189, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 5 large year-round cabins and 7 small summer cabins. During the summer also caravan area and tent site. Summer canteen.
- 5 Midnight Sun Cottages Aavasaksa (Aurinkomajat), Aavasaksanvaarantie 180, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation in rooms or cabins. Also place for caravans. Café-restaurant. Free Wi-Fi. At winter there are downhill skiing pistes right next to the cottages. rooms from €40, cabins from €45; caravan €25 (summer)/€30 (winter).
- 6 Millimajat, Kilpisjärventie 581, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Double rooms, cottage apartments for 2-4 persons, caravan area and a site for tents. room €60,cottage €50, caravan €25, tent €15.
- 7 Vuennonkoski Camping, Vuennonkoski 30, ☏ . Camping area and few cottages by the river Tornio at Vuennonkoski rapids.
- 8 Holiday Center Loma-Vietonen, Kuusirannantie 59 (65 km from the centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Holiday village by the lake Iso-Vietonen. Double rooms and cabins for 4-6 persons. Dining must be pre-ordered. Both winter and summer activities.
- 9 Napapiirin Järvilomat Cottages, Luukonniementie 147, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Cottages for 2-6 persons by the lake Iso-Vietonen. Free Wi-Fi. Various activities for winter and summer. Catering available if needed. Grocery store 7 km away.
- 10 Lohijärven Eräkeskus, Kouluntie 34, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation in double rooms by the lake in the Lohijärvi village. Wi-Fi. Restaurant. Grocery store nearby.
- 11 SF-Caravan Länsi-Pohja, Mellajärvi 106 (55 km from the center), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Large caravan area by the lake in the woods. Kitchen, common livingroom, small library and public computer. Public and private saunas. Kiosk when staff is present. Mobile internet might not work. Nearest grocery store 20 km, restaurant 35 km and pharmacy 55 km. caravan €39 (summer)/€60 (winter).
- 12 Villa Säikkärä, Säikkäränniemi 156 (75 km from the main village), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Wilderness hotel with 2-person rooms. All inclusive catering. Various outdoor activities. Sauna.
- 13 Ainola Hunting Estate, Ainolantie 370, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A hotel in a large wilderness estate built in early 1900s. For example Finnish president Urho Kekkonen and several generals have visited Ainola during their hunting trips. Several saunas. Own shooting range and a one kilometer long gravel air strip.
- Svanstein Ski – nearby skiing resort in Sweden
|Routes through Ylitornio|
|Kilpisjärvi ← Pello ←||N S||→ Tornio → Oulu|