As far north as you’ve ever been
Land in Ivalo and you’ll probably be as far north as you’ve ever been in your life. In the northernmost area of Finnish Lapland, Ivalo and its environs are already several hundred kilometres inside of the Arctic Circle and a full 1000km north of the capital, Helsinki, and temperatures can drop to -30C.
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Lappish handicrafts made from antlers, reindeer hide, and gnarled pieces of wood, silver and gold make gorgeous gifts to take home. Lahjatalo Näkkäläjärvi (Yhdystie 1) sells souvenirs in Ivalo’s town centre, and you’ll find a few more at hotels and the airport. Lake Design House Idoli (Ukonjärvi), 10km north of Ivalo on the shores of Lake Inarijärvi, stocks drop-dead gorgeous designer Finnish goods. If you can make it 39km northwest to Inari, you’ll also be rewarded with some lovely artisans workshops, including Sámi Duodji Ry (Inarintie 51) and Samekki (Inarintie 38) for more Sámi folk crafts.
Food & Drink
Like hotels, the best restaurants in Ivalo are scattered around the city rather than in it. Restaurant Siberia (Saariselantie 3) is worth the 30km trip to Saariselka for its classy wine selection alone. Restaurant Huippu (Kaunispää Fell), 26km south of Ivalo, is a superb ski resort eatery with panoramic views and tempting northern specialties from reindeer to salmon. Not far from there is charming, family-run Laanilan Kievari (Rovaniementie 3410), which serves traditional Lappish cuisine and make their own root beer. To eat in Ivalo itself, try the inexpensive lunch buffet at Kultahippu (Petsamontie 1).
This indigenous peoples’ film festival is held in Saariselka, south of Ivalo. Some of the films are shown at the fairytale snow-built and candle-lit Arctic Theatre in a forest by the Sámi Museum.
Champion Reindeer Race
How fast can a reindeer go without taking off (with or without a sleigh full of presents)? The village of Inari, northwest of Ivalo, is the place to find out as it hosts the national reindeer races over two days in late March. There is also a lassoing contest and lots of stalls with handicrafts to browse.
Lake Inarijärvi Trolling Competition
No, this is not a contest in internet bullying or a mythical troll-catching tournament. It’s actually a traditional fishing competition held in the lake beside Inari village.
The indigenous peoples of Lapland have a strong musical tradition, which is celebrated in this festival. It takes place in Inari at the Sajos Sámi Cultural Centre.
What better setting to capture the beauty of nature than Lapland? This event welcomes experts in nature photography and film from far and wide to Inari village with the purpose on passing on their tips and wisdom.
Ivalo itself isn’t much of a tourist town. Most visitors zip straight from the airport into the wilds of Lapland. A 35km bus transfer can take you to the winter ‘snow village’ at Hotel Kakslauttanen (Saariselkä), with real snow or glass igloos as well as log cabins to choose between. Alternatively, just 4km from Ivalo is the rustic husky and horse farm Kamisak (Rovaniementie 915), which has a variety of snug rooms, apartments and cottages up for grabs. If however you just need good simple digs in the heart of Ivalo, riverside Kultahippu (Petsamontie 1) is a cosy choice.