Ranua is a municipality and a town of the same name in southern Finnish Lapland. The Ranua Wildlife Park is the second northernmost zoo in the world, and having over 100,000 annual visitors it is by far the biggest attraction in Ranua. Many travel packages from overseas to the Santa Claus attractions in Rovaniemi also include a day trip to the zoo.
Over half of the Ranua area consist of mires and bogs shattered around, the rest being temperate lowland forest. The landscape is fairly flat and the highest peak reaches just 277 meters above sea level. Waters from the over 30 km long lake Simojärvi flow into Baltic Sea through river Simojoki, which is notable as it is one of those very few rivers still having their original Baltic Sea salmon population breeding.
Ranua had been inhabited by semi-nomadic forest Sámi until the 1600s when the first Finnish settlers arrived. There has been some kind of settlements by the lake Simojärvi for ages, but until the early 1900s the area has been very sparsely populated, and even nowadays virtually all the people reside by the river banks and lakesides. Many islands in Simojärvi appears to have been used as a graveyards. People have traditionally got their income from rural activities – first from hunting, and later also from reindeer husbandry and farming. Today tourism is the main business.
During the Lapland War (against the German former allies) Ranua suffered heavy battles, especially the one at Ylimaa. Most of the population was evacuated to Ostrobothnia during the war.
Today Ranua has got 3,900 permanent residents of which about half reside in the parish village. The population trend is slightly declining even though the birth rate here is very high related to the rest of Lapland. The young move to study either in Rovaniemi or Oulu. The municipality is heavily bound with Rovaniemi and nearly one fifth of workers have their jobs there. The unemployment rate is relatively high though. Ranua is a popular "summer cottage municipality" and the summer residents almost double the population.
The main attraction is Ranua Wildlife Park which opened in 1983. It is the second northernmost zoo in the world and specializes on (sub)arctic species. The municipality is also famous for the cloudberry fair in early August.
Ranua has one of the heaviest snowfalls in Finland and masses of frozen snow may cause problems such as fallen trees and blackouts. Mean temperatures vary between −12 °C (10 °F) in January and +15 °C (59 °F) in July. Extreme temperatures ever measured are −44 °C (−47 °F) in February 1953 and +32 °C (90 °F) in July 2010.
Ranua is situated 80 km (1 hour) south of Rovaniemi and 160 km (2 hours) north-east of Oulu, and is thus a possible day or half day trip destination from these cities. It is very likely that you will see reindeer crossing or walking next to the highway so you need to be vigilant not to crash into one, especially in the winter when the roads are slippery.
- 1 Ranua Zoo (Ranuan eläinpuisto), Rovaniementie 29, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. June 1st–August 31th: daily 09:00–19:00, September 1st–May 31th: daily 10:00–16:00. The wildlife park offers the possibility to observe arctic animals throughout the year. There are 50 different species, including the only polar bears you can find in Finland: Venus and her cub Sisu. The route through the park is 2.8 km long, accessible also with wheelchair or baby buggy. Other activities such as husky safari's, snowmobile and kayaking are offered by Wildlife Safaris. There is a domestic animal park and a micro car track in summer. €15/adult, €13.50/child or student, €51/family.
- 2 Ranua church, Kirkkotie 10. A small wooden church built in 1914.
- 3 Japan House (Japanitalo), Olangontie 20 (43 km from the centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu–Su 11:00–17:00, M closed. Japan themed culture centre by the lake Simojärvi. Exhibitions. Not accessible with public transportation.
- 4 Ranua vicarage and village museum, Pappilantie 11 (in the centre), ☏ . Late June to early August 12:00–18:00. Local history museum in the old vicarage built in 1916. Free entry.
- 5 Saukkojärvi school and local history museum, Toljantie 196 (25 km from the centre), ☏ . Only in July: Tu–Th 12:00–16:00. A local history museum themed on studying in a village school at the 1930's. The building itself is an old village school built in 1898 and working until 1959. €3.
- 6 Ylimaa battle monument, Rovaniementie and Palomaantie crossroads (32 km north from the centre). Ylimaa battle fought between Finnish Army and German troops during the Lapland War, October 7–10 1944. It was one of the first real hostilities between Finns and Germans during the World War 2. Casualties were about 100 killed Germans and 295 dead or injured Finns but the Germans lost their positions. There is a trail through the battle grounds in the forest. Free.
The Arctic nature offers you excellent opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting and bird watching.
- 1 Simojärvi-Soppana (55 km to Korvajokisuu: first towards Posio, then smaller roads), ☏ (Pilke), (Karhuntassu), , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Outdoor destinations, shared with Posio, for boating (small boats, otherwise you need a dinghy), for kayaking and for easy and varied hikes, for a day or several. The area is protected by the shore conservation (keeping this part of the shores cottage-free), old-growth forest conservation and Natura 2000 programmes. Many small rivers, islands and sandy beaches, diverse birdlife. Fishing possible (get the permits): vendace, white fish, grayling, lake trout and salmon. There are shelters, campfire sites and other infrastructure. Customer service by Customer Service Karhuntassu in Kuusamo, Science Centre Pilke in Rovaniemi and a general Metsähallitus customer service.
Ranua Cloudberry Fair (Ranuan hillamarkkinat), held at the first weekend of August, is a major event.
- 1 Restaurant Wild Arctic, Rovaniementie 29, ✉ email@example.com. daily 10:00-20:00. Lunch and dinner buffet at the zoo.
- 2 Bar & Restaurant Ilveslinna, Keskustie 10, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Scanburger Keskusgrilli, Torikatu 3, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 11:00-21:00, F 11:00-02:00, Sa 13:00-02:00, Su 13:00-21:00. Fast food.
- 4 Arctic Guesthouse & Igloos Restaurant, Pappilantie 1, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM - 9PM. Traditional and even domestic Finnish dishes. Restaurant open every day. 8€.
- 1 Hotel Ilveslinna, Keskustie 10 (in the Ranua parish village), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 2 Arctic Guesthouse & Igloos, Pappilantie 1, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Ten "aurorahut" glass igloos and a traditional guesthouse next to Lake Ranua. €55.