Savukoski is a municipality in Finnish Lapland. Having the area 6,496.50 km², more than twice the size of Luxembourg, but only 1,000 inhabitants, it is the least densely populated municipality in Finland. The area is generally very remote and travelling around without a car is at least challenging. For a person who wants to calm down in nature this is one of the number one destinations. Most visitors come here for fishing, hunting or hiking.
According to Finnish tradition Joulupukki (Father Christmas) lives in the Korvatunturi fell, which is located in northern Savukoski.
The oldest archaeological findings are dated to 300 BC. Christianity was introduced during the 17th century to the nomadic Sami people living here. The first Finnish settlers arrived in the 1690s and the Sámi were gradually integrated or pushed away; the municipality is not part of the current "Sámi native region", which starts in northern Sodankylä. Little is written about the history of the region before the 20th century.
In the beginning of the 20th century the forest industry had become the most important business in Finland and there were thousands of square kilometres of untouched forest in Savukoski. Chief forester Hugo Richard Sandberg bought two modified steam locomotives from the United States, brought them to Tulppio village and started massive loggings. The locomotives greatly improved the log transportation but the loggings soon ceased by World War I and never continued. These locomotives are now preserved; one is still in Tulppio and another one in Lapland Forestry Museum in Rovaniemi.
During the World War II the area suffered sabotage by Soviet partisan troops. Especially, the partisans committed massacres in Kuosku September 1941 and September 1942, and in Seitajärvi July 1944. Later, during the Lapland War, the retrieving German troops burned virtually all the villages into ashes.
Present day Savukoski is all about wilderness. The nature consists of endless forests, vast mires and lonely treeless fells. One third of the municipality's total area belongs to some kind of nature conservation area. The vast 1 Urho Kekkonen National Park is one of the most visited national parks in Finland, but most enter the park from other directions. The 2 Kemihaara Wilderness Area is an important mire and old-growth forests reserve without marked trails. Maltio Strict Nature Reserve and Värriö Strict Nature Reserve are closed to the public, to enter these you need a written permission from the Finnish Forest Administration and such permission is given for scientific reasons only. The University of Helsinki runs a biological research station inside the Värriö Reserve.
Even though significance of tourism has grown, Savukoski is a fairly rural community. Reindeer herding and collecting wild berries are important sources of income to many locals. There is a huge phosphate reserve in Sokli and debate whether or not a phosphate quarry should be opened has continued for decades. It would bring employment and money but possible adverse effects towards nature and reindeer herding are a serious issue.
The climate is quite continental. In winter temperatures as low as −30°C are fairly common. July is the warmest month.
The municipality is unilingually Finnish speaking. English is widely understood, as elsewhere in Finland.
There are a few daily coach connections from Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi to the main village, some leaving just before the train arrives. They usually go via Sodankylä or Salla, though a shortcut from Pelkosenniemi is possible. Mostly you've got to change buses once or twice, sometimes with substantial waiting time. A coach ticket from Rovaniemi costs €30–50/adult (3½–7 hr), from Kemijärvi €25–40 (2–4½ hr). Use Matkahuolto travel search for timetables – but you may have to try around to find the connections; Kemijärvi train station may give zero hits although the bus passes by.
Most of the "coaches" are minibuses, sometimes doubling as taxis – don't miss them because of looking for a coach. They are comfortable but have less space. There are usually only a few passengers in these, so things tend to work out smoothly.
From Kemijärvi, the coaches typically either start from or pass Kemijärvi ABC (a fuel station with restaurant, there are big grocery stores nearby), stopping on the "Asematie" stop 0.5 km to the south from the station, or start from the railway station. In weekdays there is also a "call taxi" by coach prices (see Korvatunturi taksi below): take the coach from the night train to Pelkosenniemi and transfer to the call taxi from there to Savukoski. It has to be ordered before 18:00 the preceding evening.
The "bus station" in the main village is a SEO fuel station with a Matkahuolto agent, outside the village. The buses (all?) pass through the village proper, where you probably want to get off, usually stopping briefly regardless.
If you want to get to some minor village, choose either the route via Salla, the one via Pelkosenniemi and Sodankylä, or the one directly from Pelkosenniemi, depending on where you want to go, or transfer in the main village.
There is no local public transportation in Savukoski. Taxi is available, but due to long distances it is a fairly expensive option. The coaches from Sodankylä, Pelkosenniemi and Salla can be used. A scheduled share taxi operates between the Savukoski village and Pelkosenniemi village in the southern neighbour municipality a few times a week, primarily serving the needs of locals. The share taxi must be pre-booked.
If you consider hichhiking, please do understand that the traffic is extremely low.
Phone numbers of local taxi drivers can be found on the municilpality's tourism pages. Two are of special interest:
- Korvatunturin Taksi Oy, ☏ . Serves a line towards Pelkosenniemi (weekdays 07:00 in the morning, back connecting with the coach from the Kemijärvi train; F and Su from Pelkosenniemi also in the evening). Book at latest 18:00 the preceding day. Coach prices for a few special lines.
- Kemihaaran taksi, ☏ . Serves the route towards Tulppio and Kemihaara. Ask for offers.
- The midnight sun or the polar night. The northern lights are common in the dark months.
- 1 Savukoski church, Samperintie 6 B, ☏ . A wooden church built in 1956. Open during the services, otherwise by request.
- 2 Salpalinja fortifications, Sallantie (1.5 km from the centre). Salpalinja was an over 1200 km long fortification against the Soviet Army in World War II. A short part of the fortifications is visible in the main village. The circular trail 1.2 km consist mostly of duckboards.
- 3 Kuosku partisan victims memorial and 4 Seitajärvi partisan victims memorial
- 5 Tarkkala wilderness estate, Tarkkalantie (25 km from the centre), ☏ , . An old farm so deep in the forest it survived the Lapland War. The Riikonen family lived in the estate until the 1980s. Today the nearest house is four kilometres away. The buildings were completely renovated in 2006. Visiting the yard is free but if you wish to go inside the buildings you need to contact the local entrepreneur.
- 6 Sandberg's locomotive (Samperin veturi) (Tulppio, 80 km north from the main village). One of two steam locomotives modified for forest environment and used in Samperin savotta loggings in the early 1910s. Part of the 'railway' is also preserved in the forest some 8 km to the north. Free.
Most visitors are interested in hiking, hunting or fishing. Bears and trouts are the most desired catch. Some just enjoy the silence. Unfortunately the Finnish Forest Administration closed their information hut in Savukoski in August 2019. Now Visitor Centre Naava, located at Pyhä, offers information about the area. As most of the destinations are very remote, you need to be able to take care of yourselves also if something happens, having adequate orienteering and hiking skills, and being reasonably fit.
- 1 Korvatunturi fell (135 km north from the centre, trailhead by Kemihaara), ☏ . The home of Father Christmas (according to the Finns), Korvatunturi fell, is located 18 km from the nearest trail. Local entrepreneurs arrange guided snowmobile tours in the winter. The fell is located at the Finland-Russia border, inside the border zone; there are views to Russia as well. If you wish to hike the area yourself you need to apply the border zone permission from the Finnish Border Guard in advance. There is a minor peak, Korvatunturinmurusta, at the end of the trail, outside the border zone, from where one can get a glimpse of the fell without permits. Don't be disappointed if you don't see Santa Claus or any of his staff – when he is in the mood of meeting tourists he usually does so in Rovaniemi or in markets, here he just might show up. The chances are better to see some of his reindeer.
- Korvatunturin Retket, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Trips to Korvatunturi fell and to Tarkkala wilderness estate. Hires also a hut at the Kivitunturi fell.
- 2 Kivitunturi nature trail, Kivitunturintie (13 km from the main village). An easy 5.8 km long circular trail and a more demanding 9 km long circular trail. Very diverse nature from a rocky fell top to lush ravines. The trail starts by a gravel road some 13 km from the Savukoski main village and 10 km from the main road. No public transportation.
- 3 Nuortti canyon and hiking trail (93 km north from the centre, trailhead at Haukijärvenoja). The river Nuortti flows to the Arctic Sea and is famous for its trouts and graylings. The parking area and trailhead is by the river, so you don't have to hike to get to its shore. There is a 40 km long circular summer trail in and around the impressive canyon where the river flows. The bridge in the far end, however, collapsed because of the snow load in 2020. Until a new one is built, probably in the summer of 2021, you have to stay on one side. At high waters the river cannot be forded at the trailhead, so keep to the side where you will return or check forecasted flow, not to find the ford too dangerous on your way back. If you did ford and waters are too high on return you could go upstream, ford the smaller Kärekeoja or use the bridge 1 km upstream, continue to the Kemihaara road 6–8 km away, depending on route, and call a taxi to fetch you.
There are several open wilderness huts and lean-to shelters for staying overnight. The trail is in the Urho Kekkonen National Park, so the rules and regulations of the national park apply. There is no public transportation to the trail and the last part of the road is not maintained in winter. For fishing you need to buy a permit.
- 4 Tuntsa Wilderness Area (drive past Martti to Tulppio, where you can take the UKK trail southwards: 18 km to the wilderness area; or you could continue 11 km towards Ainijärvi and find your own paths from there: 5 km). Designated wilderness area (212 km²) with beautiful and easy terrain. The distance from Tulppio to the Tuntsa road in Salla through the wilderness area along the UKK trail is 36 km. There are two wilderness huts along the trail, one of them with sauna.
- 5 UKK hiking trail (UKK-vaellusreitti), Haukijärvenoja. The UKK hiking trail starts from North Karelia and is 950 km long in total (some legs destroyed by logging, though). The trail is named after Finland's president Urho Kaleva Kekkonen who actually hiked this route in 1957. The northern end of the trail is at Haukijärvenoja 12 km north from the Tulppio village. The northernmost trail section from the Naruska village (in Salla) is 119 km long. The trail is marked and has campfire sites, but shelters and huts are sparse and there are few other services. The Nuortti hiking trail (see above) starts from the very same parking lot where the UKK trail officially ends.
The Savukoski region is famous for the dried reindeer meat. Also various wild berry products like juices and jams are popular. The Dry Meat Fair (Kuivalihamarkkinat) held every Easter Saturday are a major event.
- 1 Sale Savukoski, Uittotie 1 (in the centre), ✉ email@example.com. M–Sa 08:00–20:00, Su 12:00–18:00. Groceries. Alko pick-up point.
- 2 Korvatunturin Puoti, Soklintie 1B (in the centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F 10:00–16:00. Handicrafts. Groceries. Reindeer meat products.
- 3 K-kauppa Hietala, Sodankyläntie 299 (in Tanhua, midway between Sodankylä and Savukoski), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–F 09:00–17:00, Sa 10:00–14:00, Su closed. Groceries and mail service. Gasoline when the store is open. The grocery selection differs significantly from that in most southern stores, with few options for fresh vegetables and fruit (and large selections of some other stuff). You might want to check beforehand.
Eat and drink
- 1 Restaurant Samperin Savotta, Samperintie 34 (in the centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. À la carte. Lunch in weekdays. Karaoke in weekend evenings.
- 2 Lyytin Pubi, Kauppakuja 1 (in the centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–Th 10:00–21:00, F–Sa 10:00–00:00, Su 12:00–18:00. Bar and lunch restaurant, kiosk and mail service.
In the main village
- 1 Hotel Samperin Savotta, Samperintie 34, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A hotel with rooms and cottages. Restaurant. Various activities by request. Bikes, canoes etc. for rent. rooms from €71, cottages from €90.
- 2 Muorin tupa, Koskikatu 3, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rooms and cottages. Caravans and camping. Café in the summer. rooms from €71, caravan €16, tent €14.
- 3 Joosula B&B, Yhtiöntie 6, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. B&B, caravan site with electricity and kitchen. Sauna. individual person €50/night.
- 4 B&B Savukoski Herrala, Sauherrantie 5A, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. B&B. Pre-booking is mandatory! single room €60, double €70.
- 5 Kelloniemi holiday village, Kenttämaantie 4B (in Kuosku), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. B&B. Fishing. Other activities by request.
- 6 Tanhuan erämajat, Pessijoentie 2 (in Tanhua), ☏ . Cottages by the river Luiro. Caravans. Taxi service. cottage from €50.
- 7 Kairijoki wilderness centre (Kairijoen eräkeskus), Kairijoentie 365, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Open June–September. Cottages in the wilderness. Caravan site. Restaurant. cottages form €22/person, caravan €15.
- 8 Tulppion Majat, Tulppiontie 36 (in Tulppio, by the UKK hiking trail), ☏ . Cottages and camping in the wilderness. Restaurant. Sauna. Activities by request. Fishing permits. cottages from €42, caravan €20, tent €12.
Mobile phones probably work well in the villages and along the main roads, while there is no guarantee elsewhere.
|Routes through Savukoski|
|Pelkosenniemi ←||W S||→ Kelloselkä|
|Sodankylä ← Tanhua ←||N S||→ END|