We arrived in Oulu after a short plane from Helsinki, the route can be made both by car and public transport but we did not have time to lose, the ministry of tourism had organized everything so that we could maximize our days in the area and we weren’t going to refuse the comfort.
As soon as we arrived we were welcomed by Jane with a smile on her face. He kept smiling while telling us wonders about that little piece of land that has always been his. Jane works for the tourism department in the region and recently decided to return to his hometown after having lived in many parts of the world. Having children she realized that there was no better education than the one he was going to receive in his village, near nature. He packed the bags with his wife and returned without hesitation.
Oulu is a small town, they have the audacity to call it “the capital of Northern Scandinavia” but it is more to brag about something. In any case, there is no need, capital or not, it is sn stunning destination with much to offer, surprisingly even in winter, especially for all those who want to live a unique experience in the snow.
Before visiting Finland we review the temperature, you know, January and winter may not be the best combination for a stop in this place in the world. Just the day we checked they were a-25 degrees. We wanted to die, what the heck were we going to do at that freezing place? not even with all the clothes in the world we could cover up that… We worried a lot, but luckily the weather was with us and when we got to the city we were just 5 degrees, very pleasant temperature.
Very close to Oulu is the region of Syöte and received us with surprises of all kinds, we never imagine enjoying so much of such a cold weather, but the landscape is just amazing, We have never seen so much white in life. Even Jesper, for whom snow is more natural, was stunned.
What to do in Oulu and Syöte?
Yeah, we know it, it looks like at -10 degrees there’s nothing more to do than to lock you up to wait for the winter to pass. However, nothing further from reality, the high amount of snow allows performing all kinds of activities, from sports such as sky or snowboarding to less common activities such as floating in frozen lakes, snow safaris with huskies, touring the mountain with motorcycles or saunas and ice-cream baths.
One of the activities we were most worried about was the sledge in Huskies. We were worried about the state of the animals, we were concerned not to be doing the right thing or to have bad thoughts after having been part of something horrible. Really, we didn’t know what to expect from it, animal responsive tourism is something we really care about.
The reality was quite different to our fears, from the moment we arrived Johanna spoke to us first of the importance of caring for the dogs, to respect their speeds and their safety, that reassured me completely.
The sleigh with Huskies was one of the best experiences of the trip, truly, that hairy beasts are amazing, the landscape is from another world and the experience itself is something unique. A different number of paths can be made, from 30 minutes to more than 3 days in which you live and take care of animals as if it were ancient times where these were used as a common way of transport.
Prices Start from 75 € per person, you can find more information on their website.
Hunting Northern lights
With no doubt the expectation that generates the possible vision of the northern lights is HUGE, it would be the first time in our lives… However, due to the little time we enjoyed the area and the bad weather (bad for the lights, good for us), it was impossible.
We don’t regret it, we did a motorcycle ride of several miles which is very entertaining, in the middle of the night and with no lighting, we got lost in the mountain to enjoy the sky (the little we could see) and the snow at its purest.
It is possible to hire a two-hour excursion with a snow motorcycle (two people per motorcycle) from 100 € per person at the ISO-Syöte Hotel. It’s not cheap, no doubt, but if you can give yourself a treat why not enjoy it? The price includes insurance, suit for snow (no, your skying clothes are not enough) gasoline and guide.
Visit a Reindeer Farm
The Reindeer is an animal of vital importance in the region, its flesh, its fur and its strength as a transportation method have been present in the area since memorial times. Today little remains of the last but there are still reindeer farms all around, some, like the one we had the pleasure to visit, have a history of more than 10 generations.
Within the farm, it is possible to know a little more about these lovely animals and their presence in the Finnish culture while heating yourself on the fire in a typical wooden cabin. While there are things that would avoid and would not recommend (such as the unnecessary sleigh ride) everything depends on your standards about animals and your respect for them. Unlike the Huskies, the reindeer didn’t seem to enjoy or want to drag any of our fat asses around.
However, as it is a place with so much history, it is certainly a perfect point for venturing into the deepest part of the area, having a coffee and enjoying traditional desserts cooked by the family that has been managing the place for more than 400 years.
It is impossible to reach this farm in public transport but is easier with your own driver. Yes, it is possible to sleep in one of the lovely cottages next to the farm painted with lovely crispy redwood and warming low ceilings.
For more information do not hesitate to visit Poropanuma or contact Lauri Panuma (the son of the current owner) who speaks a little English and will be happy to help you.
Get lost in the national park
If what you like is nature and travel in another season (or you are a winter animal) then do not hesitate to lose yourself throughout the territory of the national park. You can find trails from 1 km to 30 km for all kinds of public. There are also some routes to make in winter, you can see more information on the next map or you can download the information pdf from the area.
It is possible to camp in the park in the areas intended for it.
Enjoy the weekly bingo at the bar
If what you want is a little nightlife, don’t worry, that’s not going to be missing in Oulu either. Every Sunday the Leskinen bar performs its weekly bingo (for many years). Don’t worry if you don’t know the numbers in Suomi, the showman is a New York boy who ended up in the city for love and who spends his Sunday nights warming up the place. Playing is free, prizes are not wonderful but the fun is assured.
Once you’re done, don’t throw away your ballot, you’re expecting a paper plane race right out of the bar.
Prepare for alcohol prices in Finland.
How to get to Oulu?
It is possible to reach Oulu by land or air. The city is connected by land from most cities in the country and is located about 600 km from the capital Helsinki.
By Train: from Helsinki, it takes 6 hours, the price per journey per person is 56 €. You can take a look at the prices and schedules in the following link.
By Bus: If your budget is smaller you can also choose the bus option, a little longer (9 to 11 hours ride) and slightly cheaper, about 20 € the price per trip if booking with some time in advance.
How to go from Oulu to ISO-syöte
Once in the city, you can make bus connections with ISO-Syöte. There are two ways to cover the journey, with a private bus for groups that can be hired at OTP travel (attention this is a pretty expensive option if you do not travel in groups of at least 10 people) or by semi-public bus directly from the airport with the Syöte Express operated by Nevakivi. This bus only makes the journey from Thursday to Sunday. You can see the schedules here.
Where to sleep in Oulu?
It is possible to find accommodation of all kinds, from campings to 5 Star hotels. Thanks to our itinerary we were able to try different options and leave you here the most attractive.
A campsite with bungalows and all kinds of services, highly recommended in summer, with limitations in winter (obvious do not go camping in winter or die cold). With all kinds of services where you can find bungalows for a maximum of 5 people from 90 € the night, a very accessible price if you travel in a group.
For those who travel in summer can do so in a caravan: the high season prices are 26 € per connection to electricity plus 5 € per person per night. Children under the age of 5 do not pay. As in a tent: high season prices are 18 € per vehicle, plus 5 € per person per night.
These prices fall considerably in winter.
Lapland Hotel Oulu
For those in search of greater comfort and have bigger pockets the hotel chain Lapland is the best solution. A new building with exquisite customer service and one of the best breakfasts we have tried on our journey.
The price per night is over 100 € but if you can afford the service it makes up for it. It also has a restaurant with typical dishes.
Where to sleep in syöte?
Once here the options are reduced and the prices increase but surely it is worth at least to rest one night in this snowy paradise.
While we did not sleep in this hotel, they were the ones who organized the excursion with the snow bikes and was also in their restaurant where, by invitation, we enjoyed a delicious dinner menu.
It is possible to sleep in rooms with amazing views (waiting for the northern lights to come) or in some more modest. It also has bungalows for groups up to 8 people and has spa and pool services. It’s an ideal place for a good break.
Prices per night start for 80 € in room, houses for 4 people start for 90 € and the largest, up to 8 places for 165 € the night.
There is a direct bus from the airport to the hotel.
Another hotel option in the second peak of the region is the hotel Pikku-Syöte, more modest than the previous but with similar services, prices start from 70 € per room.
The bus also comes straight to your door.
Another type of nearby cabins and scattered throughout the territory
In this case, it is necessary to have your own transport, but it is also a very comfortable option for groups who want to have a little more intimacy and independence.
We had the pleasure to rest in one of these cabins at the base of the mountain a few minutes from the hotel mentioned above and it is truly a unique experience. From the back door the only thing you see is snow, that, in conjunction with the private sauna you can enjoy when you prefer it is a unique combination.
All cabins include kitchen and all kinds of services for long stays, also offers weekly discount prices. You can see the entire range of prices and accommodations here