Ruka-Kuusamo in summer is an absolutely stunning destination. Summer in Finland is a magical time of the year anywhere, but the rugged wilderness of the North embraced by the midnight sun is something unique to experience. So even though the region is mostly known as a winter destination, it is one of my top picks for a summer trip as well. All you need to know in this post!
I travelled with my dear friend Rania from Northbound Journeys. Many of her beautiful photos are in the post. This post and trip is a collaboration with Ruka-Kuusamo. All opinions are my own. Thank you!
Northern Finland and Finnish Lapland is famous for snowy forests, Northern Lights and Winter adventures. But looking beyond what the region is known for – summertime – you will discover an absolutely magical time of the year. From the never-setting Midnight Sun in the Polar Day, to pristine, untouched nature and a calm and a variety of cultural experiences – Ruka-Kuusamo should be on the top of your list for a slow wilderness summer visit.
1. It is easy to reach & to get around: from Helsinki, the flight to Kuusamo takes about 1h15 minutes, and you are in a different world. Ruka village is about 30 minutes by bus from there. For a winter holiday, it is absolutely not necessary to have a car around here, however for the summer season I would definitely recommend it. There are a few less services available and you just are more flexible in exploring all different sides of the area.
2. You can have it all in one spot: for a unique Finnish summer experience, Ruka-Kuusamo is one of a kind. If you want a wild adventurous trip you can go river rafting, zip-lining or go on long demanding hikes, or take it slow, embrace local culture and food, get to know Nordic wellness with sauna yoga and swimming in the lakes, go paddle boarding and enjoy an easy hike with incredible views.
3. It is a unique place to visit: Lapland in summer is still a hidden secret – and most people would choose to travel here in the winter time. But: mild temperatures, incredible light and a variety of things to do, while staying at exclusive accommodations – make for a trip like no other.
By plane: Finnair has regular flights to Kuusamo, the frequency depends on the season. They are often fully booked as the planes are fairly small, so it is recommended to book well in advance! Alternatively, you can fly to Rovaniemi and continue by car or bus from there. The flight to Kuusamo from Helsinki takes about 1,5 hours.
By car: a drive to Ruka-Kuusamo from within Finland is a beautiful scenic drive. The streets and motorways are maintained well in every season. You can read up on my Roadtrip Guide to Finland here.
Getting around: in winter, it is absolutely possible to travel without a car. Bus connections between airport and accommodations are well organised, bus schedules between skiing areas and destinations as well, and the majority of activities have any necessary transfers included in their offer. If you stay within Ruka village especially, you can be entirely independent without a car. In summer however, it is very recommended to book a rental car. You can cover distances easily and independently, and driving here in summer is easy and safe (but beware of the reindeer traffic). There are many options to pick up your car straight from the airport.
Hiking in Lapland is great in any season, and in the summer there are many options for everyone. From the famous multi-day hike that is the Karhunkierros, to easy 2km hikes – all of them will show off the wilderness and calm nature both. Bring comfortable shoes and wear long clothes. Depending on the season, mosquito spray and a headnet are sensible options to bring.
Pieni Karhunkierros Trail – a shorter route of the famous long one – by the rapids and the river
Valtavaara hill – we hiked here in the winter – it is a favourite for a reason. Quite demanding and a day trip. Amazing, far views.
Konttainen hill – a shorter option of just about 2km, great if you’re a bit shorter on time. The views are incredible – especially at sunset
Pyhävaara hill – again, stunning views of the cliffs and rocks
I’ve been collecting a vintage ceramic dishware line from Pentik for a few years now, and I had a visit to their Culture Centre in Posio on my list forever! I’m so happy we managed to visit it this time. Their pieces are a staple of Finnish design, you can find rare pieces in the vintage shop, make a bargain in their factory shop, enjoy a tasty piece of pie at the café, the coffee cup museum is also in the same building, and of course the old Pentik home gives you a glimpse of the history, design and production process. The area is huge, so that even if you’re not a fangirl like me, you can easily spend a couple of hours here, so it is an especially fantastic option for a rainy day. The green cup and plate from the photo can only be purchased here! It is the perfect souvenir.
Oh reindeer and their fluffy noses! I can’t stress enough how much I love these creatures. They are not only super cute, but also an important part of the heritage of Finnish Lapland. In summer, they roam free and can look a bit rugged as their fur changes after the seasons. We got to meet two little orphan reindeer who lost their mothers, and need extra help and care from the farm. I can say that now that I bottle-fed a baby reindeer, I am done, that’s all I needed it life. It’s so heart-warming and cute. You can learn all about reindeer on a morning out at Kujala Reindeer Farm – highly recommended! During our visit it was raining so the reindeer were wet and not even as fluffy – but the noses were still fluffy enough.
Sauna is an integral part of any trip in Finland of course! The saunas surrounding nature and swimming in the clear lakes and rivers of Lapland is something just unique. You don’t need to venture out to any specific place because any accommodation you’ll stay at will have a sauna for your use. Schedule some extra time for a sauna experience, enjoy a lovely drink with it and really relax. If you want to try something special, give sauna yoga a go! I really enjoyed it, especially the swim after though!
Read all about Finnish sauna and my recommendations here!
*Our beautiful sauna towels were gifted from Lapuan Kankurit. Find them here.
Slow and clean food are buzzwords that are just part of life in Lapland. The people put a huge emphasis on local products and seasonal food, it’s really quite unique. Both at restaurants as well as at home, you will have the opportunity to buy from local shops, producers and also forage yourself – straight from the wilderness. Here are some tips:
Kuusamon Juusto: local cheese that should be on every list! Especially the smoked one! Also other cheeses like the local leipäjuusto (a squeaky cheese a bit like halloumi, but not salty) is great too!
Kuusamon Kala: one of our highlights was the juniper-cured salmon from Kuusamon kala, all just amazing freshwater fish products can be found in shops around Kuusamo. Their tinned items can also be shipped.
Reindeer pizza: Pizzeria Ruka was already one of my favourite places during our winter visit, and it was great to come back. Their Kuusamo pizza selection has delicious local toppings like cured or smoked reindeer, cloudberries, squeaky cheese and chanterelle mushrooms.
Smoke your own fish: inspired by our host at Jussi’s Chalet and the incredible salmon from Kuusamon kala, we decided to smoke our own salmon with salt and juniper straight from the backyard of the cabin. Incredible.
Berries and more berries: the land of berries that is Finland has the most special berry as well: the cloudberry. Its taste is tarte and delicious, it blooms only shortly in the last week of July and has to be consumed quickly. It’s popular as jam with cheese, but I love them most with just some whipped cream. You also find blue- and lingonberries of course, like anywhere in Finland. During our trip we came across many cloudberry flowers only, as it was a bit too early. Can’t wait to come back and pick them!
Glass igloos in Finland have become really popular over the years, and while you mainly see them in the dark of winter with the Northern Lights shining bright above them, they are also an absolutely lovely option to spend the night in summer. It doesn’t get dark and the magical light surrounding you all night is incredibly calming and peaceful. Bring a book and enjoy the views. Sleeping masks are available if you don’t bring your own. Magical Pond also offers a lovely sauna with a private terrace tucked away in the forest, but we loved spending a bright night down by the fire of the pond.
Average price in the summer season (2022): from 225€
More infos on the Magical Pond website
Jussi’s Chalets are two large log cabins in the middle of the wilderness, close to the famous Karhunkierros trail by the just as well-known Myllykoski rapids. So especially if you love to be out in nature and close to the hikes, I highly recommend staying here! From the stunningly beautiful log sauna you can not only hop in the lake, but also watch reindeer from inside, you can relax in the hot tub after a long day out, enjoy a bbq or smoking your own fish, and go pick wild blue- and cloudberries just outside the door. Just incredible. The houses are really spacious with a fully equipped kitchen, great for groups or families.
Looking for more Finnish summer inspiration?