During a family break in snowy January we stayed in Pyhä (pronounced ‘poo-ha’ and meaning ‘Holy Hill’ in Finnish) in eastern Lapland, the north of Finland. Right in the middle of pure, pristine nature the town is well known for its ski resort and snowy adventures.
Pyhä, or Pyhätunturi, is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle and within the Pyhä-Luosto National Park which consists of a 35 km long fell range with deep gorges, surrounded by ancient forests. The perfect place for families, winter sports enthusiasts and anyone who loves to be surrounded by nature.
Getting there is easy enough. You can fly, or lots of people take the overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, home of Santa Claus. We took the train from Helsinki to Kemijarvi, Finland’s most northern city. The Kemijärvi railway station has a daily connection to Pyhä but we hired a car and drove there. Kemijärvi is 50km away.
Booking the overnight train is not too difficult, just call Finnish Railways (VR) customer care (internationally the number is +358 9 2319 2902). The easiest way I found to do it was via Localphone.com. VR matkalla were also very helpful, answering my questions via Facebook and being extremely helpful with their Customer Service number in Finland.
Whilst the town is small, it has an excellent selection of pubs and restaurants, as well as activity companies and a supermarket. Everything you need is right here and within walking distance. There are some nice bars where you can warm up after a day of hitting the slopes. Whilst Pyhä is not a place for wild après ski parties it has a number of cosy bars to enjoy a drink or two. One of them is the Carlsberg house, a cool bar with a laid back atmosphere.
There is a number of cafés and restaurants where guests can enjoy both the delicacies of local Lappish style dining as well as international cuisine. Try regional specialities made from local fish, game and reindeer. Glacier á la Carte is one of the best restaurants, advanced booking is recommended.
The Pyhä complex is located right on the slopes in thick woodland and dominated by the all encompassing Hotel Pyhätunturi. The Hotel Pyhätunturi offers four different restaurants which together can serve up to 1,000 guests per night in high season and offer most of the resort’s catering in the one location. Pyhä is a very family friendly town. Most of the restaurants are family friendly with kids’ menus and facilities. The mountain restaurant Huttu-Uula has a special nursery room for children as well as the kids’ menu.
This is a place where you can learn about the surrounding nature, folklore and the Suomi way of life. Lapland is a nature lover’s paradise. Pyhä is in the oldest national park in Finland, the Pyhä-Luosto National Park.
With well-marked hiking and skiing routes, you can spend days exploring the wonders of the Arctic nature, whether by hiking, biking, snowshoeing or skiing – alone, with a guided group, or with a private guide. The varied trails are suitable for daytrips and for multiple day hikes. Ideal for hikers of all levels as well as families with children. In winter there are 150 km of well-tended cross-country ski trails in the area, prepared for both classic and skating styles.
The National Park was founded in 2005 when the oldest National Park in Finland, the Pyhätunturi National Park and the protected areas in Luosto were combined. Pyhä-Luosto is the southernmost big fell area in Finland and it’s made of one of the oldest rocks in the world, having been formed 2000 million years ago. A one of a kind destination in the National Park is the Amethyst Mine in Lampivaara, which is the only amethyst mine still in operation in Europe.
During the summer season, you can try activities such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, bird watching, berry picking, biking, hiking and more. Finland has a law called everyman’s law, which states that you can go by foot in nature anywhere.
Winter time is an opportunity for multiple fun activities; reindeer, husky and snowmobile safaris. Ride on horses or take a trip on a fat bike. Or go cross country skiing, snow surfing, snowshoeing or ice climbing. Heading out for a trek into the backcountry on snowshoes is a beautiful way to explore the countryside, or try a northern lights snowmobiles safari.
I am a keen wild swimmer and have always wanted to try an ice swim. I was lucky enough to experience this by visiting the nearby town of Luosto and dipping at Karu Lodge. With a temperature of -3 in the water and surrounded by a snowy wonderland this was an unforgettable experience.
The ski resort of Pyhä offers a range of winter activities. For skiing and snowboarding, there are 11.4 km of slopes available. Ski trails are for all abilities and the resort is known for its excellent ski slopes. There are 14 slopes and 9 lifts.
The resort is excellent for families, even the nursery ski area, right in front of the hotel, is known as the ‘family slope’. The slopes are safe and suitable for even the smallest members of the family to start skiing. The ski school accepts children from age three and there is daycare for younger children. Children’s facilities include mini snowmobiles from age 4 and a full 800m snowmobile training track for children aged 11 and over.
We had a fun day on the new PyhäExpress detachable 6-seater chairlift, Feel The Peak. After the trip up we took a quick look around as the wind chill was so cold we couldn’t stay still for long. We warmed ourselves up with delicious waffles in the restaurant cloudberry jam and nutella for the kids and smoked reindeer for us. Back down in the chairlift then we did a bit of sledging before home for dinner.
The weather and light is extremely varied in Lapland, between winter and summer. Depending on what season you visit, you may experience the contrasting phenomena of the northern lights or the midnight sun.
In the peak winter months, daylight is limited to a few hours usually between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00pm. These short daylight hours create ideal conditions to view the northern lights, or aurora borealis, as it is dark a lot of the time. If you’re lucky you’ll see the incredible northern lights during your visit. These amazing displays of light are best seen between November and March.
We took a wander one night with the family and saw the beautiful super bright Wolf Moon. We were also lucky to see the northern lights. They were too faint to see properly with the naked eye but we caught them with long exposure on our cameras.
Pyhä, and the neighboring fell Luosto, are the first tourist areas to offer an Aurora Alert Realtime ambulance alarm system free of charge. The Aurora Alert Realtime system uses its own local sensor to detect northern lights at Pyhä. When you turn on the service, your device will sound an audible alarm when the northern lights are visible in the sky. Be sure to allow system alarms and keep sounds on your device.
In contrast, from mid-May to late July the sun does not completely dip below the horizon, a polar phenomenon known as the midnight sun.
If you are looking for a family skiing or snowy destination then Pyhä is well worth a visit You can enjoy many family-friendly activities such as reindeer safaris, and combine with other interests such as Father Christmas trips. Take the train from Helsinki and enjoy it even more!
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