Iso-Syöte is a can’t miss winter destination. It gets more snow than anywhere else in Finland making it a winter paradise for adventurers.
Where is Iso-Syöte?
Iso-Syöte is located 140km NW of Oulu and approximately 150 km from the Arctic Circle.
Why You’ll Want to Visit Iso-Syöte
It doesn’t get more picturesque than doing winter activities in Iso-Syöte National Park. It gets more snow than anywhere else in Finland making it a winter paradise for adventure seekers.
It’s also the southernmost fell (mountainous zone) and one of the most picturesque in the whole country.
Whether you’re looking for snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice fishing, visiting a reindeer farm or the elusive Northern Lights, you’ll find it all here.
Iso-Syöte is also fairly easy to reach since it’s not far from Oulu.
Related Reading: 5 Fun Facts About Finland.
Winter Adventures in Iso-Syöte
I revved the engine of my snowmobile, in anticipation of cruising through the forest in Iso-Syöte at top speed. I would be just like the Iso-Syöte locals who used snowmobiles for hunting, ice fishing and just for plain fun – racing through the forest.
(And yes Finnish locals also use regular automobiles as well). It was my first time snowmobiling, but being a bit of an adventure junkie, I was up for the challenge. I like to get my hear racing, and my blood pumping – although sitting on this snowmobile, it did seem rather large.
“Don’t fight it,” Remco our snowmobile guide instructed. “The machine will try to follow the tracks so just let it do its thing.” Ummm, OK, but what if “letting it do its own thing,” meant running into one of the trees lining both sides of the snowmobiling track? “When you turn, lean into it,” came the seemingly simple solution.
I followed the track near the back of the pack while the others left me in the dust. My “top speed” through the trees was 33km/hour (21miles/hr). Slow I know, but I still found it exhilarating. My heart was pounding but I LOVED it!
Eventually, we came to an empty field. This was our chance to play. We all looked at Remco blankly, unsure of what he meant. It turns out playing on a snowmobile means going REALLY fast and making sharp turns. Remco demonstrated for us:
The others soon followed suit. Not to be outdone, I gave it a shot as well. Later that day, Julia a German gal on our snowmobiling adventure mentioned how much fun she had. Being braver than I, she got up to over 60km/hour (37 miles/hr).
I refrained from mentioning that my “top speed” was 42km hour (26 miles/hr). Not impressive I know, but I really I felt much more comfortable at 30km/hour (18 miles/hr).
Perhaps my “top speed” snowmobiling would be considered “slow travel” by the Iso-Syöte locals, but it was enough to get my heart pounding and give me an adrenalin rush. And best of all? I didn’t crash into a tree!
I arranged my snowmobiling tour through Hotel Iso-Syöte, which can arrange all the activities listed here. Guests must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid drivers’ license in order to drive a snowmobile. Guests under the age of 18 years old can ride as a passenger
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Dog Sledding in Iso-Syöte
“WOOF, RUF, RUF,” was our excited, but noisy greeting from our Iso-Syöte hosts. Each of whom seemed to be saying “Pick me, pick me, I’m fast, I’ve got lots of energy!”
Once the teams of six huskies were selected for each sled, our host’s conversation remained electric. However, it seemed to change to “Let’s go, come on why are we just standing around. We’ve got work to do.” But once we started there was…silence.
Dog sledding is a surprisingly quiet and peaceful activity. As we glided through the snow-covered trees along a well-used path, I felt myself relaxing and reflecting on life.
Despite the fact I was there with no other goal than to enjoy myself, everything seemed much clearer when dog sledding.
Surprisingly I made a make a big decision that had been weighing on my mind. Letting go of online teaching. It was one of my last ties to my previous career life in Canada. By doing so, I could focus solely on this travel blog.
At that moment I knew it was the right thing to do. I had no idea that dog sledding could lead to life-changing decisions. However, I would like to thank our team of six huskies for their help.
In addition to helping you figure out your own problems, the huskies main job is to pull a sled with two people along a track. Their enthusiasm for their job is obvious. But they want you to do your share as well.
On the slight uphills, if you weren’t pushing, they would look back at you as if to say “slacker”. You’de be guilted into helping push the sled uphill. 12km later, back where we started, they looked grateful for a rest.
But the canines at Syötteen Eräpalvelut have a pretty sweet job. It even comes with “employment benefits” that would leave most people envious. Part of the “benefits package” includes two daily massages by Johanna, one of the owners and a certified massage therapist.
She also massages people. And is a delight to be around. Her enthusiasm and love for her huskies is contagious. There’s also a gradual “retirement plan.” When the older dogs who are still wanting to work are taken out for the shorter trips, or paired with stronger dogs. That way they don’t have to work as hard, but still feel useful.
Once a dog is too old to work they live out their days in the “retirement home” side by side along with the rest of the community. I couldn’t help but think we should be adapting this design to our own lives.
I left dog sledding feeling both relaxed and energized. he weight of a big decision now lifted – no downward dog pose yoga moves required.
Related Reading: 16 Things to Do in a Norway Winter.
Visit a Reindeer Farm
I visited Juha’s Reindeer Farm. It was one of the most unique and random tours I’ve ever been on. Juha is quite the character. He’s an eccentric and fascinating guide/teacher/reindeer farmer/musician. He played all roles on the day I toured his reindeer farm.
Not surprisingly reindeer is on the menu at a reindeer farm, although Juha does have his favourites which will not end up on a dinner plate. And yes a couple of them are named Rudolf.
What did surprise me were all the reindeer hearts hanging from the rafters like wind chimes. They’re set out to dry for 6 weeks.
Juha says reindeer hearts taste like jerky. I’ll have to take his word for it since I wasn’t about to try it.
Related Reading: 18 Cool Reindeer Facts.
When preparing your own reindeer hearts note these tips from Juha: add sugar to keep the meat from becoming too tough. And add pepper so that the meat keeps its’ colour. And the flies away!
After our tour, he kindly invited us into his house for coffee and cake. And then serenaded us! It was definitely a unique visit.
Tours are available by appointment only. Arrangements must be made in advance.
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Go Ice-Fishing and Snowshoeing
I loved snowshoeing on the Baltic Sea to go ice-fishing but the ice-fishing itself I was less than enthralled with. I don’t like fish and the idea of just sitting still in cold winter temperatures isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
And while I may not be a pro fisherman/woman, I know how to look like one. Pros have their back to the sun. That way their hole is in the shade. Apparently fish like the shade, according to our guide Vepe. I took the completely opposite approach, enjoying the feel of the warm sunshine on my face.
But while it wasn’t my top choice of activities, it is a very popular winter activity. And it’s not as cold as you may think. You can make a fire. On the ice, it lasts approximately 30 minutes and of course, you can brew a hot drink over the fire.
Related Reading: The Best Wolverine and Bear Watching in Finland.
Getting to Iso-Syöte:
Iso-Syöte is located 140km NW of Oulu. Oulu is easily reached by multiple flights from Helsinki daily for reasonable prices.
Tourists can travel between Oulu and Iso-Syöte by car. However, visitors should be aware of winter road conditions. Alternatively, bus service is also available.
Related Reading: Adventure Cycling to the Most Northern Point in Finland.
Where to Stay in Iso-Syöte:
I stayed at Hotel Iso-Syöte. You get a choice of hotel accommodations, Finnish style traditional log house cottages or modern cottages. They can also conveniently arrange a variety of outdoor activities including dog sledding, snowmobiling and skiing. Plus much more. I really enjoyed my stay there.