If you want to explore the “Arctic” then Finnish Lapland is the region you’ll probably end up looking at. Oulu is the gateway to the Lapland region and is an hour flight North of the capital of Finland, Helsinki. There are so many adventures to be had in Oulu and just near it, that you’ll have a hard time deciding what to do. Here are some options and a little guide to Oulu, including where to stay in Oulu.
5 Adventures in Oulu
1. Searching for the Northen Lights on a Snow Mobile
We went searching, knowing that chances were pretty much zero to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). They are possible to be seen in September through March, and it’s almost a guarantee you will see them in the far North of Lapland, but where we were in Oulu it’s more up to chance if the sky is clear. This post explains better where to see the Northern Lights in Europe.
Regardless, snowmobiling was a BLAST. If you like jet-skiing, this is like 100x better and you’re going to love it. The paths were quite small and you don’t want to hit a tree so you have to be careful.
I didn’t really ever think about how a snowmobile worked, but it is actually on two skis so you have to think about how those could bounce around if you get off the path! It does take some muscle to drive and it isn’t as easy as it looks. We went about 35 km per hour which felt SO fast. I wouldn’t have gone any faster for fear of wrecking.
We did this through the safari options at Hotel Iso Syote.
2. Dog Sledding with Siberian Huskies
I loved sledding with the huskies. It was by far my favorite thing to do in Oulu and Lappish Finland. I can’t recommend this enough and the huskies were SO excited to pull the sleds. It was a perfect day.
- See my whole article about how you can dog sled in Finland, too.
3. Visiting a Reindeer Farm & Riding in the Sleigh
Reindeer are so cute! It’s kind of strange because you will eat a lot of reindeer while you’re in Finland and also pet them… but, it’s a don’t miss. I mean it feels like Christmas which I think must release endorphins like exercise (lol jk) so it’s pretty much the best thing ever.
- See my whole article about how you can reindeer sled, too!
4. Snowboarding and Skiing in Syöte
I grew up snowboarding and skiing and lived just 15 minutes from slopes so was there all winter long with my friends. There were a couple injuries trying to do the same things my brother and his friends did, and it was just the coolest thing to get to snowboard all the time! I feel so bad for people who didn’t have a winter growing up! playing in the snow is the best.
The town of Syöte has two “fells”, or hills, that you can ski at. Iso-Syöte or Pikku-Syöte which are right near each other. They also happen to be beautiful regions with amazing lodging at them. We stayed at Iso-Syöte lodge.
The Iso-Syöte lodge has a variety of rooms like cabins for families, fancy rooms like the photo below that have glass windows looking out to the view of the Northern Lights, and rooms that looks like normal hotel rooms. The rooms were wonderful and designed so well. Super cozy! Also, breakfast and dinner in the lodge is really tasty and served buffet style.
5. Ice Fish at Nallikari Beach
Come to this beach in the summer and you can build sand castles and swim, but come in the winter and it’s frozen literally to Sweden.
It’s so frozen that you can drive your car or truck across it and there are set speed limits; they actually open it as a road for fisherman.
You can ice fish, ice skate, snowshoe, and many other things out by the lake. We walked out to explore then had a little bonfire to warm up. You can imagine that with the wind near the sea, it’s VERY cold. We changed into snow jumpsuits to stay warm. It was totally necessary. This was our first night in Oulu and we spent time sledding and playing in the snow!
More Adventures in Oulu and Tips for Oulu, Finland
There are even more adventures in Oulu to be had if you have the time. One thing I really wanted to so was ice-climb but we didn’t have time. I also wanted to visit those glass igloo hotels you always see on Pinterest, but they are about a four-hour drive North and we only had a couple days in Oulu. It’s a good reason to come back.
If you want to see these gorgeous snow covered trees, then Syöte fell is the area you have to check out! I was amazed by how pretty it was. When you get up close to the trees, there is actually like 8 inches of snow on each branch, frozen.
In Oulu town, the actual center of town, where you’ll fly in, there is a new hotel called Lapland Hotel.
The hotel was wonderful and the food there was super tasty! The breakfast was HUGE. Finnish people seem really into big breakfasts and small lunches, so keep that in mind if you join a tour and eat up when you wake up.
The hotel is walking distance to the center of town and near all the best restaurants. Really, the whole town of Oulu is walkable and they actually have a car garage underground. They are trying to make it a carless city.
Take time to eat at Sokeri-Jussin Kievari restaurant in Oulu town.
Of course, we had reindeer. I ate so much reindeer in Finland! It was all so tasty. My favorite things to eat here were the cloudberry jam (and they served a cloudberry ice cream here!) and the rye bread with butter than was served at almost every meal we had.
We also tried their local booze. I always think it’s hilarious when locals of every country introduce their local booze (moonshine of sorts) and tell you how good it is for the health! It was the same story in Turkey or Greece! haha, they basically always force you to take a shot. This was was smokey tasting and I cannot for the life of me remember the name. If you know, leave a comment.
This photo below shows you what Oulu city center looks like. It’s a small town and this little fat man is a statue in the center of town. He’s a policeman and kind of their logo.
The town is pretty empty I have to say! I didn’t see many people walking around… like 10!
It gets dark at 3 pm so it’s hard to get out, I guess. I went to bed early but the others stayed out at a bar and playing bingo. Random!
Overall, Oulu is a cute little town and the gateway to get to to the Finnish Lapland where all your adventures are going to start! Luckily, the adventures I’ve shared here are just outside Oulu and just require a 1-2 hour drive to see them all. If you want to see the Northern Lights, and you don’t want to chance it, you’ll want to move about four hours further North.
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