Övertorneå: Secrets by the Arctic Circle
By Malin Norman
At the heart of Torne Valley, Övertorneå is an exciting getaway with unforgettable nature, warm hospitality and genuine Arctic experiences. This spring, it has a few secrets up its sleeve, including a new mountain lodge, a hopeful neon message lighting up the dark winter months, and some beautiful silver jewellery.
Located by the Torne River right on the Arctic Circle, with nature around the corner and Finland as its neighbour, Övertorneå is at the heart of Torne Valley. Here, you can discover the joys of a steamy sauna, explore the endless forest filled with berries to stock up your freezer, and marvel at the northern lights, the midnight sun or the sound of the first snow under your boots. And there are lots more things to do, besides.
One particular highlight is Konstens Väg (‘the Road of Arts’), an initiative by Övertorneå municipality that showcases art outdoors. The route follows an old railway, heading south from Övertorneå and through small villages next to the river. “You can enjoy wonderful artworks by renowned artists, as you are discovering the area on skis or by snowmobile,” says Marcus Stenberg, marketing manager at Destination Övertorneå.
Artist Carola Grahn, originally from Jokkmokk but based in Malmö, has created new addition Kämpa, a LED sign placed by the road in the village Ruskola. The sign is a cinematic neon greeting to passers-by, lighting up the dark winter months. The handwritten word is a statement, a call for anyone who is about to give up, to find strength to continue that bit longer. It reflects the mentality of the people living here, who keep on going without complaining, and without the spotlight and the resources available in big cities, Stenberg explains. “It’s not intended as ‘you poor thing’, but rather as a celebration of something inside; that you can make things happen. Like a reminder, filling you with hope.”
New lodge on the mountainside
Luppioberget (the Luppio mountain) offers breathtaking views of the Torne Valley. Lapland View Lodge is an exciting new accommodation option here, developed by Johan and Sara Väisänen of Explore the North, who also run Pinetree Lodge in Särkimukka, Aurora Mountain Lodge in Lannavaara and Arctic River Lodge in Tärendö.
In December 2021, the 40 free-standing cabins with stunning, panoramic views, 200 metres above the river and the forest, premiered. “Lapland View Lodge has been positioned with great consideration to the surrounding landscape,” says Stenberg. “During the Ice Age, the mountain’s dramatic, steep cliffs were shaped by the enormous pressure of the ice. The cabins have been placed so as not to disturb the environment; instead, they have become part of the mountain. It’s an unusual place, which is also reflected in the choice of materials and colours.”
The lodge includes a restaurant for 150 guests and a service building for activities. The previous restaurant has been transformed into reception and lounge, with a boutique selling local designs and crafts. Lapland View Lodge also has around 50 huskies for dog sledding, and there are plenty of other activities in the area.
Jewellery by a praised silversmith
Last but not least, Stenberg recommends checking out jewellery designer Erica Huuva, who has been praised internationally but is perhaps not so well-known locally. In 2019, she was part of Arctic Design of Sweden’s exhibition at Gateway in New York, the innovation hub of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce. “Erica Huuva’s designs are worn by many people here, but not everyone knows that the jewellery is actually made locally and you can even visit her workshop to see how it’s made,” says Stenberg.
Huuva’s high-end designs are inspired by the Sami culture and made by hand, mostly with recycled silver, and carry Sami names. Silver is important in the nomadic Sami culture, where people invested in things with cultural or functional importance that they could carry with them, such as silver buckles and silver brooches for their clothes. Silver also has spiritual meanings, reveals Stenberg. “‘Komsekulan’ is said to protect children against evil spirits, although Huuva does it with a modern twist. It’s a way of showing the culture and the place through something beautiful, something that people can wear and cherish.”
The mountain lodge, the neon sign and the silversmith have something in common, argues Stenberg. “They have the courage to lift what is typical for the area. Previously, we have looked at what other destinations, such as the bigger cities, are doing. Now, we are starting to see what is beautiful, exotic and unusual about our everyday life here.”
Though located in the far north, Övertorneå is easily accessible. From Luleå Airport in Sweden, frequented by Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian, it is just over one and a half hour’s drive away. From the Finnish side, you can fly to Rovaniemi or Kemi and then drive around the same distance to reach the destination. Web: www.destinationovertornea.com Instagram: @destinationovertornea
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