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It was raining in Helsinki after Christmas and I decided to go on a search for winter. I found last minute flight and hotel deals and less than 12 hours later I was on the plane from Helsinki to Kuusamo. Already before noon I was enjoying the perfect winter wonderland experience.
My top 5 tips to experiencing Ruka in 72 hours:
- Easy access
- Plenty of options for accomodation and restaurants
- Lovely cafes – maybe see some reindeer and huskys too!
- Cross-country skiing
- Ice swimming & sauna
1. Easy access
Why I chose Ruka for this mini break? Traveling from Helsinki to Ruka is super easy: the flight from Helsinki to Kuusamo airport takes just over an hour.
The airport bus is conveniently waiting to take you to the Ruka ski resort (10€ fee one way). Ruka village is really small, so everything – restaurants, shops, slopes, skiing tracks – is nicely within walking distance and you can practically ski almost directly from the hotel door.
Ruka is too south to be considered Lapland but you can get pretty much the same experiences there as well. The benefit in the winter time is that there’s a couple of hours daylight whereas in the very north the sun may not appear at all.
2. Plenty of options for accommodation and restaurants
There’s plenty of options for accommodation. If travelling with friends or family I’d recommend a cabin for the flexibility it offers. You can check out possible options for example from Ruka.fi. However, this time I chose to stay in a hotel including breakfast to make my 3 night stay as convenient as possible. I stayed at Rukahovi which has been renovated after my visit. Even at the time of my visit the rooms weren’t too bad (after one freezing night I figured out to turn on the radiator), the room was even equipped with a convenient drying cabinet. The only thing I missed was a kettle and a fridge would have been nice too. The breakfast at the hotel was superb, one of my all time favorites! The hotel restaurant Kaltiokivi was an easy choice after a long and tiring day of skiing but there are a number of options close by too. If you’re into sushi I would recommend Mura Sushi.
3. Cross-country skiing
Ruka is maybe more famous about the down hill skiing but it’s one of the top destinations in Finland for cross country skiing too. The tracks close to the village are maybe not ideal for very beginners (but you can drive or take the SkiBus to the easier tracks a bit further away from the village such as “Vuosselin reitti”), but for a average skier it’s easy to do day trips of at least 20-25 kilometers.
4. Lovely cafes – maybe see some reindeer and huskys too!
There’s some very nice cafes to stop by for refueling breaks. I would warmly recommend Lammintupa café where I had a very tasty salmon soup and some freshly baked bread. Lammintupa also offers husky and reindeer rides so it’s a perfect place to visit even with kids.
After the energy consuming skiing day there’s nothing better than going to sauna and having a nice dinner. The sauna at Rukahovi hotel was quite basic but very easy access. And it was a great way to meet some other talkative and friendly skiers so the big benefit was in getting some valuable tips and recommendations.
5. Ice swimming & sauna
The absolute highlight of my mini break was the sauna and ice swimming at Rukatonttu. It’s a hidden gem and I would never have found it without a local’s recommendation and guidance. It’s just about half kilometer walk from Ruka village – look for the stairway to the ski jumping tower (or you could even ski there directly).
It’s one of the most luxurious ice swimming experiences I’ve had and a real bargain (just 6€ if you bring your own towel). You can even buy refreshments from the reception. The sauna was huge with views to the lake and even though it’s in the use of the hotel guests and public, I had the place all to myself almost the whole time. The interesting thing is that there’s loudspeakers and music even inside the sauna, not very typical Finnish style! Luckily it wasn’t too disturbing.
I recommend to have good swimming shoes as the pathway to the swimming place is icy (and of course remember to take along your swimming suit). Two rounds of dips in the ice cold water was the ultimate relaxing and refreshing experience.
The added bonus: you can stay for dinner in the restaurant upstairs. The only minus is a big TV screen but if you get lucky like I did it is turned off when the live music starts. I recommend to book a table (ask for a window seat) in advance.
In total, I had less than 72 hours in Ruka but I was amazed how much could be experienced in such a short time in this winter wonderland.
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