Levi is known as a Ski Mecca in Finland, with Levitunturi being an amazing mountain with 360° views over Lapland and slopes going down in every direction. That this village also is worth visiting in the summer and autumn is a little known fact outside of Finland - and even here not many people know that Levi is a great destination for active people and families in the summer!
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Levitunturi, which means the “fjell of Levi” in Finnish, is a 531 m high hill which stands almost on its own in the south of Lapland. Go just a few hundred meters up and already you get amazing views on the surrounding landscape: The gorgeous Pallas mountains to the North-West, the Ylläs mountains are just some 35-ish kilometres far away to the West, as well as lakes, smaller fjells and lots & lots of forests. Nestled at the Northern aspect of the mountain is the small village of Sirkka, which is the home base for almost all guests and businesses. From here you can take the Gondel up the mountain and ride on the Summer Sled Track back down, or go for a hike on one of the various trails which take you across and around the mountain.
Mountainbiking in and around Levi
Levi is known for its Bike Park, to which I will come in a moment, but also for those who look for less downhill thrill on a bike Levi has plenty to offer: A large mountain bike trail network, which allows for fun day trips on single and forest trails. I tested a section of the Levi Tunturi Trail, a 18-ish km long trail which takes you around the Levitunturi mountain, and really enjoyed how well-maintained this trail is. Some might say it’s more a highway than a trail - but then I have seen many trails which have destroyed the nature around it as more & more people are riding on it; so a well-maintained trails in my experience much preferable in such a situation.
And especially with kids who just start to ride off-road these kind of trails are an ideal choice for riding their mountain bikes safely. Even for experienced riders I think the round around Levitunturi will be fun and rewarding, especially if you take a competitive approach to it and see how fast you’re able to complete the trail! Besides this trail there many more, for example could you ride to Ylläs and back, or even go bike packing and explore the less visited places around Levi with the bike.
Within Levi you most certainly don’t need a car as the village is very compact, though if you want to speed things up you can take your bike to get around town. We used our four loan bikes to ride to the Levi Bike and Activity Park, which was a short 3 km ride from where we stayed and no problem for our five-year old.
Levi with small kids
Speaking of our five-year-old, Levi does have plenty to offer for smaller kids which might not yet ready to ride down steep downhill trails. The Adventure Park at Gondolintie 1 for example has plenty of free options for toddlers and small kids, like a really fantastic play ground, a small Zipline parkour at ground level and the pedal-powered cars which our daughter really loved. All these are free and really fun in warm sunny weather - just make sure to bring sunscreen along as there’s almost no shade!
The large Zipline Parkour is for kids over 115 cm and my son and wife enjoyed this adrenaline-filled activity. There’s an introduction trail where you under supervision learn how to climb and use the different functions, and then you can pick one of several different routes - from zip lining almost 1.000 m or climbing really fun obstacles. It looked super-fun and I hope on our next visit to Levi our daughter is tall enough so her and me also can join in the fun!
On our last day we visited the Tonttula Elves Village which is a bit outside of Sirkka, so we took a short taxi ride there. Here you can participate in a guided tour where you craft holiday decorations, bake gingerbread cookies - which our kids absolutely loved - and visit the large cave. There were also several farm animals around which you could pet. We also ate lunch here, and took a small hike on their forest trail. Overall the visit was very nice, even when it was July and the holiday feeling felt a tad out-of-season for us parents, though nevertheless it was fun and the kids loved it.
Levi Bike Park
After seeing my friend Kaddi loving Downhill MTBing so much I gave in a few years ago and learned thanks to Jesper in Åre how to ride a MTB down steep hills. It’s absolutely thrilling and a lot of fun, and actually a lot easier and safer as it might look. So I was very excited to go Downhill riding with my son in Levi Bike Park, which is one of Finland’s oldest Bike Parks.
We started off with picking up our Downhill Bikes at the Levi Bike Park Shop, where we also picked up all our protective gear - from ∞ POC Knee Protectors over the ∞ POC Body Harnesses and Helmets to ∞ Gloves and Shirts. After that we met our Instructor Pieto who also is a Trail Builder in Levi. Our group of six was very varied, but Pieto was able to accommodate all our different skill levels and also as a rider with some experience I learned and improved my technique during this class.
After some flat land techniques and getting familiar with our bikes we took the Gondola up the mountain, where we rode down the Village Trail, a Green Trail which is excellent for beginners - and thrown in some amazing Views and fun features and I think this will become a popular trail!
We rode the trail in sections and made several stops, where we had different “clinics” like learning to ride Berms the correct way and how to ride waves. After we finished the Village Trail back at the Levi Activity Centre we took the Gondola back up once more and then rode the Blue Groove Trail, which is one of Levi’s most popular trails with many great Berms and exciting features - all on a easy Blue Trail level.
In the afternoon my son and me rode with Pieto a couple more times the Village Trail and then the South Route, which we had for ourselves. Overall, while there was a constant flow of riders and bikes going up the mountain the trails were what I would consider empty - it was easy enough even on popular trails like Blue Groove to stop and shoot photos without anyone breathing down our neck. With over ten downhill trails of different levels the riders simply seem to distribute evenly across them, which is also great news for slower riders who might not enjoy the feeling of slowing others down.
During our two days of riding in Levi Bike Park we had many great rides with my son, and he shredded down the different trails without fear and with good technique after just one instruction session. He told me that he liked the experience and since we returned home he has been out with his woom OFF Air out on the local trails, having fun.
On a short side-note, many Ski Centres around the globe are closed during the summers and the villages are devoid of people. This is not good for the local communities, hence I am much in favour of villages where you can life year-around. Services like the Levi Bike Park make it possible that Hotels, Restaurants and also the expensive Gondola and Lifts infrastructure do not need to be closed down and stand still once the ski season is over. Because of such and other services the small village of Sirkka is open year-around and people can make a living here from January till December.
Hiking in Levi
Most evenings I went out for a shorter or longer hike up Levitunturi. I love the long Golden Hour you have in Lapland in the summer, and my photographer heart was full of joy about the amazing weather and views in the evenings. There are a handful of marked trails going up and around the mountain, but I usually didn’t follow any particular trail and simply explored. I liked visiting Santa’s Cabin, going to the Summit, and simply following small trails which looked interesting. If you want more guidance, then there is for example an Ice Age Trail, which tells more about the history of how these mountains came to be. Of course there’s many more trails for hiking around Levi - a look at Retkikartta will help you find and explore them!
Services in the village
Back in Sirkka with its compact centre you find many different shops and services. One service the kids and me really liked was the Summer Sled Track which you can ride either alone or on a 2-Person sled. It’s a popular activity and going earlier in the morning or in the early afternoon is recommended, as after 16 o’clock it does get busy and you can wait up to an hour that you get up and down (because of the COVID-19 restrictions only people from the same family/ group are allowed into on Gondola cabin).
We loaned our four bikes from the Zero Point Store down by the Slopes in Sirkka. We informed them of our heights and needs in advance online, and just had to test fit the bikes - all were the correct size - and then got our loan helmets and could start cycling. They have bikes for kids of all ages, and for example our daughter was very excited about her pink Trek Bike!
In the Tourist Information you can book activities, accommodation and get tickets for the lifts, and in the same street you find sport shops in case you forgot something important at home. There’s a couple of Cafés for an afternoon snack and coffee as well as several Restaurants if you have more hunger. As we had a kitchen in our apartment we bought food at the S-Market Supermarket in the centre and prepared meals at home.
As I don’t drink alcohol anymore I didn’t have any need to visit some of the bars and nightclubs which are in Levi, though if you fancy a cold pint of beer after a thrilling day on the downhill trails then there’s the possibility to do so!
Where to stay
We stayed in a spacious apartment at Hullu Poor Hotel. It’s a five minute walk from the centre, the bus stops right in front of it when you arrive and leave, and it has a small Spa with a Sauna and Hot tub which the kids enjoyed going to every evening. Our apartment could accommodate up to six persons - there were three bedrooms, two showers and WCs, with a small kitchen and a nice eating and living room area. We also had an own Sauna, but as it was quite warm we didn’t use it. It was a comfortable base for us four, and the included breakfast was very good.
There are several more accommodation options available, so best is to check out the Accommodations website from Levi.
How to get here
We travelled by train and bus to Levi, via Rovaniemi where we slept a night in the Hostel Café Koti. This allowed us to have shorter travel days and explore a bit of Rovaniemi, for example the fantastic (free!) Angry Birds playground. We spent several hours here, with the kids playing on the many [check what lapses calls the “installations”/ telinät]. There’s also a Futbol court and you can loan balls, so the kids and me also kicked some balls there.
But yeah, Bus and Train. We took the Train from Vaasa to Rovaniemi and back, which was affordable if you book early - we spent 75,00 € going-return for our train tickets. The trip takes between 6 and 8 hours with two transfers for us, but with some card games, audiobooks and some additional screen time it’s easy to make the journey pleasant for all. The Bus from Rovaniemi to Levi and back was more expensive than the train for a single journey, but only took around 3 hours.
You can fly to Kittilä with Finnair, which is the fastest possibility. Flights are still limited and apparently also bit more expensive, so if you want to travel by plane to Levi make sure to book in advance. There’s local busses from Kittilä to Levi and back which run in sync with the flights, so getting to Levi and to the airport is easy.
We travelled light as usual, with only the Arc’teryx V110 Duffel and our Eagle Creek Cubes for our four clothes and stuff. I carried my camera gear and MacBook in my trusted ∞ Peak Design Travel Backpack, and also had my HUCKEPACKS Phoenix Lite for hiking and the ∞ Vaude TrailSpacer 18 for all cycling activities along. My favourite piece of kit which I had along was probably my ∞ Luna Sandals OSO Flaco and my ∞ Houdini Daybreak Shorts, I wear these in the summer ALL THE TIME. As previously mentioned, we loaned the Mountain Bikes and Downhill Bikes + Protective Gear in Levi from the Levi Bike Park Shop (for Downhill Gear) and the MTBs in Sirkka from Zero Point, as it’s easier to travel without bikes by public transportation =)
Should you go?
Travelling during the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic seems strange, but the reality is that many families need a break. Levi offered a safe travel experience and proper Hygiene & Safety were observed almost everywhere, from the Bike Park Shop to the Gondola Cabins to Cafés, Hotels and Supermarkets. We very much enjoyed our stay in Levi, with interesting and fun activities for kids and adults alike. We especially liked that there were heaps of free activities available around the Adventure Park, and as our kids enjoy cycling it was great to simply explore the surroundings by bike. So if you and your family are looking for an active holiday destination where you also can relax, take a closer look at Levi. With its many different activities, plenty of accommodation options for any wallet and the great views from Levitunturi, it’s certainly a destination which you should keep in mind for your next summer or autumn holiday!
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